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Historical Medical Films to be Made Freely Available on the Web

8 August 2007

Over 400 films are to be digitised and made freely available online for the first time, thanks to a new collaboration between the Wellcome Library and JISC Collections. The material consists of over 100 hours of moving image content from the Wellcome Library's unique and historically significant collection of medical films. Featuring in the archive are films exploring global health issues and how they have been tackled, including footage on malaria - a 1946 film shows huts in Kenya being sprayed with DDT to check an epidemic; films that illustrate advances in public health care looking in particular at immunization, and the introduction of free-to-all health services; and some of the medical greats of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Ivan Pavlov's famous research - he was best known for first describing the phenomenon now known as 'classical conditioning' in his experiments with dogs.

All items are to be digitised over the next two years and made freely available via the Wellcome Library's web site and JISC's Film & Sound Online service. It is anticipated that films will start to become available online from Autumn 2008.

Frances Norton, Head of the Wellcome Library explains: "This digitisation project provides a wonderful opportunity to make a unique collection available to audiences online. These films provide a wealth of material for academic research, and are an illustrative tool for teaching and learning - but they are also a fascinating public record of the history of medical, surgical, and social care in the UK."

Liam Earney, Collections Team Manager at JISC Collections, commented: "We are delighted to be working with the Wellcome Trust to make this collection of medical films available to all. This project will open up access to a rich body of work that would previously only have been available to those fortunate enough to visit the Wellcome Library. Online access will allow scholars, students and researchers to integrate these films into teaching and research materials offering the potential to engage with the history of medicine in a way that has previously been impossible."

The collaboration between the Wellcome Library and JISC Collections follows a successful consultation with librarians and academics. One of those who responded to the consultation was Dr Tilli Tansey, Reader in History of Modern Medical Science at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, who commented that "proving free, online access to the rich and diverse collection of moving image content held by the Wellcome Library will enable researchers to consider the evolution of 20th medicine, as it was portrayed in film. This material will complement existing print -based resources, and thus become an invaluable resource for both research and teaching purposes".

The project helps to reinforce the position of the Wellcome Library as the leading international resource for the study of the history of medicine. The inclusion of this content in JISC's Film & Sound Online portal will help ensure that staff and students at colleges, universities and research councils in the UK can access an expanding selection of high quality film material that is relevant to their educational and research needs.

Media enquiries
Mike Findlay
Wellcome Trust Media Office
T +44 (0)20 7611 8612

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

JISC Collections was established as a mutual trading company by the UK further and higher education funding councils in 2006 to negotiate with publishers of online information and other owners of digital content. The range of resources licensed for use by such agreements constitutes a large national collection of online resources for education and research. JISC Collections is funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee). For further information, please go to: