Back to Research at NLM

Research at the NLM, Step by Step

  1. Identify Relevant Research Materials. The collection is extensive. Currently, it is organized in the boxes in which items were originally delivered to NLM. All boxes in a single delivery comprise an "accession." Each accession is identified by a number that begins with the year the accession was acquired by NLM. (Example: Acc. 2006 was acquired in 2006.) Each accession (including PHI restrictions, if applicable) is described briefly at
    • If you know there is a specific item that does not contain PHI (such as a set of published articles or videos not from the Clinical Conference series), it is not necessary to complete the PHI access application process. For access, please contact John Rees, Archivist, at
  2. Apply. Because of the presence of PHI and other sensitive materials in the collection, access to it requires approval from the History of Medicine Division of NLM. The "Access to Health Information of Individuals" ( outlines the process for application. The request can be sent to John Rees at the email address above. Allow time for the application to be processed. Approval letters will be mailed to users and must be present during research visits.
    • In addition to the accession descriptions available online, the majority of the accessions have lists of folder titles for each box. If needed, once application for research has been made and approved, users can request these lists be emailed to them.
    • A detailed, cross-indexed annotated catalog of each item in the NIMH study portion of the collection (Accession 2006-003), created by Catherine Rakow, is available. In this catalog she also briefly describes topics in the other accessions, including 1) identification of files where Dr. Bowen’s papers (including drafts and original copies used for presentations) from that time period can be found, and 2) identification of files where information on research families can be found (requires PHI approval). To request this catalog, or make inquiries about the NLM collection and its contents, contact John Rees at
  3. Physical Access to Materials. The Murray Bowen collection is sizable. Most of it is located at the History of Medicine’s offsite storage facility in Baltimore, MD. Once specific boxes containing relevant research materials have been identified, users must request the retrieval of those boxes for use at NLM in Bethesda. Retrievals are made the last Friday of each month. Requests must be made before the close of business on the last Thursday of the month. Casual “drop-ins” to NLM to browse through the collection are not possible. For planning purposes—the vehicle capacity used for retrieval is 20 boxes. Email the list of requested boxes to John Rees, Archivist at
  4. Audio and Video Recordings. Dr. Bowen was a pioneer in the use of audio-visual equipment to record presentations, clinical sessions, and teaching. These recordings are part of the collection at the NLM. To view AV materials:
    • Using the accession descriptions (see above), identify the tape(s) you would like to view.
    • Contact John Rees, Archivist at with information on the tapes you wish to view, and when you plan to be at NLM.
    • Within limits, low-resolution reference DVDs can be made from unrestricted video materials. If the quality of the DVD content does not meet your needs, higher-quality duplication of unrestricted video content can be arranged through film laboratories approved by NLM. Fees for this service are negotiated independently between the customer and vendor, not through NLM. See the “Historical Audiovisuals Program: User Agreement” of NLM for more information:
    • Because of PHI restrictions, clinical tapes (with the exception of videos of three subject families who have signed releases) can be viewed only by those users approved for PHI access. No reproductions of these tapes are allowed, and viewing must happen onsite at NLM.

» PDF: Accessing the Bowen Archives Collection at NLM