UK Medical Heritage Library

The UK Medical Heritage Library is making the 19th century history of medicine freely available to all. 15 million pages of 19th Century medical texts will be digitised and made available via a number of platforms including the Internet Archive and the Wellcome Digital Library.

This is a very broad subject area and includes items about medical sciences, consumer health, sport and fitness, diet and nutrition and historical medical practices such as phrenology and hydrotherapy.

The Wellcome Library is contributing its 19th century collections to the UK Medical Heritage Library, along with nine partner institutions:

  • Royal College of Physicians of London
  • Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
  • Royal College of Surgeons of England
  • UCL (University College London)
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Glasgow
  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • King’s College London
  • University of Bristol

The project is funded by Jisc and the Wellcome Library. It will significantly extend the digital collections of the US Medical Heritage Library, a consortium of American medical libraries.

Visualising Medical History

A separate project is currently being commissioned as part of UK-MHL called Visualising Medical History Project which will make the collection available on Jisc Historical Texts where, alongside traditional means, users will be able to use data visualisations to access and interpret the texts.

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Project rationale

The rationale for using data visualisations to access the UK MHL came out of discussions with the Academic Advisory Group assigned to the project. They noted that when making such a large corpus available digitally it raises a some important questions:

  • When millions of digitised pages sit “behind a keyword search box” how does a student make sense of the full extent of what is available?
  • Lacking the visual clues and serendipity that a traditional library set-up provides, how can teachers convey the broader context in which this literature was produced?
  • How can digital technology stretch the traditional way of “searching” content and support the identification of key concepts, themes and connections within the digitised texts?
  • How do scholars sift through and prioritise long lists of search results that may have been generated through more traditional searches?
  • How do they account for OCR imperfections?
  • And how can the interaction between text and images be represented, and the integrity of texts kept?

You can keep up-to-date on both projects through this blog also look out for #ukmhl on Twitter.

Here are the past blog posts from UK-MHL:





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