American Alliance of Museums

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Conference Proceeding

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In June 2021, the McGoogan Health Sciences Library opened the Wigton Heritage Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This facility is the first of its kind in the United States and serves as a welcome center and museum for the history of the UNMC campus and explores the history of the health sciences in Nebraska. You read that right—a library opened a museum. Special Collection and Archives (SCA) professionals exist in a unique environment that utilizes three cultural heritage and preservation professions—libraries, archives, and museums. The Wigton Heritage Center project explores how museum practices for exhibition development, environmental monitoring, and curatorial practice are utilized in a library environment. What adjustments must be made to museum best practices and procedures for exhibit design? How are different priorities embraced than in the stand-alone museum? How do you balance security than the typical academic library and yet be more accessible than the typical archive reading room? How do encourage public interaction in an institution that is designed and conceived of being more exclusive? Though employed by an academic library, majority of the SCA staff are museum professionals and produce museum quality exhibitions and K-12, adult, and community programs and events. This is why libraries need, and have, museum professionals on their staffs. Not specifically titled “Curators” or “Collection Managers” but the responsibilities and professional activities are the same. This project illustrates how the professions blend and work together through the creation of the Wigton Heritage Center. It preserves the 140-year history of health care professionals educated by UNMC faculty, clinicians in urban and rural environments, and highlights the first African American, Native American, and women physicians in the state and, in the case of one, the nation. The special collections artifacts, archives, digital objects, rare books, and historic building of university hospital to bring this history to life.