New Resource! American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia

by Julie Judkins

The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia (AIE) is an undertaking by the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine (CHM) in partnership with the University of Michigan Library’s MPublishing division, to create an open source, digital collection of archival, primary, and interpretive materials related to the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the United States. The materials in the AIE collection originated as research for two commissioned reports for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (2005) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). This virtual collection documents the experiences of diverse communities in the United States in fall 1918 and winter 1919 when influenza took the lives of approximately 675,000 Americans. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the project a prestigious “We the People” designation for its contribution to the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

The AIE collocates an estimated 50,000 pages of digitized reproductions of archival materials gathered by CHM staff at over 140 national institutions. It is intended for a wide-ranging audience that encompasses high school and college students, historians and social scientists, epidemiologists and public health practitioners, journalists and writers, as well as casual internet users interested in the period.

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Come to your census!

by Amy Barlow

In April 2012, the US National Archives released the 1940 census records to the public. Like any massive digitization project, the newly published collection of 3.8 million images is mostly user friendly. While I wouldn’t compare searching for a name to finding a needle in a haystack, I would compare it with hoping to bump into your ex-boyfriend at Coachella. Probing the census feels like stalking, which is probably why the US government mandates that 72 years pass between the collection of data and the publication of household-level details, such as a person’s address, country of origin, age, occupation, education, employment status, weeks worked, salary, etc. The census takers, who’s handwriting skills are highly variable, left no stone unturned.

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Why Use Reference Books?

by Emily Hamstra

When I was in high school, one of my favorite books was M. C. Strong’s The Great Rock Discography. From The Great Rock Discography I learned how different bands were connected, which albums to listen to, and which albums and bands to skip. It was the age of dial-up internet, and I built a record collection using a reference book and my parents’ expert knowledge.

In instruction sessions I often teach undergraduate students about reference books. When I ask undergraduates what they think of when they hear the word “encyclopedia” they often say, “Wikipedia and World Book.” This gives me an opportunity to tell them about the fabulous world of subject encyclopedias. I explain not all encyclopedias provide us with general information like World Book does. So often in first-year classes students are just getting a grasp of a particular concept or topic for the first time. They don’t always need to use an article database to find the latest article on metaphysics. Sometimes what they really need is an encyclopedia article from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy on metaphysics explaining the main concepts, arguments, major scholars, books, and articles in the field. Just like I needed those foundational albums to start my record collection, students often need a subject encyclopedia to find the foundational elements of the topic they’re researching.

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Stars — They really are just like US!

by Amy Barlow

Don’t hate them because they’re beautiful. Hate them because they’re beautiful and smart. Such is the burden of the actor/rock star/scholar, of which there are only a handful. On this rainy day, let’s resist the urge to think about embedded librarianship and learning assessment, to instead contemplate the all-important matter of researchers on the red carpet.

You are probably familiar with the academic achievements of Mayim Bialik (“Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory”) and Danica McKellar (“The Wonder Years”) in the fields of and neuroscience and mathematics, respectively. Who isn’t? But have you read Colin Firth’s co-authored Current Biology paper, “Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults”? According to the BBC, Firth “commissioned” the research during a stint as a guest editor of Radio 4’s Today program. Continue reading