State Medical Society Journal Digitization Project Wrapping Up

Our latest digitization project, state medical society journals, is in its last months. We’re working on the final report to the National Endowment for the Humanities (#SavetheNEH, by the way!) and the last few volumes are going into the collection.

There’s more than one way you can access the material. There is, of course, the main collection page on the Internet Archive, but we’re also working on a more detailed list by state and we hope to supplement this list with links to each journal title individually.

You will automatically search the state medical journals project as part of the main MHL collection if you use the IA search box from our main collection page and you can also use our own full-text search tool. Scroll down to “collections” and select “statemedicalsocietyjournals” to use all the power of our search tool for this body of material.

Medical Heritage Library Awarded NEH Grant for Digitization of State Medical Society Journals, 1900 – 2000

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital resource on the history of medicine and health developed by an international consortium of cultural heritage repositories, has received funding in the amount of $275,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities for its proposal “Medicine at Ground Level: State Medical Societies, State Medical Journals, and the Development of American Medicine and Society.“ Additional funding has been provided by the Harvard Library.

The project, led by the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine, will create a substantial digital collection of American state medical society journals, digitizing 117 titles from 46 states, from 1900 to 2000, comprising 2,500,369 pages in 3,579 volumes. State medical society journal publishers agreed to provide free and open access to journal content currently under copyright. Once digitized, journals will join the more than 75,000 monographs, serials, pamphlets, and films now freely available in the MHL collection in the Internet Archive.  State medical society journals will provide additional context for the rare and historical American medical periodicals digitized during the recently completed NEH project, Expanding the Medical Heritage Library: Preserving and Providing Online Access to Historical Medical Periodicals. Full text search is available through the MHL website. MHL holdings can also be accessed through DPLA (, and the Wellcome Library’s UK-MHL.

Five preeminent medical libraries, including three founding members of the MHL, are collaborating on this project: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia; the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health at The New York Academy of Medicine; the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, the Founding Campus (UMB); and the Library and Center for Knowledge Management at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

State medical society journals document the transformation of American medicine in the twentieth century at both the local and national level. The journals have served as sites not only for scientific articles, but for medical talks (and, often, accounts of discussions following the talks), local news regarding sites of medical care and the medical profession, advertisements, and unexpurgated musings on medicine and society throughout the 20th century. When digitized and searchable as a single, comprehensive body of material, this collection will be a known universe, able to support a limitless array of historical queries, including those framed geographically and/or temporally, offering new ways to examine and depict the evolution of medicine and the relationship between medicine and society.

Project supporter and former president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, Professor of History Nancy J. Tomes, Stony Brook University, notes, “the value of this collection lies precisely in the insights state journals provide on issues of great contemporary interest. They shed light on questions at the heart of today’s policy debates: why do physicians treat specific diseases so differently in different parts of the country? Why is it such a challenge to develop and implement professional policies at the national level? How do state level developments in health insurance influence federal policy and vice versa? How do factors such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity affect therapeutic decision making? How have methods of promoting new therapies and technologies changed over time? These are issues of interest not only to historians but to political scientists, sociologists, and economists.

Not only will the state journals be of great use to researchers, but they also will be a great boon to teachers. I can easily imagine using the collection to engage medical students, residents, and practicing physicians in the conduct of historical research.”

Digitization will begin in August 2015; the project will be completed in April 2017.

About the Medical Heritage Library:

The MHL ( is a content centered digital community supporting research, education, and dialog that enables the history of medicine to contribute to a deeper understanding of human health and society. It serves as the point of access to a valuable body of quality curated digital materials and to the broader digital and nondigital holdings of its members. It was established in 2010 with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to digitize 30,000 medical rare books. For more about the Medical Heritage Library, its holdings, projects, advisors, and collaborators, and how you can participate, see

About the NEH/Digital Humanities Program:

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. For more on the NEH Office of Digital Humanities visit

Browse over 3,000 digitized volumes of historical medical journals!

Over the past two years, we have posted a few updates on the MHL’s collaborative project to digitize significant American medical journals, primarily dating from 1797 to 1923. This project, “Expanding the Medical Heritage Library”, was generously funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (grant # PW‐51014‐12) and included MHL partners The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Columbia University Libraries, Harvard’s Countway Library, and Yale’s Cushing/Whitney Library.

We’re proud to say that the project has not only been completed, but that we’ve exceeded our goal of digitizing 1.7 million pages! While we encourage you to explore the full-text search tool available on our website, you can now also browse over 3,000 volumes that comprise our 336 journal titles. If you’d rather browse by date or search all fields, we encourage you to download the CSV file, also available on the journals browse page.

This browse function is a true product of MHL collaboration. Partners worked together to fill-in gaps in each others’ journal runs and to standardize our metadata so that the user could browse a full title run of a digitized journal without needing to worry about where the physical item was located.

Many of the journals selected reflect emerging specialties in the nineteenth century, such as dermatology and pediatrics, and many complete (or nearly complete) runs of significant local and state journals are now freely available for browsing, including the New York Medical Journal and the Maryland Medical Journal.

Stay tuned for more updates, including information about an improved full-text search tool that will allow users to extract even more from our digitized journals!

Digital Highlights: New York Journal of Medicine


Chest x-rays illustrating an article on pulmonary abscess from 1922 New York Journal of Medicine.

New titles from our National Endowment for the Humanities-funded grant to digitize medical journals are going up in our collection on the Internet Archive regularly.

A recent addition is the New York Medical Journal, in a run from 1865 to 1922. The 1865 volume includes an obituary on Abraham Lincoln and articles, notes, and communications on abortion, uterine surgery, scurvy, and diabetes. The volume itself is set in close type with narrow margins. There is no obvious front page graphic or header to identify the journal and it plunges directly into its first article without preamble or introduction.

The 1922 volume, by comparison, includes a very polished title page and front page header. The title page identifies three other titles — the Medical Record, the Philadelphia Medical Review, and the Medical News — which are presumably being published as part of the Journal title. As an odd parallel, the first article in the 1922 volume is also about gynecological surgery, in this case about the use of radium for certain conditions.

As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!


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. Continue reading

Learning from Users

The MHL’s National Endowment for the Humanities “Digital Humanities Start-Up” project is underway (see: We are meeting with faculty, graduate students, and administrators at partner organizations to learn from them how they use digital sources in teaching and research, their ideal solutions to overcoming teaching and research obstacles, and how they envision the MHL supporting their work. This data will inform the near-term development of the MHL and its goals for the future. Continue reading

MHL Awarded NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) has received a Level-One Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will support planning activities among 10 institutions and a scholarly advisory committee to continue developing the MHL ( The project furthers the MHL’s mission to “provide the means by which readers and scholars across a multitude of disciplines can examine the interrelated nature of medicine and society, both to inform contemporary medicine and strengthen understanding of the world in which we live.” This groundbreaking partnership in the digital humanities will highlight unique research resources in the history of medicine held by these institutions and enhance their utility for research.

“At the most basic level of full-text searching, digitization enables scholarship that simply could not be performed otherwise,” says Scott H. Podolsky, M.D., Director of the Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library, and Assistant Professor of Global Health and Social  Medicine, Harvard Medical School. “Using runs of historical journals that are fully digitized, for example, it is possible to study the development of randomized controlled trials by performing full-text searches for such terms as ‘alternate patient(s)’ or ‘alternate case(s).’ The possibilities for answering novel questions are seemingly endless, and limited chiefly by the texts that have been digitized, the metadata applied to them, and the accessibility of the resources to scholars. NEH support will help erase these limitations.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: