Toronto Health History

The U of T Health History Partnership is currently focusing its efforts on supporting, cataloguing, and exhibiting the University’s health-related artifact collections. An online catalogue is currently under development.


In 2010, a group of historians, librarians, archivists, healthcare professionals, educators and students at The University of Toronto came together as a result of their shared interest in heightening the visibility of scholars, resources and collaborative research opportunities in healthcare history at the University of Toronto. Since then, the group has grown to include representatives from the faculties of medicine, pharmacy, social work, occupational therapy, nursing, dentistry, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, and the Royal Ontario Museum. By initiating a conference in Toronto in 2012 on healthcare and its history, we had hoped to achieve four main goals: appreciating our history, building a community, fostering collaborations, and preserving our past. We are pleased to report that we achieved those goals at our first conference, “Taking Toronto’s Healthcare History”, and again, with a three day symposium, held in 2015, on “The Public’s Health”. In Fall 2017 we will be marking Canada’s Sesquicentennial with a further symposium, “(IM)MATERIAL CULTURE: Health History Collections in A Digital Era”.

The partnership endorsed the following goals that were reflected in its two conferences, Taking Toronto’s Healthcare History 2012 and the Public’s Health 2015.

1. Appreciating our history

The University of Toronto, its affiliated teaching hospitals, and its surrounding academic, healthcare and social communities have a complex past which deserves greater scholarly focus and exploration. The members of the group share a theoretical orientation: that understanding the history of medical science and healthcare in Toronto and its impact on the diverse communities of Toronto, promotes ethical, informed, rigorous, and just provision of healthcare in our city.

2. Building a community

Prior to our group’s foundation, many of our members had not met and knew nothing of each other’s resources and scholarly work. The partnership’s conferences will build on our community of practice to introduce other members of our faculties, departments, hospitals and institutes to one another in order to share our expertise in Toronto’s history of medical science, healthcare, healthcare education, and their impacts.

3. Fostering collaborations

The partnership’s conferences will highlight opportunities for further collaborative projects by structuring the scholarly sessions such that healthcare professionals and trainees, historians, philosophers, and social scientists will share their work in settings that emphasize its multifaceted aspects.

4. Preserving our past

Neither our educational nor healthcare institutions have preserved their collections of archives, artifacts, and medical instruments in a systematic way. As a result, many material representations of Toronto’s healthcare history have been dispersed to other cities or simply lost. A goal for each conference is to highlight the importance of these collections and to brainstorm collaborative strategies between our institutions to preserve our healthcare past.


Thanks to our sponsors:

Our partners:

Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto · Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Dalla Lana School of Public Health · Health, Arts and Humanities Program · History of Medicine Program
The Centre for Interprofessional Education · Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy · Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work · The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library · Toronto Medical Historical Club
Undergraduate Medical Education · The Wilson Centre · The Royal Ontario Museum