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Otolaryngology, circa 1934-1956


Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Medical Motion Pictures Collection spans the years 1928 to 1963 and contains medical education films created by or collected by Northwestern University Medical School, now known as Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This is an artificial collection and does not represent all the medical motion pictures that Northwestern University Medical School faculty created, nor the entire catalog that the medical school once owned. This collection represents most of the medical motion picture films that remain in Galter Library’s Special Collections.

The collection covers 10 health sciences subject areas. All films are in 16mm format. Most do not have accompanying sound, and they are split almost evenly between color and black and white. It is assumed that most were shot on location in Chicago, likely at the offices, labs, and places where the creators worked, or at the clinics and hospitals where they held positions.

Professionally produced films represent the bulk of the collection. These films were usually shot by a professional cinematographer with attention paid to proper lighting, layout, timing, and reshoots. Specialty services like cinemicroscopy, medical illustration, and animation were sometimes used. Films were usually shot silent and spliced with title cards so that instructors could lecture over the film. Many of the films appear in catalogs and were made available to rent or buy from the medical school’s Department of Audio-Visual Medical Education. The Journal of the American Medical Association even ran reviews of medical motion pictures in its issues.

Instructors were encouraged to use the films to enhance their courses, and the obstetrical films of Joseph B. DeLee, MD, were in fact an official part of the obstetrics and gynecology curriculum for a time. These films presented obstetrical scenarios the student might not encounter during their rotation, and thus were relied upon to expose students to some of the more difficult birth presentations. In contrast to student education, some films were aimed at audiences of established physicians as continuing education. The film Fenestration Operation for Otosclerosis presents the goals, techniques, and outcomes of a relatively newly established surgical procedure. Still others, such as The Human Body series by Coronet Instructional Films, were aimed at a lay audience. A few films are simply research or candid footage that may not have been meant for wider viewing.

Northwestern faculty of particular note include: Isaac Abt, MD, one of the first physicians to specialize in pediatrics; Loyal Davis, MD, PhD, Chicago’s first neurosurgeon and longtime chair of the surgery department; Joseph B. DeLee, MD, an influential obstetrician and an early proponent of medical motion pictures; Andrew Ivy, PhD, MD, a prolific physiologist-clinician well known for his participation in the Nuremberg Medical Trial; Michael Mason, MD, noted hand surgeon and mentee of Allen Kanavel, MD; and Raymond McNealy, MD, a prominent general surgeon dedicated to standardizing care and to medical education. Mervin LaRue, Sr., a local cinematographer specializing in medical motion pictures, was involved in producing 15 films in this collection.

There are also two unpublished series in this collection, consisting of undigitized copies and reels that were digitized but deemed of no research value upon review. The latter mainly consists of title cards and fragments of digitized films. There are 18 total reels between the two series.


  • circa 1934-1956


Conditions Governing Access

Access to the physical films is restricted at the discretion of the Galter Library staff due to the fragile nature of the film. Please contact Special Collections staff for more information.

Access to the digitized films is determined at the item level. Refer to individual records for access information.


6 Reels

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


The Department of Otolaryngology became its own department in 1942. Previously, the Division of Otology, Laryngology, and Rhinology and the Division of Ophthalmology had been grouped together as a department from 1925 to 1942.

Library Details

Part of the Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center Repository

320 E. Superior Ave.
Chicago IL 60611-3008 US