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Medical Heritage Library Awarded NEH Grant for Digitization of Historical Medical Journals

American Journal of Insanity, v. 1, n. 1, 1844

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), through the Open Knowledge Commons (OKC), has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a two-year project to digitize and preserve historical American medical journals. The digitized journals will be made freely available to researchers through the Medical Heritage Library collection in the Internet Archive.

“These journals and transactions provide a rich resource of data on matters relating to everything from local history to legal history, from housing to welfare policy. And, of course, they remain the basic and indispensable source for the internal history of the medical profession, its intellectual and (not unrelated) social development,” explains Professor  Charles Rosenberg, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, a member of the MHL Scholarly Advisory Committee.  “In my own work, I have always found the articles, editorials, letters, and transcriptions of society debates to be fundamental. And only a handful of American libraries have a comprehensive collection of such materials. The publications of sectarian groups and local medical societies are particularly elusive—yet often provide the most circumstantial documentation of medical practice and debate ‘on the ground.’”

 The grant, from NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program, will support the digitization of approximately 1,723,036 pages, an estimated 200 journal titles published between 1797 and 1923, nearly 6,000 journal volumes. The project’s goal is to make broadly available complete runs of the nation’s earliest medical journals. Journals will be digitized from the collections of the medical libraries of Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities and The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The National Library of Medicine and other MHL collaborators will assist by providing journal volumes that the four participants do not hold. The digitized journals will join the more than 33,000 monographs, serials, pamphlets, and films currently available in the MHL.