Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

Preserving Historical Medical Knowledge For Posterity


Deep within one of Europe’s most prestigious libraries, a team of archivists and scanning experts are diligently working to save historical medical knowledge before the fragile paper it’s recorded on is gone forever. As profiled by Vice Magazine, these technicians are able to work at roughly 800 pages per hour, preserving 19th century books on subjects as disparate as alchemy and early anthropology. By taking advantage of advances in digitization technology, they hope to have nearly seventeen million pages done by the end of 2016.

The primary aim of this project is preserving the vast wealth of medical knowledge that we have today, showing our understanding of the human body and how it has developed over the centuries. Many of the books in question are of an ancient variety, so the techniques used to scan them have been specifically developed to prevent further damage – including LED lighting, blackout curtains on the windows to prevent sunlight exposure, and customized holders to preserve the bindings. While some may question the devotion of resources to outdated and often inaccurate information, historians and researchers understand that preserved observations of disease or anomalies can prove valuable at any point in time. Since the sources of the project’s materials are all public libraries, any information recorded is published online under a creative commons license, open to benefit anyone who needs it.

While your archives might not date back to the 19th century (though it’s very possible!), we can still help get it online. Contact us today for more information about our backfile scanning options and how we’ve helped numerous medical practices move into modern times with digitization projects. For a more in depth look, you can download our case study example of how we helped a Louisville area pediatrician’s office find a more efficient records management solution!


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