The Battle Creek Sanitarium: Constructing History Through Ephemera

The Battle Creek Sanitarium of Battle Creek, Michigan was a health resort which employed holistic methods based on principles promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Treatments included hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, phototherapy, physical training, exposure to fresh air, enemas, and dietetic plans crafted to lower patient’s libidos in order to live a chaste lifestyle free of sin. It became a destination for both prominent and middle-class American citizens, including celebrities such as J.C. Penney, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Warren Harding, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Sojourner Truth. In order to draw so many prominent figures and a wealthy base of clients to its somewhat remote location in Michigan – and to promote the ideas of its founders, the Kellogg brothers – the Sanitarium needed to produce a wide swath of promotional materials, many of which survive today in The Historical Medical Library’s Medical Trade Ephemera collection.

Read more

Cleaning Up Bad Data and Finding Hidden Collections: How ArchivesSpace Makes Our Archives Accessible

As is the case in so many libraries and archives, the manuscript collections at the Historical Medical Library used to be difficult to find, let alone search. Some were available through the College website as (essentially) text files. Unless a researcher knew the name of the collection he or she wanted to consult, it was virtually impossible to find the correct information.

The old interface researchers saw when searching our finding aids
The old interface researchers saw when searching our finding aids.

Read more

All History is Local: Using Philadelphia Collections in National History Day Projects

I have been involved with National History Day (NHD) since 2001 as both a judge and as a librarian. Judging this competition is exciting – middle and high school students put their heart and soul into projects, some of which are of exceptional caliber. Working with NHD as a librarian can be frustrating – students seem to stick with the same 10 broad topics, all of which can be researched with little more than a few clicks on Google.

I am going to tell students a deep, dark secret held closely by NHD judges: if we, the judges, read another paper, or see another exhibition, about the atomic bomb, or about the Salem witch trials, or about Alice Paul, we might start screaming. The impact of the atomic bomb on international relations, or the impact of the trials on the development of government in New England, or Paul’s impact on women’s suffrage cannot be denied. However, I’ve read a paper each year since 2001 about the atomic bomb, regardless of the annual theme of NHD, papers with bibliographies that are created using nothing but sources that are found online.

Read more