Freeing the LAMS from the Silos; or, How We Learned to Love MARC for the Sake of BIBFRAME

On April 1st, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia released what we lovingly refer to as the “Digital Spine,” one of the few MHL_image_1catalogs in the United States that merges descriptions of, and access to, library, archival and museum collections.

Approximately 145,000 bibliographic records for collections in the Historical Medical Library and approximately 28,000 records for objects in the Mütter Museum will be merged in a single, cross-searchable database.  To sample this integration, go to and search for “foreign bodies.”





Museum records are slowly being released into the online public access catalog (OPAC).  One of the biggest problems with integrating these two collections is the lack of standardization for describing museum objects (of any kind).  In library description, we have “title.” In museum description, something akin to a title can be found in “Remarks” or “Description” or “Object Description” or “Object Name.”  Building crosswalks between library and museum descriptions is an engaging activity.



Another problem is the interim use of the MARC format to catalog museum objects.  The long-term goal of the Digital Spine project is to expose collections metadata to crawling by search engines.  In order to do this, we had to start with MARC, which seems antithetical, since MARC is not a structure that is understood by search engines. The College selected SirsiDynix as the vendor for this project because of SirsiDynix’ recent release of its BLUEcloud LSP.  BLUEcloud Visibility pulls a library’s records and transforms them using BIBFRAME, which exposes catalog records as linked data.  Here, for example, is part of the “Person” record for Chevalier L. Jackson, the “father” of American laryngology, whose foreign body collection, items referenced above, is one of the first museum collections to be released into the OPAC.




In the near future, we anticipating spending a lot of time tidying museum records and releasing them to the OPAC; retrospectively cataloging original library material that never made it into the original conversion to electronic format; and working with SirsiDynix to create an archives “module” to accommodate hierarchically described collections.  In the long term, we plan to expand the reach of our metadata as linked data – how extensible can we be?  In answering that question, we will truly free the LAMs from the silo.



Congratulations to UCSF and Partners!

NEH awards leading San Francisco institutions $315,000 to digitize AIDS archives

The Archives and Special Collections department of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Library, in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society, has been awarded a $315,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The collaborating institutions will digitize about 127,000 pages from 49 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area and make them widely accessible to the public online. In the process, collections whose components had been placed in different archives for various reasons will be digitally reunited, facilitating access for researchers outside the Bay Area. Continue reading

National Endowment for the Humanities Awards New York Academy of Medicine Library with Digital Projects for the Public Discovery Grant

Interactive digital “Biography of a Book” project brings to life the creation, use and collection of key historic texts in the Academy Library’s rare book collections

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded The New York Academy of Medicine Library $30,000 through its Humanities Digital Projects for the Public Discovery Grant program to support the development of its interactive digital “Biography of a Book” project. This innovative project aims to tell the individual and collective stories of books, ranging from the survival of one of only two extant medieval copies of an ancient Roman cookbook, to a twentieth century re-imagining of a classic work of Renaissance anatomy. Continue reading

The MHL Welcomes a New Partner: The Osler Library

The Medical Heritage Library is pleased to announce our first new partner of 2016: the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University.

The Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, opened in 1929 to house the collection of rare medical and other books donated by Sir William Osler (1849-1929), the renowned physician and McGill graduate and professor. Initially comprising 8000 titles listed in the Bibliotheca Osleriana, the collection – one of the world’s outstanding ones – has grown to around 100,000 works including rare monographs, journals, archives and prints, as well as scholarly publications about the history of the health sciences and related areas. To date, the Library has scanned 152 items, all of which are available on the Library’s own Internet Archive site as well as in the MHL collection.

Making the Osler Library’s items available through the MHL not only enriches the MHL collection, but makes the Osler’s items searchable through the MHL’s Bookworm and full-text search tools.

We’re delighted to be able to include the Osler’s material in our collection and will be tagging more as the Library continues to scan items.

Lectures and Conferences, and Panels, Oh My!

