Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take the Next Step

Where: Athens Clarke County Public Library (2025 Baxter Street, Athens, GA)
When: Sunday, June 7th - 3:00PM
Why: Because community health matters to you
Host: Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia

Did you attend events in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series? Are you looking for a chance to continue talking about health inequity and working towards solutions in our community? If the answer is YES, then plan to attend the Next Steps Public Discussion on Sunday, June 7th at the ACC Public Library.

This spring the Russell Library & partners organized the Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series to raise awareness about health inequity. These events started important discussions on the social determinants of health, especially as they relate to Athens and Northeast Georgia. Now, let’s build on this momentum and move forward with focused deliberations & opportunities for action.

The Next Steps Public Discussion will recap the information gathered from participants during the event series and serve as a listening opportunity to find out where community members are interested in taking these conversations next. Should we continue to have public discussions? Do we want more regular updates from OneAthens and other community organizations? Do we need more information about opportunities for volunteer action in the Athens area? Is there a better way to communicate with local legislators on healthy policy? This will be a relaxed gathering focused on deciding what to do next. Bring your ideas and let’s have a conversation. This event is free and open to the public & will conclude with light refreshments.

For more information, please call (706) 542-5788 or email For more information on the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series, visit:

Food for Thought: Feedback on Highlander

I’ve been meaning to post this for months, but a hectic schedule (and many other posts!) stood in the way. No more! To recap, I’ll begin with a reminder of our exhibit from last fall...

In the fall of 2008, the Russell Library hosted an exhibit from the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN – Weaving the Threads of Justice: Highlander Center, 1932-2007. The core text panels of the exhibit were provided, but the Russell Library supplemented these with photographs, artifacts, and additional text panels. Weaving tells the story of the Highlander Folk School -- a center for activists and grassroots organization in the Deep South. Highlander played a significant role in labor organizing during the 1930s and 40s and later served as an interracial training center and meeting place for leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Today, Highlander continues to be a central crossroads for community development and grassroots political action on issues such as environmental degradation and human rights in Appalachia and the South.

In thinking about how to help visitors connect to the exhibit, we developed a low-tech feedback zone -- a place where visitors were invited to respond to questions touching on the major themes presented. Additionally, we issued a small challenge - asking visitors to make their own protest signs!

Questions Posed:
  • Who is making (or has made) the south a better place?
  • How have you been involved in working for justice in your community?
  • What does it mean to be an activist?
  • What are the key ingredients for achieving a prosperous community for all citizens?
Happily, there were a good many responses – sometimes a bit off-track from the questions asked, but revealing nonetheless. Encouraged by the responses received, we have decided to make the feedback zone a recurring feature in our exhibit space – adapting it to new exhibits and programs, and modifying the structure to make it more inviting to visitors. Take a look below to see comments made in the Highlander exhibit.

Do you think this is a good way to make exhibits more engaging? Do we learn more when there is action? If you were passing by, what kinds of questions would compel you to post your own comment? Let us know what you think - and be sure to check out the feedback zone in our upcoming exhibit, History Lives (coming soon!).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Cachet!

While I grew up in a family that worked for the United States Postal Service, I didn’t learn what the philatelic meaning of the word “cachet” meant until today. A cachet is a stamped or printed design or inscription, other than the postmark, on an envelope. Earlier this week, I happened upon an envelope labeled “Hugh Peterson, Stamp Collection” and found a series of envelopes with these designs commemorating happenings around the nation and in Congressman Peterson’s home state of Georgia.

Many of the designs have to do with air travel, including celebrating the openings of the Albuquerque Municipal Airport and La Guardia Airport in 1939. Others commemorate the flight of a specific plane, such as the one below for TWA and its then new Boeing Stratoliner, which made the trip across the United States in 14 hours carrying 33 passengers and 5 crew members.
Some are also signed by people who played a significant part in planning the event, such as Eli Whitney Day and the opening of the Hunter Airport (now Hunter Army Airfield) in 1940, both of which were in Savannah, Georgia.

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One End, New Beginnings

On Sunday, May 10th we celebrated Mother’s Day, UGA’s newly minted class of 2009, AND the final event in our Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series! These events & conversations have exposed a lot about health inequity and the social determinants of health, especially how these topics relate to the Athens area. Over the course of 8 weeks 400 people from the campus and community attended screenings and participated in the discussions that followed. So I’ll say early on in this post – thank you! Thank you to all of the attendees, the panelists, the moderators, the co-sponsors, and most of all the members of our planning committee! The Russell Library looks forward to finding ways to continue the conversations these events have started and hope you all want to help as the journey continues.

