Upcoming Lecture: “Vaccination and Society Since the Sixties”

Date: Friday, September 30, 2016
Time: 12 pm – 1:15 pm
Lecturer: Elena Conis, PhD (UC Berkeley & UCSF)
Location: Lange Room, 5th Floor, UCSF Library – Parnassus
530 Parnassus Ave, SF, CA 94143

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.
REGISTRATION REQUIRED: tiny.ucsf.edu/vaccination930

Join UCSF Archives & Special Collections for an afternoon talk with author Elena Conis as she discusses her book Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization. A limited number of books will be available for purchase.


W. McD. Hammon with triplets participating in a polio study at the Hooper Foundation (UCSF)

The past fifty years have witnessed an enormous upsurge in vaccine use in the United States: American children now receive more vaccines than any previous generation, and laws requiring their immunization against a litany of diseases are standard. And yet, while vaccination rates have soared and cases of preventable infections have plummeted, an increasingly vocal cross-section of Americans have questioned the safety and necessity of vaccines. In this talk, Elena Conis explores the emergence of widespread acceptance – and rejection – of vaccines from the 1960s to the present, finding the origins of today’s vaccination controversies in historical debates over topics ranging from national security to body piercing to the role of women in contemporary society. Vaccine acceptance, she argues, has never been simply a scientific matter, but one profoundly shaped by our politics, economics, and culture.

Elena Conis, PhD

Elena Conis, PhD

Elena Conis is a writer and historian of medicine, public health, and the environment. She is a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at UCSF. Previously, she was a history professor and the Mellon Fellow in Health and Humanities at Emory University; the Cain Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation; and an award-winning health columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Her first book, Vaccine Nation, won the Arthur J. Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association and was named a Choice magazine outstanding title and a pick of the week by the journal Nature. She is currently working on a book on the history of the pesticide DDT. She holds a PhD in the history of health sciences from UCSF, masters degrees in journalism and public health from Berkeley, and a bachelors degree in biology from Columbia University.

About the UCSF Archives & Special Collections Lecture Series
UCSF Archives & Special Collections launched this lecture series to introduce a wider community to treasures and collections from its holdings, to provide an opportunity for researchers to discuss how they use this material, and to celebrate clinicians, scientists, and health care professionals who donated their papers to the archives.

Highlights from the Photograph Collection – Lost on the Shelf

You never know what you’re going to find in an archives office. While the idealized vision is probably a mirror-image of the storage vault, with its neat rows of gray manuscript boxes and acid-free record cartons, this is almost never the case. Any flat surface can become a not-so-temporary resting place for the odd accession or accrual, or the item that was removed from its collection for research or exhibit, but has yet to find its way back to its proper housing.


This photograph of an early 20th-century surgical procedure was found a few weeks ago on top of one of our many filing cabinets. Who knows how it ended up there—or how long it had been waiting to be found again. Luckily, it carried a notation that it was from the Julius Comroe collection and the carton dedicated to illustrations for his book, Exploring the Heart. Looking at his notes, it is evident that Comroe had intended to use this photograph as the first illustration in his chapter on open heart surgery, but had later opted to use the Thomas Eakins painting, “The Agnew Clinic,” instead. Unfortunately there are no other notations or attributions on the photograph or its folder to tell us more about it, but at least this orphan work has found its way home—and we were given this opportunity to share it.


“The Agnew Clinic” by Thomas Eakins, courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania: http://www.archives.upenn.edu/histy/features/1800s/1889med/agnewclinic.html

New Collections on Calisphere

Earlier this year the California Digital Library revealed a revamped Calisphere site, offering improved access to and usability for thousands of digital items of historical significance contributed by institutions from across California. Alongside University of California partners such as UCSF, California State University Libraries, public libraries, museums and historical societies are making digital resources more discoverable than ever. The Calisphere site itself features excellent search and filter functions, and items can also be discovered through the Digital Public Library of America and even through Google searches.

UCSF is currently adding items and collections to the site, beginning with newly digitized items from the Eric Berne Papers, Lawrence Crooks Radiologic Imaging Laboratory Records and the UCSF Black Caucus Records. Other collections include the Japanese Woodblock Print Collection, the Tobacco Free Project  (SF Department of Public Health Records), and selections from UCSF’s Photograph Collection. We’re also moving items over from our Omeka site so that all of UCSF’s digitized items can be accessed in one place.

The release of the new Calisphere site also coincides with the implementation of a new Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) connected to Calisphere, that with help from CDL, allows us to have an efficient workflow for managing, preserving and publishing digital items.


You can find UCSF’s collections through the “Contributing Institutions” link at the top of the page. Each collection features a gallery view with thumbnails of the items, with options to filter and sort search results and sets by an number of different facets including date, item type and collection number.

Calisphere’s new user-friendly features include clearly laid-out item information and a nice co-mingling of academic and social media functions to “Get Citation” “Tweet” and “Share on Facebook”. There are also helpful links back to the Contributing Institution page and Collection page and links to the finding aid on the Online Archive of California. The new design is very easily searchable, navigable and easy on the eyes.


We’ll have more items coming online in the next month or so keep an eye out. Take a look around the site, send us your feedback and enjoy!