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Join us on a public health treasure tour at the Wangensteen Historical Library!

By January 31, 2022September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Lisa McGuire

It was a match made in heaven when Public Health Librarian Shanda Hunt, MPH, joined curators Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck at the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine (WHL). 

Hunt was invited on a treasure tour of WHL where she was introduced to selected books and artifacts from the collection to engage and connect historical materials to present-day topics related to Public Health.

Q: With your Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies and your Master’s Degree in Public Health, you brought a unique perspective to your treasure tour. What items intrigued you the most?

SH: The tour included notable impactful moments for me – the John Snow map of London’s cholera outbreak. I found out that John Snow was not the first person to map out a public health problem (as a former public health student, I was shocked to learn this). 

I saw photographs of patients with measles covering their bodies, and a “no spitting” sidewalk brick. These were not only cool artifacts but they made immediate connections to our current pandemic experience. 

Detail of the 1854 Cholera map from the UK’s report on the epidemic. This detail shows streets in London where outbreaks occurred.

Q: Were there any particular highlights for you?

SH: The absolute highlight of the tour was the brilliant curators, Lois and Emily. Every artifact displayed and book in which I showed interest came with a fascinating narrative from Lois or Emily. 

Lois and Emily easily drew historical connections to modern public health problems, clarifying misconceptions I had about history and pointing out how far we’ve come – or haven’t come – in proposing solutions to those problems. 

As a former public health student and current librarian, I think that classes would greatly benefit from teaching modern public health coupled with WHL knowledge and collections.

  • Detail of the 1854 Cholera map from the UK's report on the epidemic. This detail shows streets in London where outbreaks occured.

Q: I can see your excitement for what you experienced on your tour. What was your biggest ‘aha’ moment? 

SH: My biggest takeaway from the experience was how critical it is to have a modern understanding of public health framed by an accurate historical perspective. Because I was so excited about what I was learning, Emily even sent me home with an article by a medical historian who wrote about how colonialism, slavery, and war changed the course of medicine. 

An invitation

The Wangensteen Historical Library serves up aha moments on a daily basis, if you would like an aha moment for yourself or your class, connect with Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck.  


Lisa McGuire

Author Lisa McGuire

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