And now, on to the recap of our closing event! The seventh and final episode of the documentary, “Not Just a Paycheck,” profiles a small town in western Michigan where an Electrolux plant has recently closed. The audience meets dozens of the longtime employees who have been let go from their jobs of 15, 20, or 30 years, and finds them depressed and afraid of what the future will bring. They face not only unemployment and an uncertain financial future, but a stress-inducing situation leading to increased illness, depression, spousal abuse, and a questioning of self worth. The film also shows the impact of a similar factory closing on a town in Sweden, demonstrating the marked contrast in concern for workers between that country and the U.S.

Our panelists for this episode, who generously spent their Mother’s Day afternoon with us, were: James Shrum (Director of Nursing, Athens Regional Medical Center & member of the OneAthens Health Team), Dr. Katheryn Davis (School of Social Work, UGA), and Peter Hossler (Department of Geography, UGA). This week’s moderator was Dr. Margaret Holt, a member of our program planning committee and longtime friend of the Russell Library.

With a crowd of 30 attendees, we tackled many of the issues raised in the film, which in these tough economic times seemed more relevant than ever. Attendees quickly turned their attention to the rising cost of health care, asking questions about social responsibility and the role that local institutions (like Athens Regional & St. Mary’s) play in these rising costs.

Mr. Shrum fielded many of these cost questions and was also able to comment on the steps that OneAthens is taking to combat issues of cost and access to care in our community. Most notably, Shrum mentioned that one of the local free health clinics (Athens Neighborhood Health Clinic) recently obtained a level of federal support that will help in their service to the community. Dr. Davis discussed the issues of self worth associated with joblessness, and how in a country where people often define themselves by their careers, depression is a natural companion to job loss. Meanwhile, Mr. Hossler provided great perspectives from his research on healthcare safety nets in Wisconsin, and also spoke about the Living Wage Coalition at UGA – an ongoing effort to raise the level of income for staff members to a viable living wage.

Despite the smaller size of the audience, the discussion was vibrant and provocative. As we decamped to the snacks table after the program, many regular attendees confessed that they hoped these discussions would continue and begin to help shape more action from members of the community. Their sustained interest is great news for us. We’re already planning a public “next steps” meeting to talk about what we’ve learned and where community members are interested in going next – be it increased discussion, volunteerism, etc.

Our public meeting will take place on Sunday, June 7th from 3-5PM in the small conference room (next to the auditorium) at the ACC Public Library. As always, we’ll have healthy snacks on hand, as well as a few helpful speakers from local organizations. This will be a relaxed gathering focused on brainstorming ideas that will help us all to build on the knowledge and awareness we have gained about health equity from this series and to consider avenues for future work. If you participated in the Unnatural Causes series then please come back to help us move forward. If you missed the series, but have an interest in the social factors that influence health and health policy then, please join us. All are welcome.

Thanks, one final time, to everyone who participated in the series. And to those who couldn’t make it, stay tuned – hopefully we’ll have more great discussions coming soon. For more info on the June 7th gathering, email or call (706) 542-5788.

Would you like to give your feedback on these events? If so, just click here to fill out our online survey. This information will help us to craft new public program series from the Russell Library

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bob Short Reflects

Bob Short has a way with words. He is a crackerjack interviewer, a storyteller of the old school, and an experienced hand. For almost three years he has worked on Reflections on Georgia Politics, tirelessly and without reward, with a mix of serious historical inquiry, wry humor,and a depth of political understanding that explains a lot about who he knows and why he knows them. And when I say this, it is important to understand that of the 86 interviews he has completed thus far, he has been on familiar terms with all but a small handful of his subjects. He has known every Georgia governor since Herman Talmadge. All have had a high regard for Bob, and so do those with an eye on Georgia's political climate. It has not been rare in the last year for the camera to be turned off and 2010 gubernatorial speculation to be turned on - interesting, particularly given that three of our subjects have announced plans to enter the race. They ask Bob what he thinks because he has a feel for these kinds of things, particularlywhat the tenor is in the mountains.

Bob is meticulous in his preparation for our interviews. His apprehension with regard to how forthcoming his subjects may be is almost always unfounded. Bob's depth of knowledge and feeling for Georgia's political history open up the interviews and warm the conversation. Rarely does a Reflections episode go by where the phrase, "I probably shouldn't betelling you this" isn't uttered. It is simply hard not to talk to Bob Short.

So, it seemed like a good idea early on to turn the camera on Bob occasionally and talk to him about his career and experiences in politics. The clip included here details the 1966 Georgia gubernatorial race, and Bob's experiences working first for Jimmy Carter and then for Lester Maddox. A more complete picture of this turning point in the state's politics would be difficult to match.

