The Rare Book and Historical Collections at The New York Academy of Medicine comprise a significant research collection devoted to the history of medicine and public health. The collection holds approximately 32,000 volumes, the majority of which date from the 15th to the 18th centuries. First editions of later major works, such as Freud's work on dreams, are also housed in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room. Strengths of the rare book collection include works about public health; infectious disease; developments in medical research and clinical medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; the development and regulation of the medical profession; and the growth of medical societies and hospitals. In addition to printed books, the collection contains other significant items related to the history of the health sciences. The collection also contains a large vertical file of portraits and other images rendered in a variety of print mediums such as engraving, lithography and photography.
The Manuscript Collection contains a wide range of archives and manuscripts. These include archives documenting the history of NYAM as an institution since its founding in 1847, the papers of a variety of medical organizations and societies, and collections of personal papers, as well as letters, student notebooks, diaries and physicians' case records. Some finding aids are available online. Medical organizations and societies include the American Ophthalmological Society Records, 1864-2012; the Medical Association of the Greater City of New York Records, 1899-1936; and the Metropolitan Medical Society Records, 1892-1968.
The Digital Collections and Exhibits include digitized materials from the rare book and historical collections. The New York Milk Committee Ephemera contains materials issued from 1910-1918 by the New York Milk Committee and its Committee for the Reduction of Infant Mortality. The NYAM Lectures Broadcast by WNYC features 40 lectures on medicine and society that NYAM produced and WNYC-FM broadcasted in the 1950s. The Resurrectionists features broadsides, ballads, pamphlets, prints, and more concerning the body snatchers and murderers William Burke and William Hare, their accomplices, and their victims. The William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards contains approximately 300 colourful pharmaceutical trade cards produced in the U.S. and France between 1875 and 1895. The digital collections are searchable.
The NYAM also produces The Grey Literature Report on Public Health, which is a bimonthly publication about health services research and public health. History of Medicine is one of the key priority areas featured in the report.
The NYAM offers The Paul Klemperer Fellowship in the History of Medicine.
The library also offers digital exhibits from the rare book and historical collections. A Telling of wonders: Teratology in Western Medicine through 1800 examines the evolution of teratology through the eyes of physicians and philosophers. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is an online exhibit in collaboration with the National Library of Medicine, which allows users to unroll the scroll of the world’s oldest surgical document.