Global Health Chronicles Website

Home page for Global Health Chronicles website

Home page for Global Health Chronicles website.

Library Tech Services, one of the newly created divisions in LITS, recently completed the Global Health Chronicles website, found at Under the leadership of John Ellinger (R-WIT), the team of James Bias and Jay Varner (both of R-WIT) collaborated with the School of Public Health (SPH).

Rosanne Waters, SPH project lead at the Emory Global Health Institute, delivered this report about the project:

Emory University, in collaboration with the CDC, received a $200,000 grant through The Community Foundation to assemble and make available on Emory’s Global Health Chronicles website a collection of oral histories, historical documents and artifacts that describes the genesis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the establishment of Atlanta as an international center for global health. Shortly after Emory received notification of the grant in 2011, the project’s champion and coordinator, Dr. David J. Sencer, passed away. Project leadership and staff made an immediate commitment to carry on the work in Dr. Sencer’s name.

The new module has now been completed and is titled Malaria: CDC Beginnings. The project was managed by the Emory Global Health Institute, with Jeffrey Koplan serving as principal investigator. Key collaborators included the Woodruff Libraries and staff of the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. An Advisory Board was established early on to provide content guidance and to help identify individuals who should be interviewed for the oral history section of the site as well as materials and documents that should be garnered. The project was divided into two phases: Year One/Phase I which focused on identifying, prioritizing and collecting oral histories, photographs and documents from years 1941 to 1951 and on moving the Chronicles to the more nimble “Omeka” platform; and Year Two/Phase II which focused on finalizing the collection of materials and digitizing and publishing the documents on the Global Health Chronicles website.

Specific Accomplishments

1946 view of the Chamblee Laboratory for the Communicable Disease Center

1946 view of the Chamblee Laboratory for the Communicable Disease Center.

The project team exceeded its goals in both type and amount of original source material collected. The “Malaria Control: CDC Beginnings” module now contains:

  • 18 oral histories based on interviews conducted between September 2011 and August 2012. All individuals interviewed played a significant role in the early days of the CDC.
  • 137 photographs. Many of these photographs came from the Manuscript and Rare Book Library of the Robert W. Woodruff Libraries and have never before been seen by the public.
  • 45 historical media records, including relevant educational and training films from CDC’s early years and video-taped interviews from past decades.
  • 234 original documents ranging from letters about malaria to and from Robert W. Woodruff that were written between 1938 to 1952, to an orientation manual for new commissioned corps and civil service personnel working at the Communicable Disease Center.

All oral histories are accompanied by edited transcripts that include photographs to help illustrate the history being related. All histories, photographs, media records and documents added to this new module include a brief description plus source and citation information specific to that item.

In addition to meeting or exceeding its content goals, the project team addressed a crucial website management issue. Because of the platform being used for the original website, adding new content or editing existing content – even, for example, correcting the spelling of a name – required significant time and involvement by Woodruff Library staff, making website expansion and maintenance time consuming and expensive. With superb advice, guidance and technical support from Emory’s Library Technology Services, the Global Health Chronicles website was transitioned from its original platform to “Omeka,” a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archive, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. As a result, Emory and David J. Sencer CDC Museum staff members who have the appropriate permission are now able to edit existing content and add new content to the Malaria: CDC Beginnings module with minimal library support. In addition, search features on the Omeka platform make the content readily and easily accessible to all site visitors.


1945 view inside the offices at the Emory University Field Station

1945 view inside the offices at the Emory University Field Station.

The Global Health Chronicles’ “Malaria: CDC Beginnings” module delivers unprecedented access to primary source material available in one place, providing for the first time an in-depth look at the factors leading to CDC’s inception, as well as the first years of the agency’s growing influence on the health of the nation and the world.

The value to scholars and researchers is clear, as materials heretofore stored away at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum are now readily available. Because the Global Health Chronicles website is a free, open access archive, anyone with Internet access is able to locate and download fully-scanned photographs, videos and films, audio recordings, oral histories, scientific reports, official documents and personal accounts and information. Additionally, because the Global Health Chronicles has expanded its scope, its repository includes material from the CDC Public Health Library and Information Center, the CDC Public Health Image Library, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Archives, as well as Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. The project also includes linkages to related records held by non-GHC collaborators.

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