Mission & History

Mission Statement

The Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences serves as the primary resource library for the Tulane University Health Sciences Center comprising the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and the Tulane National Primate Research Center. The Matas Library supports the teaching, research, and patient care functions of the health sciences programs through the acquisition, organization and dissemination of biomedical information.

History of the Matas Library

The origin of the Matas Library dates from the founding of the Medical College of Louisiana (now Tulane University School of Medicine) in 1834. First mention of the library occurred in the faculty minutes of the College in 1844. In 1895, Dr. Rudolph Matas began his long history of support of the library, devoting much of his energy and fortune to the expansion of its collections and services, for the benefit of students and faculty at his alma mater and medical practitioners everywhere. The library was named in his honor in 1937.

Beyond the benefaction of Dr. Matas, other library endowments are those from the estates or families of Arthur Bernard Brown; Louis Augustus Burgess, M.D.; Herman Gessner, M.D.; C. Edmund Kells, D.D.S.; James D. Kenny; Isaac Ivan Lemann, M.D.; Andrew D. Mouledous, M.D.; Maurice Stern; Jacob Ambrose Storck, M.D.; Gloria Walsh; Eva Evelyn Weinstein; Harry B. Greenberg, M.D.; John L. & Elsie B. Martinez; and Guillermo Pacheco. Other funds that provide annual support ot the Matas Library mission are the Alumni Medical Library Fund, Alumni Journal Support Fund, and History of Medicine Society Library Fund.

The Matas Library was significantly refurbished in 2008, including a redesign of the main reading room on the second floor of the medical school. The renovation allowed for 24/7 access to computing, printing, and scanning resources; including a new commons, comfortable community study and group study areas. The renovation and furniture purchases were financially supported by Dr. John Doty and the TUHSC Auxiliary. The Matas Library currently has a total of over 157,819 print volumes and access to over 14,000 online journal titles and a growing collection of health science e-book titles. Librarians serve as liaisons to the academic departments and are committed to increase the educational services and outreach in academic teaching, research and the greater community.

Four individuals served as the Library Director over the Twentieth Century: Jane Grey RogersMary Louise MarshallWilliam D. Postell, and W.D. Postell, Jr. The Matas Library continues to be an essential resource for health sciences faculty, staff and students in the Twenty-first Century, serving New Orleans' medical and public health communities in new and expanded ways. Since early January 2009, the Matas Library has been under the leadership of a new director, Neville Prendergast. Prior to coming to Tulane, Mr. Prendergast received a graduate degree in Library Science from the University of Buffalo and served as Assistant Librarian of the Health Sciences Libraries at Buffalo, then as Associate Director for Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis. Mr. Prendergast also holds a graduate degree in Science Education.

Bronze Doors



The bronze doors on permanent display in the Matas Library are the original doors from the old, main entrance to the medical school's Hutchinson Memorial Building on Tulane Avenue. The pair are extremely ornate, weighing more 300 pounds each. They were designed in 1929 by Douglass Vincent Freret (1903-1973) of Favrot and Livaudais, Architects, for the main entrance to the Hutchinson Memorial Building on Tulane Avenue. The doors were installed in 1930 during the tenure of Dean C.C. Bass and dismantled in 1963 when the entrance was relocated to the new Burthe Cottam Building addition.

The doors were in storage for almost twenty years when they were resurrected and mounted in the Matas Library on either side of the old card catalog in honor and memory of Dean Bass in 1981. The card catalog is now a memory, but the doors remain as guardians of the printer and copier stations in the library.

There are many fine details and sculpture from the original building still adorning the building.  The bronze tablet dedicated to the philanthropist, Alexander C. Hutchinson and his wife Josephine located on the LaSalle side above the Clinic entrance was designed by Pietro Ghiloni.   Angela Gregory (1903-1990) is the sculptor of the head of Aesculapius on the Hutchinson Memorial Building.  The Hutchinson Memorial building of Tulane Medical School was inaugurated on December 10, 1930.

Founding of the Medical College of Louisiana

The Medical College of Louisiana, now Tulane University School of Medicine, was founded by three young physicians in 1834. They published a document, officially titled The First Circular or Prospectus of the Medical College of Louisiana. This is the original document pertaining to the establishment of Tulane University as a whole. This manuscript served as a copy for the printer announcement of and justification for the founding of the first medical school in New Orleans. It was drafted on 23 September 1834 by Dr. Thomas Hunt with the assistance of Dr's. John H. Harrison and Warren Stone. The Prospectus was published a week later, on 29 September 1834, in French and English versions on the front page of L'Abeille (The Bee), the local, bilingual newspaper.

The Prospectus caused a storm of controversy in New Orleans at the time. The French physicians of the community were outraged that these youthful American physicians of the community (the eldest of the three founders was twenty-six) should presume the latter were more qualified to teach medicine than the former. John Hoffman Harrison

With the formation of additional colleges, the Medial College of Louisiana evolved into the University of Louisiana in 1847. The University was renamed Tulane University, and became a wholly private institution in 1884.

Little is known about the subsequent history of The Prospectus manuscript: where it was kept, who cared for it or how it was handed down. The best guess is that it was preserved in the care of successive Deans of the School of Medicine or their assistants. In 1982 it was transferred from the Office of the Chancellor to the Archives of the Matas Library. The manuscript was first exhibited on 6 June 1987 at the Graduation Reception of the School of Medicine Class of 1987. Its condition is fragile and display is rare, limited to the most important School of Medicine and University anniversaries and ceremonies.

The pedestal and case for the preservation and display of The Prospectus manuscript was provided through the generosity of the School of Medicine Class of 1987 and the efforts of Gordon Patrick Marshall, M.D., Class President.

