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Research Tools

Reference Support for Your Research

Reference Support

The History of Medicine Reference staff responds to inquiries about the NLM historical collections from across the U. S. and abroad by e-mail, telephone, mail, fax, and in person.

About Digital Collections

Digital Collections is the National Library of Medicine’s free online resource of biomedical books, still images, and videos. All of the content in Digital Collections is freely available worldwide and, unless otherwise indicated, in the public domain. Digital Collections provides unique access to NLM’s rich resources.

Selected archival collections are also available in digital format, including Profiles in Science, the FDA Notices of Judgement Collection, the Henkel Family Letters, and selected speeches and articles by former NLM director Dr. Martin M. Cummings.

The Library’s website also contains a wide variety of guides, thematic sites, exhibitions, and other resources containing digitized materials, which can be explored through the research tools page or searching the NLM website.

Doing Historical Research Onsite at NLM

Doing research in the historical collections of the National Library of Medicine is free and open to the public during business hours. While considerable research can be done at a distance, due to the rarity, format, condition, and vast scope of the historical collections some items can only be viewed onsite. In the case of manuscript and audiovisual collections, some materials may be stored offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval and viewing. Go to Plan Onsite Research for more information about visiting the National Library of Medicine for historical research.

Choosing an Online Catalog

LocatorPlus is best for:

  • Filtering by collection or format
  • Holdings
  • Item availability
  • Onsite requests
  • MARC 2 data format

NLM Catalog is best for:

  • Subject searching
  • Author searching
  • Contemporary Journals

Borrowing and Requesting Copies

The Library does not lend historical material in its original format; however, we do lend, through interlibrary loan, copies, microfilm, and viewing copies of audiovisuals when they are available. For some materials limited copies or scans can be made available to individual researchers on request, fees may apply.

Interlibrary Loan

The Library’s interlibrary loan services are available only to libraries, not to individuals. If you would like to borrow NLM material please make a request through a local library. For more information see Interlibrary Loan Fact Sheet.


NLM provides a “scan-on-demand” program as part of its ongoing effort to make historical medical content more widely available to the public. If you request monograph material published before 1923 that is in the public domain, you will receive a fully digitized copy of the original, which is then also deposited in NLM’s Digital Collections repository for public access.


You are under obligation to determine and satisfy copyright restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing material from the historical collections. The Library reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of the copyright law. See Historical Collections Copyright for more information.

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