Reading graphic medicine at the National Library of Medicine

Patricia Tuohy, Judith Eannarino


The Exhibition Program, part of the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine, spotlights the collection of the library by creating exhibitions and educational resources that explore the social and cultural history of medicine. Our goal is to stimulate people’s enthusiasm for history and encourage visitors of all ages to learn more about themselves and their communities. We do what we do because we believe that health and well-being are fundamental human rights and are essential to our American way of life. And we believe exhibitions are a logical expression of that commitment.

Oftentimes, exhibitions focus on underrepresented subjects or lesser-known types of literature, which helps to inform the library’s collection development activity. Collection development staff take a keen interest in viewing exhibitions, attending related lectures, and performing bibliographic research on topics that are unlikely to be captured in conventional scientific and professional literature. This heightened awareness leads staff to discover niche publishers, significant authors, and unique titles, thereby enriching the collection for future generations.

Following the decision to embark on an exhibition about graphic medicine, collections staff more closely investigated this class of literature. This column explores how wider social and cultural influences can change the medical literature and inform and enrich the collections policies of an institution.


Graphic Medicine; Graphic Novels; Comics; Exhibitions; Personal Narrative; Health Information; Collection Development; Medical Humanities

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Williams ICM. Graphic medicine: comics as medical narrative. Med Humanit. 2012 Jun;38(1):21–7. DOI:

The Public Health and Welfare Chapter 6a - Public Health Service Subchapter III - National Research Institutes, 42 U.S.C. Sect. 286 Part D - National Library of Medicine (2011) [cited 16 Apr 2018]. .

National Library of Medicine. Collection development manual: the collection development policy of the NLM [Internet]. 4th ed. Bethesda, MD: The Library, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2004 [cited 6 Apr 2018]. .



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