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National Library of Medicine

Library Overview

The History of Medicine Division holds the special collections of the National Library of Medicine. Formed in 1945 to curate the library's rare books, the division has grown dramatically in its collections and programs. The division has one of the most complete collections of medical works in the country. These include extensive runs of medical textbooks and journals; anatomical books such as those by Andreas Vesalius, Bernhard Albinus, and William Hunter; East Asian language texts; and works on pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, diet, alternative therapies, and public health. The library's collection of medical incunabula is unparalleled.

The division has important collections of medieval Western, Arabic, and Persian manuscripts, and more recent manuscripts in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. With older collections in military medicine, modern manuscripts collecting now focuses on contemporary biomedicine, public health and health policy, mental health, medical informatics and librarianship, and alternative medicine. The prints and photographs collections comprise over 75,000 items, with digital copies found in an online database, Images from the History of Medicine. Strong on medical portraiture, the collection now focuses on contemporary medicine and public health, with a large AIDS poster collection. The division's collection of medical films and videos includes some 14,000 titles, with over 500 titles produced prior to 1950. In addition to public health, the collection highlights instructional films, public service announcements, and documentaries.

The History of Medicine Division is digitizing its collections—notably in Profiles in Science (manuscripts in biomedicine and public health); Historical Anatomies on the Web; and Medicine in the Americas (early American medical imprints). The division regularly mounts exhibitions—both physical and online. Recent efforts include "Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body," "Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians," and "Dream Anatomy." To help reach a broad public, the division also has a full schedule of tours, seminars, film series, and symposia.

National Library of Medicine
History of Medicine Division
Building 38/Room 1 E-21
86oo Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894
(301) 496-5405 (t)
(301) 402-0872 (f)