Temple University Special Collections

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Surprise! The Marion Turner Stubbs Collection is…probably not what you expected.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Many times, in archives, we come across collections that do not turn out the way we expect. Perhaps the processing time takes far longer than we anticipated due to a box full of deconstructed file folders with no arrangement. Perhaps someone has come in before the archivists and “preprocessed” without letting anyone know, and with their own idiosyncratic system. These kinds of challenges are common in the archives and add to the flavor of processing, so even when they make you want to tear some hair out, in the end, you find you’ve grown as an archivist.

The squirrel's tale. Provenance unknown.

The squirrel’s tale. Provenance unknown.

And then, there are the collections that, simply put, turn out to be a little different. Not at all what we anticipated. Revealing in ways that make the job as exciting as it truly is. I’m talking, of course, about collections where you open up an envelope and find a severed squirrel’s tail in the middle of a box of financial records.

The Marion Turner Stubbs collection at Temple University was one of these collections, and remains one of my favorites processed to date. Some of the materials were so unexpected and painted such an interesting snapshot of the time from which they came that this small and at times vague collection ended up being uniquely exciting.

These papers came from Marion Turner Stubbs, a founding member of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated. The papers are mostly her husband’s, Dr. Frederick Douglass Stubbs, an extremely gifted chest surgeon in Philadelphia, and from her father, Dr. John Patrick Turner, a respected physician, police surgeon, and first African American serving on the Philadelphia Board of Education. TheseDiureticTherapy three people led enormously influential lives in Philadelphia, and were prominent, well-respected members of the community, so I went into the project hoping for some interesting background on their lives. I was not expecting…a squirrel’s tail. Nor was I expecting the records to mostly come from Dr. Stubbs’ research files, which at first, was a disappointment, if only because I wanted to learn more about these remarkable people and how they kept records of their many accomplishments. Honestly, the answer, based on this collection, seems to be that they didn’t keep very many. Most of the collection (aside from the research) consisted of plaques and certificates from the many awards these three received throughout their lives. Fun to look at, but not really helpful for providing some context about who they were as people, one of the best parts about working in archives.

Important questions.

Important questions.

However, these research files provided an amazing look at 1930s medicine and thought, especially with a focus on tuberculosis and even prohibition-era philosophies. Dr. Stubbs was, for much of his career, focused on the treatment of tuberculosis, and so most of the research pertains to new medicines and surgical options, even treatments centers for children. But there was also information debating the socialization of medicine, the effects of alcohol, and the emerging “Negro Medicine” field.

Here were research files placed in Stubbs’ own particular order (not always the easiest to understand, until we realized he worked both alphabetically and often by subjects, like “Hospitals”) and which included a variety of materials like pamphlets, correspondence, and article reprints. I did not expect these materials to shed as much light on the philosophies of the time period from which they came, considering they were from a fairly narrow subject area.

To be fair, this was one of my first collections processed, and was a lot smaller than the others, so my AcmeColorsexpectations probably weren’t as high as they could have been. However, the important thing I got out of this collection was that keeping this collection intact, and preserving the original order as much as possible really provided the true value of the collection. Separating out all of those medical journals from the correspondence could have been an option. But seeing some of the letters Stubbs wrote to other doctors in conjunction with this research painted a much richer picture. I did not expect to walk out of this collection with information about the uses of whiskey in therapeutic treatment, or the stance of the Philadelphia medical community on socialized medicine, or the colors available on Acme appliances for a particular year.

Part of the excitement of this collection, too, was the fact that despite my complete lack of subject knowledge on any of these topics, I was able to get the information I needed, even with minimal processing, to properly describe the files and create a finding aid that I felt touched on all the important aspects of the collection. Additionally, since the collection did not have as much information about the family, I had the chance to do some of my own research to find out more about what they accomplished and who they were. It was exciting to use some of the clippings in the collection to piece together important moments in their lives and fill in the gaps with information I had to go track down on my own. In fact, I was thrilled to find a variety of clippings available on flickr that documented some of Marion Turner Stubbs’ life.

