United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Especially for Scholars and Historians

  • Collections Overview

    NLM collections related to the history of health and disease are among the richest in the world. Holdings include pre-1914 books, pre-1871 journals, archives and modern manuscripts, medieval and Islamic manuscripts, a collection of printed books, manuscripts, and visual material in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean; historical prints, photographs, films, and videos; pamphlets, dissertations, theses, college catalogs, and government documents.

    The collections are constantly growing, with new material added through an active Acquisitions Program of purchase and donation.

    For more information about the collections, see:

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  • Doing Research on the History of Medicine Web Site

    • Digital Collections

      NLM historical collections include selected digitized material chosen from the manuscripts and books collections, the prints and photographs collection, current and past exhibitions, and the Digital Manuscripts Program. This material is available on the web at Digital Collections.

    • Order Reproductions


      Offsite requests for photocopies of journal articles require an Interlibrary Loan request. See Interlibrary Loan information below.

      Microfilm sales

      Some books and manuscripts have been microfilmed and are available for purchase. The Library Catalog (LocatorPlus) record indicates if an item has been microfilmed. For information on how to purchase microfilm, see Microfilm Sales Program Fact Sheet.

      Historical pictures and films

      Researchers can order reproductions of images on the image database, Images from the History of Medicine (IHM). See Order Image information on the IHM home page.

      To order copies of films and videos, see How to Access and Use Films and Videos.

      Pictures from books, journals, manuscripts, etc.

      The Library has arrangements in place with an approved photographer, who performs onsite photography of material from historical collections at the discretion of the Conservation Librarian.

      The photographer visits History of Medicine at least once a month. Patrons make billing and shipping arrangements directly with the photographer.

      Before requesting photographic services, read the following forms:

      For more information Ask a Reference Librarian.

      See also Forms and Policies and Photographic reproductions for Archives and Modern Manuscripts.

      Note: Historical Collections Copyright Information applies to all photographic reproduction requests.

    • Interlibrary Loan

      The Library does not lend historical material in its original format; however, we do lend copies of journal articles, copies of selected manuscripts, books and manuscripts on microfilm (when available), and copies of films and videos.

      The Library's interlibrary loan services are available only to libraries, not to individuals. Individuals who want to borrow NLM material should make a request through a local library. For more information see Interlibrary Loan Fact Sheet.

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  • Doing Research at the Library

    • Visitor Information

      For information about hours, directions, parking, maps, floor plans, travel information, security, and things to see and do at the the Library, see Visit Us.

    • Preparing for Your Visit

      Patrons can save time by doing the following:

      • Search the Library's online catalogs and print a list of material to consult before coming to the Library.
      • Be aware of the hourly retrieval times (9:00-4:00 Monday-Friday). Plan your arrival accordingly, leaving time to register, search, and submit requests.
      • Review FAQs and How to Access Material to become familiar with procedures.
      • For questions, Ask a Reference Librarian.
    • Patron Registration

      To use NLM collections, patrons must have a Library card. Library cards are issued at the registration desk in the Library's Main Reading Room. Use your Library card number to request material through the Library catalog (LocatorPlus).

      Patrons using historical collections also register in the History of Medicine Reading Room.

    • How to Access Material

      Historical material is consulted in the History of Medicine Reading Room between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for Federal holidays.

      Request material from the Library catalog (LocatorPlus) using your Library card number. For prints and photographs, please consult the reference staff.

      Requests can only be made within the Library, not from outside.

      History of Medicine staff retrieves historical material from the stacks on the hour from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST). Patrons pick up historical material in the History of Medicine Reading Room.

      Historical material may not be taken out of the History of Medicine Reading Room.

      Books published after 1913 and journals after 1870 are retrieved in the Main Reading Room.

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Last reviewed: 07 August 2008
Last updated: 07 August 2008
First published: 30 April 2004
Metadata| Permanence level: Permanence Not Guaranteed