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NLM Announces Resources for the Study of Mental Health History

Papers of Louis Sokoloff, Noted NIH/NIMH Researcher, and Updated Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library, announces two new resources for the study of mental health history: the papers of Louis Sokoloff (b. 1921), a noted neurochemical researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a component of the National Institutes of Health, and an updated, online Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures.

From 1957 until his retirement more than 40 years later, Sokoloff served as Chief of Cerebral Metabolism at the NIMH. In 1981 he won the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research for developing methods of measuring metabolic activity that led to development of positron-emission tomography for the brain. Donated by Dr. Sokoloff himself, the Sokoloff collection comprises materials from 1953 to 2004. In addition to laboratory notebooks and drafts of articles, the collection is particularly noteworthy for the radiographs that Dr. Sokoloff used as part of the development of his imaging techniques.

The Sokoloff papers constitute one of nearly six hundred processed modern manuscript collections at the Library. For the benefit of researchers, educators, and students, these collections are described in the Library's finding aids database, and may be used in the History of Medicine Division reading room. A finding aid to the Sokoloff collection is available here.

NLM's updated, online Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures, provides information covering over 200 films and video recordings produced from the 1930s through 1970, including links from each title to NLM's catalog record. The films show the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders as defined at the time they were made. The productions range from ideological, documentary, educational, and training films to military-produced titles explaining the psychological impact of war. The therapies shown range widely, from insulin-shock and electroconvulsive therapies and surgical approaches such as lobotomy, to the mid-twentieth-century revolution in pharmaceutical intervention. The films also document the therapeutic shift towards community-based mental health. Among the titles presented is Let There Be Light, a 1946 film by director John Huston. This film was withheld from public distribution for 35 years because of its frank depiction of psychological trauma among combat veterans. In 2010, this film was named to the National Film Registry, which documents films of significant cultural, historical, or aesthetic value.

The guide is enriched by a Viewshare-generated interactive timeline linked to production dates. Viewshare is a service provided by the Library of Congress.

As part of its ongoing efforts to provide greater access to its collections, the Library plans to digitize selected titles from the Guide over the next several years and make them available through its Digital Collections repository and other online, curated projects.

The Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures joins previous NLM subject guides to films, notably the Guide to Tropical Disease Motion Pictures and Audiovisuals (2009), and the National Library of Medicine's Motion Pictures and Videocassettes about the Public Health Service and Its Agencies (1998). NLM's audiovisual collection includes over 30,000 titles and is the foremost medical film archive in the world.

Dr. Louis Sokoloff in 1981, at the time of the Awarding of the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award.
Dr. Louis Sokoloff in 1981, at the time of the Awarding of the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award.

A soldier speaks to a comrade experiencing combat stress. Still image from the film Combat Psychiatry: The Battalion Medical Officer, a U.S. Navy training film produced by Cascade Pictures of California, Inc., 1954, one of the 200+ films and video recordings covered in NLM's updated, online Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures.
A soldier speaks to a comrade experiencing combat stress. Still image from the film Combat Psychiatry: The Battalion Medical Officer, a U.S. Navy training film produced by Cascade Pictures of California, Inc., 1954, one of the 200+ films and video recordings covered in NLM's updated, online Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures.