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COLLECTION Identifier: BWH c1

Brigham and Women’s Hospital records


The Brigham and Women’s Hospital records are the product of the hospital’s administrative, fundraising, publication, and public relations activities, the bulk of which cover the years 1980 through 2000. The collection is open-ended and new records are added as they are acquired.


  • Creation: 1913– (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980–2000 .


Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Access to unpublished administrative records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. Patient information is restricted indefinitely. Restricted records, except restricted patient photographs, are noted in the finding aid. Researchers may apply for access to restricted material. Contact the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library. ( However, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital does not hold copyright on all the materials in this collection. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Director are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


48 cubic feet ((42 records center cartons, 10 oversize boxes, 2 letter size document boxes, 2 legal size document boxes, 5 half letter size document boxes, 1 oversize drawer, 1 storage tube, and 1 shelf).)

The records of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital include those generated by the staff of the institution while conducting administrative business and public outreach. The dates range from 1913 through the present, with the bulk of the records covering 1980 through 2000. Included in the BWH records are correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, memoranda, reports, committee records, press releases, programs, newspaper clippings, photographs, video and audio tapes, flyers, artifacts and memorabilia, serial and stand-alone publications, and the visual material used to create publications. The largest series of records are the Photographs and Publication Production Records which contain the majority of the archival photographs relating to BWH staff and facilities, although some photographs can be found in the Special Project Series. The records, with very few exceptions, do not include patient, student, or research records.

Historical Notes

The story of Brigham and Women’s hospital, before 1980, is the aggregate history of several significant Boston area hospitals: Boston Lying-in Hospital, Free Hospital for Women, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and the Robert B. Brigham Hospital. Each was conceived with a specific medical mission and each was built, and rebuilt, with the financial contributions of individuals and groups. In 1832, the Boston Lying-in Hospital, one of the nation’s first maternity hospitals, opened its doors to women unable to afford in-home medical care. In 1875, the Free Hospital for Women was founded “for poor women affected with diseases peculiar to their sex or in need of surgical aid.” The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital opened in 1913 “for the care of sick persons in indigent circumstances residing in the county of Suffolk” with a bequest from Peter Bent Brigham (1807–1877). The Robert B. Brigham Hospital, constructed in 1914 with bequests from Peter Bent Brigham’s nephew and niece as “a free hospital for poor citizens with chronic or incurable diseases,” evolved to serve patients with arthritis and other debilitating joint diseases.

In 1966, the Boston Lying-in Hospital and the Free Hospital for Women formally combined missions and operations resulting in the incarnation known as the Boston Hospital for Women. In 1975, it merged with the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals forming the Affiliated Hospitals Center, Inc. In 1980, all three AHC divisions were moved into a new state-of-the-art facility and unified under the new name, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Since 1980, the medical staff and researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have contributed to many milestones in medicine including: performing the first heart transplant in New England in 1984 and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize of 1985—awarded to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, an organization co-founded by BWH cardiologist Bernard Lown, MD. In 1993, BWH joined 15 other investigating institutions (called Vanguard Centers) in the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial ever undertaken for American women.

In 1994 BWH opened a 12-story facility called the Center for Women and Newborns offering new obstetrical services such as home-like birthing suites, private postpartum and antepartum rooms, and a Newborn Intensive Care Unit with overnight rooms for parents. Also in 1994, BWH joined with Massachusetts General Hospital to form Partners HealthCare System, an integrated health care delivery system, combining patient care with medical education and research. By 1999, BWH’s computerized drug-order entry system had reduced the incidence of medication-related errors, becoming a model for other institutions. Since 2000, BWH has recorded several advancements in lung, heart, and limb transplantation and made research breakthroughs, including results that have affected national standards for cholesterol lowering in coronary heart disease. In 2008, BWH opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, a facility for cardiovascular care and research supporting an integrated care model in a single location. To date, Brigham and Women’s Hospital continues to provide patient care, biomedical research, and physician education and training in association with Harvard University Medical School.

