U.S. National Library of Medicine Celebrates 175 Years





Dr. Reznick is Deputy Chief of the History of Medicine Division in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Honorary Research Fellow in the Center for First World War Studies of the University of Birmingham, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

2011 marks the 175th anniversary of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) which traces its origins to 1836 and the commitment of the second U.S. Army Surgeon General, Thomas Lawson (1789-1861), to purchase books and journals for active-duty medical officers.

Today part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, NLM is the world’s largest medical library with a collection of over 12 million books, journals, manuscripts, audiovisuals, and other forms of medical information, including one of the world’s largest and most treasured history of medicine collections.  NLM is also the developer of a variety of electronic information services, delivering trillions of bytes of data daily to millions of people around the world, including scientists, health professionals, scholars, educators, students, and the general public.

As one special program among many to come during its 175th anniversary, NLM has launched a YouTube contest to help publicize the availability of its many free services and programs which advance biomedical research, enhancing public health, and advance scholarship, teaching, and learning.

NLM’s History of Medicine Division (HMD) invites the participation of HNN readers in this video contest.  No matter how the information you have received from NLM has helped you—whether in research, writing, teaching, learning, or the creative arts—NLM wants to hear about it.  And if you are not already familiar with the richness of NLM’s offerings, consider exploring these resources among many others:

  • NLM’s award-winning Exhibition Program, whose many original exhibitions onsite at NLM and travelling around the United States have been seen by hundreds of thousands of  individuals, while hundreds of thousands more have experienced them through companion web sites enriched with educational resources designed for different interests, learning levels, and academic goals;

  • Digital Collections, NLM’s digital repository, which currently features a selection of monographs and films from the collections of NLM/HMD and allows users to perform full-text and keyword searching within each collection or across the entire repository;

  • Directory of History of Medicine Collections, a continuously-updated database which reveals the depth and variety of history of medicine collections in libraries, archives, and museums around the world;

  • History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium, a search-and-discovery tool for archival resources in the health sciences which currently includes over 1,600 finding aids from 12 institutions across the U.S.; 

  • Images from the History of Medicine, which provides access to nearly 70,000 images in NLM/HMD collections;

  • Profiles in Science®, which makes available the rich archival collections of leaders in biomedical research, clinical medicine, and public health;

  • Turning the Pages, which refines original technology used by the British Library to enable users at kiosks, online—and now on an iPad—to touch, turn, and explore in visual and intellectual depth the pages notable and rare works in the history of medicine, and

  • PubMed Central (PMC), a digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature which offers users full-text and full-search access to approximately 2 million full-text articles.

As NLM marks 175 years of experience in collecting materials and providing information and research services in all areas of biomedicine and health care, we invite you to be part of our celebration by sharing your own experiences with these and our many other resources.  Regardless, in this anniversary year and years to come, please contact us if we could assist you in your work, and when you are in the Washington D.C. area, please visit us on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.


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