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About Us: Exhibition Program

Discover History, Expand Your Horizons!

Who we are

The Exhibition Program is a group of dedicated, creative, and skilled public servants who produce exhibitions that stimulate enthusiasm for history and encourage people to learn about medicine, themselves, and their communities. For us, health and well-being are human rights essential to our American way of life. Exhibitions are a logical expression of that conviction.

Since 1996, we’ve presented inspiring stories about people, science and medicine, and history drawn from the renowned collection of the National Library of Medicine.

What we do

We create exhibitions to enhance awareness and appreciation of the NLM’s trusted health information resources. Our exhibitions feature the library’s rich collections, which encompass ten centuries of medical knowledge. As part of a U.S. national library, we seek to advance public understanding of how the past informs the present—and can shape the future.

Our exhibitions focus on a variety of topics which explore the relationship between medicine and the arts, science and society, patients and practitioners, and the technology of medicine. Subjects of these exhibitions include the history of lead poisoning in America, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, African American academic surgeons, and the history of women physicians, among others.

These websites feature curated selections of digitized books, images, ephemera, films, and historical documents from the NLM Digital Collections, the library’s health information resources, educational activities, and more. Some titles include This Lead Is Killing Us: A Century of Citizens Fighting Lead Poisoning in Their Communities, Care and Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health, and Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body. For more, go to Exhibitions.

These graphic, roll-up banner displays are available free of charge to libraries and cultural institutions across the U.S. and around the world. Some titles include Politics of Yellow Fever in Alexander Hamilton’s America, Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well-Drawn!, and Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions. To learn how to apply for the opportunity to bring a traveling exhibition to your institution, go to Host NLM Traveling Exhibitions.


Exhibitions by Date

We produce online and traveling exhibitions, as well as onsite displays. Find more information about past exhibitions below.

