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Fact Sheet
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM)


Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) is a database of nearly 70,000 images in the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) historical collections. The collection of portraits, photographs, fine prints, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and other graphic art illustrates the social and historical aspects of medicine from the Middle Ages to the present. Subjects range from medieval medical practice to 19th century slum conditions to World War I hospitals to the international fight against drug abuse and AIDS. Most of the images in the collection are from earlier time periods, although 20th century images are also included, the majority dating from before World War II.

Several subgroups within the database are interesting as separate entities. A collection of 6,000 wood engravings of prominent European physicians, purchased in Amsterdam in 1879, was the Library's first graphic arts acquisition. There are illustrations from landmark medical treatises, such as Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica and William Harvey's De motu cordis. Among the fine prints are several hundred caricatures on medical subjects by Daumier, Cruikshank, Rowlandson, and Boilly. There are patent medicine advertisements from the late 19th century and posters on contemporary issues, such as AIDS, smoking, and illicit drugs.

Due to the NLM origininating as the Army Medical Library, a large portion of the History of Medicine Division's holdings have a military focus or influence. Many images were produced during wartime (U.S. Civil War through Korean War) and include facilities; doctors and nurses; soldiers and other patients with various injuries and conditions; tools, techniques, and procedures; and medical transport methods. Public health, nursing, dentistry, pharmacology, and related fields are also well-represented.

About one-third of the nearly 70,000 images in IHM are portraits and group portraits in multiple formats. They represent physicians, anatomists, botanist, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, chemists, and others who have contributed through the centuries to medicine and the health sciences.

Internet Access

IHM can be accessed on the Web at or from the History of Medicine Division Home Page at (select the Quick Links pull down menu, then Image Database Home (IHM).

Searching IHM

There are four different ways to search IHM: the Search IHM box, Advanced Search, Browse All, and Browse Categories. For keyword searching, we recommend using the Search IHM box. For more detailed searching instructions, please see How to Search Prints and Photographs.

Ordering Reproductions of Images

Photographic reproductions and digital representations of images in the database can be obtained from Light, Inc. (address given below). When ordering an image, identify the Order Number, which is included in each record. Order directly from Light, Inc.; orders cannot be accepted by NLM.

Light, Inc.
12160-A Tech Road
Silver Spring, MD 20904-1914

Phone: 301) 680-9700
Fax: 301) 680-0575

Copyright & Permissions

The Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) database is a catalog of the prints and photographs collection of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The purpose of the database is to assist users in finding illustrative material for private study, scholarship, and research. The NLM does not own the copyright to the images in the database, nor do we charge access or permission fees for their use. We do request, however, that published images include the credit line "Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine."

Since the NLM does not own the copyright to the images, it is the responsibility of anyone using the database, or ordering reproductions based on information in it, to ensure that the use of this material is in compliance with the U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, United States Code). For more information on copyright or how to initiate a copyright search, please contact the U.S. Copyright Office at 202-707-5959 or visit their web site at

For more information about copyright and the collections, please see Patron Guide to Copyright and Historical Materials.

For additional information about IHM, please contact:
Customer Services
History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894-6075

Phone: 1-888-FINDNLM