Exhibition Vernissage │ Materia Medica

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 17:30-19:30. Please come to a vernissage at the Osler Library to celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit.

RSVP required. To RSVP please click here.

McIntyre Medical Building Osler Library of the History of Medicine, 3rd floor, 3655 promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, QC, H3G 1Y6, CA

Trace, late 14th century, “to make a plan or diagram”, from Old French, 12th century, trasser “delineate, score, trace, follow, pursue”.

Materia Medica is an exhibition of recent work by Montreal artist Loren Williams. Invited by the Osler Library of the History of Medicine to create a body of work on the theme of Montreal’s medical history, and recipient of the Michele Larose – Osler library Artist in Residence Programme for 2017, the artist combines artifacts from the Osler collection with collected and created traces of Montreal’s medical past.

The work in this exhibition draws inspiration from books and artifacts in the Osler Library as well as a wide variety of other sources. In particular, early maps of the city offer a form of time travel, indicating the location of the first hospitals and their large gardens used for food and medicinal plants. Three hundred year old streets such as rue de l’Hopital and rue des Soeurs Grises still exist in Montreal today, drawing direct lines to Montreal’s medical history, as do streets named Jeanne Mance, Marguerite d’Youville and Penfield.

Interested in these traces that reference Montreal’s medical heritage, Loren Williams has created a body of images that form a shadow archive. Images of medicinal plants used by the First Peoples and early settlers in Montreal were created using a 19th century camera-less photographic process called Cyanotype. The blue coloured images reveal the shadowy forms and details of the plants. They are like paper X-rays, made from a simple photographic process that uses UV rays, ie. sunlight, to expose the image, and water to develop it, sun and water­­ being the same basic ingredients required by plants.

Over the course of a year, the artist followed charted streets and routes that link Montreal’s past and present. Using epidemiological maps, she explored the sites and neighbourhoods of the city’s devastating outbreaks of Typhus, Cholera, Small Pox and Tuberculosis. Other plans of the city led her to sites of hospitals, asylums and the longest duel in Canadian history over the building of a new hospital.

Like the collected plants that echo an early botanical pharmacy, Loren Williams also collected and created other traces of medical history. X-rays and teeth molds reveal the body’s structures, fractures and medical interventions. First aid kits and their compartments double as garden plans for medicinal plants, while hospital architecture is represented in the form of postcards the shape of library index cards.

These works, presented with artifacts from the Osler Library collection, bring together images and objects from the realm of science, art and everyday life, offering an eclectic, less rational, interconnected perspective of Montreal’s medical history.

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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.


Loren Williams is a visual artist working predominantly in photography. The passage of time, natural history, museums and obsolete photographic technologies are the inspiration and vocabulary of her practice. Frequently there is a connection between the artwork and the site where it is presented.

Originally from the Kootenays in British Columbia, Loren Williams moved to Montreal in 1993 and received her BFA honours in photography at Concordia University. She has received awards and grants from the federal and provincial art councils and has exhibited her work nationally.

Loren Williams extends much gratitude to Michel Larose, the Osler Library for the History of Medicine, and the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous contribution to this residency and exhibition project.

Research Awards & Travel Grants 2018

Are you a historian, physician, graduate or post-doctoral student interested in conducting research at the Osler Library? Do you know that the Osler Library gives out awards and travel grants to local and international researchers each year? We are currently accepting applications for the following:

  • Dr. Edward H. Bensley Osler Library Research Travel Grant – Awarded to those whose project requires traveling to Montreal to consult material in the Osler Library. Each year up to $4000 in awards will be made available to one or more individuals who require a minimum of 2 weeks to carry out their research. This research must fall within the calendar year in which the grant is awarded. Applications for the 2018 grant must be received by December 31, 2017.
  • Mary Louise Nickerson Award in Neuro History – Awarded to one or more scholars who are interested in carrying out research utilizing the Neuro History Archival and Artifact Collections – the centre-piece of which is the Penfield Archive in the Osler Library – and other available resources at the Osler Library, the Montreal Neurological Institute, and the McGill University Archives. Applications for the 2018 award must be received by December 31, 2017.

