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About Us

The History of Medicine Division at NLM



Overview

The History of Medicine Division (HMD) at the National Library of Medicine 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. Spanning ten centuries and originating from nearly every part of the globe, our collections include:

Illustrated cover of the Hidden Treasure book.

Hidden Treasure, 2011

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  • A rapidly-growing digital collection of born-digital resources, books, audiovisuals, still images, manuscripts, and oral histories.
  • Early Manuscripts dating as far back as the 11th century.
  • 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.
  • including the papers of such figures as Michael E. DeBakey, Bernadine Healy, Joshua Lederberg, Antonia Novello, and Marshall Nirenberg.
  • 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.

We celebrate our historical collections by making them publicly and widely available, and specifically through:

  • Circulating Now, our popular blog featuring regular posts authored by Library patrons, interns, and staff.
  • Hidden Treasure, a spectacular 240-page, full-color scholarly book with 450 images and over 80 essays by distinguished scholars, artists, collectors, journalists, and physicians. Download a free copy of this book from NLM’s Digital Collections.
  • Images of America: U.S. National Library of Medicine, a book intended for a general audience, which illustrates the broad history of the Library from the early 19th century through the late 20th century through over 170 images from our own rich collections and several others. Download a free copy of this book from NLM’s Digital Collections.
  • Our award-winning Exhibition Program, which 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 the Story of the NLM Historical Collections and how HMD is Advancing History.