Profiles in Science: Exploring Stories of Scientific Discovery

Photo montage of men and women featured in NLM's Profiles in Science

Guest post by NLM’s Jennifer Gilbert, Technical Services Division, Christie Moffatt, History of Medicine Division, and Doron Shalvi, Office of Computer and Communication Systems.

NLM’s widely appreciated online historical resource, Profiles in Science, makes available to researchers, educators, and members of the public the archival collections of prominent scientists, physicians, and other individuals who have advanced the scientific enterprise.

Profiles in Science presents the lives and work of these innovators in science, medicine, and public health through in-depth research, curation, and digitization of archival collection materials. NLM historians and archivists review and select documents from NLM’s world-renowned archives and modern manuscripts collection and the collections of collaborating institutions to make available the histories of biomedical innovation and provide direct access to supporting primary sources.

Through Profiles in Science, everyone can learn about stories such as the race to decipher the genetic code, the development of the APGAR score to assess the health of newborns, and the discovery of vitamin C.

To create more opportunities for innovative uses, this online archive of more than 30,000 digitized letters, draft manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and more migrated to a new platform recently.

The new platform for Profiles in Science, integrated with NLM Digital Collections, supports increased functionality for worldwide public access to, engagement with, and sharing of these data-rich archival collections.

Screen shot of NLM Profiles in Science website
Profiles in Science homepage, providing access to unique primary source materials and accompanying biographical narrative texts from over 40 manuscript collections on topics in the history of science, medicine, and public health.

This relaunch of the Profiles in Science platform is the culmination of more than two years of highly collaborative work, the initial phase of which was supported in part by the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Foundation. A multidisciplinary team of archivists, computer scientists, developers, historians, and librarians from across NLM worked together to migrate metadata and digitize items from a homegrown custom system developed and maintained since the 1990s to open-source, community-designed and supported software for long-term management as part of NLM’s digital repository infrastructure. 

Profiles in Science items are now described in ArchivesSpace, stored in NLM’s Digital Repository, and accessible to the public in a brand-new interface using Spotlight, an open-source software solution developed by Stanford University. Profiles content is also available now in NLM’s Digital Collections, where it can be explored alongside other publicly available digital content, including books, films, prints, photographs, and manuscripts.

Migration of the Profiles in Science system to an open-source stack integrated with NLM’s Digital Collections.

Migrating Profiles in Science supports NLM’s strategic goals of reaching more people in more ways, accelerating discovery, modernizing the Library’s collections and services, and enhancing the integration and interoperability of existing collections.

With new tools to manage its collections, Profiles in Science will continue to be a platform for innovation. NLM staff will continue their productive collaborations as they develop and test new workflows for making content available and build connections with other resources within and outside of NLM. We are also excited to add newly digitized content to highlight the diversity of individuals and roles in the history of science and medicine (learn more about our development policy). 

We look forward to reaching more audiences, exploring tools that facilitate computational research, crowdsourcing annotation and transcription, and more — all to better serve NLM audiences in their use of these materials in innovative ways. If you haven’t already explored Profiles in Science, we welcome you to visit the site and share your feedback.

Left to right: Jennifer Gilbert works in NLM’s Technical Services Division. She is a Senior Technical Information Specialist and Chair of the Digital Repository Working Group. Christie Moffatt works in NLM’s History of Medicine Division. She is an archivist and manager of the NLM Digital Manuscripts Program. Doron Shalvi, works for GDIT in NLM’s Office of Computer and Communication Systems. He is a systems architect of NLM’s Digital Collections.
Left to right: Jennifer Gilbert works in NLM’s Technical Services Division. She is a Senior Technical Information Specialist and Chair of the Digital Repository Working Group. Christie Moffatt works in NLM’s History of Medicine Division. She is an archivist and manager of the NLM Digital Manuscripts Program. Doron Shalvi, works for GDIT in NLM’s Office of Computer and Communication Systems. He is a systems architect of NLM’s Digital Collections.

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