So while this collection did not turn out the way I expected, I got to immerse myself in a time period that I had previously never explored, from a perspective that made it all the more fascinating. Also, I got to see the reaction of my Project Manager to opening an envelope expecting a letter, or perhaps a piece of cloth, and instead finding that squirrel’s tail. Truly one of the finest moments of my very short career.

Saint Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church records

Friday, April 11th, 2014

The records of St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church of Philadelphia, one of the collections held at Temple University’s Special Collections Research Center, sheds light on a unique aspect of Philadelphia history. The church was started in 1886 when African American Catholics in the region grew tired of the discrimination they faced at Catholic Churches of the day (if they were allowed in at all). Members of three parishes united together to form the Peter Claver Union with the goal of creating a “Church for Colored Catholics” in Philadelphia.

In 1889, they were officially recognized by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and in 1892, they moved into their new home at 12th and Lombard Streets (a former Presbyterian church). The church continued to function for almost a century until the Archdiocese suppressed the church in 1985, stating that due to the changing racial climate, a dedicated church for African Americans was no longer needed, thus removing their parish status, as well as all of their records. At this point, the church continued to function as a community, but could not offer most religious sacraments and services.

Steve processing at Temple University.

Steve processing at Temple University.

In processing the records of this collection, one obvious drawback is the lack of most records from before 1985 (outside of the school records). Rather than finding records focused mainly on the administration and rituals of a church, this collection’s focus is found in the community outcry over the suppression of the parish, clippings and other subject files covering the African American community at the time, the church community’s struggle to remain vibrant in a neighborhood that had lost its African American majority, and many issues of racism (real or perceived) within the Catholic Church as a whole.

From a processing perspective, this was my favorite collection from our time at Temple and that comes from it not having been previously processed. It was quite rewarding to take a box full of papers and create a logical order to the contents, rather than just relabeling folders or trying to figure out why someone had deemed certain records appropriate to folder together.  This collection, though smaller than our previous ones, offered a chance to do some actual MPLP processing (a goal of this project), as well as learn more about Philadelphia history. And while I’ll not comment on my personal views of the acts of the Catholic Church regarding St. Peter Claver’s, it is quite eye opening to read about this time in Catholic history.

Processing up

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

The Hebrew Sunday School Society (HSSS) collection at Temple University’s Special Collections Research Center contains roughly 35 linear feet of records that span two centuries (1802 to 2002) and document the history of the Society. HSSS was founded in 1838 by Rebecca Gratz (a Jewish philanthropist in Philadelphia and the basis for the character of Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe) with the intention that all Jewish children could attend classes regardless of financial standing or synagogue affiliation. The collection consists of administrative records, papers and programs from school teachings and functions, some very cool artifacts (e.g., lantern slides, a large hand bell used for fire drills, books and other items originally belonging to Rebecca Gratz), and many photographs.

Hopping through the decades.

Hopping through the decades.

In working with the collection, my processing partner (Annalise Berdini) and I came across a somewhat frustrating issue – that of attempting to minimally process a collection that had been previously processed to a much more detailed level. This collection, which consists of no less than 17 different accessions, had been processed by various people, and to varying levels. Additionally, a number of the more ‘eye-catching’ items had been used in an exhibit, so they had been somewhat separated from their contextual homes. Many folders were found to contain just one document, or perhaps a few. Others had a slew of records stretching back many decades, but hopscotching through the years like a child at play. It’s not uncommon to find a date span such as “1877, 1882-1888, 1906, 1910-1913, 1930-1959, 1965-1985.”

Other folders seemed to be making a summary of the entire collection, with one or two examples of each type of document from each series we’d constructed, leaving us frequently asking, “How do I label this and where does this go?” (Personally, I’m planning to petition for the word hodgepodge to be added as acceptable terminology since miscellaneous is out of the question.) And then there were the occasional appearances of spotty preservation work (though I can’t be sure when that occurred).

Spotty preservation practices.

Spotty preservation practices.

