Discover Circulating Now

NLM’s Blog Weaves History with Current Events

Want a glimpse into the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) massive history of medicine collections that encompass millions of items spanning 10 centuries? Sure, you could visit the NLM in person, but there’s another way to explore some of its vast holdings that are in every form you can imagine—books, journals, photographs, lantern slides, motion picture films, audio and video recordings, ephemera, portraits, lithographs, digital materials, and more—from the comfort of your home or office.

screen shot from Circulating Now Web site

Check out NLM’s Circulating Now blog at http://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov. Launched on July 1, 2013, with new posts weekly, the blog conveys the vitality of medical history and its relevance to and importance for research, teaching, and learning about the human condition. Browse this dynamic window onto NLM’s historical collections by date or by topic, or stay current with it through NLM’s social media channels or by e-mail subscription along with over 280,000 followers.

“The blog is becoming a key way to give voice to the diversity of the collection,” said Jeffrey Reznick, chief of NLM’s History of Medicine Division. He and Elizabeth Mullen (NLM) developed and oversee the blog, which is written by a diverse array of NLM employees, volunteers, student interns, and others. “The idea was to create something [that] was both more efficient and more dynamic…than traditional Web sites,” said Reznick.

Circulating Now weaves history with current events and has published to date more than 350 posts (about two a week), and covered a wide range of subjects that are included in the NLM collections: the Nuremberg Chronicle (“The Dance of Death”); Florence Nightingale (“The Lady Who Became a Nurse”); President James Garfield’s assassination (several postings); “Smoking in America: 50 Years On”; a recently discovered film showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaking at NIH in 1940 (“Rare Footage of FDR at NIH”); and much, much more.

One of the more popular posts, “PTSD and Gene Kelly’s Lost Wartime Star Turn,” describes how, in 1945, the actor Gene Kelly directed and starred in a little-known and little-seen Navy training film called Combat Fatigue Irritability. The film has long been a part of the NLM collection and can now be viewed via Circulating Now, on the companion NLM Medical Movies on the Web project, and on the NLM’s YouTube channel. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which has gone by other names such as shell shock and combat fatigue, affects more than seven million people in the United States, soldiers and civilians alike. Circulating Now offers several posts featuring Kelly’s daughter, psychoanalyst Kerry Kelly Novick, who is interviewed about the film and PTSD.

Circulating Now not only represents NLM’s collections, but it also highlights collaborations with other institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the Wellcome Library in London. For example, to commemorate the centenary of World War I, NLM and the Wellcome Library joined together to release digital copies of documents that provide insight into health and medicine during WWI [“(Re)discovering the Great War”]. In addition, the blog highlights items that are on loan to other institutions, such as the poster illustrating “Man as Industrial Palace,” currently at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Art Gallery (“A Poster to Pittsburg”). Another post that represents a collaboration is “The Magic in Mold and Dirt,” written by two guest bloggers from the Smithsonian.

“History is appreciated by many who derive enrichment from exploring the past and understanding how it can inform the present and the future,” said Reznick. “Circulating Now is a wonderful platform that is helping us to open this national collection more widely for the benefit of the public.”


For questions about the Circulating Now blog, contact Elizabeth Mullen at woode@mail.nlm.nih.gov. To explore—and subscribe to—the blog, go to http://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov. To find the posts mentioned in this article, enter the name of the post into the Web site’s search box. Readers might also be interested in the 2012 book Hidden Treasure, which also highlights some of the NLM collection. To download a free copy, go to http://collections.nlm.nih.gov/HiddenTreasure.