For more information on milestones in the history of Brigham and Women’s Hospital visit the BWH Milestones page of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital web site.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Program Establishment, Development, and Review Records, 1977–2013.
  2. Series II. Committee Records, 1981–1999.
  3. Series III. External Program Relations Records, 1989–1998.
  4. Series IV. Conference, Workshop, and Seminar Records, 1991.
  5. Series V. Financial Records, 1980, 1993.
  6. Series VI. Special Events Records, 1980–2016.
  7. Series VII. Special Project Records, 1913–2014.
  8. Series VIII. Public Relations Records, 1980–2013.
  9. Subseries A. Administrative Records, 1993–1996.
  10. ___Subseries B. Press Releases, 1980–1990.
  11. ___Subseries C. Clippings, 1981–2013.
  12. Series IX. Hospital Publications, 1980–
  13. ___Subseries A. Inside BWH, 1980–1993.
  14. ___Subseries B. BWH Bulletin, 1993–
  15. ___Subseries C. BWH [Magazine]; Brigham and Women’s [Magazine], Brigham Health, 1993–
  16. ___Subseries D. BWH Professional Staff Update; BWH Medical Staff News; Clinical and Research News, 1994, 1999–2011.
  17. ___Subseries E. BWH Nurse, 2000–2014; Heart & Science, 2014–
  18. ___Subseries F. Other Serials, 1980–2014.
  19. ___Subseries G. Printed Ephemera, 1976–2014.
  20. Series X. Staff Related Books and Journals, 1981–2014.
  21. Series XI. Photographs and Publication Production Records, 1917–2015.
  22. Series XII. Artifacts and Memorabilia, 1930s–2014.
  23. Series XIII. Audio-visual Media, 1980–1994.
  24. Series XIV. Neurology Department Records, 1936–2007 inclusive, 1970–1988 bulk.
  25. ___Subseries A. Administrator’s Correspondence, 1959–1989.
  26. ___Subseries B. Academic Program Administration Records, 1963–1993.
  27. ___Subseries C. Program Establishment, Development, and Review Records, 1956–1987.
  28. ___Subseries D. Executive Administrative Files, 1973–1988.
  29. ___Subseries E. Hospital History Research, 1951–2006.
  30. ___Subseries F. Memorabilia, 1936–2004.
  31. ___Subseries G. Resource and Reference Material, 1961–2000.
  32. ___Subseries H. Chronological Correspondence, 1957–1996.
  33. ___Subseries I. Construction Project Drawings and Plans, 1969–1985.

Custodial History

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) owns the records described in this finding aid. The Harvard Medical Library entered into a contract in 2001 to act as the repository for some of BWH’s archival records. Before the transfer to the Harvard Medical Library many of the records were in storage at various locations within the BWH. In 2005, additions to the collection were assembled and transferred from a BWH storage facility at 850 Boylston Street, Boston, MA by Anne Fladger, Director of the BWH Medical Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Records 1913– (inclusive), 1980–2000 (bulk) were placed on deposit with the Harvard Medical Library in 2001 by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Some of the collection was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2005. Additional material was added as the following accessions: numbers 2007-002, 2007-011, 2007-045, 2009-015, 2010-14, 2014-029, 2014-098, and 2016-154.

Separated Materials

Several large scrapbooks containing newspaper and article clippings related to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, covering the years 1980–1984, were placed with the Affiliated Hospitals Center (Boston, Mass.) Records, 1966–1984 [BWH c2] in order to keep the entire set of clipping scrapbooks, begun in 1976 during the AHC era, together.

Newsletters of the Alumni Association of the Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing, were removed from this collection and added to Series XII, Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing Records, in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, [BWH c3].

An antique camera, vintage glass laboratory equipment, and miscellaneous trophies and souvenirs related to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital were removed from this collection and added to the Series IX, Artifacts and Memorabilia, in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records. [BWH c3].

Eight wood-mounted brass memorial plaques, various sizes, dating from 1947–1992, and 20 oak memorial plaques, various sizes, circa 1981–1989, were deaccessioned and returned to the custody of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Development Office in 2014.

A deteriorating plastic hard-hat, and goggles of unknown provenance (possibly 1970s) were deaccessioned and discarded in 2014.

Processing Information

Gabriela Burgman created a preliminary box and folder list in 2005. Unprocessed parts of this collection and new acquisitions were processed and this finding aid was written by Catherine Pate at the Center for the History of Medicine. It was published in 2006. It was revised and republished in 2008, 2010, and again in 2016 (with the assistance of Lan Tran in 2011 and Timothy Bowen in 2012) This finding aid is routinely updated as new acquisitions are processed and added to the collection.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine started processing the archival records of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital under a service agreement with the BWH in 2001. The records, transferred in bulk from the BWH, were made up of records from all the individual hospitals that eventually merged to become the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC), which in turn became Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Processing staff made the decision to organize the records by their provenance, and processed and described each individual hospital’s records separately. Consequently, the original transfer yielded seven groups of records, one of which is the Brigham and Women’s Hospital records.

The records for each hospital were organized into series and described based on practices used at the Harvard Medical School Archives. Processing for this collection also involved primary preservation, arrangement, and the creation of this detailed finding aid to improve access. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the archival collection goals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library were discarded.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Records, 1913– (inclusive), 1980–2000 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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