The folder titles were sometimes helpful, but with any number of people having created the folders over those many many accessions, they were inconsistent. Some had specific titles (some VERY specific); some were quite vague (my favorite from the collection being “Miscellaneous, etc.”). Some had dates (often inaccurate); most did not. This all boiled down to a lot of folders being refoldered; all of which needed to be inspected for more accurate information; and this all slowed down the process considerably. One day, I spent close to five hours making my way through just one linear foot of folders.

The takeaway from the HSSS records is in highlighting the fact that MPLP (or maximal processing, really, which is closer to what we’re doing in this project) is not suited to every collection. This collection, though not done to our current standards, had been previously processed and some sort of inventory did exist. As such, it was most likely not the best choice for this processing project (though we all enjoyed the content of the collection quite a bit). If a collection has already gone past minimal processing, it’s rather difficult to back that process up.

The Abraham L. Freedman papers

Monday, April 7th, 2014

For our first project as student processors for the PACSCL/CLIR Hidden Collections Project at the Temple University Special Collections Research Center, my partner Steve Duckworth and I got to work with the Abraham Freedman Papers, a collection of business-related and personal documents from the Honorable Abraham L. Freedman, who notably served as Philadelphia’s City Solicitor and served as counsel in a landmark discrimination case against Girard College.

Freedman_Dilworth

Campaign materials for the Clark-Dilworth campaign.

This collection was, first of all, completely fascinating in ways I could not expect from papers that seemed mostly made up of case file documents and office memos. However, the fact that most of the order was Judge Freedman’s own made for a collection that was not only very well suited to MPLP, but also rich in contextual information that could not have been gleaned from the documents alone.  If anything, this collection was a case in proving how important that context can be to telling the whole story. These boxes were not simply filled with rusty legal bindings and onionskin, there was a whole life hiding in the spaces between the folders.

This isn’t the easiest concept to provide examples for, but one of the ways having this context helped us was when the original order filled in the gaps in our information. A folder full of bulletins from an event that didn’t seem to have to do with the rest of the box made sense when discovering the next folder was full of drafts of a speech Freedman gave there. Often, he kept his materials together so that searching wasn’t even necessary; everything was in its place with purpose. Each segment of his career was generally already together; his early private legal practice manuscripts in one section, his City Solicitor papers in another. Folder titles were clear and usually included accurate dates and descriptions; we were often able to tease out helpful research information without too much digging. There were often notes and edits on folder titles, clearly added when new documents were added; and often, not only were documents kept together by career, but often even by subject.

TU_Freedman_photo 2

Letter to Freedman signed by President John F. Kennedy.

Because we were able to use Freedman’s organization and order to figure out answers to our questions, this collection was quite easily minimally processed. Our only problems occurred when working with a smaller, separate accession within the collection, which had been previously processed and which unintentionally removed much of the context that Freedman’s order had provided. The stark contrast between processing those materials and Freedman’s original order highlighted how important it is to consider the shape of a collection before choosing MPLP as the processing method.

Aside from the ease of processing, learning about Freedman’s life was an experience in and of itself. Freedman was a huge advocate for equal rights and worked to end discrimination throughout his entire life. His correspondence with colleagues and friends is often beautiful and thoughtful, even for short notes. Some of his own personal writings, short stories and musings on his career, highlight his creativity and appreciation for the written word. For a first collection and foray into minimal processing, it’s hard to imagine a better place to have started.

We’re back! Bootcamp, processing, and progress so far…

Friday, April 4th, 2014
Training_Processing

New project team during minimal processing bootcamp at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hello again! Time has flown by, and we’re just getting the blog started again by recapping the current PACSCL/CLIR Hidden Collections Processing Project of 2013-2014. I assumed responsibilities of Project Manager in August 2013 and it’s been a whirlwind of activity from the very first day. I had to quickly assess and plan how we would minimally process 46 collections containing materials from the 18th to 21st centuries, all specifically related to Philadelphia history. Processing will require us to process at a rate of 4 hours per linear foot at 16 different repositories over the course of one year.  In addition to 12 veteran participating repositories, we welcome four new institutions to the project, including two non-PACSCL members. With this project, we hope to refine, confirm, and better establish guidelines for applying minimal processing to a wide range of collections and types of institutions and creating high-quality finding aids for our ever-expanding collaborative site.

