2011 Annual Report / Library

The Library and Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

The NYAM Library has been serving the public for more than 130 years, offering unparalleled access to health and medical information as well as access to one of the nation's pre-eminent medical historical collections. In recent years, the Library has increased its web-based offerings to more widely disseminate its collections. Scholars and researchers continue to access the world-class rare book, manuscript and historical collections, as well as the Library's bi-monthly online Grey Literature Report.

In 2011, the NYAM Board of Trustees approved the creation of a new Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health. The Center incorporates the Library, Rare Book and Historical Collections, and Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory. The new Center will promote both the scholarly and the public understanding of the history of medicine and public health and the history of the book. The Center will also provide public access to and enhance awareness of NYAM's important research collections in these fields, and develop a range of outreach activities with the goal of building an interdisciplinary community of scholars, educators, clinicians, curatorial and conservation professionals and the general public. Lisa O'Sullivan, PhD, formerly Senior Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum, London, was appointed Director of the Center in early 2012.

The Library and the Rare Book Room continued to serve a broad array of patrons, both in person and remotely, during 2011. Approximately 700 patrons spent time doing research at the Library, while more than 3,000 questions were answered via email, telephone, or mail by the librarians in both areas. About 80 groups, visiting either for instruction or for tours, came to the Library over the course of the year, bringing in an additional 600 visitors. The Conservation Laboratory carried out more than 140 treatment projects on materials from the collection and prepared items for exhibition. In 2011, the Lab received funding from the New York State Education Department, Division of Library Development to conserve and re-house a group of late 18th and early 19th century oversize, illustrated medical atlases.

The renovation of the Library's stacks that began in 2010 with a grant from Save America's Treasures was completed in 2011. This project created an appropriate climate controlled and secure environment for a significant part of NYAM's rare and historical materials. The rare book collection (approximately 25,000 items) was relocated within the building and all monographs from the 19th through the early 20th centuries were returned from storage and reshelved in the newly upgraded space, a process overseen by the staff of the Conservation Laboratory.

In March, Domenico Bertoloni Meli, PhD delivered the annual Friends of the Rare Book Room lecture, entitled "Vivisection in William Harvey's Century." In October, NYAM's Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health hosted the International Study Group for the History of Otorhinolaryngology for a day-long symposium and special exhibit of related materials from the collections. The History of Medicine and Public Health Lecture Series and Malloch Circle events also welcomed a roster of esteemed speakers, including Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Barron Lerner, Neal Flomenbaum, James Colgrove, Eugene Flamm, and John Haller, Jr.


"The Rare Book Room is a unique, precious resource that helps us bring to life the history of medicine for the course we teach on the intersection of art history and medical history. Being able to see the authentic books and be guided through their place in the history of medicine and the history of the book by the curatorial staff is a truly awesome experience for our students and for us!"
-Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller