James A. Shannon buildingOFFICE OF NIH HISTORY

The Office of NIH History at the National Institutes of Health exists to advance historical understanding of biomedical research within the NIH and the world. Through preserving records of significant NIH achievements, innovative exhibits, and educational programs, the Office of NIH History explores the past to enhance present understanding of the health sciences and the National Institutes of Health.



State Department historian Steve Randolph took Office of NIH History staff on a tour of Navy Hill, the site of NIH’s home 1904-1939.  The site was then used by the Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA, before the State Department moved in, so this was the first time that NIH history staff had ever seen the iconic buildings. 

Naval Observatory East Building

This is the East building, built in 1934-35 as office space for the rapidly expanding National Institute, 1934-35 as office space for the rapidly expanding National Institute (singular) of Health.

Dr. Gary Gibbons

Panels from the Stetten Museum’s exhibition “Innovation and Invention: NIH & the Development of Prosthetic Heart Valves” make a cameo appearance on Capitol Hill:

When the exhibition on the history of prosthetic heart valves, now in the Clinical Center’s South Lobby, was created, the museum staff assembled a great many objects, images, and voices to illustrate the featured historical narratives.  Lenora Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education and Communications, NHLBI, recalled this collection of assets and contacted the museum while helping to prepare a presentation that NHLBI Director, Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. made on Capitol Hill to celebrate the first-ever “National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day” on February 22nd.

In addition to images and other resources, the museum staff also offered a traveling banner version of the exhibition that had first traveled to the American Association of Thoracic Surgery’s 2011 annual meeting in Philadelphia.  Three panels were selected to flank Dr. Gibbons during his presentation.  Museum staff member Hank Grasso transported and installed the banners in the Capitol Visitors’ Center for the event, which was sponsored by the Alliance for Aging Research.  Their press release is at https://www.agingresearch.org/pressrooms/view/259#.WLCFL28rLIV


Exhibition Celebrates the Origins of Modern Neurobiology

The NIH honors Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, with an exhibit of his original neural cell illustrations. In December, seven new original Cajal drawings were mounted with 3-D prints illuminating details for display. The exhibit opened November 6, 2014, in the new Porter Neuroscience Research Center Building 35 on the NIH Bethesda campus. The exhibit opening can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/QIDUKHXqtg4

Cajal exhibit

The Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibit is located in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center atrium


Oral histories are added on a regular basis.

Thomas Kennedy
Interview date: August 30, 2004 (NEI)

Seymour Kety
Interview date: December 12, 1995

The Office of NIH History holds photograph collections cataloged and uncataloged. Many can be found in on our Flickr site and in Search Our Collections. To request images for use in publications or presentations contact the Office of NIH History. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.


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Office of History and Stetten Museum | Bldg 60 | Suite 230 | National Institutes of Health | Bethesda, MD 20814-1460
Phone: 301.496.6610 | Email: history@nih.gov

Last updated: 13 June 2017
First published: 2 February 2005
Permanence level:
Permanent: Dynamic Content