Additional information on terms, requirements, how to apply, previous winners, and general information about the library can be found here. We welcome all further enquiries at osler.library@mcgill.ca or 514-398-4475, ext. 09873.

Feel free to share this notice with your own networks, listservs, and social media outlets to help us spread the word about these fantastic opportunities!

Medical Students Essay Awards 2017

Congratulations to this year’s Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students’ Essay Award winners! The essays are now available on our website.

Osler Library Board of Curators’ medal

This year saw a tie for first place: Clare Forgarty for the essay “Sanitation, Sanity, and (Moral) Suitability: The History of the Medical Inadmissibility of Immigrants into Canada (1840s-1950s)” and André Lametti for the essay “Ars uero longa: Teaching Hippocrates in Medieval Italy”. They were presented with their Osler Library Board of Curators’ medals during the Osler Banquet hosted by the McGill Osler Society on November 1st. Second place was awarded to Philippe-Antoine Bilodeau for the essay “A Tale of Two Brains: Cortical Localization and the Neuron Doctrine in the 19th and 20th Century”. Philippe-Antoine presented his paper via Skype while doing his rural family medicine rotation in South Africa.

Thank you so much to all the students, mentors, judges, and sponsors who supported the contest. We look forward to next year’s presentations.

Osler Day 2017

Please join the library on this year’s Osler Day, Wednesday, November 1st, for a presentation of essays by the three finalists chosen as part of the Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students Essay Awards. The presentations will be held at 11:30 a.m in the Wellcome Camera of the Osler Library, McIntyre Medical Building3rd Floor. The winner will be announced at the Osler Banquet.

William Osler at His Desk at 1 West Franklin Street, Baltimore (Osler Library, Cushing Collection, CUS_046-025_P)

The following students will be presenting their research:

Philippe-Antoine Bilodeau – “A Tale of Two Brains: Cortical Localization and the Neuron Doctrine in the 19th and 20th Century” (Mentor: Professor Thomas Schlich)

Clare Fogarty – “Sanitation, Sanity, and (Moral) Suitability: The History of the Medical Inadmissibility of Immigrants into Canada (1840s-1950s)” (Mentor: Professor David Wright)

André Lametti – “Ars uero longa: Teaching Hippocrates in Medieval Italy” (Mentor: Professor Faith Wallis)

Faculty, students, and friends are all welcome to attend and show their support for this year’s finalists. Our special thanks to Pam and Rolando Del Maestro, the Medical Students’ Osler Society, and the Board of Curators of the Osler Library.

Vernissage for a new exhibition by 2016 Larose-Osler-Artist-in-Residence Dr. Lucy Lyons, Impossible Pathologies: Re-fragmenting the Archive

Thursday, October 12, 2017, 17:30-19:00. Please come to a vernissage at the Osler Library to celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit.

RSVP osler.library@mcgill.ca

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dr. Lucy Lyons spent time in the Osler Library archives studying the illustrations made by the English physician and medical writer, Robert Hooper. Inspired by Hooper’s method of cutting out parts of his drawings like the analogue version of Photoshop, Lyons created her own fantastic collaged composites. This composite method was then transferred into studies of the collections in the Maude Abbott Medical Museum to create new, impossible pathologies. This exhibition is an exploration of the beauty of the fragment which is synonymous with pathology. If pathology is the fractured, broken, diseased, deformed fragment of the human body, this work explores the further fracturing, breaking and then re-assembling of parts.

Dr. Lucy Lyons received her PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. Her practice focuses on drawing within medical museums and working collaboratively to explore the beauty of collections. She is especially interested in the hidden, the overlooked, insignificant or in-between. This residency will allow her to push and explore her own practice and develop work in new ways whilst bringing new audiences to the collections.

The Michele Larose – Osler Library Artist-in-Residence award, is given annually to one or more deserving candidates with a degree in Studio Arts or a related field and/or a history of exhibiting artistic work in professional venues.