Images from the History of Medicine in Open-i

By Ginny A. Roth

On March 22, 2016 the NLM History of Medicine Division’s image database, Images from the History of Medicine (IHM), launched in Open-iSM, the National Library of Medicine’s open access biomedical image search engine from the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHNCBC).  Open-iSM enables search and retrieval of abstracts and images (including charts, graphs, clinical images, etc.) from open source literature and biomedical image collections.  IHM’s nearly 70,000 images now join over 1.6 million images already available through Open-iSM from sources including the open access subset of PubMed Central (PMC), a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the National Library of Medicine, the Indiana University hospital network, and the Orthopaedic Surgical Anatomy Teaching Collection at the USC Digital Library.

Images can be browsed either in grid form (as seen in the screen shot above), where hovering over an image will show a synopsis of information relevant to the image, or in list form, with links provided to the full image record, MeSH headings, and source website.

The Open-iSM interface also allows users to search the full database by article type, image type (including video), clinical specialties, and collections. The IHM dataset can be isolated by selecting it under the collections menu. Under the subsets menu users can choose from 25 different History of Medicine Publication Type classifications including posters, photographs, herbals, architectural drawings, cartoons, and more.

Among the most exciting and unique features of Open-iSM is that indexing of both text and images allows users the option to search for images based on keywords in associated metadata or by features of the images themselves or a combination. Images can be used as a query component to find other relevant images or other visually similar images, and users can upload their own images in order to find similar or related images.

The combination of curated digital materials and information retrieval systems is a key element for the advancement of health information resources, biomedical research, and in the collaborative field of the digital humanities as a whole. We hope you will explore IHM through this new and exciting point of access.

IHM can also be accessed through the National Library of Medicine’s Digital Collections. IHM includes image files of a wide variety of visual media including fine art, photographs, engravings, and posters that illustrate the social and historical aspects of medicine dating from the 15th to 21st century.

portrait of Ginny outside Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.