About the Oskar Diethelm Library

Library Display

Founded in 1936, the Oskar Diethelm Library houses, preserves, and provides access to printed books and serials, archives and manuscripts, photographs, prints, sound and video recordings, asylum reports, and other ephemera and is part of Weill Cornell Medical College's DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry: History, Policy, & the Arts. The library’s rare book collection contains approximately 35,000 titles dating back to the 15th century dealing with psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, mesmerism, spiritualism, phrenology, witchcraft and related topics. World-renowned individuals and organizations are also represented in the approximately 1500 linear feet of archives, including Donald W. Winnicott, Thomas Salmon, and the American Psychoanalytic Association. By documenting the evolution of scholarly views on the mind, brain, and soul, the library is a vital national and international resource for the study of the evolution of thinking about mental health and illness.

The library is part of the DeWitt Wallace Institute of Psychiatry: History, Policy, & the Arts, which has a mission to support, carry out, and advise scholarship on a broad range of issues relevant to the present-day theory and practice of psychiatry. Since its inception in 1958, the Institute has sought to use in-depth studies of the past to enhance understanding of the many complex matters that surround contemporary thinking and practice regarding mental health and illness. Over the last decades, Institute faculty have made critical contributions to debates surrounding matters like de- institutionalization, the history of the mind-brain problem, stereotyping, the scientific status of psychoanalysis, and the conceptual origins of different forms of mental illness.

Directed since 1996 by the scholar and psychiatrist Dr. George Makari, the Institute has branched out beyond history to foster studies at the interface of the “psy” sciences and the humanities, including explorations of the arts, medical ethics, and mental health policy. The Institute also hosts the Richardson History of Psychiatry Research Seminar, the longest running colloquium of its type in the United States. It convenes working groups that bring together researchers in specific domains, such as the impact of psychiatry on society, a speaker series on Mental Health Policy, and various educational activities for students. With an open atmosphere that draws a mix of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, historians, ethicists, literary critics, and others, the Institute hopes to bridge studies of the past with science of the future, and connect the domains of science and the humanities, a necessity if our understanding of ourselves is to encompass the overwhelming mix of genes, neurons, brains, minds, selves, families, and societies.

The library is open to the public by appointment. To work with the library collection, please contact Special Collections Librarian Nicole Topich, MLIS, at nrt4001@med.cornell.edu or (212) 746-3728