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    • So, What’s New in the Past? explores how the history of medicine has told different stories and different truths over time, depending on the questions asked and concerns raised. This online exhibition, a refresh of a 1997 exhibition, launched July 2021. A flagship exhibition was on display in the lobby of the NLM July 7, 1997– September 30, 1997.
    • Outside/Inside: Immigration, Migration, and Health Care in the United States looks at the history of ideas about immigrant health and immigrants’ and migrants’ experiences with U.S. health care since the late 1800s. This online exhibition launched February 2021. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Making a World of Difference: Stories About Global Health explores the efforts of people who are working on a wide range of issues to fight disease and improve quality of life around the world. This online exhibition launched February 2021. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Fifty Years Ago: The Darkening Day highlights examples of research, programs and policies, public messaging, and action taken by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and scientists from the Public Health Service (PHS), as awareness of environmental pollution’s health impacts grew in the 1940s through 1960s. The site launched in recognition of The Darkening Day, a 1970 NLM exhibition. This online exhibition launched January 2021. View the related NLM News announcement.
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    • Care and Custody: Past Responses to Mental Health explores the treatment of people with mental health conditions throughout history. This traveling banner and online exhibition examines how the U.S. has moved away from custodial forms of treatment toward more inclusive approaches and worked to protect the rights of people with mental health conditions over the past 200 years. The online exhibition opened October 2020. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • World Health Organization: Picturing Health for All was an onsite display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room October 1, 2019–March 13, 2020. It featured a selection of images from the NLM Prints & Photographs collection and highlighted some of the World Health Organization’s work in the 20th century. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Rashes to Research: Scientists and Parents Confront the 1964 Rubella Epidemic, a traveling banner and online exhibition, opened on June 3, 2019, highlighting the work of researchers and parents to respond to rubella in the years before an effective vaccine nearly eliminated the disease from the United States. In addition, Rashes to Research: The Division of Biologics Standards’ Impossible Role was on display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room June 3, 2019–September 26, 2019. This exhibition featured the story of the NIH’s Division of Biologics Standards (DBS), whose early research spurred the development of the first commercially available vaccine to prevent rubella. NLM announced these Rashes to Research exhibitions in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first commercially available vaccine to prevent rubella. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Politics of Yellow Fever in Alexander Hamilton's America explores how party politics shaped the response to the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 Philadelphia, as the city confronted the disease in the absence of an effective cure or consensus about its origins. In addition to traveling and online exhibitions, Politics of Yellow Fever included a display in History of Medicine Division January 11, 2019–May 22, 2019. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • This Lead is Killing Us: A Century of Citizens Fighting Lead Poisoning in Their Communities tells an important story of advocates protecting their communities from the dangers of lead and making their voices heard with industry leaders, housing authorities, and elected officials. This online exhibition opened October 15, 2019, in recognition of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 20-26). View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Rise, Serve, Lead!: America’s Women Physicians highlights the lives and achievements of women doctors in the U.S. who have made a difference through their medical practice and research, work as activists, service as administrators, and mentorship to the next generation of physicians. The online exhibition features the biographies of more than 300 women doctors who have made their mark on the profession. A traveling banner exhibition launched March 18, 2019, in commemoration of Women’s History Month. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived and Well-Drawn! explores an emerging genre of medical literature that combines the art of comics and the personal illness narrative. A display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room opened on January 30, 2018 (closed on January 3, 2019), along with traveling banner and online exhibitions. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine in Harry Potter’s World explores the stories of plants, creatures, and magic featured in the Harry Potter book series, which drew inspiration from Renaissance thinkers and traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science. This online exhibition reinterprets a show that debuted in 2009. Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine in Harry Potter’s World launched in June 2017, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series. View the related NLM News Announcement.
    • Fire and Freedom: Food and Enslavement in Early America looks at the Chesapeake region during the early colonial era, where European settlers survived by relying upon indentured servants, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans for labor, life-saving knowledge of farming, and food acquisition. Fire and Freedom was on display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room during November 3, 2016 (closed on January 12, 2018), along with traveling and online exhibitions. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Physician Assistants: Collaboration and Care describes how the profession developed as a solution to meet the social and health care needs of the mid-20th century and continues to evolve today. NLM, in partnership with the Physician Assistant History Society, launched traveling banner and online exhibitions on October 6, 2016. View the related NLM News announcement.
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    • For All the People: A Century of Citizen Action in Health Care Reform discusses how movements of ordinary people have made their voices heard in the debate about whether and how to make quality health care available to all, and helped shape the changing American health care system. NLM launched traveling banner and online exhibitions in November 2015. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Confronting Violence: Improving Women’s Lives tells the story of mid to late-20th century nurses working to reform a medical profession that failed to acknowledge domestic violence as a health issue and not a legal matter. The traveling banner and online exhibitions opened September 17, 2015, alongside a display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room, which ran until October 14, 2016. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature explores the power of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story to expose hidden fears of science and technology—both in the original novel and subsequently shaped into new forms, such as plays, films, and comics. The traveling and online exhibitions opened in June 2015, drawing from a flagship in the NLM Rotunda Gallery exhibition with the same title that was on display 1997–1998. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Postcard Collection presents a selection of historic postcards spanning a century of nursing imagery. Pictures of Nursing was on display was in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room from September 2, 2014–August 21, 2015. Additionally, NLM launched a traveling banner exhibition and an online exhibition that includes a digital gallery of over 580 postcards from the Zwerdling postcard collection. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions examines some of the factors that have shaped the changing definition of our most potent drugs. Following a display in History of Medicine Division during August 20, 2012–November 14, 2013, NLM launched online and traveling banner exhibitions in 2014 and 2015, respectively. View related NLM News announcements.