The Prospectus is not currently indexed in the Tulane online catalog, but the full text is available online and the document is part of University Archives. Contact the University Archivist for more information: http://tuarchives.tulane.edu/about/staff-directory

History of the Tulane University School of Medicine

The Medical College of Louisiana, now Tulane University School of Medicine, was founded in 1834 by three young physicians: Dr. Thomas Hunt, Dr. John H. Harrison and Dr. Warren Stone.

The school opened in January 1835. The first lecture was delivered by Dr. Hunt in the Strangers Unitarian Image of old medical School Common between Baronne and PhilippaChurch thanks to the kindness of Parson Theodore Clapp. Classes were taught in a variety of locations including Charity Hospital which predates the founding of the school by almost one hundred years. The first permanent home which the school occupied in 1844 was a substantial three story building on the corner of Philippa and Common Streets. Shortly after this, the Louisiana legislature established the University of Louisiana and the Medical College of Louisiana became known as the Medical Department of the University of Louisiana. In 1847 the Medical Department moved to a larger building on Common between Baronne and Philippa next to the original building and the Law Department took over the older building. The first picture shows the original building on the left and the newer one in the center and to the right.

In 1884, as a result of a large donation from Paul Tulane, the university's name was changed to Tulane University of Louisiana and it became a private institution again.

In 1893 the School of Medicine moved to the Richardson Building on Canal Street. It was named in honor of Tobias G. Richardson, Dean, 1865-1885, who had retired due to ill health. The money for the construction came from his wife, a wealthy woman in her own right.

In 1902 a generous bequest from Mr. Alexander Charles Hutchinson provided money for the the construction of several buildings on the main university campus and the renovation of the Richardson Building on Canal. This renovation resulted in the addition of the Hutchinson Clinics and the building was renamed the Josephine Hutchinson Memorial Building. In order to keep the tribute to former Dean Richardson alive at Tulane, one of the new buildings constructed on the University's Uptown campus became the new Richardson Memorial Building. Hutchinson's gift was especially welcome because the expansion of the medical school curriculum to a four year program required additional space. Consequently, from 1907 until 1963, the first and second year classes were taught in the Richardson Memorial Building uptown.

In 1930, the School of Medicine moved from the Hutchinson Memorial Building on Canal Street to the new Hutchinson Memorial Building on Tulane Avenue next to the old Charity Hospital. A magnificent bust of Aesculapius by noted New Orleans sculptress Angela Gregory greeted visitors from above the bronze doors of the main entrance. The addition in 1959 of the Libby Building at the rear of Hutchinson provided much needed space for more classrooms and labs as well as a parking garage, cafeteria, and bookstore.

First and second year classes continued to be taught uptown until the addition of the Burthe-Cottam Building in 1963 when all four years were finally reunited under one roof.

Today the Tulane University Health Sciences Center includes the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the National Primate Research Center.

For more information on the history of the medical center see:

  • Duffy, John. The Tulane University Medical Center : One Hundred and Fifty Years of Medical Education. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. WZ 24 T84du 1984
  • Fossier, A.E. History of medical education in New Orleans, from its birth to the Civil War. New York : Hoeber, [1935?] Original pamphlet. Reprinted from: Annals of Medical History, 6(5):427-447 1935. (PDF)
  • Catalogue of the Alumni, 1834 to 1901 Inclusive, of the Medical Department of the Tulane University of Louisiana. Historical Summary. (PDF)
  • Alphabetical List of all Graduates in Medicine and Pharmacy, 1834 to 1901. (PDF)
  • Yearbooks - Jambalaya yearbook (1896-2008), as well as issues of the T-Wave, the yearbook of the Tulane University School of Medicine which began publication in 1982. Available in digital format via the Internet Archive.
History of the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine

The Tulane School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine began in 1912 with a donation from New Orleans businessman Samuel Zemurray. F. Creighton William served as the school’s first dean from 1913-1914, and was succeeded by William H. Seeman. In 1919, the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine merged with the College of Medicine. Degree programs for the Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (MPH&TM) began in 1947, with doctoral programs beginning a few years later in 1950.

Grace A. Goldsmith became the dean of Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine when the school re-emerged as a separate academic unit in 1967. The first undergraduate class of public health students was admitted to earn BSPH degrees in 2008.

Historical information on the Tulane School of Public Health is available in the book: The Tulane University Medical Center: one hundred and fifty years of medical education (catalog link), edited by John Duffy (LSU Press: 1984). A timeline and more historical information of Tulane SPHTM is available here.

Tulane and Charity Hospital

Douglas R. Lincoln created a website detailing the History of Tulane University School of Medicine's Involvement with Charity Hospital when he was a 4th year Medical Student at Tulane University School of Medicine in April 2007 as a project for a History of Medicine Elective. The website was a service project for the Matas Library. Dr. Elma Ledoux was the Faculty Advisor.

Click here for the History of Tulane University School of Medicine's Involvement with Charity Hospital website.

The Charity Hospital Reports (1842-1966) were digitized via a National Library of Medicine award and are now available in the Tulane University Digital Library. The proposal, entitled "Early Medical Journalism of Louisiana, A pilot project for the preservation and sharing of Nineteenth Century Medical Publications of Louisiana," ran from August 2010 to June 2011 under National Library of Medicine (NLM) Prime Contract No. N01-LM-6-3505; HHSN276200663505C. 114 hospital reports are now online, open to the public and full-text searchable.

A restored video of the Demolition of Old Charity Hospital in 1937 was digitized by the Matas Library and is available in the Internet Archive.

Related publications:

Famous Tulanians

Click here for an A-Z List of distinguished Tulane Medical and Public Health Faculty and Tulane Health Sciences Alumni.