Nearly 60,000 items from the Medical Heritage Library now available in DPLA

Nearly 60,000 items from the Medical Heritage Library now available in DPLA
Posted by DPLA on September 16, 2014 in DPLA Updates, News & Blog.

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) and DPLA are pleased to announce that MHL content can now be discovered through DPLA.

The MHL, a specialized research collection stored in the Internet Archive, currently includes nearly 60,000 digital rare books, serials, audio and video recordings, and ephemera in the history of medicine, public health, biomedical sciences, and popular medicine from the medical special collections of 22 academic, special, and public libraries.  MHL materials have been selected through a rigorous process of curation by subject specialist librarians and archivists and through consultation with an advisory committee of scholars in the history of medicine, public health, gender studies, digital humanities, and related fields.  Items, selected for their educational and research value, extend from 1235 (Liber Aristotil[is] de nat[u]r[a] a[nima]li[u]m ag[res]tium [et] marino[rum]), to 2014 (The Grog Issue 40 2014) with the bulk of the materials dating from the 19th century.

“The rich history of medicine content curated by the MHL is available for the first time alongside collections like those from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Smithsonian, and offers users a single access point to hundreds of thousands of scientific and history of science resources,” said DPLA Assistant Director for Content Amy Rudersdorf.

The collection is particularly deep in American and Western European medical publications in English, although more than a dozen languages are represented. Subjects include anatomy, dental medicine, surgery, public health, infectious diseases, forensics and legal medicine, gynecology, psychology, anatomy, therapeutics, obstetrics, neuroscience, alternative medicine, spirituality and demonology, diet and dress reform, tobacco, and homeopathy. The breadth of the collection is illustrated by these popular items: the United States Naval Bureau of Medical History’s audio oral history with Doctor Walter Burwell (1994) who served in the Pacific theatre during World War II and witnessed the first Japanese kamikaze attacks; History and medical description of the two-headed girl : sold by her agents for her special benefit, at 25 cents (1869), the first edition of Gray’s Anatomy (1858) (the single most-downloaded MHL text at more than 2,000 downloads annually), and a video collection of Hanna – Barbera Production Flintstones (1960) commercials for Winston cigarettes.

“As is clear from today’s headlines, science, health, and medicine have an impact on the daily lives of Americans,” said Scott H. Podolsky, chair of the MHL’s Scholarly Advisory Committee. “Vaccination, epidemics, antibiotics, and access to health care are only a few of the ongoing issues the history of which are well documented in the MHL. Partnering with the DPLA offers us unparalleled opportunities to reach new and underserved audiences, including scholars and students who don’t have access to special collections in their home institutions and the broader interested public.“

The MHL collection joins more than 7.6 million items available currently through DPLA. DPLA, an all-digital library that offers a single point of access to millions of items from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States, provides a generous array of interfaces into its collections. Users can browse and search by timeline, map, virtual bookshelf, and faceted search; save and share customized lists of items; explore digital exhibitions, and interact with DPLA-powered apps in its app library.

Robert Miller, Global Director of Books for the Internet Archive, noted, “Digitizing this collection has breathed new life into rare and unique texts that were previously only available in printed form. These items have already been downloaded over 3.7 million times. Combining a digital platform for access with curated content is a winner for the open knowledge movement.”

Creation of the MHL’s digital collection was funded by the Open Knowledge Commons, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the contributions of many of its principal and content contributors. The MHL continues to seek new collaborators and content; among the contributions anticipated for 2015 are oral histories with women leaders in medicine, 19th century British monographs, and American monographs, 1865-1923. New content is searchable as it is deposited and indexed from the MHL website, the Internet Archive, and DPLA.

About the Medical Heritage Library
The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, promotes 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. The MHL can be found at, on Facebook, and Twitter (@medicalheritage).

About DPLA
The Digital Public Library of America ( strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated over 7.6 million items from over 1,100 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

About the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive ( is a top 200 Internet website with a mission to build a digital library of internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. By working with great content holders and libraries such as those above, we can together provide both storage of and access to treasures that can inform and educate the global community.

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