UCSF Library and San Francisco poets create space for the San Francisco community to “Pause, Breathe, and Re-Connect” during the COVID-19 pandemic

Featured

This is a guest post by Dr. Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, a primary care doctor and researcher at UCSF and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

As social distancing rules and regulations begin to relax, many of us are feeling the strain of prolonged social isolation and re-learning how to reach out to others.

On April 29th, 2021, 48 San Francisco and UCSF community members gathered virtually during the lunch hour on Zoom for a series of poetry readings and discussion centered around the human experience of medicine. Farah Hamade, the inaugural UCSF Library Artist-in-Residence, took visual notes and created an art piece that represents the event and experience (featured below).

Pause, Breath, Re-Connect artwork.
© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.
© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved

Three poets—Kathleen McClung, Sharon Pretti, and Peggy Tahir—were selected through a submissions process from the San Francisco community to read their work. Sharon Pretti read a series of poems written during and after her brother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death. Kathleen McClung read a sequence of sonnets inspired by her partner and her experiences navigating his treatment and surgery for a pituitary mass.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

Peggy Tahir read a series of poems written for each radiation treatment she underwent for breast cancer. The readings were followed by a 10-second pause to create space for reflection and a rich discussion.

Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen closed the event with a reading from The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, which can be accessed here: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/02/14/sharing-love/.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

The introduction of the event and poetry readings were recorded with the poets’ permission. The recording was turned off for the discussion and closing to create a more comfortable, intimate space. After the event, the poetry reading recording, Farah Hamade’s art piece and a poem by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen was shared with event registrants and the public.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

The public can access the recording at the following link: https://archive.org/details/ucsf-pause-breathe-re-connect-poetry-and-discussion-2021-1.

The event was organized by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, Farah Hamade, Polina Ilieva, and Joanna Kang with support from the UCSF Library.

Learning at the Medical Heritage Library Conference

The Medical Heritage Library 10th Anniversary Conference took place on November 13, 2020. UCSF Archives & Special Collections staff attended the day of virtual presentations, and our Industry Documents Library archivists delivered a talk titled “Smoke on Screens: Audiovisual Evidence of the Tobacco Industry’s Harms to Public Health.”

The conference was convened to celebrate a decade of digitizing and making available medical history resources. Keynote speaker Dr. Jaipreet Virdi, Assistant Professor for the Department of History at the University of Delaware, presented her work on Digitized Disability Histories. She discussed disability identity as represented through material objects of disability, and examined how disability history is separate from medical history.

The program also included fascinating talks from nine other speakers, ranging from the rhetoric used in early 20th century motherhood manuals to medicalize infant care and degrade traditional knowledge, to using convolutional neural networks (CNN) to identify and label objects in historical images in order to visualize thematic collections at scale, to studying the historical lessons from popular culture and medical discourse of face masks during the 1918-1919 Flu epidemic.

All talks were recorded and are being made available with captioning on the Medical Heritage Library YouTube channel (see Session 2 for the “Smoke on Screens” talk).

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL) is “a collaborative digitization and discovery organization committed to providing open access to the history of medicine and health resources.” It was established in 2009 with a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to begin digitizing 50,000 medical history texts, and now includes more than 323,000 items made available by multiple contributors through an access portal on the Internet Archive.

UCSF Archives & Special Collections is a contributing partner to the Medical Heritage Library. In 2015-2017 A&SC collaborated with four other medical libraries to digitize and make publicly accessible state medical journals, funded by a $275,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant. 97 journal titles were digitized (nearly every state medical journal in the U.S.) resulting in over 2.7 million full-text searchable pages.

The Industry Documents Library has contributed over 5,000 video recordings to the MHL, beginning in 2012. These videos are part of our Truth Tobacco Industry Documents collection and include recordings of cigarette commercials, marketing focus groups, internal corporate meetings and trainings, depositions of tobacco company employees, and congressional hearings. The recordings document the industry’s marketing and public relations strategies to cast doubt on the harms of smoking and to prevent or delay public health regulations.

Screenshot from 1960 Flintstones commercial for Winstons cigarettes.
Screenshot of 1960 Flintstones TV commercial for Winston cigarettes, available in the Industry Documents Library collection of the Medical Heritage Library on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/tobacco_djq03d00

October is Archives Month!

Every October we celebrate Archives Month to reflect on the value of historical materials and to highlight UCSF Archives programs and services. This year we are marking the occasion in the midst of the era-defining triple pandemic of COVID-19, systemic racism, and police violence, not to mention momentous political upheaval.

Now as much as ever, it is critical to protect the records of the past and of the present. We are living through and making history; we must ensure that a diverse and inclusive record of this time is preserved for those in the future to access and understand.

Here are some ways you can get involved to celebrate Archives Month:

Get started collecting and caring for your records (emails, photos, blogs, social media, reports, websites, etc). Consider submitting your materials to the UCSF COVID-19 Pandemic Chronicles.

Do you manage or contribute to a UCSF website? Check out our guidelines for preserving UCSF websites as part of the historical record of the University.

Join us on Wednesday October 7 for #AskAnArchivist Day! UCSF archivists will be standing by from 10am-2pm PDT on Twitter to answer your questions and chat about archives and UCSF history. Ask us anything at @ucsf_archives.

Interested in learning from the history of the health sciences to address current challenges? We’re excited to co-present Vesalius and Wrist Pain: Using Medical History to Solve Current Problems with the Bay Area History of Medicine Society on October 21 at 6:30pm PDT, with speaker Dr. David Lincoln Nelson. Please register in advance.

Visit our free online exhibit “’They Were Really Us’: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS” for a fascinating and moving story of how UCSF leaders in the 1980s and 1990s broke ground in the fight against the virus, launching the first AIDS clinic in the world and contributing to the identification of what came to be known as HIV.

To explore recordings of our past Archives Talks on topics ranging from Black Women Physicians’ Careers, Elderhood, Documenting While Black, and the Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy, please visit our Archives Events and Exhibits page.