EblingCostlyProgressThe Civil War was catastrophic in terms of lost lives, maimed soldiers, diseased camps, and more. Less well known about the war is that its practices also had a profound effect on how military medicine, plastic surgery, anesthesia, emergency medicine and hygiene were performed in subsequent wars, and in practice today.

Micaela Sullivan-Fowler, curator and History of Health Sciences Librarian at the Ebling Library, developed an exhibit highlighting these effects. The exhibit, titled Costly Progress: Medical Advances in the American Civil War, showcases a “portion of [Ebling’s] stellar Rare Books and Special Collections” as well as “honors the 150+ Anniversary of the Civil War.”

Sullivan-Fowler uncovered the richness of the subject while writing a bibliography of Ebling’s collections with SLIS graduate student, Holly Storck-Post. The printed bibliography of Civil War era medical books is available upon request by contacting the library.

The exhibition includes artifacts (such as surgical amputation kits) as well as books and manuals from the 1860s, prompting one viewer, Marie Koch to say, “…reading the marked passages in the books was awesome.  I was awestruck by the things I read.  The primitive kits juxtapositioned with the material on how to create a stump that would tolerate a prosthesis was amazing!”

At a glance:

  • What: Exhibit titled Costly Progress: Medical Advances in the American Civil War
  • Where: Historical Reading Room on the 3rd floor of Ebling Library, 750 Highland Drive, Madison, WI
  • When: through April 6, 2014
  • Parking at Ebling
  • Have a question or want to schedule a tour? Contact Micaela Sullivan-Fowler at or (608) 262-2402!