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About Us

The History of Medicine Division at NLM


The NLM History of Medicine Division (HMD) collects, preserves, makes available, and interprets for diverse audiences one of the world’s richest collections of historical material related to health and disease. Spanning ten centuries, encompassing a variety of digital and physical formats, 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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  • Terabytes of born-digital content, including web sites, blogs, and social media
  • Manuscripts dating from the 11th to the 21st centuries, including the earliest anatomical drawings and the papers of Nobel Prize winning researchers, U.S. Surgeons General, and leaders in the fields of medicine and public health
  • 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
  • Organizational archives from such groups as the Medical Library Association and the American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • Over 10,000 audiovisuals
  • Over 150,000 prints and photographs

We interpret the Library’s historical collections through:

  • Our award-winning Exhibition Program, which develops onsite special displays, graphic traveling banner shows that tour the world, and online K–12 and higher education resources which together advance public awareness about medicine, science, and history. Exhibitions and special displays 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.
  • Circulating Now, our popular blog featuring regular posts authored by NLM patrons, interns, volunteers, and staff. 
  • Two free and richly-illustrated books. Images of America: US National Library of Medicine (2017), which tells the 180-year story of our institution through chapters authored by our talented staff and Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine (2011), which features our world-renowned collections interpreted through 80 essays authored by distinguished scholars, artists, collectors, journalists, and physicians. 

You can also discover our collections via NLM Digital Collections a rapidly growing resource including born-digital materials, books, serials, audiovisuals, still images and graphic materials, manuscripts, and oral histories.

As our division embraces the future as a steward of the past—including the NLM Strategic Plan 2017-2027: A Platform for Biomedical Discovery and Data-Powered Health—we warmly welcome you to explore all we offer, visit for a tour, and conduct research in our world-renowned collections.

Learn more about the Story of the NLM Historical Collections and how HMD is Advancing History.

Last Reviewed: November 2, 2020