The Bakken Museum’s library collections include approximately 11,000 books, journals, and manuscripts. The subject of the collections is the history of electricity and magnetism with a focus on their roles in the life sciences and medicine. Thus, it includes works in early physics (natural philosophy) and early works on magnetic cures, electrotherapeutics, electrophysiology, and their accompanying instrumentation. The library also possesses a fine collection of primary sources in mesmerism, animal magnetism, and hypnotism, and works documenting the history of para-psychology, psychical research, and phrenology. Additionally, there are some important early works on anatomy, physiology, neurology, acupuncture, and medicinal herbs. Although primary sources date from the 13th century, the collecting emphasis is on the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Significant holdings include many of the writings of Hauksbee, Nollet, Franklin, Mesmer, Galvani, Volta, Matteucci, Du Bois-Reymond, Marey, and Einthoven. Also of interest to researchers are collections of 19th-century medical and electro-medical ephemera (about 300 advertisements, programs, postcards, broadsides, circulars, and pamphlets) and miscellaneous scientists’ letters from the 18th–20th centuries.
The manuscript collection includes: the Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism manuscripts collection, 1784–1787, which consists of fifty-six items of correspondence between the leaders of the French mesmerist movement in Paris and their disciples in Amiens, including letters, contracts, circulars, receipts, membership lists, and notebooks. Another is Paul Richer’s Paralysies et contractures hysteriques; mémoire presenté au concours de l’année 1883 pour le prix fondé par M. Bernard de Civrieux. In one volume, it includes handwritten text and illustrative material consisting of several drawings, photographs, myograms, and printed and drawn charts, graphs, and diagrams.
There is also a collection of about 400 trade catalogues and price lists representing the products of nearly 250 companies. Most of them were published during the period of 1850–1930, although there are a few from the second half of the 18th century. These catalogues offer for sale electrical apparatus, scientific instruments, and surgical and medical equipment (including electro-medical apparatus).
The historical journal collection consists of periodicals published between 1665 and 1940. It comprises 231 titles, about three-fourths of which (168) are represented by four volumes or fewer. Examples include the first volume (1842–1843) of a scarce American magazine called The Magnet, devoted to articles exploring magnetic forces in relation to human magnetism, a single volume from 1897 of The Electro-therapeutist, and volumes one and two of The Electrical Age for Women, 1926–1935, which dropped its gender and changed its name to The Electrical Age in 1932. The Journal du Galvanisme, de Vaccine, etc. is in a category all its own—it is the shortest complete run as well as one of the rarest journals in the collection. Published in 1803 in Paris, it consists of two volumes bound together as one and contains articles about vaccination, galvanism, and electrical medicine. The historical journal collection is informally catalogued on cards, providing verified titles, place of publication, and Bakken holdings.
The Artifact Collection comprises approximately 2,500 artifacts from the 18th century to the present. It includes electrostatic generators by George Adams, Edward Nairne, John Cuthbertson and others; magneto-electric generators; medical stimulators designed by Duchenne; induction coils; physiological instrumentation by E.J. Marey; recording devices; cardiac pacing devices; and accessories. Unorthodox devices are well-presented and include electric belts and hairbrushes, magnetic applicators, and radionics equipment. The instruments are available for study, and a catalogue of the instrument collection is available through the website.
The Bakken Museum offers exhibits including: Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party; Frankenstein’s Laboratory; Gardens; Welcome to West Winds; Electrifying Minnesota; Body Electric; Spark of Life; and Mysteries of Magnetism.