“Two thousand years of mankind and medicine” (in open access images)

(Seen at BoingBoing.) The Wellcome Trust have released thousands of images relating to the history of medicine online for free under a Creative Commons (non-commercial) license. This is a very nice collection, and the classical material includes everything from a papyrus fragment of the Hippocratic Oath, to a vase painting showing ancient Greek surgery (not to mention a huge amount of modern stuff, of course).

This is likely to be a great resource for teaching materials and slideshows. I wonder if any of our papyrologist or history of medicine colleagues could tell us whether there’s genuine research potential in here?

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3 Responses to “Two thousand years of mankind and medicine” (in open access images)

  1. Ross Scaife says:

    Nice! I like the one showing Laocoon and family snared by ribbons of DNA.

  2. kg says:

    I’m not happy with this. Public Domain should remain Public Domain and CC-BY should be the default license for scholarly useful documents or images (if there is really a copyright in the creation), see

  3. I agree. Of course, the fact that Wellcome have licensed the whole collection under CC-NC does not change the public domain status of any of the out-of-copyright 2D images represented therein (even if they claim otherwise). But nor do the flaws in the license statement (thanks for pointing those out, by the way) remove the usefulness of being able to use those images for which Wellcome *does* hold copyright for non-commercial purposes.

    While I agree that ‘Noncommercial’ is a license that should be avoided for academically useful material by default, there are some cases (and I am not necessarily arguing that this is or is not one) where material is so potentially valuable in a commercial context–to the gaming industry, for example, or as advertising items. In some of these cases, an education or non-profit institution might be justified in trying to recoup some of their costs in the case that a very rich industry might make some serious money with their materials. (Noncommercial can always still be waived, it just has not been in advance.)

    None of this is to undercut the seriousness of your objections, however.

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