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NLM Launches a New Exhibition

May 13, 2019

Banner display and online exhibition open June 3, 2019

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first commercially available vaccine to prevent rubella, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces Rashes to Research: Scientists and Parents Confront the Rubella Epidemic of 1964, a banner exhibition and companion online adaptation. The exhibition opens June 3, 2019.

Rashes to Research highlights the work of researchers and parents to limit the impact of rubella in the years before an effective vaccine nearly eliminated the disease from the United States. During the rubella epidemic that raged in 1964, 20,000 children were born with serious heart, hearing, and vision problems related to rubella exposure during pregnancy. While the nation’s scientists rushed to create a vaccine and develop better screening tests, families faced difficult, complicated decisions about current and future pregnancies.

Drawing on the collections of the NLM, the special display showcases a companion exhibition Rashes to Research: The Division of Biologics Standards’ Impossible Role. This exhibition tells 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. However, DBS, both the developer of the rubella vaccine and the regulator of vaccines, occupied an impossible role. To resolve tension between DBS’ role as an innovator and regulator, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) transferred the Division to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 1972 and renamed it the Bureau of Biologics.

The online adaptation of Rashes to Research includes an education component featuring a new K-12 lesson plan and a university module, and a digital gallery that further explores the historic collection of the NLM using the works from NLM Digital Collections.

The banner exhibition and special display will be available through September 25, 2019 in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room, first floor of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Building 38 on the Bethesda, Maryland campus of the National Institutes of Health.

Visitor Information

Located on the Bethesda, Maryland, campus of the NIH, the U.S. National Library of Medicine is open Monday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission to all onsite NLM exhibitions is free. For more information, visit: To arrange a group tour, call 301.827-6479.

Doctors looking at a a slide

Doctors Harry M. Meyer, Jr. (1928-2001), left, and Paul Parkman (b. 1932), right, developed the rubella vaccine, at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, 1967

Courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine

Poster from HMD

Advertisement from the Oregon State Department of Public Health and March of Dimes, undated

Courtesy of the U.S. National Library of Medicine


Exhibition Banner

Rashes to Research: Scientists and Parents Confront the 1964 Rubella Epidemic

Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.


Last Reviewed: May 13, 2019