For podcasts & transcripts of recent interviews in the Reflections series, click here.

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library

Monday, May 11, 2009

Celebrating Statehood

On January 3 of this year, the state of Alaska celebrated the 50th anniversary of its admittance to the Union. At one point in time, my knowledge of Alaska was limited to the general social studies curriculum in public schools, the show Northern Exposure (which was not actually even filmed in Alaska), and my father’s brief trip to the Aleutian Islands when I was 6. Needless to say, processing Hugh Peterson’s Congressional committee files was a great learning opportunity -- for when I started arranging the files pertaining to his committee trips, I found information about a trip he took to Alaska in 1945.

Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening speaking
at a Congressional dinner, August 1945

He served on the Rivers and Harbors Committee, the service on which took him to Texas, California, Washington and Alaska during the mid 1940s. Although that was 14 years before the territory was admitted into the Union, statehood was on the mind of several in Alaska when Peterson visited. He jotted down a few notes in a notebook from a dinner he attended at which Governor Ernest Gruening made remarks, some of which endorsed statehood for the territory.

Also while visiting Alaska, the Congressional group was treated to a presentation in Klukwan by the Jilkaat tribe of the Tinglits, who are indigenous to what is now the southeastern coast of Alaska. I wonder what they thought of statehood.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Our sixth program in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series happened this past Sunday at Coverdell Building on South Campus (home to UGA’s College of Public Health and the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute), where we screened Episode 6: Collateral Damage. This segment of the film looked at the struggles of the native population in the Marshall Islands, who have been displaced from their traditional way of life by the American military presence and globalization. The film portrays a place and a people with so many problems it is difficult to know where to begin working towards solutions. The focus becomes the high rate of tuberculosis (TB) on the island. As we follow public health workers into substandard housing units to administer treatment to diagnosed patients, we are exposed to the circumstances in which this population lives and begin to understand why rampant infectious disease is just a symptom of much larger problems.

Panelists Dr. Larry Nackerud (School of Social Work), Dr. Chris Whalen (College of Public Health), and Dr. Lynn Beckman (Infectious Disease Coordinator, Northeast Georgia Health District) gave our discussion direction with the help of moderator Rebecca Cheney (Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia). Some comments from our discussion included….
• Larry Nackerud started the discussion with a gut reaction: the film made him angry. Though Larry noted that this was not the most academic response, it was an honest one that questioned why people have to live in poverty while their neighbors live comfortably. The juxtaposition between the native peoples of the Marshall Islands and those living on the American military base there, gives interesting insight into the lives of the haves and have-nots.

• Chris Whalen spoke about his work with tuberculosis in southern Africa. He described the current treatment approach as ineffective – because treating individuals with diagnosed symptoms allows the dozens of others who have been in contact with that person, undiagnosed and untreated, allowing the disease to flourish.

• Lynn Beckman described the instance of TB in our own county as significantly lower than the national average (the state of GA as a whole has a higher percentage than the nation). However, she said that we have to stay vigilant about the disease or that percentage could always increase.

• When one audience member asked about local resources, Lynn described her team of nurses – one in each of the ten counties that comprise the Northeast Georgia Health District. They offer screenings at each county health department – but they are charged with screening for all infections diseases (HIV, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.), not just TB.

• One audience member reflected on the overwhelming struggles of Marshall Islanders and asked the panel what they would do to change the situation there, if anything was within their power. They suggested everything from putting money into increased education and community development, to implementing new housing units and trying methods for population control.

Our panelists did a solid job of responding to questions and expressing their own views about what the government and various health organizations are/could be doing to address the problems presented. As an audience, I think we narrowed in specifically to talking about the threats of TB and didn’t discuss the bigger picture that the film explored: the reasons behind ALL of the problems in the Marshall Islands, where the high instance of TB is just a symptom of greater social ills.

After eight weeks, we have reached the last event in this program series! This coming Sunday, May 10th we hope you will join us at the Athens Clarke County Public Library for a screening of the final episode, “Not Just a Paycheck” – exploring issues that hit very close to home in our current economic times. Please join us for community discussion and a closing reception from 3:00-5:00 PM. For more information, please call (706) 542-5788 or visit

Monday, May 04, 2009

Final Film & Discussion Program Sunday!

This Sunday, May 10th, the Russell Library will host the final program in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series, with a screening of episode 7, “Not Just a Paycheck.” This thirty minute segment explores the depression, domestic violence, and poor health of residents in a Western Michigan town in the wake of a factory closing. This episode considers the detrimental ripple effect of job loss in this community and at the same time, explores the government policies in other countries which protect and retrain the unemployed.

