Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since we launched Circulating Now.
Ten years ago, the History of Medicine Division envisioned a dynamic space where staff—librarians, archivists, historians, interns, conservators, and others—could dedicate their expertise to showcasing the National Library of Medicine’s rich and varied collections and the histories they document. We also intended it to be an agile venue for sharing timely information about current events, conservation activities, exhibitions, new and newly-accessible collection materials, and other resources in the history of medicine. And we really hoped that colleagues, collaborators, researchers, and readers of a variety of professional and personal backgrounds would get involved and contribute to this endeavor.
“I wish all scholarly websites were as well-laid-out and pleasurable to use as the NLM one is — [not] to mention the quality of the collection! Thank you.” —Barbara on Scan-On-Demand: Home Health, 1903
We have more than fulfilled our early vision. Circulating Now has published over 900 stories drawn from our physical and digital collections, which span ten centuries and originate from all over the world. Our contributors include our multidisciplinary staff and more than 200 historians, artists, physicians, biographers, and many others who have discovered new meaning in the collections. Topics have continually proliferated, leading to a great tangle of tags ranging everywhere from anatomy to archives; data to nursing; mental health, public health, epidemics; race to recipes and the role of food as medicine (soup, anyone?).
“Thanks for the great recipes for Soups. I will be making these all winter.”—Vivian on A Pocket Full of Soup
Circulating Now showcases not only books and manuscript materials but also art, software, photographs, film, and born digital web and social media content. Our posts, while historical, often give context to current events; in recent years, for example, the public health crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many posts, along with related essays about other epidemics through history, especially the 1918 influenza pandemic.
At this ten-year mark, we explored a number of ways to better understand Circulating Now’s impact on contributors, subscribers, staff, and readers.
Circulating Now posts garner hundreds and thousands of views from readers all over the world, remaining relevant long after publication and acting as a knowledge base and portal to the Library’s historical collections. The blog’s readership includes librarians and archivists, historians, healthcare professionals, curators, journalists and writers, educators and students, researchers and life-long learners, and many others like you.
The top five most visited posts in the ten year life of the blog, listed below, range from 16,000 to over 62,000 views to date.
- Domestic Violence in the 1970
- The Origins and Evolution of the Mayo Clinic
- The Truth About Black Cats
- On Combat Fatigue Irritability: Kerry Kelly Novick
- The Lady Who Became a Nurse
“Nurses are so brave, i wouldn’t have been able to go in a room full of sick people, they deserve tons of respect.”—Urtasker on Making a World of Difference: Stories About Global Health
We asked contributors to recall posts that made an impact on them and stuck with them over the years. Some recalled making discoveries, working with new people, or writing in a new way for a new audience.
- A Secret Language: The Perils of Transcription
- Of Unica and Unicorns?—Identifying Unique Holdings at NLM
- Fifteenth Century Books: From the Cradle of Printing in the West
- The Development of the DeBakey Classification of Aortic Dissection
- Detailing Michael DeBakey’s War Years: Puzzle Pieces
- Relics of the Infectious Past: Disease Warning Sign Collection
- The Divine Sarah and Her Divine Doctor
We learned that our contributors and readers value Circulating Now as an open resource for exploration, professional development, and connecting with personal and global history. They have shared the many benefits from writing and circulating their posts, from uncovering new information to advance their research to raising awareness of this research, making new professional connections to supporting classroom activities, and even helping to secure a promotion!
“I use the blog as an example for public history assignments in the classroom- preparing my students to learn how to convey their research to a community of their peers.”—Sarah Farhan
“I find it consistently engaging and a great vehicle for alerting the public to the immense wealth of data, information, and unique materials available from NLM and its partners. I hope that Circulating Now will continue to present a very wide spectrum of topics with authors ranging from students and interns to acknowledged experts.”—Betsy Humphreys
“It’s an important source of credible information about health topics in the news.”—Cassie Nespor
“It makes the history of medicine relevant to lay audiences. I especially appreciate its broad scope.”—Susan Green
“Thank you for creating this collection. I don’t envy the future historians grappling with all of this material, but I know they will be grateful to access it.” —janetlynnegolden on COVID-19 Web Collecting: Reflections at One Year
“My brother and his son have dyslexia and really struggled in school with reading assignments and other tasks. Comic books were the only reading materials that appealed to them and they read 1,000s over the years. My nephew took this a step further and wrote his own comics…. Enjoyed the article, thank you”—Jim on Making a Case for Comics in the Classroom
“Very impressive. I have some experience trying to decipher cursive from the 18th century. This was a grand illustration of that process. Thank you” —katerisingsun on A Secret Language: The Perils of Transcription
We are so grateful to all who have contributed their time and expertise over the past decade—including our committed staff, who collect, catalog, preserve, and interpret the historical collections of our institution; our many staff authors and hundreds of guest contributors, our collaborators and partner institutions, and YOU, our readers! We look forward to another decade of discovery.
“I knew about Pott’s disease and the others and the general significance of this medical giant, but I didn’t know he also the first to demonstrate a link between a discrete environmental hazard and cancer risk. Thanks for this. An interesting read for sure, especially for someone who’s learning about occupational health.—Blain on Percivall Pott: Orthopedics and Occupational Health
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 ten years, and beyond!