Old medical publications support new learners and researchers 08/05/17 09:37:40

A £1m project to digitise more than 15 million pages of 19th century medical texts has just finished and the material is now available online for free.

It has taken three years to convert these historic published works for use in the 21st century by learners, teachers and researchers.

Covering much more than just medical sciences, this enormous library of text and images encompasses consumer health, sport and fitness, diet and nutrition, along with some weird and wonderful historical medical practices such as phrenology and hydrotherapy.

The project was jointly funded by education technology solutions not-for-profit, Jisc, and Wellcome Library,  which contributed its entire 19th century collection, along with content from nine partner institutions: Royal College of Physicians of London, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, University College London,University of Leeds, University of Glasgow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, King’s College London and the University of Bristol. As a collective, this will make a valuable resource for the exploration of medical humanities.

The aim has been to create a comprehensive online resource for the history of medicine and related sciences, which significantly increases the availability of digitised text for teaching, learning and research.

At this year’s Digifest, Keir Waddington, professor of history at Cardiff University, demonstrated the benefits to his students in having access to such a resource. He says: “By providing online access to a wealth of published texts, students can explore 19th century medicine in new ways. It allows them to not only make connections across sources previously held in different collections, but to also examine how medical ideas and practices were written and thought about, opening up new opportunities for them to ask questions and undertake research.”

The collection, called the UK Medical Heritage Library, is completely open and can now be accessed for free via Jisc’s Historical Texts resource or via the Wellcome Library’s website.

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