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NLM Launches Medicine on Screen

February 21, 2019

Widely-appreciated research resource available ahead of February 28 public lecture by the University of Maryland’s Oliver Gaycken, “Fantastic Voyages Through the Historical Audio-Visual Collections at the National Library of Medicine”

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s largest biomedical library, announces the launch of Medicine on Screen: Films and Essays from NLM—replacing Medical Movies on the Web which debuted in 2013—expanding NLM’s engagement with researchers from a variety of disciplines who use the medium of film and video to study the human condition.

Responding to feedback from these and other patrons, Medicine on Screen offers a fresh design, new essays placing selected titles from the Library’s world-renowned audiovisuals collection in historical and health contexts, and enhanced functionality.

The NLM holds one of the world’s largest collections of medical films and videos, spanning over a century, numbering nearly 40,000 titles total, and including among them an estimated 8,000 cataloged titles deemed to be historically significant. Many of these titles are rare or unique—with NLM sometimes holding the only surviving copy. More than mere windows onto health and disease, these collections are important artifacts of the times and places in which their creators produced them for a variety of audiences.

Documentary filmmakers have long appreciated learning about and using this unique collection to illuminate complex issues in society and culture—from politics to race to class.  These films reflect a range of human fears and hopes conveyed through distinct cinematic techniques and the perspectives and agendas of their producers and directors.

Visitors to Medicine on Screen will discover substantial and insightful essays by researchers from a variety of disciplines and institutions, including Zoe Beloff, artist at Queens College of the City University of New York; Cynthia Connolly, Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on children’s health care policy; Miriam Posner, professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles; Edmund Ramsden, historian of medicine and science at Queen Mary University of London; and Michael Sappol, historian of medicine at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study.

Through its curation by these and other researchers—reflecting their own extensive engagements with the collection while encouraging new ones—Medicine on Screen complements NLM Digital Collections and the NLM History of Medicine YouTube playlist to which the Library also adds digitized film titles for public access.

On Thursday, February 28, Medicine on Screen essayist Dr. Oliver Gaycken of the University of Maryland will deliver the first lecture of the 2019 NLM History of Medicine Lecture Series, entitled “Fantastic Voyages Through the Historical Audio-Visual Collections at the National Library of Medicine.” Dr. Gaycken is the author of “Informative Beauty,” an essay about the film Anatomical Animation by medical illustrator Frank Armitage.

Dr. Gaycken’s lecture is free, open to the public, and will take place at 2 p.m. EST in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium. Additionally, like all NLM History of Medicine lectures, Dr. Gaycken’s lecture will be live-streamed globally and subsequently archived.


The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is a leader in research in biomedical informatics and data science and the world’s largest biomedical library. NLM conducts and supports research in methods for recording, storing, retrieving, preserving, and communicating health information. NLM creates resources and tools that are used billions of times each year by millions of people to access and analyze molecular biology, biotechnology, toxicology, environmental health, and health services information. Additional information is available at

Last Reviewed: February 21, 2019