detail from the cover of a new illustrated history of the National Library of Medicine.

Introducing A New Illustrated History of NLM

By Jeffrey S. Reznick and Ken Koyle ~

This is the first post in a series of nine which serializes the new book US National Library of Medicine in the popular Images of America series of Arcadia Publishing. A hardback version of the book is available from booksellers, and an electronic version of the complete book and original versions of the 170+ images, which appear in it in black and white, are archived and freely available in NLM Digital Collections.  We hope that you will add it to your summer reading list!

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, beginning at 2:30 pm, there will be a public symposium to mark the release of this new book. The program will be a part of the NLM History of Medicine Lecture Series and will take place in Lipsett Amphitheater in Building 10 on the Bethesda campus of the National Institutes of Health. All are warmly welcome, and if you can’t join us onsite, you can watch the proceedings live via NIH Videocasting or view the archived event.

About the Book

Many individuals have written about the National Library of Medicine and its origins in the early 19th century, from a few dozen books in what was then the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office of the US Army to its development into the late 20th century. However, this new book is unlike previous publications because it is intended for a general audience, and it illustrates the broad history of the Library from the early 19th century through the late 20th century through over 170 images from our own rich collections, and a handful of other images from the collections of the National Archives, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences at Tulane University. And this book appears at an important time for the Library, as we anticipate its third century of public service while appreciating and learning from its history to chart the future. Over the long history of the Library, as readers will discover, the institution has developed through technical innovation, visionary leadership, and skillful work completed by a diverse and dedicated cadre of civil servants. Its history reflects the history of America and the world—the US Civil War, the world wars, the Cold War, and the dawn of the Information Age.

Collage of four photographs of the National Library of Medicine
Locations of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and its predecessor institutions, from 1862 to the present. From top-left: Riggs Bank Building, Washington, D.C. (from 1862 to 1866); Ford’s Theatre, Washington, D.C. (from 1866 to 1887); from bottom-left: the “Old Red Brick” building on the National Mall (from 1887 to 1962); and the campus of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland (from 1962 to the present).

This new book is also different from earlier publications because it showcases the research and writing talent of our colleagues at the Library, including archivists, conservators, curators, historians, librarians, and technical specialists. Every day these individuals care for, curate, and provide public access to one of the world’s finest collections of historical material related to human health and disease. Built over many years, passed down from one generation to the next, and including material from antiquity to the present and from virtually every part of the world, this collection includes books, journals, manuscripts, photographs, films and videos, artwork, postcards, pamphlets, websites, social media, scientific data, and much more. It is truly an international treasure that reflects a global and centuries-long record of medicine of great value to researchers, educators, and students from across the disciplines. For more than 180 years, these collections have circulated to individuals within and beyond the reading rooms of the Library’s various locations in and around Washington, DC. Today, many of these collections—as part of the trillions of bytes of data produced, delivered, and interpreted by the Library—circulate daily to millions of people around the world, including scientists, health professionals, scholars, educators, students, and the general public.

Collage of over a hundred historic images.
Images of America: US National Library of Medicine includes 170+ black-and-white reproductions of a variety of historical images drawn from the collections of the National Library of Medicine, and handful of others selected from the collections of the National Archives, the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and the Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences at Tulane University. Digital copies of these original images are available here, like the complete book, via NLM Digital Collections.

We hope this book will inspire you to learn more about the development of the Library and the many people who contributed to it, and to learn more about our institution as it exists today and serves the world from its home here on the campus of the NIH. We envision this publication as a companion to Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine, produced by the NLM in 2011, further inspiring readers to explore the Library’s programs and resources, to visit for a tour, and to conduct research in our world-renowned collections which span ten centuries and represent nearly every part of the globe. We warmly welcome you!


We hope you will enjoy this broad history of the Library as much as we have enjoyed crafting it in cooperation with so many colleagues and friends within and beyond the Library who contributed their time and talent to make this book a reality. For supporting the fundamental research and writing of this book, we would like to thank the Intramural Research Program of the US National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, as well as the leadership of the Library, including Patricia Flatley Brennan, Betsy L. Humphreys, Milton Corn, and Joyce E.B. Backus. Among those who deserve special thanks are our chapter authors Stephen J. Greenberg, James Labosier, Anne Rothfeld, and Susan L. Speaker, all of whom also contributed to identifying many of the wonderful images that appear in this book.

Additionally, many individuals within and beyond the Library devoted their time and expertise to locating, organizing, and preparing images; researching and writing image captions; and offering critical feedback on drafts of the manuscript. We would especially like to thank Ginny Roth, Douglas Atkins, and Kendra Ireigbe for researching, locating, and reproducing so skillfully the many images from the Library’s collections, as well as Stephen J. Greenberg for producing several new complementary photographs. And for their own contributions, which combined to inspire, create, and realize this book, we also thank Anne Altemus, Dianne Babski, Jai Lin Baldwin, Lenore Barbian, Roxanne Beatty, Dennis Benson, Dale Berkley, Eric Boyle, Ernie Branson, Carole Brown, Allen Browne, Patricia Carson, Dan Caughey, Ba Ba Chang, Timothy E. Clark Jr., Nicole Contaxis, Kathleen Cravedi, Laura Cutter, Dora Deegbe, Tory Detweiler, Kathel Dunn, Sarah Eilers, Elizabeth Fee, Martha Fishel, Reginald Frazier, David Gillikin, Alan Hawk, Troy Hill, Mary Holt, Chianti Kight, Ken Kletter, Lou Knecht, Sheldon Kotzin, Conni Koyle, Melvin R. Laird, Janet Laylor, Mary Ann Leonard, Donald A.B. Lindberg, Becky Lyon, Jessica Marcotte, Jane Markowitz, Jennifer Marill, Mary Fogarty McAndrew, Melanie Modlin, Christie Moffatt, Elizabeth Mullen, Jill L. Newmark, Thanhxuan Nguyen, Michael North, Carlo Nuss, John Parascandola, Greg Pike, Scott Podolsky, John Rees, Allison Reznick, Bernard Reznick, Danielle Reznick, Rachel Reznick, Michael Rhode, Michael Sappol, Paul Sledzik, Dale Smith, Kent Smith, Brian Spatola, Heidi Stover, Krista Stracka, Patricia Tuohy, Sandy Triolo, Rebecca Warlow, and Lindsay Williams.

Henry Clougherty, Caitrin Cunningham, Mike Kinsella, Erin Vosgien, and the entire team at Arcadia Publishing offered generous support during the course of conceptualizing and producing this book. We are especially grateful to Arcadia for making a digital version of this book freely available in respect of the US government public access policy for publicly-supported research and writing.

Portrait of Jeffrey S. Reznick in the HMD Reading RoomJeffrey S. Reznick, PhD, is Chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.
Portrait of Kenneth M. KoyleKenneth M. Koyle is Deputy Chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.


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