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Picturing Public Health and Medicine

April 1, 2022 - 1:53pm by Melissa Grafe

woman sweeping up diseases while death looks on behind her death running to board a european steamer ship packed with people death flying above people holding a scythe

Images from the Bert Hansen Collection of medicine and public health in popular graphic art

Like audiences today, 19th-century readers of popular magazines and newspapers learned about public health initiatives and medical discoveries through articles and imagery. The Medical Historical Library team digitized over 500 images from The Bert Hansen Collection of Medicine and Public Health in Popular Graphic Art (Ms Coll 67), representing the earliest works in a very large collection that contains materials from 1850-2010.

The new digital collection contains chromolithographs and wood engravings from 19th-century magazines like Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Puck, Judge, and Scientific American on topics including cholera, diphtheria, polio, tuberculosis, vaccinations, Pasteur’s treatments for rabies, hospitals, mental asylums, unsafe foodstuffs, and public sanitation. There are numerous illustrations using medical imagery in political satire.  These diseases and topics continue to resonate with audiences today, particularly in the COVID-19 era. 

Bert Hansen discussed the collection in his recent talk, "Picturing Public Health-Turning Points in Public Health History Conveyed through Prints."

The effort to digitize these images and make them freely available worldwide was generously funded by the Arcadia Fund. You can also find other Arcadia-funded digitized texts, including incunables, medieval and Renaissance medical and scientific manuscripts, Yale Medical School theses and early Arabic and Persian books and manuscripts, through our digitized collections page or through Cushing/Whitney Medical Library site on Internet Archive, as part of the Medical Heritage Library.