Helping us to connect these topics to our surrounding community, panelists Dr. Katheryn Davis (School of Social Work, UGA), James Shrum (OneAthens Health Team), and Peter Hossler (Department of Geography, UGA) will engage in an open dialogue with the audience. The program will conclude with a light reception of healthy snacks!

Events in this program series are all FREE and open to the public. For further information or to RSVP for this event, call 706-542-5788 or visit

Outside the Box - May

Object: Flight Log, 1938-1944
Collection: Henry Tift Myers, Sr.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Tift Myers, Sr. was a native of Tifton, Georgia. He attended the University of Georgia, where he was a fullback on the football team and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. After receiving his degree in 1929 he entered the Army Air Corps. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Myers returned to active duty in the Air Transport Command. He was appointed as the first Presidential pilot, and transported Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman around the world in specially-designed airplanes that were the predecessors of the modern Air Force One.

Myers was also tasked with piloting high ranking military officials, visiting royalty, Congressmen, and other VIPs and guests of the United States government. Among his notable passengers were Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Mexican President Miguel Alemán, the King and Queen of Greece, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. Myers was also the holder of a number of air speed and flight distance records; he was the first person to circumnavigate the globe at the equator. As a result of his high profile career, Myers also maintained a modicum of celebrity. He hobnobbed with Hollywood actors and actresses, and was frequently profiled in magazines and newspapers.

Flight Log & Senatorial Tour of War Theatres
In 1943, Myers captained a three month, 45,000-mile flight in a four-engine Liberator called “The Guess Where II.” The flight carried Senator Richard B. Russell and other members of a special Senate subcommittee around the globe for an inspection of combat areas. Myers’ flight log from this time period details the route taken by the Senators on their tour, and the exotic stops along the way: Marrakech, Cairo, New Delhi, Brisbane, and Pago-Pago, among others.

At the conclusion of their mission, the Senators reported their findings to the Senate. They were also quick to commend the skill of their pilot. A letter of thanks from Senator Henry Cabot Lodge commends Myers’ abilities as a pilot, citing his “sound judgment, great thoroughness and indefatigable energy.” Senator Russell was highly impressed with “fellow Cracker” Captain Myers and his crew. In a letter to the editor of American magazine, Russell states that “no finer outfit ever took a ship off of the ground anywhere at any time.” He closes his letter by proclaiming Myers and his crew “the most perfect team of humans I have ever seen in action.”

Post by Chris Ellis, Processing Intern at the Russell Library

May’s “Outside the Box” object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, until June 1st. For further information on the Henry Tift Myers Collection, please contact or visit

Early Oral Histories

When Bob Short started doing the Reflections on Georgia Politics
program, his idea was to invite Georgia's political elite, for casual
conversation in front of audiences at Young Harris. Naturally, Zell
Miller, who lives right across the road from the school and who Bob
has known most of his life, came to mind. The initial exchange began as follows:

BOB SHORT: Thank you, and welcome to another in our series of
reflections. I know that Zell Miller needs no introduction to this
group, so I will begin by asking this question: what shall I call you?
Senator? Governor? Lieutenant Governor? Professor? Or by your college nickname, “Zip?”

ZELL MILLER: I’m afraid there’s not much zip left, but...You left out
my -- one of my favorites. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren
call me “Pa.”

SHORT: Incidentally, how did you get that nickname “Zip?”

MILLER: Well, I don’t know, exactly. I think it was my speed on the
baseball field, baseball diamonds around here. Or maybe it’s that I
got out of class so fast. I think it’s that - but I don’t know.

SHORT: Well, I presume I may call you “Senator?”

MILLER: How about “friend?” We went to school here 55 years ago together.

SHORT: Did you have to say that? Well, friend Zell, you live just down
the street from this Young Harris campus, yet you seemed a bit
reluctant to participate in this forum. Care to tell us why?

MILLER: Well, that’s true. Because I’ve been on the playing field a
long, long time, and I have -- I want to get up in the stands and
watch what’s going on instead of being down there on the playing
field. I quit doing commentary for Fox News back in January because I just didn’t want to get into all of that. As many of you know -- or
some of you know -- this long political career I’ve had has had its
share of conflicts and controversy. You know, politics is a contact
sport, and I have got the skinned shins and bloody noses to show it.

Despite Zell Miller's initial reluctance, he warms to his hometown
crowd, and soon is in a talkative, and typically candid, mood. The
interview, which approaches two hours, is wonderful. Here we offer a
short excerpt of a story the Senator tells of his early days in
politics, when the roads of north Georgia were a hot political issue.
This excerpt features subtitles, since the video's audio track is
difficult to hear, demonstrating what we can do with some of the
poorer quality audiovisual resources that nonetheless hold important

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library