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NEH Awards Cooperative Agreement to Virginia Tech for “Images and Texts in Medical History” Workshop to be hosted at the US National Library of Medicine

March 26, 2015 | By NEH Staff

The Office of Digital Humanities is pleased to announce the award for a cooperative agreement to fund the workshop, Images and Texts in Medical History: An Introduction to Methods, Tools, and Data from the Digital Humanities. The project is a collaborative effort among the NEH, Virginia Tech, the US National Library of Medicine, and the Wellcome Library. Virginia Tech historian E. Thomas Ewing will direct the workshop. 

The Images and Texts in Medical History workshop, to be held in April 2016 at the US National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, will feature presentations by leading scholars in digital humanities on ways in which emerging methods for analyzing digital texts and images may be applied by scholars and libraries within the field of medical history. The workshop will focus on issues within the history of medicine with contemporary relevance, including the spread of infectious disease, the rise of health professions, scientific research, health policy, and cultural definitions of health and disease.

The Images and Texts in Medical History workshop will include hands-on instruction in image and text analysis along sessions open to the public that will provide historians of medicine and interested others with an opportunity to learn about tools, methods, and texts in the digital humanities that can inform research, teaching, scholarship, and public policy.

Participation in Images and Texts in Medical History will be free to workshop attendees and members of the public who wish to attend the open sessions, but registration will be required in order to manage space and related requirements. Registration details will be announced later this year. In the meantime, interested individuals may visit the workshop website for more details.

The NEH’s support of the cooperative agreement Images and Texts in Medical History follows-on its earlier support of the Shared Horizons Symposium at the University of Maryland which explored the intersection of digital humanities and biomedicine, and the Digging into Data Challenge project, An Epidemiology Of Information: Data Mining The 1918 Influenza Pandemic which explored new methods for large-scale data analysis of epidemic disease.

NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities is pleased to partner with Virginia Tech, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the Wellcome Library in this workshop to promote inquiry and discussion about the intersection of the humanities and biomedical sciences. The workshop supports the goals of NEH’s agency-wide initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate the critical role humanities scholarship can play in our public life.

Scheduled Speakers and Presenters:

Confirmed participants include digital humanities scholars, Miriam Posner and Ben Schmidt, who will demonstrate computational approaches to text and image analysis. Jeremy A. Greene, a medical historian, will deliver a keynote address on the impact of new technologies on medical history. Other participants, including panelists, will be invited to participate once the workshop plans are finalized, in consultation with the planning committee.

Miriam Posner is Digital Humanities Program Coordinator at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her current research project is on medical filmmaking, with a focus on the ways that doctors have used film to make sense of the human body. Her contributions to the digital humanities have been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Journal of Digital Humanities, and numerous conferences. Her instructional session at the workshop will explore new tools for analyzing images in medical history, including the relationship between still photography and moving images, tools to extract images from textual collections, and the opportunities for using image analysis to understand medical procedures, professions, and scientific research.

Benjamin Schmidt is an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University and a faculty affiliate of the NuLAB for Texts, Maps, and Networks. His projects include methods and tools for historians to examine large-scale data through data analysis, visualization, and algorithmic transformation. His published research, blogs, and contributions to the digital humanities have acquired a broad public and academic audiences interested in new approaches, methods, and outcomes. His session at the workshop will focus on digital analysis and visualization tools that can be used by medical historians to examine historical texts, including medical periodicals, newspapers, and other written materials.

Jeremy A. Greene is Associate Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine and the Elizabeth Treide and A. McGehee Chair in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.  His published research has explored how medical technologies shape understandings of what it means to be sick or healthy, abnormal or normal. He will deliver the workshop’s keynote address, “Medicine At a Distance,” on the effects of instantaneous digital communications on medical knowledge.

About the partner institutions:

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Since its founding in 1836, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice. NLM, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the world's largest medical library with more than 17 million items in its collection. A leader in information innovation, it is the developer of electronic information services used by scientists, health professionals and the public around the world. NLM makes its information services known and available with the help of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, which consists of 5,600 member institutions, including eight Regional Medical Libraries. NLM conducts and supports research that applies computer and information science to meet the information needs of clinicians, public health administrators, biomedical researchers and consumers.

The Wellcome Library is one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history. It houses 2.5 million items of extraordinary range and diversity and has a growing collection of material relating to contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society. The Library is situated within Wellcome Collection, the free visitor destination for the incurably curious and is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency, created in 1965, that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at