This exhibit showcases some of the newest items in the collections of the W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine, based in the Historical Suite on Plummer 3. Although these objects were only recently acquired and cataloged, visitors may be surprised by the range of origin dates covered, from Mayo Clinic’s founding era (William J. Mayo’s keys) to currently happening history (the COVID-19 pandemic).
There are three methods by which artifacts and archival materials enter the Fye Center collections:
Unlike other museums and archives, the Fye Center generally does not acquire items through purchase; instead, we rely on current and former staff, Mayo Clinic departments, and interested external parties (e.g., family members, local historians, and medical or historical organizations) to help us grow our collections and tell the story of Mayo Clinic.
Archival documents and artifacts are not automatically sent to us, so we can only preserve and share Mayo Clinic’s history with your help. The work you do and the items you use today, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, will become important historical sources for researchers in the future.
To donate materials, contact Renee Ziemer, Historical Unit Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayo Clinic was presented with this award at the 2017 Upper Midwest Regional Emmys for the film Mayo Clinic’s First Face Transplant: The Patient & The Surgery, written by Dennis Douda.
The film tells the story of Andy Sandness, the recipient of Mayo Clinic’s first face transplant in June 2016. The surgical team spent a year rehearsing the transplant in a cadaver lab as they prepared to graft all facial tissues below the eyes, including the maxilla, the mandible, and teeth. During a 56-hour surgery, doctors painstakingly connected the donor facial nerve branches and blood vessels to those of the recipient. Following surgery, Mr. Sandness regained his sense of smell and was once again able to chew food and smile.
You can view the film on YouTube: Mayo Clinic’s First Face Transplant: The Patient and Mayo Clinic’s First Face Transplant: The Surgery.
This item was transferred to the archives by Public Affairs in 2021.
This album on display includes photographs from a Mayo family trip to Glacier and Yellowstone Nationals Parks in 1913.
Phoebe Mayo with her father Will Mayo, circa 1910
Phoebe Mayo was the youngest child of William J. and Hattie Mayo. She was born in 1897 and married Mayo physician Dr. Waltman Walters in 1921. As a child, Phoebe traveled all over the world with her parents and documented the trips in a series of photograph albums.
Dr. Charles H. Mayo standing at the Glacier National Park train station.
Phoebe Mayo with unknown boy in a boat on St. Mary's Lake in Glacier National Park.
Dr. Charles H. and Edith Mayo standing near a fencepost at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.
The Mayo party enjoying a carriage tour of Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park.
This item was donated to the archives by descendents of the Walters family in 2021.
The marble and stone samples on display come from a set of 20 samples used during construction of the Gonda Building, which was completed in 2001. Each sample is labeled with its name and intended location.
The Gonda Building was designed by architectural firms Ellerbe Becket, Inc., and Cesar Pelli & Associates. Twin City Tile and Marble Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, supplied and installed 17 different colors of stone. The stone, mainly marble and limestone, includes Roman Travertine flooring and Crème Pearl and Breccia Aurora walls.
In 2020, Mayo Clinic Heritage Films produced a movie titled A World in a Grain of Sand: New Discoveries in Kidney Stones that connected the travertine stone used in Mayo Clinic Buildings to kidney stone research. The film can be viewed here.
These items were transferred to the archives by the Department of Facilities in 2018.
This badge is from the 1993 STS-55/D-2 Spacelab mission, a multinational spaceflight crewed by NASA and the German Space Agency aboard the European Space Agency’s Spacelab. Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., who was Mission Specialist 3, completed his internal medicine residency at Mayo Clinic in 1985. Dr. Harris took part in a video conference with Mayo Clinic from space on May 5, 1993. In 1995 during another mission, Dr. Harris became the first African American to perform a spacewalk.
The STS-55/D-2 mission was launched on April 26, 1993, and landed on May 6, 1993. It was carried by the space shuttle Columbia, which later disintegrated upon reentry in 2003. The badge depicts Columbia alongside the American and German flags, and the border contains the surnames of the mission’s astronauts.
Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. in 1982 (left) and 1993 (right).
This item was found in the archives’ collections in 2022; it was likely received by Mayo Clinic in connection with the video conference.
This gold-plated lapel pin from the Gregg Shorthand Company was awarded to Violet Book for achieving 120 words per minute (WPM). Violet Book was a stenographer at Mayo Clinic.
The Gregg style of shorthand (also called stenography) was invented by John Robert Gregg in 1888 as a method for quickly transcribing sentences using a series of swooping lines with a pen on paper. A new shorthand writer’s speed could be approximately 80 WPM and an experienced stenographer could reach 150 WPM. To alleviate a chronic shortage of medical secretaries linked to the clinic’s continuing growth, Mayo Clinic supported a variety of training programs starting in 1928.
Violet covered her book with striped paper and added her own tabs. Most pages include her handwritten notes and definitions of medical terms.
Although shorthand was once considered an essential skill for workers whose occupations required rapid writing (e.g., secretaries and reporters), the invention of dictation machines, digital recording devices, and AI processes such as automatic transcription and autocompletion has made it easier to accurately record a large volume of information at high speed without intensive training in a complex writing system.
This item was donated to the archives by another organization in 2016.
Maud H. Mellish Wilson arrived at Mayo Clinic in 1907, recruited by Dr. William J. Mayo to organize and develop a medical library and edit the scientific papers of the staff. The original small collection of books and journals has grown into a large integrated system of physical collections and electronic resources provided by eighty library staff in locations throughout the enterprise.
In 2007, the Mayo Clinic Libraries celebrated one hundred years of service. In honor of the occasion, a centennial logo that incorporated a Torch of Knowledge as depicted on the pediment arch of the Plummer Library Reading Room was designed. The logo appeared on all library publicity throughout 2007 and decorated many commemorative souvenirs.
