UABSON Archives designated as museum

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Archives has been designated as a small museum by the Alabama Museum Association. The archives unofficially began in 1975 when Patricia Cleveland, a newly hired instructor at the School, started collecting bits of nursing history in a small shoebox. After decades of growth and support from the School’s deans, the collection is displayed and stored throughout the building. In July 2020, the title of museum was made official, fortifying the archives and the future preservation of significant UAB School of Nursing history.

“This museum designation affirms the importance of understanding nursing history and taking deliberate steps to preserve our nursing heritage to share with new generations,” said Associate Professor Lynn Nichols, PhD, RN-BC (BSN 1989, MSN 1993, PhD 2000). Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, appointed Nichols as the archives coordinator in 2020, with the purpose of sustaining Cleveland’s efforts and planning for the future.

“The museum also is a mechanism for highlighting the innovative and creative contributions of UABSON faculty, staff and students to nursing science that provide future nurses the historical foundations to build upon,” Nichols said.

The archives are housed in several locations throughout the School. One prominent area is the five archival cabinets located in the hallway outside of room 1020, on the first floor of the building. These contain around 120 years of nursing history, as well as memorabilia that represent the contributions of the four UABSON deans. There also is a rotating exhibit, in partnership with the School’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, featuring a number of commemorations including February’s Black History Month, with future displays planned to honor the National Black Nurses Association Inc., the American Association for Men in Nursing, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, and the Philippine Nurses Association of America, among others.

Other holdings that are part of the museum designation include the Barrett Brock MacKay Florence Nightingale Exhibit, which feature’s the University’s and School’s Florence Nightingale letter collection and the Rick M. and Barrett Brock MacKay Nightingale Scholars Gallery, a replica of Florence Nightingale’s ideal patient ward, which also displays some of the Nightingale letter collection, Nightingale and historical School items—some on loan from the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences and Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, both at UAB—and an exhibit showcasing the School’s global health impact.

In all, there are more than 1,400 artifacts, including early nursing equipment, caps and capes, pins and diplomas, hundreds of photos and class composites, and more than 300 nursing textbooks dating back to 1911.

“Nursing is a complex profession that changes as society changes,” Cleveland said. “It was not an easy process for nursing to evolve to where it is today. This museum can open people’s eyes, not only for our students but also for the public who can tour the archives, learn from our past and see what a jewel we have at the UAB School of Nursing.”

Cleveland and Nichols are also documenting and collecting the School’s current history. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they began capturing all that the School has done to combat the virus. This information could be vital in the future as many health care professionals have looked to the past in the fight against COVID-19, seeking knowledge and lessons from the last global pandemic, the Spanish Flu.

“The museum impacts the education of our students across all programs in both undergraduate and graduate levels,” Nichols said. “Our American Association of Colleges of Nursing Essentials require that history is included in the curricula of BSN, MSN and DNP programs, and the UABSON archives support faculty in creating innovative ways to engage students in nursing history as well as UABSON history.”

The museum designation also includes photo galleries of UAB School of Nursing faculty, alumni and donors who are inductees into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame, the original 60 UABSON Visionary Leaders named during the School’s 60th Anniversary, the School’s Distinguished Alumni and the School’s recipients of the UAB President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. There is also a portrait gallery featuring three of the four UABSON deans.

Contact Pat Cleveland or Lynn Nichols at to schedule a tour or learn more about the archives.

Last modified on February 17, 2022

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