The VCU School of Pharmacy’s Heritage Trail, opened in 2021, is a permanent exhibition in the lobby of the R. Blackwell Smith Building that documents the history of pharmacy in Virginia. 

The Heritage Trail is envisioned as a way to introduce people, as well as current and prospective students, to the profession’s long and illustrious history. It’s getting a lot of traffic and attention this year as the school marks its 125th anniversary in 2023. 

Creating the Trail was a long undertaking interrupted by an international pandemic. And, health sciences librarians were part of the project every step of the way.

The project began in 2018 with the development of a series of videos summarizing aspects of pharmacy history from ancient times to today. The videos are 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. Then, panels were installed in the Smith lobby, each illuminating an aspect of pharmacy history in Virginia, including a history of Virginia drug stores.  

The final component  consists of several displays around the lobby. One display includes artifacts such as apothecary bottles from the 1860s-1900s, patent medicines, and old drug store pharmacy tools and implements. Another display showcases an impressive collection of pharmacy scales alongside a biographical display of prominent School of Pharmacy individuals. Biographies of notable Virginia pharmacists feature luminaries and pioneers like Carl F. Emswiller Jr., recipient of the Remington Honor Medal; William S. Cooper, our first Black graduate; and Hbrinilda Saunders Lewter, the first woman to become a licensed pharmacist in Virginia. 

As a member of the Heritage Trail Committee, VCU Health Sciences Research and Education Librarian Rachel Koenig worked alongside the school’s dean, faculty, staff and the design company Gropen to bring the Trail to life. At the time, Koenig was the library’s liaison to the VCU School of Pharmacy. She helped pinpoint important dates in Virginia pharmacy history for the timeline and determined the best photographs and documents to include in various displays. Koenig also worked with the committee to ensure that proper attribution was used for institutions providing information and images to the project.  

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 VCU Libraries. University Archivist Jodi Koste conducted research in the archives and located appropriate materials for the exhibit and shared the history of the School of Pharmacy with members of the Heritage Trail Committee. 

In 2019, VCU Libraries digitized two publications, Better Service to a Larger Public and School of Pharmacy, A History  that showcase the school’s legacy.  

After some delay due to the pandemic closure, The Heritage Trail Committee completed this multi-stage project and opened the exhibit in 2021. But work won’t stop there: 2023 brings the 125th anniversary of the VCU School of Pharmacy, and with that, another reason to explore the vibrant history of pharmacy in Virginia and in Richmond.

More information about the Heritage Trail and the history of pharmacy education at VCU:

Four videos detail the history of pharmacy

VCU School of Pharmacy celebrates 125th anniversary

MCV Foundation magazine celebrates the anniversary 

Categories Alumni, Collections, Health Sciences Library, Pharmacy, Special Collections and Archives