Online Films, Videos, Documentaries, and Lectures in the History of Medicine

Sound recordings, documentaries, films, and lectures tell the story of biomedicine, disease, and public health. This capture of the historical record enables us to reflect on the progress made in health care and appreciate the advancements yet to come. Below is a selection of online history of medicine films and sounds.

Digital Collections, a part of the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Historical Audiovisuals (HAV) Program, contain 200+ films and sound clips, and includes:

NLM’s History of Medicine’s newsletter, Circulating Now, includes articles about films and videos that offer overviews and commentaries about items in HAV’s digital collection.

The Medical Heritage Library, a collaboration of leading medical libraries, provides open access to historical resources. The collection includes tens of thousands of rare medical books, pamphlets, journals, and films from the past six centuries. Online films and sound clips can be located using the Medical Heritage Library Search feature or through the Internet Archive.

The Wellcome Library’s Film and Sound website makes available 600 digitized online films and sound recordings from their Moving Image and Sound Collection. Sound highlights include Florence Nightingale speaking at the end of the 19th century, and Sir Alexander Fleming discussing the discovery of penicillin in 1945. Films include the first test tube baby and Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike. There is a YouTube channel with playlists and a SoundCloud site.

PBS’s American Experience online documentaries include The Forgotten Plague: Tuberculosis in AmericaInfluenza 1918; and The Poisoner’s Handbook, which claims that “…the average American medicine cabinet was a poisoner’s treasure chest.”

HSLS’ History of Medicine collections include recordings of past C.F. Reynolds Medical History Society Lectures. The C.F. Reynolds Medical History Society is one of the largest regional history of medicine societies in the United States and sponsors at least five lectures every year.

~Charles B. Wessel