Researchers seeking still images in the history of the health sciences should be sure to explore the resources held by Archives & Special Collections. The department holds over 100,000 images, including photographs, prints, and book illlustrations, covering a wide range of topics dating back to the 15th century. Among the holdings are:
Photographs: There are thousands of photographs largely documenting the people, buildings, and events of Columbia’s four health science schools and their affiliated hospitals (Presbyterian, Babies, NY Orthopedic, Neurological Institute, Psychiatric Institute). Some were created by Medical Center departments, while others came to us as part of personal papers. The earliest images are from the 1860s but the bulk date from the 1920s to the first decade of the 21st century. Over 10,000 of these images have been digitized and the department is constantly adding more.
Prints: The largest print collection is our portrait collection in the history of the health sciences. These include images of prominent figures, largely physicians, from ancient times to the mid-20th century. The quality varies greatly, from actual engravings and woodcuts, to illustrations cut from modern books and journals. Other collections include the Department of Ophthalmology Medical Illustrations, 1911-1973, with close to 3,000 drawings of eye conditions and diseases; as well as the Auchincloss Florence Nightingale Collection which holds a small collection of prints relating to Nightingale and places associated with her. The ophthalmology drawings and Auchincloss Collection prints have digitized. Few of the rest of our prints are available digitally but we can scan on request, condition permitting, for a small fee.
Books: Archives & Special Collections’ extensive collection of about 27,000 rare books in the history of the health sciences dates from 1476 to the 20th century and holds many extensively illustrated volumes. Though the collection is strongest in anatomical and surgical classics, it covers a wide range of biomedical subjects. While the fragility of many of the volumes often prevents us from scanning images from them, we can often take photographs of them for a small fee.
For more information, please consult the Photographs and Prints page on the Archives & Special Collections website.