I’m seeing lots of announcements for great events going by recently. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Have we missed hearing about something you’re doing? Are you using MHL materials for a talk or a class or a conference panel? Please get in touch and let us know!

The MHL Welcomes a New Partner: Rush University Medical Center Archives

The Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill., is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University. The Rush Archives holds almost 3000 linear feet of material from these two institutions and their predecessor schools and hospitals going back to the founding of Rush Medical College in 1837, two days before the city of Chicago was incorporated. The Rush Archives also includes the personal papers of many individuals related to those institutions. Photographs, audiovisual material, paintings, artifacts, nursing school uniforms and caps, and digital assets document the history of Rush, also.

From St. Luke’s News, August 1946, p. 11. From the St. Luke’s Hospital Records, #4704.

From St. Luke’s News, August 1946, p. 11. From the St. Luke’s Hospital Records, #4704.

Hundreds of the Rush Archives’ most used documents have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive, including annual reports and newsletters from Rush Medical CollegePresbyterian Hospital, founded in 1883; St. Luke’s Hospital, founded in 1864; and the Central Free Dispensary, founded in 1873. These items also document Presbyterian Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital’s nursing schools, founded in 1903 and 1884, respectively. These newsletters and annual reports provide significant information and photographs regarding the advancement of medical and nursing education, developments in research, and changes in patient care during Rush’s more than 175 years of serving Chicago communities.

All of the yearbooks in the Rush Archives from the following schools are now available online, also:

St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing

Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing

Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing

Rush University and its four colleges, Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences, and the Graduate College

Thanks to the Book Digitization Initiative Grant and the Yearbook Digitization Project grant from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), these items were digitized by and made available through the Internet Archive.

Rush University Medical Center Archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS, is particularly fond of the 1895 issue of

Drawing by Rush Medical College student Christian H. Beyer, class of 1895.  From The Pulse Yearbook, 1895, p.158. From the Rush Medical College Records, #4707.

Drawing by Rush Medical College student Christian H. Beyer, class of 1895.
From The Pulse Yearbook, 1895, p.158. From the Rush Medical College Records, #4707.

Rush Medical College’s yearbook, The Pulse, and the school’s newsletter, The Corpuscle, 1890-1900. “The 1890s were an exciting time in Chicago history, spearheaded by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The World’s Fair really put Chicago on the map. The items in our collection from the 1890s feature wonderful drawings of smiling skulls, darkly funny poems, and photographs of its football team in action. During this era, Rush’s faculty was heavily involved in raising national standards for medical education. Rush Medical College set itself apart from many other Chicago medical schools by providing its students with a solid background in the sciences, incomparable laboratories, and experience in patient care through Rush’s teaching hospital, Presbyterian Hospital.” Rush Medical College became affiliated with the University of Chicago in 1898 and served as its medical school until 1941. To learn more about the history of Rush, please visit

The MHL Welcomes a New Member: Health Sciences Library of the University of North Carolina

The Health Bulletin, Volume 36, Issue 8, page 16 (August 1921).

The Health Bulletin, Volume 36, Issue 8, page 16 (August 1921).

The Health Sciences Library (HSL) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has recently added the North Carolina History of Health Digital Collection to the Medical Heritage Library. The North Carolina History of Health Digital Collection contains more than 1000 books, journals, reports, bulletins, minutes, proceedings, and histories covering topics in medicine, public health, dentistry, pharmacy, and nursing, dating from 1849 to the present. These materials thoroughly document the development of health care and the health professions within North Carolina and is thus a significant part of the state’s cultural heritage and history, helping to reveal manifold health problems and how these problems were perceived, understood, and treated over time. The digital collection provides consolidated online access to resources that have been difficult to find and utilize in print.

HSL Special Collections Librarian Dawne Lucas particularly likes the public service announcements from The Health Bulletin, which was “sent free to any citizen of the State upon request.” “The public service announcements were an eye-catching way to draw attention to prominent health problems in early 20th century North Carolina,” says Lucas.  “Some of them, such as the ones promoting the importance of vaccines, are still relevant today.”

