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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c464

Vernacular Archive of Normal Volunteers (VANV)

Content Description

The Vernacular Archive of Normal Volunteers (VANV), 1940-2018 (inclusive) is a collection of oral histories, associated archival documents, and project records created and collected by Laura Jeanine Morris Stark (born 1975) to explore the lives of the first “normal control” research subjects at the Clinical Center of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland who were recruited through NIH’s Normal Volunteer Patient Program. The Normal Volunteer Patient Program (renamed the Clinical Research Volunteer Program in 1995) began in 1953 as a program of the NIH and later operated through the NIH Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office. VANV interview subjects participated in the program from 1954-2002.

The collection is organized into three series. The "VANV individual collections, 1940-2018” series consists of oral history interviews (audio recordings and transcripts) conducted by Stark between 2010 and 2017 with individuals who were involved with the Normal Volunteer Patient Program (volunteers, scientists, and staff), along with archival documents from interviewees’ personal collections. It also includes digital duplicates of materials related to the Normal Volunteer Patient Program compiled by Stark from the special collections of organizations that were the sources of “normal volunteers” for the NIH Clinical Center. The materials from source organizations include photographs, correspondence, and clippings. The “NIH Normal Volunteer Patient Program records, 1954-2002” series consists of records generated by, or pertaining to, the Normal Volunteer Patient Program collected by Stark through a first-time FOIA request and release from NIH. The “VANV project records, 2010-2018” series consists of project administration records including templates for legal forms, interview instruments, ethics-review approvals, and grant proposals.


  • Creation: 1940-2018 (inclusive)


Conditions Governing Access

A selection of data files are open for research; access to some data files is restricted until the publication of Laura Stark’s book, The Normals: A People’s History, University of Chicago Press. Access to the restricted data files may be granted at the discretion of the author; to request access, contact Laura Stark (contact information available at If access to restricted files is approved, the files will be made available for viewing in the Center for the History of Medicine reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


12.74 Gigabytes (612 digital files)
0.07 cubic feet (1 small media box)

Biographical / Historical

Laura Jeanine Morris Stark (born 1975), B.S., Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1998; Ph.D., 2006, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, is Associate Professor at the Center for Medicine, Health and Society, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research (2012).

After earning her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2006, Stark was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Science in Human Culture at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, until 2008. She held a Stetten Fellowship at the Office of NIH History at the National Institutes of Health from 2008 to 2009, and then served as Assistant Professor in the Program in Science in Society and Department of Sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, from 2009-2012. She joined Vanderbilt University as a Assistant Professor in the Center for Medicine, Health and Society in 2012, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2017. Stark has served as Associate Editor of History & Theory since 2011.


The collection is arranged into three series: Series I. VANV individual collections, 1940-2018; Series II. NIH Normal Volunteer Patient Program records, 1954-2002; and Series III. VANV project records, 2010-2018 (inclusive). Electronic media used to transfer collection files to the Center have been retained and are listed after the series descriptions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine by Laura Stark, 2016-2019.

  • Accession number 2016-058.
  • Accession number 2016-092.
  • Accession number 2016-103.
  • Accession number 2017-084.
  • Accession number 2017-085.
  • Accession number 2019-097.
  • Accession number 2019-131.

Processing Information

All electronic media and digital file transfers were imaged using Access Data’s Forensic Toolkit (FTK) and/or a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Digital files were then transferred to secure network storage and use copies were extracted. The use copies were then arranged into series groupings and moved into digital file folders that represent each series. Electronic media used to transfer collection files to the Center have been retained and are listed after the series descriptions. Note that in many cases, digital files were renamed by archives staff for consistency and to enable proper sorting in the Dataverse. Researchers should be aware that the dates assigned to materials in this collection in some cases reflect the content representented in the digital file, not the creation date of the digital file itself (for example, a photograph from 1940 digitally scanned in 2017 would be given a date of 1940). All digital files have been uploaded to the Harvard Dataverse for access.

Stark, Laura Jeanine Morris, 1975-. Vernacular Archive of Normal Volunteers (VANV), 1940-2018 (inclusive): A Finding Aid.
Jessica Sedgwick
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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