EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

The Friday Post #7: World-Class Museums… Both Real and Digital

This edition of the Friday Post is about real-world museums at the forefront of making their collections available digitally.

Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with a staff of 3,600 which (according to their Facts page) answered 682,700 reference questions in 2007! The collections of Library of Congress are housed in three buildings and include: “130 million items including more than 29 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; 58 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.

Below is a photo of the magnificent Great Hall of the Library of Congress:

The Great Hall, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Photo Source/Credit http://www.wikipedia.org/


A good starting point of access to the mammoth collections and archives of Library of Congress is through their Digital Collections and Services webpage.

American Memory is the Library’s collection of items from American history and culture. Currently that digital archive contains 13.6 million items.

Library of Congress - American Memory Collections Photo Credit: Library of Congress – copyright 2008 – All rights reserved

Also check out LC Today in History… which referred me to this cool site: “Buckeroos in Paradise”, from the American Memory archive.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has a digital catalog of museum collections online for all to search. Click here to take a virtual tour of the Royal College of Surgeons of England building.

The RCSE online catalog, called Surgicat, is the main point of entry to search this digital archive of fascinating historical material.

One example: The anatomical specimens prepared and collected by John Hunter (1728-1793), a London surgeon who’s been called “the father of scientific surgery”, are owned by the RCSE. Hunter’s 3,000 wet tissue mount specimens are displayed in the Crystal Gallery. Click here for a virtual tour of the Hunterian Museum.

Is it not amazing that Hunter’s historical record of human public health has been carefully tended, and now digitized and indexed so that in 2008: they are here for us to view online… one continent, three centuries and 3,000 miles away!

Following is one image from that collection: Hunter’s specimen of smallpox pustules on the excised face of a child who died of that disease in London (circa approx. 1760):

Image courtesy of the Royal College of Surgeons of England

One picture is worth a thousand words.

Photo Credit: © 2008 The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Next… visit the National Institute of Standards & Technology Virtual Museum where you can…


The Wellcome Library (owned by The Wellcome Trust) has a collection numbering 750,000 books, journals, manuscripts, archives or films and 250,000 paintings or drawings. To search their digital collections, click here.

Following is one example from the Wellcome archive: the work of Dr. David Furness. It is a photograph of the hairs of the inner ear of a guinea pig:

Photo Credit: http://images.wellcome.ac.uk/


Finally… Not a museum per se, but rather one of the world’s eminent public libraries, The New York Public Library has a digital collections page worth a visit. Below is a screenshot from NYPL’s digital archive:

New York Public Library - Digital Map Collection

Photo Credit: New York Public Library – Copyright 2008 – All rights reserved


And THANKs to the hundreds of archivists, indexers, librarians, digital experts and IT folks who’ve made these historical images and beautiful sights available to us online.


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