Images from the History of Medicine is Moving to NLM Digital Collections

By Ginny A. Roth

On June 1, 2016, Images from the History Medicine (IHM), the National Library of Medicine (NLM), History of Medicine Division’s (HMD) online database of historical images, will be decommissioned from its current Luna Imaging platform, and formally launched in its new home in NLM’s Digital Collections, the Library’s free online resource of over 16,000 biomedical books and moving images.

IHM is a collection of historical portraits, photographs, fine prints, caricatures, posters, and other graphic art that illustrates the social and historical aspects of medicine from the Middle Ages to the present. The collection covers subjects ranging from medieval medical practice to 19th century slum conditions to World War I hospitals to the international fight against drug abuse and AIDS.  The collection also includes all of the images from the freely-available book Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine, which showcases the NLM and its remarkable historical collections. Now you can search this entire image collection more easily alongside digitized books and videos, and you can download images more seamlessly.

There are several ways to search IHM in NLM’s Digital Collections. If you prefer to browse all of IHM’s images, IHM can be searched as a Collection. If you prefer more targeted searches, you can select individual genres, including portraits, posters, postcards, book illustrations, and advertisements among many others.  You can further refine your search by subject, author, title, language, and date ranges.

Each image in the IHM collection has a resource page, which can be accessed by selecting any image title in the search results. The resource page contains all the metadata information for the image. Resource metadata fields include title, author, publication information, language, format, MeSH subject headings, genre, abstract, copyright statement, extent, technique, unique identifiers, and a permanent link to the resource page.

Some fields, such as author, language, MeSH subject headings, and genre are searchable, which allows users to search for similar images with, for example, the same artist or the same subject. Additionally, the NLM Unique ID field contains a link to the image’s full catalog record in NLM’s library catalog, LocatorPlus.

The image on each resource page can be enlarged full screen by clicking on the image. Once in full screen mode, the image can be moved around to view different areas of the image, zoomed in or out for detail magnification, and rotated.

Among the most exciting new features of IHM in NLM’s Digital Collections, is that all images can be downloaded directly from the resource page by clicking on ‘Download,’ which appears beneath the image. You can select from a high-resolution TIFF or a standard JPG file.  You may also choose to download the resource metadata in XML. NLM’s Digital Collections offers a search-based Web service that provides access to the Dublin Core metadata and full-text OCR of every resource in the repository in XML format. Developers can use the Web service to build applications that query and link to these resources. More information can be found on NLM’s Digital Collections Web Service page.

The inclusion of still images in NLM’s Digital Collections furthers the goal of the Library to provide users with a single, comprehensive, and easy-to-navigate digital portal to the Library’s rich historical collections.

Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) can also be accessed 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). A selection of public domain images from IHM is also available on Flickr Commons

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.