October 2011 | Nate Pedersen

NLM Exhibition: From Craft to Profession

An exhibition on the history of veterinary medicine is currently on display in the NLM (National Library of Medicine) reading room, featuring manuscripts and early printed books from the past five centuries. The exhibition focuses in particular on the history of the care and treatment of horses.

Michael North, Head of Rare Books, and curator of the exhibition, said he "was inspired to put on the show to help recognize World Veterinary Year, which commemorates the 250th anniversary of the opening of the first veterinary school in the world in Lyon, France in 1761 by Claude Bourgelat."

Bourgelat's school marked the first concentrated effort to study the horse from a scientific perspective. This new "veterinary science" would eventually replace the farrier system, in place since at least the medieval era. Farriers were blacksmiths who also trained in basic horse medicine and surgery. Soon after Bourgelat founded his school, veterinary science became a licensed profession requiring an academic degree.
North continued, "I also wanted to let researchers and the public know that NLM has a very important collection of rare books and early manuscript relating to veterinary medicine - possibly one of the best in the world - covering the period up to about 1850."

Exhibition highlights can be viewed in a Flickr stream here.

The exhibition is on display through January 23, 2012 in the NLM History of Medicine Reading Room, Building 38, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The Reading Room is open from 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.

Read more about the NLM's efforts to digitize early veterinary texts here.

The NLM also has a banner exhibition currently traveling around the country entitled "Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War. The exhibition focuses on the damage caused by mid 19th century weapons, amputation, artificial limbs, and post-war life for wounded veterans. The exhibition's upcoming schedule can be viewed here.