About the McGovern Center

General Information

The John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center (McGovern Center) in The TMC Library has notable historical collections on the foundations of the medical specialties, Texas medicine, rheumatology and North American public health. The archival collections focus on the development of the institutions and hospitals in the TMC in Houston, the careers of Houston physicians and biographical information on Texas physicians. In addition, the archive includes manuscript collections from American rheumatologists, members of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and the life sciences departments at the Johnson Space Center. Most of the Center’s rare books, along with many of the photographs and manuscript collections, have been cataloged and may be searched in the Library’s online catalog. Please be aware that some resources have not yet been cataloged. Contact the McGovern Center staff for additional assistance. Books, archives and other historical materials of the McGovern Center do NOT circulate.

McGovern Center Development

The earliest acquisition records for the books in the McGovern Center are found in the Houston Academy of Medicine’s (HAM)¬† Library Committee reports for 1935 and 1936. Thirty Fellows of the Academy raised $300 to purchase a collection of 275 French medical books published between 1730 and 1830.

In 1949, HAM and Baylor College of Medicine combined their medical libraries. In anticipation of the completion of the Jesse H. Jones Building for the library, the M.D. Anderson Foundation purchased the rheumatology collection of a New York physician, Dr. Reginald Burbank. This purchase  was followed by a gift from the Cora and Webb Mading Foundation of more than 1,000 titles on sanitation and communicable diseases. After the 1954 dedication of the library building, many physicians donated books or historical pamphlets to be stored in a very small, locked room on the second floor.

Soon after his arrival in Houston, Dr. McGovern became one of the Library’s most staunch supporters, annually supplying funds for the purchase of rare books and travel support for the librarians to attend meetings of the American Association for the History of Medicine. In 1977, The Library formed a new department with new quarters to collect historical materials and to enhance the rare book collections.

In 1982, Dr. McGovern donated his personal collection of rare and historical book to the Library. Photographs taken at the event celebrating this donation are were placed the archives. In 1994, Dr. McGovern donated his William Osler collection. In 1996 the Library’s Board of Directors named the historical department in his honor and established the McGovern Endowment for the support of the department.

When the Menninger Clinic moved from Topeka, KS to Houston in the early 2000s, the rare book collection was transferred to the Library. This collection of more than 5,000 books is in the process of being cataloged.

In 2010, the McGovern Center acquired the rare books about dentistry from the University of Texas Dental School. The majority of these books were collected by Dr. Thomas Dow in the early 20th century. This collection is also in the process of being cataloged.

On June 4, 2007, the department celebrated it’s 30th Anniversary with a party honoring Dr. McGovern and the preservation of medical history. Houston Mayor Bill White, Library Board President Victoria McGillin and TMC President and CEO Richard E. Wainerdi were keynote speakers.

The rare books are currently available in a reading room on the second floor of the The TMC Library. This room features bookcases which were in the home of Oliver Wendell Holmes and a fireplace mantle from William Osler’s home at Oxford. The room is open four days a week and by special arrangement.

Following major flood damage from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, the Archives and photograph collections were moved to the off-site location at 8272  El Rio Street.