Wellcome Images releases 100,000 pictures online

The Wellcome Library, one of the world’s leading collections of medical history, has announced that over 100,000 pictures from its archives are now freely available from its Images pages online

Horoscope of Prince Iskandar (grandson of Timur who ruled the province of Farsin, Iran) showing the positions of the heavens at the moment of his birth on 25th April 1384. Wellcome Library, London

The Wellcome Library, one of the world’s leading collections of medical history, has announced that over 100,000 pictures from its archives are now freely available from its Images pages online…

In a move similar to the British Library’s recent announcement that it had uploaded over a million images to Flickr, the Wellcome Library has now also decided that a large selection of its images – dedicated to the history of health and medicine – should be made free for use under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

Illustration of an ‘exploded thorax’ (1823) by Paulo Mascagni, Prosector of Anatomy at the University of Siena. Wellcome Library, London

This means that the images downloaded from wellcomeimages.org can be used for personal or commercial use, providing an acknowledgement to the original source is given.

Images in the digitised collection range from scans of paintings, illustrations and manuscripts to early examples of photography. As one would expect with a medical archive, the oldest examples from which go back two thousand years, there are many weird and wonderful pictures to explore, from a Paolo Mascagni’s coloured etching of an ‘exploded’ torso (above), to a sketch of a female genital tattoo.

Photogravure by Eadweard Muybridge of a man standing on his hands (1887). Wellcome Library, London

“Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation,” says Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library. “As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

A classic dentist’s trick: ‘A surgeon holding a dental key behind his back to conceal it from the patient’ by Luciano Nezzo (born 1856). Wellcome Library, London

The Wellcome Images website is at wellcomeimages.org.

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