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The Library of The New York Academy of Medicine

Posted by on November 19th, 2015 Posted in: The MAReport

Rare Book Room

Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Room

Paul Theerman


Associate Director


The New York Academy of Medicine

The New York Academy of Medicine is home to one of the world’s most significant historical libraries in medicine and public health. Established in 1847, the Library was created to support the Academy and the medical community of New York—and was once the Regional Medical Library for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Since 2000, the Academy Library has focused on developing its historical collections, and using history and the humanities to interpret its materials. Our holdings include over 550,000 volumes, including an extensive rare book and manuscript collection, large runs of 19th– and 20th-century medical journals, pamphlets, photographs, posters, grey literature in public health, ephemera, and historical medical artifacts.

The Library serves many different patrons including Fellows of the Academy, historians and other researchers, healthcare professionals, filmmakers, medical and humanities students, and the interested general public. The Library prides itself on being open to all since 1878, one of very few large private research libraries to offer such access. The catalog of our holdings is found at http://catalog.nyam.org/; additional materials can be found by consulting with our reference staff.

Current collecting focuses on adding to our rare book and special collections and on the secondary literature in the history of medicine. A decades-long activity of the Library is collecting the grey literature of public health. Today much of that collecting has moved from physical to digital realms; the searchable catalog of our grey literature is updated every two months.

Given the size and value of the collection, preservation and conservation are major concerns. The Library is fortunate to have the Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation Laboratory. In addition to item-level conservation treatment and training, the Lab focuses on preventive care of the Library’s extensive collections, including environmental monitoring, disaster preparedness and response, and large-scale collection cleaning and rehousing projects. In furtherance of these objectives, in 2015 the Lab received an NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections planning grant to study environmental conditions in the Library’s main stacks, as well as a New York State Discretionary Grant for item-level conservation treatment of a manuscript collection of medical student notebooks.

Apicius open 4 copy_watermark2

9th-century manuscript De re culinaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, a first-century Roman gourmet

After initial efforts in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Library has revitalized its digitization work on a number of fronts. As a charter member of the Medical Heritage Library, we participate in a five-partner, Harvard-led digitization project to create facsimiles of state medical journals, with the aim of digitizing more than 4,000 volumes in over 125 titles, with the content hosted in Internet Archive. Other digitization projects include collaborations with the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) and Adam Matthew Digital (in progress) to make parts of our collections digitally available.

Through its Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health, the Library is also home to an ambitious roster of public programming, integrating medicine with history, humanities, and the arts. Reaching thousands of New Yorkers each year, the Center offers lectures in the history of medicine and the history of the book, reading and discussion groups on health and the body, hands-on workshops, and special events for our group of supporters, the Friends of the Rare Book Room. All our events can be found on our calendar.

The Library is dedicated to building bridges among an interdisciplinary community of scholars, educators, clinicians, and the general public, and fills a unique role in the cultural and scholarly landscape of New York City.

The Library is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 to 4:45 (on Wednesdays to 6:45); for an appointment please call 212.822.7315 or e-mail library@nyam.org. For more information, see the Academy’s Library website, blog, and Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


Image of the author ABOUT Hannah Sinemus
Hannah Sinemus is the Web Experience Coordinator for the Middle Atlantic Region (MAR). Although she updates the MAR web pages, blog, newsletter and social media, Hannah is not the sole author of this content. If you have questions about a MARquee or MAReport posting, please contact the Middle Atlantic Region directly at nnlmmar@pitt.edu.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012342 with the University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System.

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