I recently came across the Medical Heritage Library while looking for potential research topics. Started by Harvard in 2009/2010 under the Open Knowledge Commons, this site holds almost 50,000 digitized documents, films, and images related to the history of medicine. It is a “collaborative digital library,” in which Yale, Harvard, the National Library of Medicine, Columbia, the Wellcome Library of London, and other libraries and institutions devoted to the subject and its digitization, upload and curate open access primary sources. The contents encompass six centuries and are all text-searchable. One of the site’s goals is to foster a “digital community” with research, support, and education in the history of science and medicine.
The MHL is illustrative of the advantages of collaboration in the digital world. It allows everyone with access to an internet connection to learn about these materials in a centralized location. Because of this virtual consolidation, users are able to view content from across the United States and across the Atlantic- a truly international approach. The project also allows any institution to contribute possible materials and to publicize their contribution. Rather than focusing on individual scholarly collaboration, the MHL is a larger-scale collaborative project between libraries and other appropriate institutions.