The VCU School of Pharmacy’s Heritage Trail is a new and permanent exhibition in the lobby of the R. Blackwell Smith Building that documents the history of pharmacy in Virginia. 

The project began in 2018 with the development of a video summarizing aspects of pharmacy history from ancient times to today, and is narrated by Dr. Al Schalow, a VCU School of Pharmacy alumnus. Next, a timeline was installed featuring the history of the VCU School of Pharmacy, laced throughout with prominent points in Virginia’s pharmacy history. Most recently, informational panels were installed in the Smith lobby, each illuminating an aspect of pharmacy history in Virginia, including a history of Virginia drug stores, and at VCU. The final component  will consist of several displays around the lobby. The first display includes artifacts such as apothecary bottles from the 1860s-1900s, patent medicines, and old drug store pharmacy tools and implements. Another display will showcase an impressive collection of pharmacy scales alongside a biographical display of prominent School of Pharmacy individuals. The Heritage Trail is a way to introduce people, as well as both current and prospective students, to the profession’s long and illustrious history.

As a member of the Heritage Trail Committee, Research and Education Librarian Rachel Koenig worked alongside School of Pharmacy Dean Joseph DiPiro, Ph.D., as well as pharmacy faculty, staff, and the design company Gropen to bring the Trail to life. She helped pinpoint important dates in Virginia pharmacy history for the timeline and determined the best photographs and documents to include in the various displays around the lobby. Koenig also worked with the committee to ensure proper attribution was offered to each institution providing information and images to the display and videos.  

A number of the photographs, documents, and other historical resources incorporated in the Heritage Trail exhibits are part of the holdings of Special Collections and Archives at  Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. University Archivist Jodi Koste conducted research in the archives to locate appropriate materials for the exhibit and shared the history of the School of Pharmacy with members of the Heritage Trail Committee. 

VCU Libraries has recently digitized two publications, Better Service to a Larger Public and School of Pharmacy, A History  to help promote the long legacy of the school.

The Heritage Trail Committee hopes to complete this project upon our return to campus. But work won’t stop there – 2023 brings the 125th anniversary of the VCU School of Pharmacy, and with that, another reason to celebrate the history of pharmacy in Virginia and in Richmond!

Categories Collections, health care, preservation