Wellcome and Jisc take 19th-century medical archives online

University libraries join project to extend UK Medical Heritage Library online resource

August 7, 2014

Source: Wellcome Library, London

Valuable archive: showcasing 19th-century medical publications online

The Wellcome Library and Jisc have announced a digitisation programme that could transform knowledge of medicine in the 19th century.

In 2013, Wellcome embarked on an ambitious project with Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library, to digitise its own collection of 19th-century medical books as the basis for an online resource known as the UK Medical Heritage Library. This is now being extended – to about 15 million pages of printed books and pamphlets – with the support of Jisc and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library, said it put out an invitation for potential partners to all research libraries in the UK and Ireland, including those run by universities and other organisations.

“We eventually chose nine partners who were best able to participate and give a good balance of institutions and material. I think we will be able to show we have put together a pretty comprehensive collection of 19th-century medical books, which we can then map against other collections,” he said.

The partners include six universities (Bristol, Glasgow, King’s College London, Leeds, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University College London) alongside the Royal College of Surgeons of England and both the London- and Edinburgh-based Royal Colleges of Physicians.

The UK Medical Heritage Library will include work on practices from phrenology to hydrotherapy, consumer health, sport and fitness, and even food and nutrition. The collections of the royal colleges offer guidelines about what would have been considered “medical” at the time.

The process will take two years, with partner institutions required to send material to the scanning centre at the Wellcome Library for four to six weeks to minimise disruption to their own collections.

The online library will be made available to researchers and the public under an open licence through the Internet Archive, the Wellcome Library and Jisc Historic Books. Browse a selection of examples from the current library, below.


Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical

Source: Wellcome Library

Manual for the Medical Staff Corps

Source: Open Library

The Portable Gymnasium

Source: Open Library

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in University Study Skills UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN
Lecturer in English Language UNIVERSITY OF HAFR AL BATIN

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest