Open Access to Your State Medical Society Journals

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

In 2015, The New York Academy of Medicine Library embarked on a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium.  Over the course of two years, the Academy Library along with MHL collaborators digitized state society medical journals from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The Academy Library contributed state medical journals from 37 states, which accounted for 716 volumes of the digitized content now available.   Today, you can find, 97 titles, 3,816 volumes and almost 3 million pages of digitized journals on the Internet Archive.

Digitizing the medical journals of state societies has been an amazing experience for the Library and it is a significant contribution to preserving our cultural heritage and making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Researchers and the general public now have access to a major resource on medical history that includes journals from the 19th and the 20th centuries that would not otherwise be available to the public.  “One of the great values of having the state medical journals online is the willingness to provide full-text digital content for materials that would normally be available only with limited content because they are still in copyright,” says Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian.

Dr. Daniel Goldberg, Associate Professor at University of Colorado, Denver and 2016 Academy Library Helfand Fellow, agrees:

“As an intellectual historian, medical journals in general are really important for my work because they can reveal much about significant ideas and concepts circulating in medical discourse.  I am working on several projects where the specific local and state histories are crucial to the story I am trying to tell, so having full access to digitized state medical journals will be enormously helpful.  I continue to be so grateful for the important work of the MHL and its partners!”

A quick exploration of the journals can be the catalyst for a deeper research project across many disciplines.  For example, what style and design trends can be identified from the covers of the Illinois Medical Journal?

Illinois Medical Journal through the years.

We invite you to explore the journals, use them, and share with us how they’ve impacted your work:

Digitizing Medical Journals of State Societies

By Robin Naughton, Ph.D., Head of Digital

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL consortium.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is digitizing state society medical journals as part of a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium. The Academy Library is one of five collaborators on the project, along with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland; the Founding Campus; and the University of California at San Francisco.

Together, the MHL team is actively working to digitize 48 state society journals, more than 3,800 volumes that span much of the 20th century. Digitizing the state medical journals will provide open access to quality historical resources in medicine for researchers and the general public, letting them explore connections between medicine and society.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

Evenly splitting the volumes among the MHL team makes the process of mass digitization more manageable and very collaborative. The Academy Library has already digitized almost 50% of the state medical journals assigned to it since Fall 2015. The journals are scanned by the Internet Archive (IA) and are publicly available as part of the Library’s and MHL’s collections on the IA site. Our digitized assets are open for anyone to access and use. Thus far, we have digitized journals representing 24 states and almost 238, 000 images.

The volumes are digitized in their entirety, showing the journals’ articles and  advertising. For example, in Alaska Medicine (vol. 29, 1987), as you read the article “Alaska State Hepatitis B Program – Past, Present and Future” by Elizabeth A. Tower, you can’t help but notice the advertisement for medical transcription. It is hard to resist the “Hello …. Museum of Primitive Civilizations and Hieroglyphs?”

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

State medical journals are valuable resources that should lead to many new and novel projects for researchers in the history of medicine. Look for more on the project as it progresses.

Explore our collection.