Although the collecting of special materials in the biological sciences dates back to the beginnings of the University of 1913, the first major acquisition of historical medical material occurred in 1963 when a grant from the Mr. and Mrs. P.A. Woodward Foundation enabled the University to purchase a well-chosen collection of rare medical books from Dr. C.D. Leake. Two other important collections were subsequently acquired, one through the generosity of the late Mr. H.R. MacMillan of Vancouver. The Wellcome Trust assisted the Library with other purchases. And, in 1998, a gift of rare obstetrical and gynecology books from Dr. G.W. Korn strengthened that subject area. In Canada, the medical portion of the Memorial Room collection ranks second only to that of the Osler Library at McGill University. Not surprisingly, the collection, which includes a book printed in 1467, attracts scholars from many places. The rare books in this collection were transferred to Rare Books & Special Collections in 2013/14 for preservation and better access.
The collection of books and periodicals on sport fish and sport fishing was moved to Woodward Library from the Main Library in 1978. A substantial number of these books was bought with funds provided by the Harry Hawthorn Foundation, and also with monies given as a memorial to Leon Ladner, a long-time member of the Foundation. The bulk of this collection is shelved in the Woodward Library stack area but selected items have been housed in a cabinet in the Sherrington Room. This cabinet is designed as a memorial to the late Roderick Haig-Brown of Campbell River, British Columbia, author, magistrate, sportsman, and conservationist.