    • From DNA to Beer: Harnessing Nature in Medicine and Industry explores some of the processes, problems, and potentials inherent in technologies that use microorganisms for health and commercial purposes. A display was in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room from November 18, 2013–August 15, 2014. Online and traveling exhibitions debuted in November, as well. View related NLM news announcements.
    • Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture looks at the rise of HIV/AIDS in American during the early 1980's and the evolving response to the epidemic over 30 years. NLM launched traveling and online exhibitions in September 17, 2013. Surviving and Thriving online includes a digital gallery of more than 575 fully digitized posters, comic books, and postcards from the NLM collection. View the related NLM news announcement.
    • A Voyage to Health explores how the revival of Native Hawaiian sea voyaging traditions helped heal the community. NLM launched the traveling exhibition first in 2010, then an online exhibition in May 9, 2013, in commemoration of the 19-year anniversary of the return of Kanaloa Kaho‘olawe island to the Hawaiian people in 1994. View the related NLM news announcement.
    • Every Necessary Care and Attention: George Washington and Medicine examines the growing class of medical practitioners and knowledge about the spread and prevention of disease George Washington called upon to ensure the health and safety of his family, staff, enslaved workers, and soldiers. NLM launched a display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room on January 17, 2013 (closed April 27, 2013), alongside traveling banner and online exhibitions. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • “And there’s the humor of it”: Shakespeare and the four humors features rare books from the collection of the NLM and the Folger Shakespeare Library. NLM launched traveling banner and online exhibitions alongside an onsite display, which was in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room January 30, 2012–August 17, 2012. View the related NLM news announcement.
    • Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War brings to light the experiences of men whose lives were saved by sacrificing limbs during the war and disabled veterans in the post-war period. Life and Limb was on display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room during March 7-July 1, 2011, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. NLM also launched traveling and online exhibitions. View the related NLM news announcement.
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    • The Henkel Physicians: A Family’s Life in Letters highlights correspondence among members of the Henkel family—generations of fathers and sons who practiced medicine after settling in New Market, Virginia in 1790. This project was an Exhibition Program collaboration with the Images and Archives section of the History of Medicine Division. A display was in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room from June 2011–September 2011. In addition, traveling banner and online exhibitions launched September 5, 2011.
    • Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine celebrates the contributions of African American surgeons and nurses during the American Civil War. Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries was on display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room October 1, 2010–February 28, 2011. Traveling banner and online exhibitions debuted in October 2010, as well. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "The Yellow Wall-paper" examines a short story that challenged 19th- century notions of female weakness and social conventions that restricted women's professional and creative opportunities. NLM launched a display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room, as well as online and traveling banner exhibitions in September and October 2009. View the related NLM news announcement.
    • Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos looks at devotional paintings that are part of a tradition where faith and healing play a vital role in daily life. The exhibition was on display in entryway to the History of Medicine Division Reading Room from September 15, 2008–January 31, 2009, debuting alongside a trilingual online exhibition. In addition, a traveling poster display toured the country from September 2009 to November 2018.
    • Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health examines stories of the people who are working on a wide range of issues around the world—from community health to conflict and disease to discrimination—to prevent illness and improve quality of life. A flagship onsite display featured in the NLM Rotunda Gallery from April 17, 2008 until December 17, 2010. The online adaptation also launched in April 2008, while a traveling banner exhibition debuted in October 2008. View the related NLM news announcement.
    • Do Mandrakes Really Scream?: Magic and Medicine in Harry Potter showcases centuries-old treasures in the NLM collection that are mentioned in the Harry Potter series. The display was in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room from July 24, 2007–November 30, 2007. View the related NLM News announcements.
    • Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons recognizes the achievements of pioneering African American practitioners and highlights contemporary surgeons and educators who exemplify excellence in their fields and mentor younger African American physicians. Opening Doors was on display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room February 1, 2007–August 1, 2007. The online exhibition debuted in February 2007, while the banner exhibition began traveling August 2007.
    • Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body traces the history of forensic medicine--the efforts of physicians, surgeons, and other specialists to translate views of bodies and body parts into hard evidence or "visible proofs" that testify on behalf of the victims of violent crime and against the guilty. This flagship exhibition was on display in the NLM Rotunda Gallery February 16, 2006– February 25, 2008. Visible Proofs online launched in February 2006. View the related NLM news announcements.
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    • Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians features stories about the lives and accomplishments of over 300 women physicians from a diversity of ethnicities, geographic locations, professional specialties, and historic time periods. A flagship display featured in the NLM Rotunda Gallery October 14, 2003– November 19, 2005. NLM also launched an online exhibition in October 2003. A traveling banner exhibition toured the country August 31, 2005–November 15, 2010. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Dream Anatomy featured imaginative anatomical books from early modern medicine, along with the work of 20th- and 21st-century artists. This flagship exhibition was on display in the NLM Rotunda Gallery October 9, 2002–July 31, 2003. An online exhibition launched in October 2002, as well. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • The Once and Future Web: Worlds Woven by the Telegraph and Internet explored the telegraph and the internet as parallel histories: two electronic communications technologies that transformed the world. The flagship display was in the NLM Rotunda Gallery May 24, 2001–July 31, 2002. A now-archived online exhibition launched in May 2001, as well. View the related NLM News announcement.
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    • Breath of Life highlighted the experiences of people with asthma throughout history and efforts to understand and control the disease. The flagship display was in the NLM Rotunda Gallery March 22, 1999–March 2001. A now-archived online exhibition launched in March 1999, as well. View the related NLM News announcement.
    • Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature examined how Mary Shelley, author of the novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, used the scientific advances of her era and the controversy surrounding them as a metaphor for issues of unchecked power and self-serving ambition, and their effect on the human community. The flagship display was in the NLM Rotunda Gallery October 1997– August 1998. A traveling exhibition toured the country October 2002–September 2007. View the related NLM News announcement. In 2015, the exhibition was adapted and relaunched with a new website and six roll-up banner traveling exhibition.
    • Emotions and Disease looked at how our understanding of the influence of emotions on the onset, course, and remission of disease has evolved through research exploring the connections between the neuroendocrine and immune systems. This large display featured in the NLM Rotunda Gallery November 13, 1996–May 1, 1997. The online exhibition launched 2000.
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Exhibition News on Our Blog

Last Reviewed: October 29, 2020