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NLM to Host "Images and Texts in Medical History: An Introduction to Methods, Tools, and Data from the Digital Humanities"

On April 11-13, 2016, NLM will host the workshop Images and Texts in Medical History: An Introduction to Methods, Tools, and Data from the Digital Humanities. The event will be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), part of the NLM's ongoing partnership with NEH, and held in cooperation with Virginia Tech, The Wellcome Library and The Wellcome Trust.

Images and Texts in Medical History will involve presentations by leading scholars in digital humanities, who will demonstrate and discuss how emerging approaches to the analysis of texts and images can be used by scholars and librarians in the field of medical history.

Images and Texts in Medical History will engage key issues in the history of medicine that have contemporary and future relevance including, but not limited to, the spread of disease, the rise of health professions, scientific research, health policy, and cultural definitions of health and disease.

Images and Texts in Medical History will be a unique public forum involving a hands-on instruction  interdisciplinary workshop and sessions open to the public that will provide historians of medicine and interested others with an opportunity to learn about tools, methods, and texts in the digital humanities that can inform research, teaching, scholarship, and public policy.

Participation in Images and Texts in Medical History will be free to workshop attendees and members of the public who wish to attend the open sessions, but registration will be required in order to manage space and related requirements. Registration details will be announced this summer at

Scheduled Speakers and Presenters:

The confirmed participants in the Images and Texts in Medical History workshop include two digital humanists, Miriam Posner and Ben Schmidt, invited to provide instruction in tools and methods in two longer sessions, and a medical historian, Jeremy A. Greene, who will deliver a keynote address on the impact of new technologies on medical history. Other participants, including panelists, will be invited to take part once the workshop plans are finalized and in consultation with the planning committee.

Miriam Posner earned a PhD in Film Studies and American Studies at Yale University, and is currently Digital Humanities Program Coordinator at the University of California Los Angeles Digital Humanities Program. Her current research project is on medical filmmaking, with a focus on the ways that doctors have used film to make sense of the human body. Her contributions to the digital humanities have been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Journal of Digital Humanities, and numerous conferences. Her instructional session at the workshop will explore new tools for analyzing images in medical history, including the relationship between still photography and moving images, tools to extract images from textual collections, and the opportunities for using image analysis to understand medical procedures, professions, and scientific research.

Benjamin Schmidt earned a PhD in American history from Princeton University, and is now an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University and a faculty affiliate of the NuLAB for Texts, Maps, and Networks. His projects include methods and tools for historians to examine massive amounts of data through data analysis, visualization, and algorithmic transformation. His published research, blogs, and contributions to the digital humanities have acquired a broad public as well as academic audience interested in new approaches, methods, and outcomes. His session at the workshop will focus on tools that can be used by medical historians to examine historical texts, including medical periodicals, newspapers, and other written materials in ways that yield meaningful analysis, visualizations, and representations.

Jeremy A. Greene earned a PhD and MD from Harvard University, and is now an Associate Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Chair in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. His published research has explored the ways that medical technologies shape understandings of what it means to be sick or healthy, abnormal or normal. His keynote address will draw upon his new topic, “Medicine At a Distance,” which examines the impact of instantaneous communications through electric, electronic, and digital media on medical knowledge. This keynote address by a distinguished historian of medicine will thus explore significant themes from the instructional sessions as well as the panel discussions on images and texts in medical history.

The NLMʼs support of Images and Texts in Medical History follows-on its cooperative involvement in the April 2013 symposium Shared Horizons: Data, Biomedicine, and the Digital Humanities, which explored the intersection of digital humanities and biomedicine, and the October 2013 symposium An Epidemiology of Information: New Methods for Interpreting Disease and Data, which explored new methods for large-scale data analysis of epidemic disease.

About the partner institutions:

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an executive-branch, independent grant-making agency of the United States of America dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities and in those social sciences that use humanistic methods. NEH accomplishes this mission by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television and radio stations, and to individual scholars.

Since its founding in 1836, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice. NLM, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the world's largest medical library with more than 17 million items in its collection. A leader in information innovation, it is the developer of electronic information services used by scientists, health professionals and the public around the world. NLM makes its information services known and available with the help of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, which consists of 5,600 member institutions, including eight Regional Medical Libraries. NLM conducts and supports research that applies computer and information science to meet the information needs of clinicians, public health administrators, biomedical researchers and consumers.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

The Wellcome Library is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history. It houses 2.5 million items of extraordinary range and diversity and has a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society. The Library’s digitization program will make a substantial proportion of its holdings freely available on the web, creating a world-class online resource.

The Library is situated within the Wellcome Collection, the free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future.  Wellcome Collection is growing. Exciting new galleries and spaces and expanded Library facilities will open in autumn 2014 as part of a £17.5m development.

The Wellcome Library is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.

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The world's largest biomedical library, the National Library of Medicine maintains and makes available a vast print collection and produces electronic information resources on a wide range of topics that are searched billions of times each year by millions of people around the globe. It also supports and conducts research, development and training in biomedical informatics and health information technology.