UNIQUE IN ITS BREADTH AND SCOPE,
The Burns Collection houses the nation's largest and most comprehensive collection of early medical photography (1840-1920). The Archive offers publishers, exhibitors, authors, researchers and the media its consultation services and the use of its images, as well as of its extensive library of medical history.
Photographs from the Collection have been used in more than 100 exhibitions, 20 feature films, and in television shows and videos. They have also appeared in a wide variety of publications, from scientific journals to children's textbooks.
The Burns Collection contains over 60,000 original medical photographs. Many of these photographs are unique images: daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes of the 1840-1860 era. The vast majority of the photographs depict patients with diseases long since conquered, and medical treatments, technologies and practices long since outmoded. They show hospital and nursing personnel at work, along with related health care practitioners. The Collection houses a wide range of original nineteenth century photos of physicians and patients in contemporary clinical settings, including many medical firsts and famous cases. Personalities and events not believed to have been photographed are here preserved. The Collection holds the only known photographs of practicing phrenologists, blood letting and skull trephination.
Entire albums of historic events are available. One, commemorating the opening of the new operating room at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1904, includes pictures of Drs. Halstead and Cushing performing what is now known as the "all star operation." The Collection also includes physicians' personal albums. Amongst these are four compiled by Dr. R.B. Bontecou of wounded Civil War soldiers. Another is by an American physician who travelled with Pancho Villa during his famous expeditions and battles in Northern Mexico. Other albums of war experience include those featuring medical practices in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Almost all of the known early American medical publications with original photographs (1858-1887) are housed in the Archive.
Although best known for its medical photographs, the Collection includes over 600,000 other images. Almost every type of nineteenth century genre photograph is represented. The Collection is particularly strong in the following areas: African-American photographs, representing one of the largest compilations in the U.S.; war images from the Crimean through WWII, including the largest private collection of wounded Civil War soldiers; Judaica, including images of people, villages and rituals of Eastern European and North African cultures. The Criminology portion of the Collection includes photographs of jails and criminals, and is particularly strong in artistic images. The Ethnology photographs of Europe, North Africa, and Asia show individuals in traditional dress. The remainder of the Collection focuses on photographs from the United States, the Middle East (Orientalism), Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Mexico (Mexican Revolution), and on the hand-painted photographs of China and Japan.