This project was made possible by a multi-year NC ECHO (Exploring Cultural Heritage Online) digitization grant for the creation of the North Carolina History of Health Digital Collection. NC ECHO is funded by the State Library of North Carolina through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

To see the new items from UNC as well as the full Medical Heritage Library collection, follow this link!

The Migel Library Joins the MHL

M.C. Migel keeps watch over the collection from above the original card catalog.

M.C. Migel keeps watch over the collection from above the original card catalog.

The Medical Heritage Library is pleased to announce the addition of titles from the Migel Library of the American Printing House for the Blind.

The M.C. Migel Library at the American Printing House for the Blind is one of the largest known collections of materials related to visual impairment in the United States.  The library holds over 20,000 items that range in scope from original research to fiction with characters or authors who are visually impaired.  While a majority of the collection is historical, we continue to acquire large numbers of new and relevant items in various formats.  The collection includes journals, agency reports, proceedings, organizational newsletters, and a large amount of non-English language materials.  The Library is also unique in that it contains thousands of individually cataloged periodical articles that are not thought to be organized by the subject of visual impairment anywhere else.  The Migel Library’s online catalog includes items from the Barr Research Library at APH.  The Barr Library began in the 1970s as a collection of materials used or authored by the Research Department at APH.  As a result, many of its 4,500 items are unique manuscripts that were researched and created at APH.

The Migel Library was started as a circulating collection at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in New York in the 1920s.  A reference library for the field was a major priority of AFB’s first director, Robert Irwin.  In 1926, the AFB board granted him $1,000 to start the collection.  Book donations flooded in from around the country at such a rate that Irwin needed to hire a full time librarian, Helga Lende, in 1929.  Lende’s knowledge of the German, French, Spanish, and Scandinavian languages was essential to developing such an inclusive collection – especially considering the amount of blindness research coming out of Europe following the First World War.  Lende’s 1940 bibliography Books About the Blind gives a sense of not only the popular literature being collected, but also many unpublished masters’ and doctoral theses in the Migel holdings.  By the time Helga Lende retired in 1964, the library had become one of the largest collections in the world in its area of specialty.  The Library was named after philanthropist Moses Charles Migel in 1963.  Having been inspired by his experiences with blinded soldiers while serving with the Red Cross in World War I, Migel helped found AFB in 1921, and headed their board until 1945. The general stacks of the Migel Library were formally transferred from AFB to the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, KY, in 2009.

Helga Lende, Librarian from 1929 to 1964.

Helga Lende, Librarian from 1929 to 1964.

Digitization of materials began in 2010 as a limited, grant-based project consisting of our most significant items.  Thanks to further funding through APH, we have been able to pursue a continuous digitization program for the foreseeable future.  We are reviewing the stacks item-by-item to digitize every eligible volume.  This includes the small pamphlets and articles that, while unique, were passed-over during the first phase of the project in the interest of efficiency.  Our Internet Archive page now includes 2,270 items and we are steadily adding to the number. All future items will be automatically tagged as part of the MHL and thus made available through the MHL’s Internet Archive page, as well forming part of the corpus for the MHL’s full-text search tool and Bookworm.

Annotated photo album, Industrial Home for the Blind, Light Buoy Industries, ca. 1928.

Annotated photo album, Industrial Home for the Blind, Light Buoy Industries, ca. 1928.

About the MHL: The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) is a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, promoting free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine. Our goal is 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. The MHL’s growing collection of digitized medical rare books, pamphlets, journals, and films number in the tens of thousands, with representative works from each of the past six centuries, all of which are available here through the Internet Archive.


In Case You Missed It….

We had a wonderful time at the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences and American Association for the History of Medicine conferences in New Haven, Connecticut, last week. If you were there, we hope you did, too!

In case you happened to miss them, here are a few highlights from our time…

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

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