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History of Medicine

About Us

Welcome
The NLM's History of Medicine Division collects, preserves, makes available, and interprets for diverse audiences one of the world's richest collections of historical material related to human health and disease.

Our collections include:

  • A rapidly-growing digital collection of books, audiovisuals, still images, manuscripts, and oral histories.
  • Manuscripts dating as far back as the 11th century.
  • Over 600,000 printed works, including 580 incunabula (Western books printed before 1501), some 57,000 16th-18th century books, and over 400,000 titles published between 1801 and 1913.
  • Modern manuscripts, including the personal papers of such figures as Joshua Lederberg, Marshall Nirenberg, Luther Terry, and C. Everett Koop.
  • Organizational archives from such groups as the Medical Library Association and the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
  • Over 15,000 historical audiovisuals.
  • Over 150,000 historical prints and photographs.

The Library celebrates its historical collections through Hidden Treasure, a spectacular, 240-page, full-color book with 450 images and over 80 essays by distinguished scholars, artists, collectors, journalists, and physicians. Download a free copy of Hidden Treasure from NLM's Digital Collections.

The Library also celebrates its historical collections through its award-winning Exhibition Program. The program develops and presents exhibitions and multidisciplinary educational tools that make the National Library of Medicine’s historical collections available to audiences around the world. Through interactive exhibitions and special displays onsite, traveling banner shows that tour the country, and online K-12 and higher education resources, the Exhibition Program advances public awareness about medicine, science, and history. Exhibitions and special displays focus on a variety of topics including the history of forensic medicine; U.S. Civil War doctors, nurses, and disabled veterans; African-American academic surgeons; the history of women physicians; and the story of Frankenstein as it relates to medical ethics.

Learn more about NLM’s History of Medicine Division: