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Digitalized historical work earns library awards

MUSC is a recipient of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s digitalization and conservation award.

Projects that included transcribing and digitizing 19th century botanical materials, theses and historical text that was used to develop MUSC’s new Porcher Medicinal Garden and details about a Women’s Health Portal received regional awards.

MUSC was notified of receiving NNLM’s Southeastern Atlantic Region digitization and conservation awards on April 15.

The digitalization project was initiated in 2012 and resulted in scanning and digitizing 140 theses written between 1830 and 1860. Among them is a thesis written by MUSC alumnus and program namesake Francis Peyre Porcher, M.D., an 1847 graduate of the Medical College of the State of South Carolina. Porcher’s thesis, titled “A Medico-Botanical Catalogue of the Plants and Ferns of St. John’s Berkeley, South Carolina,” was among other botanical-related papers and studies relating to the development of medical remedies. 

The theses are available via the MUSC’s Waring Historical Library’s digital library called MEDICA. According to Susan Hoffius, Waring Library curator, library user statistics have identified that botanicals are the most searched category. To help satisfy user needs, library staff selected 140 theses about topics ranging from specific botanicals (Apocynum and rosoemifolium, Lobelia inflate and quinine) to chemicals (mercury, iron and potassium iodide).

Hoffius explained that the project supplements ongoing work documenting the history of the Medical College and its early curriculum (with current efforts in the areas of drug discovery). “Our goal was to provide today’s researchers with historical texts about plants, which were used for drug therapies. Perhaps contemporary scientists will rediscover some of South Carolina's native resources,” said Hoffius.

All selected theses in this project document mid-19th century medicinal methods and teaching practices. Both are relevant for current research personnel who are interested in the history of medical education, therapies and the study of medicinal drugs and its treatment of disease. The handwritten theses ranged from 11 to 63 pages in length. The medical theses project totaled 2,982 pages with additional pages of transcripts loaded via the institution’s MEDICA digital library.
The second award promotes awareness and access to the MUSC Library’s Women’s Health Resource Portal. The portal serves as a resource for educators, researchers, staff and students.

Activities devised in the portal project complement the Office of Research on women’s health and its National Institutes of Health strategic plan for women’s health research.

Baseline data on faculty awareness and knowledge on how to access the portal will be collected and compared with survey data at the end of the grant period. Methods for improving awareness and access to the portal will include targeted learning opportunities, social media, websites and innovative teaching strategies. Learning opportunities include lectures and promotion of interprofessional activities with faculty from all six colleges to develop case studies examining health disparities among women.

May 9, 2013

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