New JFK Tribute combines public art and local memories

JFK Tribute in downtown Fort Worth

JFK Tribute in downtown Fort Worth (Photo by Stephanie Stegman)

JFK now stands in downtown Fort Worth. Or, at least, his statue does.

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about the new JFK Tribute, an open air, permanent exhibit and website that pays tribute to President John F. Kennedy and the final two speeches he gave on the morning of November 22, 1963. My latest article on The Ultimate History Project talks about that day and the development of the project, done in part by Downtown Fort Worth, Inc.

I was surprised to learn about all the North Texas connections to this national story. It’s a timely topic with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination later this year. One of the upcoming events will be the bringing back together of a special art collection, Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, to be shown at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.

Watch the video interviews on the JFK Tribute’s website, and then you’ll understand why I enjoyed finding this copy of Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign song, based on Frank Sinatra’s hit “High Hopes.”

Want to find more of Kennedy’s or other presidential speeches and public statements? Check out the JFK Presidential Library and Museum and The American Presidency Project.


Where is the history of medicine in Texas?

Texas has a rich history of medical education, research, and innovation. Yet, much like the candy-cane, striped shirt-wearing Waldo, the history of medicine, public health, and its allied sciences is often hidden in plain sight.

This history can be found in the architecture of hospitals and medical schools like Cooks Children’s iconic blue roof in Fort Worth and Old Red at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Or the minor procedures and major surgeries that comprise Western medicine today like the heart transplant pioneered by Houston surgeons Denton Cooley and Michael E. DeBakey. It can also be found in the programs and educational resources available to Texans, like those for diabetics and their families, coordinated by the Texas Diabetes Council.

Medical Arts_Dallas

Postcard of the Medical Arts Building in Dallas, TX. Built in 1923, it was demolished in 1977. The National Library of Medicine has over 4,000 postcards related to medical history online. (Images from the History of Medicine, NLM)

When I was doing graduate research into the history of medicine and public health in Texas, I discovered a number of important local resources. However, a lack of transparency made it difficult to identify and access these resources. This frustration made me curious to learn more. Several medical librarians were kind enough to reply to my informal query about the types of resources they have and the most common reference questions they receive.

Here’s what I found out…

A good rule of thumb for the history of medicine is: it’s kept where it was created. Whether you are looking for old medical journals, biographies of physicians, or historical information on hospitals and medical associations, your best bet is to look for the nearest medical school or public health library.

Major medical centers and universities located in cities like Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and Galveston are where the majority of historical resources can be found. Extensive collections exist throughout the state in places like the John P. McGovern Historical Collection and Research Center in Houston and the Special Collections at UT Southwestern Medical Center Library in Dallas.

For example, biographical information on physicians is a popular research request. Medical school yearbooks and directories, like Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register of the United States, are important genealogical resources. Biographers and family historians can take advantage of the Texas Physicians Historical Biographical Database online thanks to the library at UT Southwestern. The McGovern Library also has Polk’s Medical Register and Directory digitized and available online.

Archives of past medical journals sit on the shelf at many medical libraries, but assorted issues are online through digital portals like The Medical Heritage Library, Texas Heritage Online, and The Portal to Texas History. A quick PubMed search can help you identify specific articles and dates to help you in your quest for older journal articles on health and medicine in Texas.


“Controlling Diabetes One Day at a Time,” Texas Diabetes Council education packet c.1990s

The history of public health at the state level is often less visible. Current public health topics have historical background that may not be included in up-to-date information and statistics. Unlike books on the subject, many of the primary sources (past reports, public health education material, etc.) tend be accessible only in a handful of places. Within Texas, these include:

  1. the public university library system — Published conference proceedings, reports, and education pamphlets get circulated throughout the library system as well as in state and local archives.
  2. the creating agency, governing body or professional association — Many, like the Texas Diabetes Council and the Texas Medical Association, include publication archives on their websites.
  3. retracing the bureaucratic maze to locate records within the state, county, or city archives — I recommend the TARO database for a search of Texas collections.

For more resources, check out these digital catalogs and online exhibits dedicated to the history of medicine in Texas.

  • The Texas Medical Association’s website Sites for Genealogists and Medical Historians includes helpful links to the history of medicine inside and outside Texas. (Beware, it can be difficult to find from the main page.)
  • UT Southwestern Library’s online exhibit using Omeka, “Medical Milestones in Dallas, 1890-1975,” includes great examples of the history of medical care and education in Dallas, plus an image repository.
  • The Blocker History of Medicine Collections at the UTMB in Galveston’s Moody Medical Library includes The Centennial Oral History Collection, celebrating Texas’ first university medical school.
  • The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio has special collections for the history of medicine and university archives, including a Digital Archive.
  • Texas Woman’s University’s Woman’s Digital Collection includes photos and oral histories on nursing and TWU’s health science program.

Want to find the history of medicine in another state? The U.S. National Library of Medicine maintains a Directory of History of Medicine Collections by state within the United States and other countries. Also, for another state perspective, check out the newly launched History of Medicine in Oregon website.

Out of the frying pan and into the history books

Workers Preparing Food

Two women prepare breakfast with Corn Flakes and milk for campers at Glen Lake Camp in Glen Rose, TX (Archives of the Central Texas Conference, United Methodist Church from The Portal to Texas History)

Food history — it’s a popular research subject these days. A renewed interest in locally grown food and headlines about childhood obesity have, no doubt, contributed to this trending topic.

The latest issue of the journal Public Historian highlights the range of food-related exhibits recently on display in museums and historic sites throughout the country. As the authors note, the history of what we eat and how the food gets to our table is part of many fields: cultural and social history, history of agriculture, and ecology, not to mention the history and psychology behind packaging and advertisements.

Food is such a great example of how history comes in many different formats: objects, documents, books, oral histories. Each requires a different type of analysis and, sometimes, a different search method, depending on collecting institution and online access. A quick Google search demonstrates this point.

Objects may be ordinary for their time but are unique to us today. Most often, they are displayed in physical exhibit spaces. But more often now, they also are online as digitized collections, like the old-fashioned kitchen utensils in the online exhibit “Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project” from Michigan State University Library. My favorite is the Raisin Seeder. Thank goodness for seedless grapes!

Documents and pictures can come from many different creators (people, companies, organizations). Often, it is the creator’s name that is the title of the collection. For example, the National Archives’ What’s Cooking Uncle Sam? exhibit includes photos and ephemera (posters, etc.) from different government agencies that show how the U.S. agencies were involved in setting nutrition standards and growing food, particularly during wartime like the famous Victory gardens in World War II.

Books are usually the easiest to search for, if you know where to look. In my hometown of Fort Worth, TX, a browse of “food” related entries in the Cultural District Library Consortium (an online catalog of non-circulating items from some of the city’s prominent cultural institutions) gets 349 hits ranging from art and history to botany and pharmacology, books on medieval cooking and healing to a 2009 report from the United Nations on grasslands and climate change. It also includes cookbooks from the National Cowgirl Museum.

A shelf of cookbooks can tell a history, too.
Photo by author

Cookbooks also can be an important resource. The stories behind the recipes are less likely to be found in a library or archive. But they are equally valuable. They can help to tell the history of a family and a community, like the women whose recipes and interviews fill the pages of Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook, edited by Katie Sherrod (TCU Press, 2010).

Bottom line: that 3 by 5 index card of my grandmother’s famous bread pudding recipe is a historical artifact to be treasured. It also shows how recipes and their ingredients change over time… I cut the amount of sugar and eggs by half.

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