Hidden Treasure: A weird and wonderful collection

Jessica Van Der Volgen

Jessica Van Der Volgen
Assistant Director, NN/LM Training Office

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a collection of more than 17 million items and their new book, Hidden Treasure, showcases a collection of rare and surprising pieces found in the collection. Michael Sappol is the editor of this fascinating collection and a curator-historian at NLM.

Among the items featured in the collection are photographs of international nurse uniforms, dental cartoons, health and hygiene puzzle blocks from China, U.S. Army malaria pinup calendars, Adolf Hitler’s X-rays, and a volume on the art of palm reading. Each item highlighted in the book has been specially selected and is paired with a commentary from a scholar on the history and significance of the item. “Some things are charming and entertaining. Others are disturbing to look at, or document terrible things,” Sappol says. “There’s a lot in the book. In some cases it’s a document of human suffering, showing the diseases and afflictions people have. In other cases, it’s a document of ingenuity and coming up with treatments.”1

Hidden Treasure is available as a free download from NLM’s Digital Collections or, if you’d like a hardcopy to entertain your guests, you can purchase it through major online booksellers. You can also find a review in The New York Times.

NLM book cover

1 http://infocus.nlm.nih.gov/2012/07/new-book-reveals-nlm-hidden-tr.html

Book Cover: http://irp.nih.gov/catalyst/v20i2/hidden-treasures-at-nlm