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Our Mission Statement:  NIH history lives here!

The Office of NIH History and Stetten Museum (ONHM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) advances the historical understanding of the biomedical research conducted at the NIH by documenting, preserving, and interpreting the history of significant NIH achievements, scientists, and policies.  Among other activities, the office creates innovative exhibits and helps scholars and researchers to navigate the rich history of the NIH.

Be a part of history by donating your scientific materials or volunteering in the office.  Send us a message at  

The History of History at the NIH

In the early 1950s, the NIH got an unofficial agency "historian" when Louise Endicott, a staff member of the NIH Scientific Reports Branch, asked to be appointed as one. She served in that capacity until her retirement in 1956. In 1962, Dr. Wyndham Miles became the first professional historian for the NIH. He served until 1974, when he moved to the History of Medicine Division at the NIH National Library of Medicine.

In planning for the commemoration of the NIH's centennial in 1987, Dr. DeWitt Stetten Jr., proposed the establishment of a museum of medical research to preserve the material heritage of the NIH. Stetten had first come to the NIH in 1954 as director of the intramural research program of the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases. He left in 1962 to become the first dean of the Rutgers Medical School, but returned to the NIH in 1970 as director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Stetten then became the senior scientific adviser to the NIH director from 1979-1986. Reviving the position of historian was a component of his proposed museum and in 1986, Dr. Victoria A. Harden was appointed NIH Historian and Curator. In May 1987, the museum was renamed in honor of Stetten.

Harden retired in 2006, and Dr. Robert Martensen served as the next director from 2007 until his death in 2012. The office has continued under acting directors until Kim Pelis, Ph.D. was appointed in March 2022.


The Cloisters at NIH


Courtesy NCI Visuals Online

The Office of NIH History and Stetten Museum in Building 60, The Cloisters. Once home to the Sisters of Visitation of Washington, D.C., this building, nicknamed The Cloisters, is formally designated as the Mary Woodward Woodard Lasker Center for Health Research and Education. Constructed in 1923, the building predates the NIH in Bethesda. While our offices are here in The Cloisters, our collections are displayed throughout the NIH campus or otherwise in offsite protective storage.