A collage of collection images in the shape of the number 5.

Five Years in Circulation…and Counting!

Free things like air,
Vital things like blood,
Living things like ideas…

With this introduction, we launched Circulating Now five years ago this week. The idea was—and remains—a simple yet meaningful one:

For over 175 years the National Library of Medicine’s historical collections have circulated to generations within the reading rooms of its current and previous locations in and around Washington, DC. Today, these collections—as part of the trillions of bytes of data produced and delivered by the world’s largest biomedical library—circulate daily to millions of people around the world, including scientists, health professionals, scholars, educators, students, and the general public.

Now, hundreds of posts have covered topics reflecting the diverse interests of our patrons and the breadth of the NLM historical collections, which span ten centuries, encompass digital and physical formats, and originate from all around the globe.  Circulating Now features recent acquisitions to the collection, research by our conservation staff working to preserve our unique documents, digitization projects improving public access to materials, and loans and traveling exhibitions that make our collections relevant to communities around the world. And Circulating Now runs series which explore our collections from different perspectives on contemporary topics related to health and medicine including the centenary of World War I and Data Science.

Our most-visited post to date has been viewed nearly 20,000 times. Many posts published throughout the last five years remain active, garnering more views daily. Our top performers include:

  1. Ten images representing the top ten posts.Domestic Violence in the 1970s
  2. The Lady Who Became a Nurse
  3. On Combat Fatigue Irritability: Kerry Kelly Novick
  4. A Headstart on Lice Prevention
  5. Dr. Samuel Mudd, Prisoner and Physician
  6. “Wrapped in flesh”: Views of the body in East Asian Medicine
  7. Influenza Precautions, Then and Now
  8. PTSD and Gene Kelly’s Lost Wartime Star Turn
  9. The Medical Civil Rights Movement and Access to Health Care
  10. The Dance of Death

This fifth year of Circulating Now also brought with it praise from important publications in health and science including a review in the Washington Post Science and Health section, calling the blog “varied, lively and sometimes surprising.”  Influencers in the blogosphere have taken notice as well, including Nursing Cleo, The Public Domain Review, Conservators Converse, Daily History Reader, and the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association, among others.

A collage of photographs of contributors to the blog.So, with thanks to everyone who has contributed their time and expertise over the past five years—including our committed staff, who collect, catalog, preserve, and interpret the historical collections of our institution; our dozens of staff authors and guests; our collaborators and partner institutions, and YOU our readers, including 5,000+ direct-subscribers and 335,000+ followers—Circulating Now has wonderfully achieved its goals of:

sustaining the tradition and commitment of the NLM, and libraries everywhere, to provide knowledge and expertise freely and to inspire people and enrich lives.

conveying the vitality of medical history in our 21st-century world: its relevance and importance for research, teaching, and learning about the human condition.

evoking the living quality of the NLM’s historical collections and the stories they offer about the experience of health and disease across ten centuries and around the world.

If you’re new to Circulating Now, welcome! And whether you’re a first time visitor or one of our growing community of followers, we invite you to stay tuned as we move into our next five years, and beyond.


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