About the Collection
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is happy to
have the Dr. Robert I. Kramer Collection of mortars and pestles installed in the libraries on the North and South Campuses. This online exhibit presents
25 out of 109 mortars and pestles from the actual collection.
We hope that you will enjoy our exhibit of this rare collection.
mortars, pestles given to university
extensive collection of mortars and pestles recently donated to UT Southwestern
should remind today's physicians of how much the profession has changed
over the past century, said donor Dr. Robert I. Kramer.
a pediatrician on the UT Southwestern faculty for more than 25 years and
the founding medical director of the cystic fibrosis center at Children's
Medical Center of Dallas, said he collected the 120 mortars and pestles
over three decades. Mortars are the vessels in which substances, such
as medications, are ground into powders using clublike instruments called
collection includes mortars and pestles dating from the 17th century onward.
They were collected from throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Kramer
gained a reputation as one of the country's most dedicated collectors,
and antique dealers would contact him whenever they encountered unusual
interest began when his father, also a physician, gave him a mortar and
pestle that had been presented to him by a patient who could not pay his
bill during the Great Depression. That mortar and pestle will be the only
set Kramer will keep at home.
wanted to give my collection to UT Southwestern because I've been an active
participant in its affairs for over 35 years, developed friendships and
professional relationships that I cherish, and consider this gift as my
legacy to a great institution," Kramer said.
instruments stand as proof, he said, that medicine was an "inexact
science well into this century." Only in the past few decades have
technological advances made mortars and pestles obsolete, as doctors and
pharmacists no longer need to grind medications individually for each
of the mortars and pestles are brass, while others are made of stone or
wood. Kramer finds it interesting that a style of mortar and pestle obtained
from Pakistan is almost identical in shape to a set carved by a Native
American tribe of the northwestern United States.
think it illustrates the universality of man and how artifacts can be
so similar in cultures that have had no common heritage or obvious contact,"
Southwestern is in the process of obtaining display cases for the collection
and is considering several locations for their presentation.
are delighted that Dr. Kramer decided UT Southwestern would make an appropriate
permanent home for his collection," said Dr. Kern Wildenthal, UT
Southwestern president. "I am sure faculty members, staff and students
will enjoy being able to view this superb collection."