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Medical Heritage Library Wins Best Online Resources Award

The MHL was recognized for its depth of online content.


July 16, 2013—The Association of Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS) granted the Medical Heritage Library (MHL) the 2013 Best Online Resources Award. The award committee emphasized the value of the MHL’s content and the innovative collaborative nature of the organization’s structure.

The MHL is a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the National Library of Medicine and the New York Public Library. It promotes free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine. “This is an important award because ALHHS consists of discerning experts, the most active librarians and archivists in the history of medicine in the United States and Canada,” said Kathryn Hammond Baker, deputy director of the Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library of Medicine. The MHL started with only six contributors in 2010, and it has grown to have more than 20. “We are now adding about one contributor each month. This new content attracts new researchers as well as additional contributors,” Hammond Baker said.

The goal of the MHL is to provide the means by which readers and scholars across disciplines can examine the interrelated nature of medicine and society, both to inform contemporary medicine and strengthen understanding of the world. Currently the MHL, a collection within the Internet Archive, includes more than 47,000 digitized rare journals and books, videos and ephemera, contributed by 22 libraries in the US, Canada and the UK. “The idea behind the project, which was funded initially by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was to learn about the process and cost of creating a digital library across many different libraries,” Hammond Baker said. “We continue to learn about managing a collaborative and the issues relating to the creation of a useful collection, such as selecting materials which may be unique to one library or held by multiple libraries, assessing workflow and the real costs of digitization, and interacting with academic and other audiences.” The National Endowment for the Humanities funded both “Digital Start Up” planning activities for the MHL and the digitization of rare journals, a project that will begin its second year shortly.

Hammond Baker is particularly proud of Harvard’s contribution. “Of the 2.6 million objects downloaded from the MHL since 2010, 800,000 have been materials from Countway’s Center for the History of Medicine,” she said.  “I give props to Jack Eckert, public services librarian, Lucretia McClure, the now-retired special assistant to the director of Countway Library, and Joan Thomas, rare books cataloger, for the great job they’ve done in selecting for digitization a broad range of highly useful materials.”

The MHL's governance committee is led by Hammond Baker and Scott H. Podolsky, director of the CHM, who chairs the MHL Scholarly Advisory Committee. Countway staff members responsible for CHM contributions are Hanna Clutterbuck, Jack Eckert, Emily Gustainis, Joan Thomas, plus two staff members no longer at Harvard, Lucretia McClure and Jay Moschella.

Learn more about the Medical Heritage Library here.