Atlases are works consisting of collections of images, usually with explanatory text or captions. In medicine, atlases usually contain drawings, radiological images, diagrams, or photographs of the body, various health conditions, surgical procedures, etc. They are used for the education of health professionals, and as practical references for clinical diagnosis and treatment. Atlases also document the level of knowledge about anatomy during a historical period, and sometimes reflect the medical philosophy of a culture.
NLM selectively collects medical and anatomical atlases likely to be of interest to U.S. health professionals and to historians of medicine and science. Selection criteria include quality of graphics, current research value, and potential historical importance. For the historical record, atlases produced or translated in non-Western countries are of particular interest, as are any works that document national differences in the portrayal of anatomical subjects. Because of their visual nature, atlases increasingly appear in audiovisual and electronic format; NLM collects according to the guidelines in those sections.