hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of using Archive-It. This page was captured on 14:14:22 Mar 12, 2018, and is part of the National Library of Medicine collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information
Skip Navigation Bar

Fact Sheet
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM)


Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) is the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM), History of Medicine Division’s (HMD) online database of historical images. The collection consists 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. IHM is available through NLM’s Digital Collections.

Several subgroups within the database are interesting as separate entities. A collection of 6,000 wood engravings of prominent European physicians, purchased in Amsterdam in 1879, was the Library's first graphic arts acquisition. There are illustrations from landmark medical treatises, such as Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica and William Harvey's De motu cordis. Among the fine prints are several hundred caricatures on medical subjects by Daumier, Cruikshank, Rowlandson, and Boilly. There are patent medicine advertisements from the late 19th century and posters on contemporary issues, such as AIDS, smoking, and illicit drugs.

Due to the NLM originating as the Army Medical Library, a large portion of the History of Medicine Division's holdings have a military focus or influence. Many images were produced during wartime (U.S. Civil War through Korean War) and include facilities; doctors and nurses; soldiers and other patients with various injuries and conditions; tools, techniques, and procedures; and medical transport methods. Public health, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology, and related fields are also well-represented.

About one-third of the images in IHM are portraits and group portraits in multiple formats. They represent physicians, anatomists, botanist, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, chemists, and others who have contributed through the centuries to medicine and the health sciences.

Internet Access

IHM can be accessed on the Web at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/ihm/ or in the NLM Digital Collections (Refine by Collections).

Images from IHM are regularly featured in the blog Circulating Now, which highlights the NLM historical collections. New content is posted every week.

A selection of public domain images from IHM is also available on HMD’s Flickr Commons site.

Searching IHM

There are several ways to search IHM in NLM Digital Collections. Users may browse all of IHM’s images by selecting IHM under Collection. For more targeted searches, select individual genres, including portraits, posters, postcards, book illustrations, and advertisements among many others. Further refine a search by subject, author, title, language, and date ranges. For more detailed searching instructions, please see Digital Collections Help with Searching.

Requesting Digital Copies of Images

All IHM images can be downloaded directly from the NLM Digital Collections. Available options are a high-resolution TIFF or a standard JPG file.  Image metadata is also available 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.

Questions regarding digital copies can be directed to Ginny Roth, Curator, Prints and Photographs at Ginny.Roth@nih.gov

Copyright & Permissions

The Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) database is a catalog of the prints and photographs collection of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The purpose of the database is to assist users in finding illustrative material for private study, scholarship, and research. The NLM does not own the copyright to the images in the database, nor does it charge access or permission fees for their use. It is requested, however, that published images include the credit line "Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine."

Since the NLM does not own the copyright to the images, it is the responsibility of anyone using the database, or ordering reproductions based on information in it, to ensure that the use of this material is in compliance with the U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, United States Code). For more information on copyright or how to initiate a copyright search, please contact the U.S. Copyright Office at 202-707-5959 or visit their web site at //www.loc.gov/copyright/

For more information about copyright and the collections, please see Patron Guide to Copyright and Historical Materials.

For additional information about IHM, please contact:
Customer Services
History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894-6075

Phone: 1-888-FINDNLM
E-mail: custserv@nlm.nih.gov