Posted March 20, 2012

Collection of dental relics catalogued in online database

  • (Courtesy Kornberg School of Dentistry) Green, circa 1920 chair manufactured by Ritter Dental Manufacturing Company.
  • (Courtesy Kornberg School of Dentistry) A 1960s children's dentist set in the Kornberg collection includes a tooth, toothbrush, rinse cup, dental unit and chair.
  • (Courtesy Kornberg School of Dentistry) Image of the 19th Century Victorian dental office outfitted with period objects and furniture housed with the Kornberg School of Dentistry.
Step off the elevator onto the third floor of Temple’s Kornberg School of Dentistry and you will be standing amongst a display of dental antiquities that is commonly referred to as the Temple Dental Museum.

But this display features only a fraction of the dental antiquities collection that highlights the proud history and legacy of Temple’s dental school. And now, thanks a new, searchable online database, the entire Temple Historical Dental Museum Collection can be viewed by the public.

The collection highlights the history of dentistry and the Kornberg School, beginning with its origins as the Philadelphia Dental College in 1863. It includes the cornerstone of the original building; a 19th century Victorian dental office outfitted with period objects and furniture; a varied collection of photographs, posters, dental instruments, equipment, dental furniture and personal oral health care products; as well as the personal possessions of former dental school students, faculty and alumni.

When Amid Ismail arrived at Temple in 2008 as the new dean of the Kornberg School, he discovered a fund that had been set aside for the museum. Since only a portion of the collection was on public display, he hired a collections management consultant and assistant, who worked for two-and-a-half years to photograph, catalog and archive the vast collection.

Some faculty volunteered their time on weekends to assist in cataloging the collection, as well as weeding out pieces that had no value or relevance. Once the cataloging and archiving had been completed, photographs of each of the collection’s 4,000-plus pieces have since been put into a searchable, online database.

“We were founded in 1863, and we are the second oldest dental school in continuous existence,” said Sally Gray, associate dean for graduate education at Kornberg, who helped oversee the project. “We have this marvelous collection, and I think it’s wonderful that people will now be able to enjoy it — particularly our alumni.

“Our alumni who graduated 40 or 50 years ago will be able to look at photos of some of the older pieces in the collection and say, ‘Hey, that’s what I used to use,’” Gray said. “They will love to see these pictures and know that we have this wonderful hidden gem.”

Every photograph of the collection’s pieces is watermarked, so that the Temple Kornberg School of Dentistry will be credited if someone downloads a photo for use, said Gray.

“When I look at some of the old photographs of the school — I graduated from here in the 1980s — I think, ‘That’s what the clinic looked like when I was a student here,” she said. “It really brings back that nostalgic feeling.”

Gray said the having the collection online can also be an important resource for faculty to use in their classes.

“If they are teaching students about dentures, they will now be able to show them pictures of actual dentures through history,” said Gray. “Or they can put in a request, and since everything is now archived, I can retrieve it and they can take the actual pieces to their class.”

Gray believes that a significant portion of the antiquities have been donated by alumni over the years. In addition, pieces left behind by faculty when they retired also found their way into the collection. Now, she said, a piece must have historical significance or value to be accepted into the collection.

Gray said that current Temple Historical Dental Museum Collection database web page will likely be redesigned when Kornberg’s main web site is redesigned in the near future.