In 1956, the Trent Room was constructed to honor Dr. Josiah Charles Trent (1914–1948) and the donation of his remarkable historical medical collection by his wife Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans (1920–2012). Initially located in the original Duke Medical Library in the Davison Building, the Trent Room was relocated in 1975 to the Seeley G. Mudd Building upon its construction to house the Medical Library, and has now been renamed the Richmond House Room. The History of Medicine Collections, itself, moved to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in the summer of 2011. The relocation of the History of Medicine Collections to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the renovation of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library spaces have provided an opportunity to design a new room to honor and display the history of medicine collections donated to Duke University by Dr. Josiah C. Trent and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans.
Perkins Library received the Trent Collection (most notably including Whitman manuscripts) in 1943 from Dr. and Mrs. Trent. They funded the creation of a Rare Book Room to house the collection, and that room moved to the Biddle Rare Book Room in 1949. The Trent Collection was named in honor of the Trent’s daughters — Mary Duke, Sarah Elizabeth, Rebecca Gray, and Barbara Biddle — and the room was named the Trent Room when it became part of the Biddle Rare Book Room.
The newly constructed Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room is intended to showcase the generosity and legacy Dr. Josiah Charles Trent and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. Other collections donated by the families, including materials related to Walt Whitman and children’s books, will be displayed as appropriate in the Stone Family Gallery and Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room.
The Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room will allow visitors, scholars, and others to view many of the most notable History of Medicine Collections’ items in a safe and secure environment. The state of the art cases, with ideal lighting and environmental monitoring, will showcase rare materials including ivory manikins, surgical instruments, microscopes, as well as manuscript and print materials. The look and feel of the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room will be consistent with the adjacent Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room and Stone Family Gallery Room and will echo the style of the historic Trent Room from Duke’s Medical Center Library.
This room is open to the public during exhibit hours. This room will rarely be available for public events, unless related to exhibitions and the room has no IT or AV equipment available for public use. The exhibition space is primarily for displaying Rubenstein Library History of Medicine collection materials and will rarely be used for outside curated exhibitions.
The Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room reflects the generosity and collecting interests of Dr. Josiah Charles Trent, Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, and their families. Dr. Trent was a graduate of Duke University (1934) and the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania. He was Duke’s first Division Chief of Thoracic Surgery, an historian, a prolific writer, and avid collector.