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Collections: Archives & Modern Manuscripts

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  • Archives and Modern Manuscript Collection Finding Aids

    Online searchable finding aids provide details about the scope and content of NLM personal papers and archives materials. Finding Aids do not represent the entirety of NLM holdings.

    Finding aids are comprehensive overviews of unique personal paper and archival resources. Progressively detailed descriptions of a collection’s component parts summarize the overall scope of the content, convey details about the individuals and organizations involved, and list box and folder headings. Special service conditions are noted, including terms under which the collection may be accessed or copied. Links are provided to digitized content, when available.

    Accessions and unprocessed collections are generally available for use and often have preliminary boxlists users can consult. Contact us for more information.

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  • A growing number of fully-digitized collections are available online through NLM Digital Collections. Users can expect access to collection materials the same as they would in our reading room.

    • Bound manuscripts are digitized at the book level; archives and manuscript collections are digitized at the folder or item level according to the contents listings in finding aids.
    • Users will find [view online] links alongside folder titles in finding aids.
    • Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights. While creators and donors often deed any copyrights they own to the published and unpublished materials in these collections to the public domain, the authors of other third-party materials still retain those copyrights.
    • NLM leverages its own fair use rights according to ARL's Code of Best Practices for Fair Use to make these collections publicly available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand their own fair use rights and any applicable copyright and re-publication rights.
    • NLM does not grant permissions to re-publish. Users can find copyright status and re-use information in the Access and Use sections of collection finding aids and in bibliographic records in our online catalogs. NLM will attempt to provide information about copyright holders to the best of our knowledge upon request.

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    • Gene therapy article

      Recognizing that web sites, blogs, social media, and other web content plays an increasingly important role in documenting the scholarly biomedical record and illustrating a diversity of philosophical and cultural perspectives in health and medicine, Archives and Modern Manuscripts has begun selectively collecting representative web content to augment our physical personal papers and organizational archives. NLM also periodically captures and archives large portions of its own web domain, including NLM blogs and social media. In addition to directly accessing archived web content through our Internet Archive Archive It service, archived websites are described in the pertinent collection finding aids.

      Archives and Modern Manuscripts collections
      NLM Institutional Archives


    • E-Patient Dave blog.

      Web collecting and archiving is the process of collecting web sites, social media, and other web content to ensure the information is preserved in an archive for future researchers, historians, and the public. NLM librarians and archivists use Archive-It web crawlers to collect web content guided by the Library’s collection development policies... Read More

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    • Florence Sabin in her lab.

      Profiles in Science

      Profiles in Science presents the lives and work of innovators in science, medicine, and public health through in-depth research, curation, and digitization of archival collection materials. NLM historians and archivists review and select documents from the Library's collections, and collaborating institutions, to bring the public biographical stories and direct access to supporting primary sources. Profiles in Science includes digitized letters, draft manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and more that provide insight into the challenges and successes of scientific discovery and the diversity of paths and perspectives involved.

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  • All Modern Manuscript Collections

    Modern manuscripts are defined as archival materials dating from the year 1600 and comprise an estimated 20,000 linear feet, including about 250 oral histories. For manuscript collections with finding aids, fully searchable finding aids are available. For more detailed information about manuscript materials without finding aids, consult the NLM on-line catalog LocatorPlus Catalog, or the in-house collection guides.

    Oral History Collections

    Oral history collections, chiefly from the 1970s to the present, consist of interviews with physicians, scientists, health policy administrators, and health-business executives.

    Bound and Folio Manuscripts

    Bound and folio manuscripts are chiefly 18th century materials consisting of lecture notes, recipe books, hospital logs, and other discrete items, often with European or eastern U.S. provenance. These manuscripts supplement the Library’s medieval manuscripts and book collections.

    Medical Informatics Collections

    Medical librarianship and informatics collections include institutional archives, the papers of NLM Directors, including NLM founder John Shaw Billings, and records and oral histories of the Medical Library Association (MLA).

    New Accessions and Unprocessed Collections

    Unprocessed collections of all types and newer accessions. These materials often have brief information in the NLM on-line catalog and are most likely stored in an offsite location requiring at least 30 days prior notice for delivery. Please consult the HMD Reference Staff for information regarding these collections.

    NLM Institutional Archives

    NLM Institutional Archives contain records of the National Library of Medicine as well as archives of its website from 2004 to the present.

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Last Reviewed: January 9, 2023