NIH News Update
National Library of Medicine

Monday, October 27, 1997
Bob Mehnert
Kathy Cravedi
(301) 496-6308

Frankenstein Invades NIH!
NLM Launches "Frankenstein" Exhibition and Film Series, with Special Guest, Sara Karloff

(BETHESDA, MD) -- On Halloween eve, the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health celebrates the opening of a new exhibition, "Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature." A masquerade reception will take place October 30, 1997, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Library's Rotunda (first floor of the National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, corner of Center Drive/Jones Bridge Rd., Bethesda, Md.).

Sara Karloff, the daughter of legendary actor Boris Karloff, will be the special guest at the opening, reminiscing about her father and showing home movies of him getting into his monster makeup. Two Boris Karloff classics, "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein," lead off a Frankenstein film festival, to be held at the Library on Thursdays, beginning November 6th. (Details below.)

NLM's "Frankenstein" exhibition explores not only the popularization of the Frankenstein myth but broader questions about the public's fear of science and its powers.

When she created the unforgettable monster in her 1818 novel, Mary Shelley gave the world a terrifying vision of science gone berserk. In the late 20th century, as the pace of progress has increased, so has concern about society's ability to retain control of the dazzling new technologies that are reshaping our understanding of what it means to be human. Organ transplants, xenografting, genetic engineering, and cloning have all prompted references to Frankenstein.

The good news is that, unlike in Shelley's time, when access to medical and scientific knowledge was the domain of the educated elite, today the public has unparalleled access to such information through databases like NLM's MEDLINE, the world's largest collection of health and medical information, and the World Wide Web. The hope is that an educated public feels closer to the center of decision-making regarding science policy, which allays their fears.

The exhibit features early 19th century artifacts associated with resuscitating the nearly dead, early efforts at blood transfusion, experiments conducted with "animal electricity," and attempts to reanimate dead bodies. Other items on display include posters and pacemakers, masks and monsters, comics and cartoons, books and brains, all illustrating the ways in which people have coped with their desires, hopes, and fears of medical science.

"Frankenstein" can be viewed in the first floor lobby and rotunda of the National Library of Medicine through August 15, 1998 during regular Library hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (Thursday till 9 p.m.), and Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

In conjunction with the Frankenstein exhibit, the National Library of Medicine will host a free "Thursday at the Movies" film series, featuring five classic movies about the monster. Screenings will take place at the Lister Hill Center Auditorium (Building 38A) at noon and again at 7 p.m. The evening show will feature introductory remarks from film professionals, scholars, and scientists. For more information, call 301-435-3270, or e-mail:

November 6, 1997
FRANKENSTEIN (1931), with Boris Karloff (70 minutes). Speaker: Stephen Hunter, film critic, The Washington Post.

November 13, 1997
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester (118 minutes). Speaker: Sue Norton, filmmaker and president of SBN Entertainment.

November 20, 1997
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), a British production featuring Christopher Lee (83 minutes). Speaker: Joseph Bierman, psychiatrist and member of the Forum for the Psychoanalytic Study of Film.

December 4, 1997
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle (105 minutes). Speaker: Betty Bennett, leading scholar on Mary Shelley and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, American University.

December 11, 1997
MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (1994), with Kenneth Branagh and Robert De Niro (123 minutes). Speaker: Patricia Gallagher, information specialist at the New York Academy of Medicine.