The three head mirrors on display demonstrate the change in style over the 20th century. The earliest head mirrors in medical history were held in place by a horizontal leather strap and were used to concentrate light during examination. Medical instrument catalogs from the early 1900s showcase a newer design of a flexible metal band held vertically over the top of the head with the aid of two leather end tabs, as seen in the first example here. The second example on display is made of an adjustable rigid plastic band. The third example featured in this exhibit has a soft suede strap with a Velcro closure.
In recent decades, the fiber optic headlight—requiring less skill and adjustment to use—has become more popular than the head mirror.
These items were transferred to the archives by the Department of Surgery in 2022.
This badge is an example of those worn by elevator operators at Mayo Clinic in the mid-20th century. The design in the middle depicts Minnesota’s state seal and motto, “L’Etoile du Nord” (“Star of the North”).
John Kiely, the original owner, started working at Mayo Clinic around 1934-1935. He was an elevator operator in the Department of General Service. Mr. Kiely retired from Mayo Clinic in 1950 and then worked as an elevator operator at the Worrall Hospital.
This item was donated to the archives by a relative in 2018.
This handmade loom was presented to Mayo Clinic by a grateful patient from Burdur Province in southwestern Turkey. The loom features balls of yarn colored with vegetable dyes and a carpet that incorporates “Mayo Clinic, MN” with traditional decorative designs and two intertwined snakes.
This item was transferred to the archives by the Department of Administration in 2019.
At the start of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic implemented multiple safety policies for both staff and patients, including masking, social distancing, and temperature checks. Included here is a sign, disposable eye shield, mask extender, masks and thermometer. You may notice the misspelling on the sign -"Physcial Distance." While it was undoubtedly corrected, this artifact demonstrates the uncertainty, pressure, and haste at the beginning of the pandemic. Policies were frequently being made and quickly implemented.
These items were collected by archives staff in 2020.
This set of grand master keys was carried by Dr. William J. Mayo. A tag on the keys notes that they were “returned by Mr. Dahle”—this was likely Fred Dahle, Dr. Will’s chauffeur.
The keys were kept in an envelope noting that they were later passed on “by Mr. J. W. Harwick on his last day at the office” on September 24, 1976. J. William Harwick was a member of the Mayo Foundation Board of Trustees (1951-1976) and the Mayo Clinic Board of Governors (1952-1972) and served as chair of the Department of Administration (1970-1976).
Before the formation of Rochester Methodist Hospital in 1954, downtown Rochester was the location of many small surgical and inpatient facilities affiliated with Mayo Clinic such as the Colonial Hospital, the Stanley Hospital, the Kahler Hotel-Hospital, the Curie Hospital, and the Worrall Hospital. The linen towels on display were used in the Curie and Worrall Hospitals.
The Curie Hospital (above, circa 1932) opened in 1920 with 36 beds. The facility was named in honor of Marie Skłodowska Curie, whom Dr. Charles H. Mayo met several times in Europe during the 1920s. The Curie Hospital was used for radiation therapy until 1962 and was demolished in 1963 to make way for an expansion of the Kahler Hotel.
The Worrall Hospital (above, in 1935), named in honor of Dr. William Worrall Mayo, opened in 1919 with 139 beds and five operating rooms for the specialties of ophthalmology, otolaryngology, rhinology, and dentistry. The Worrall Hospital and Annex buildings, which became part of Rochester Methodist Hospital in 1954, were used for patient care until 1966. They were demolished for the construction of the Guggenheim-Hilton Buildings in the early 1970s.
These linen towels were transferred to the archives by the Radiation Safety office in the Medical Sciences Building in 2018.
This microscope was used by Mayo Clinic neuropathologist Dr. Haruo Okazaki. The microscope is mounted on a custom metal base with a small desk lamp attached to it for extra light. The mounting was customized for Dr. Okazaki by Mayo Engineering and represents the long-established level of cooperation and support that exists between Engineering and Clinic consulting staff.
Dr. Okazaki was born in Japan and received his M.D. from Osaka University in 1951. He joined Mayo Clinic as a consultant in anatomic and clinical pathology in 1966 and retired in 1991. Dr. Okazaki was also a martial arts expert with black belts in four disciplines.
This item was transferred to the archives by the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology in 2018.
Dr. Haruo Okazaki in 1972.
Mayo Clinic’s Proton Beam Therapy Program started providing treatments in 2015. Prior to this, the Cancer Center Transformation Team collaborated with Japanese company Hitachi to install its PROBEAT-V proton beam therapy system. During the team’s visits to Hitachi’s facilities in Japan they were presented with commemorative paper fans.
In 2013, a ceremony was held in Rochester to celebrate the start of the system installation. Attendees received Japanese souvenirs from Hitachi including a square wooden sake cup and a daruma doll. A daruma doll is a traditional symbol of luck; the owner chooses a goal and paints in one eye, then fills in the other eye once the goal is complete.
These items were transferred to the archives by a member of the Cancer Center Transformation Team in 2021.
This model is one of several that were produced for the surgical team operating on the six-month-old conjoined Carlsen twins. Abbigail and Isabelle Carlsen of Fargo, North Dakota, were successfully separated by a Mayo Clinic team on May 12, 2006. The surgery lasted 12 hours and required a 70-member care team. Several months of planning and practice preceded the surgery. As part of the planning process, surgeons studied models of the girls’ shared rib cages, livers, bile ducts, and venous and arterial systems.
This exhibit was designed and curated by the staff of The W. Bruce Fye Center for the History of Medicine and the History of Medicine Library. All images and artifacts are from the Fye Center or Library unless otherwise stated.
To learn more about Mayo Clinic history, heritage and the history of medicine, visit: