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Dr. Burns began collecting medical, historical, and memorial photography in 1975, and founded The Burns Archive in 1977. Since then, he’s authored dozens of award-winning photo-history books, and has curated and exhibited at dozens of major museums and galleries worldwide. A New York City ophthalmologist, Dr. Burns’ keen eye for iconic imagery has helped rewrite inaccuracies in medical history and played a large role in the rediscovery of postmortem photography and nineteenth century mourning practices.

Stanley B. Burns, MD F.A.C.S

An accomplished surgeon, author, historian, curator, collector, professor, publisher, and archivist, Dr. Burns has been referred to as “the Johnny Appleseed of photography” in New York Magazine, as he’s actively shared his encyclopedic knowledge and expertise.

Driven by a deep commitment to share his discoveries, Dr. Stanley B. Burns’ name has become synonymous with historic photography. His contributions to medical and photography history are recognized by his official appointments at several institutions, including The National Arts Club, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The American College of Surgeons and especially by New York University: Langone Medical Center where he is Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry. Over the past 40 years, he has consulted and contributed to thousands of feature films, documentaries, television productions and publications.

When not collecting, Dr. Burns spends his time consulting, lecturing, creating exhibits, and writing books on under-appreciated areas of history and photography. He has authored 43 photo-historical texts, over 1000 articles and served as editor of several medical journals. His 44th book, Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism was released in 2015. Recently, he has been advising productions on the accurate portrayal of the history of medicine. He was the on-set Medical, Historical, and Technical Consultant for the HBO-Cinemax series, THE KNICK, and was also Medical/Historical/Technical Advisor on the PBS/Ridley Scott series MERCY STREET


Elizabeth A. Burns is the Creative and Operations Director of The Burns Archive. She has co-authored various books, including Sleeping Beauty II: Grief, Bereavement & the Family, American and European Traditions, Geisha: A Photographic History, 1872-1912, and the recently published Stiffs, Skulls, & Skeletons, as well as designing the medical series of books. Ms. Burns has curated and organized dozens of exhibitions, including those on criminology, spirit photography, early flight, Lewis Hine and the playground, African American history, and various medical topics. She has consulted on numerous documentaries, feature films and television productions. She is the photographic archivist and research consultant to HBO-Cinemax series, THE KNICK, and associate technical advisor to PBS’s MERCY STREET.


J, a visual artist, created this website.