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Meet Meggan Cashwell, HSL's new Curator of Historical Collections

by Kimberley Barker on 2023-09-19T11:31:46-04:00 | 0 Comments


Alvin V. and Nancy Baird Curator for Historical Collections Meggan Cashwell, Ph.D.
(Photo credit: UVA Law Communications)


Enjoy learning more about Meggan and, if you have questions for her, please contact her via the Ask Us form, or email.

What originally drew you to your field?

I have always loved history. When I started college, I thought I would be a high school history teacher. I quickly came to appreciate primary source research and collaborating with special collections librarians. After college, I had an opportunity to work on a book project. That project eventually took me to the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. What was supposed to be one summer of research turned into an entire year of learning about special collections librarianship. From there, I went to Duke to pursue my PhD in history where I continued to hone my subject area expertise as well as my special collections and curatorial skills. I was thrilled to accept a postdoc at UVA Law Special Collections in fall 2019 and then take on the role of Curator of Historical Collections at HSL this past summer.

How does your work relate to the Library’s mission/guiding principles? https://www.hsl.virginia.edu/admin/general/mission.cfm

As our mission statement explains, we “engage our user communities so that we continuously understand and respond to their changing knowledge needs.” Here at UVA, there is a great demand to understand more about our institution’s past. UVA Health is very integral to that history, and we want to continue to build our collections and document this history for the future. There is also a high demand from our user community for more digital resources. This is the direction in which our department is moving along with many archives and special collections units.

What most excites you about your work here?

I am most passionate about bringing the archives to life for our user community. My predecessors at HSL began this work through historical exhibits, tours, and workshops, and I’m excited to continue those efforts and take them in new directions. I also enjoy working with patrons and supporting their research in the history of medicine. Researchers contact us from all over the world. It’s thrilling to see our collections used for so many exciting new projects.


What classes/workshops will you lead in the coming year?

This fall, Historical Collections is offering an archival workshop on the history of diabetes treatments. The workshop incorporates rare books, medical artifacts, photographs, and other materials that chronicle this longer history. After learning about the history as well as our collections, participants get to ask questions and look through the rare books on display—including a 1493 edition of De Medicina, the oldest book in the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. In the spring, Historical Collections will be supporting a History of Medicine course taught by Professor Dominique Tobbell. The class will meet in our reading room and students will get to work with our collections on a regular basis.


What is something you have on your "bucket list"?

I really enjoy traveling and have a number of places I hope to visit. I was excited to travel through Italy several years ago and to Dublin, London, and Paris a few years before that. Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, and Austria are just a few places on my travel “bucket list.”


What is the best thing you've read/watched/listened to recently?

I’m a big fan of Kate Bowler. She’s a historian and professor at Duke Divinity School. Her podcast, Everything Happens, remains a personal favorite. I can also recommend her book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved as well as No Cure for Being Human.

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