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Cataloging and Metadata Management: Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) in Cataloging

Module 4—Descriptors: Selecting the Main Concept(s)


  • The descriptors: History of Medicine; History of Dentistry; and History of Nursing are only used for very general works on these topics

  • Prefer the use of the qualifier history with a specific topic (Cf. Module 5—Use of Topical Subheadings)

  • When relevant, coordinate with the appropriate time period, e.g. History, Ancient or History, 19th Century

  • History descriptors or the qualifier history should only be assigned to works discussing the historical aspects of a subject

  • They are not used for materials on a topic that were written as contemporaneous works or for reprints of these works just because they are old

  • Specific events in the history tree, such as Gulf War or Bhopal Accidental Release may be used with contemporaneous materials. Since they already tree under particular time periods, there is no need to coordinate with the time period.


  • For a work describing the history of treatment of neoplasms in the 19th century, written in 2005, use:
    • 650 12 $a Neoplasms $x therapy
    • 650 12 $a Medical Oncology $x history
    • 650 22 $a History, 19th Century

  • For a 2007 reprint of a 19th century work on treatment of neoplasms, use:
    • 650 12 $a Neoplasms $x therapy


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Last Reviewed: June 8, 2017