Surveying at Germantown Historical Society.

Surveying at Germantown Historical Society.

As you may recall, this project builds upon the predecessor processing project lead by Holly Mengel and Courtney Smerz from 2009 to 2011. Having served as one of the processors on that project, I began my work as Project Manager already very familiar with the “PACSCL” methods and approaches established by the first team. My familiarity with these approaches, along with additional archives management experience, gave me a bit of a running start, but I immediately found that I have my work cut out for me. More about the challenges and lessons I’ve learned so far will be chronicled in later posts.

In August, I quickly got started by surveying the collections selected for the grant that had not been surveyed previously by the fabulous PACSCL Survey Initiative Project. I followed and expanded upon the guidelines already previously established in earlier projects to assess these new collections. In September and October, I was able to assemble a fabulous project team of six processors and one assistant, who all attended the bootcamp training week designed to establish a good overview of the PACSCL approaches to minimal processing and the Archivists’ Toolkit. After training, I assigned pairs of processors to our first three repositories (Temple University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Union League of Philadelphia) to kick off the year’s-worth of processing work ahead of us.

First day of processing at Temple University.

First day of processing at Temple University.

Already with many challenges and successes along the way that will be detailed further in the coming weeks on the blog, we hit our six-month mark this week right on track! At our halfway point in the project come mid-April, we will have processed an approximate total of 762 linear feet for 22 collections in 9 repositories, at an average rate of 3.45 hours per linear foot. Please stay tuned as we continue to add more frequent updates about our progress, lessons learned, and interesting finds!

Kids say the darndest things

Friday, October 28th, 2011

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A while back I attended a lecture by our fearless leader, the Collector in Chief, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.  Ferriero told an amusing anecdote about his first meeting with the head archivists of all the Presidential libraries. Unbeknownst to Ferriero, the Presidential archivists prepared for the meeting by digging through their collections for traces of the newly-appointed AOTUS—that day, Ferriero was surprised and delighted to be presented with facsimiles of three letters he had written as a youth to his idols, Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. You can view these fan letters from an adoring schoolboy on Flickr .

Now, that’s a cute story. But if you asked me to rate the adorableness of kids’ letters in the archives on a scale of 1 to 10, I might give Ferriero a 4. For some seriously sweet correspondence, head over to Temple and ask to see the South Street Dance Company records. On a scale of 1 to 10, Marcus here gets a 12: this letter to the South Street Dance Co. is cavity-inducing.

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Why is this letter in the archives? Ellen Forman, the founder of South Street Dance Company, was more than just a talented dancer and innovative choreographer: she was committed to using dance as an outreach tool. She developed dance-centric community programs for children as well as the elderly, encouraging inter-generational participation in the arts and community-building. The collection, therefore, is a fantastic resource not only for choreographers and dance historians, but also for anyone interested in creative community engagement programs. Because of the stacks of thank-you letters for kids who enjoyed her programs, this would probably also be a useful collection for someone attempting to come up with a systematic classification system for rating adorable-ness of children’s letters, but we’ll call that a secondary research value…

Unfortunately, the PACSCL-CLIR “Hidden Collections” project is drawing to a close, and the South Street Dance Company records was the last collection that Michael and I had the opportunity to process. I’m happy to say that it left a sweet taste in our mouths. Our sincerest thanks go out to the repositories that hosted us over the past eight months—the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the National Archives and Records Administration (Mid-Atlantic Region), and Temple University. We would also like to thank YOU, dear reader, for your interest in the project and attention to our blog. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us!

What was my favorite part of working on the “Hidden Collections” project? Well, I think Marcus said it best: “I liked when I danced on stage.”

Temple University: Haven for Pinko-Commies and Itinerant Archivists

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

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The academy is stereotypically seen as a haven for “pinko-commies” and other subversive intellectuals, so it seems fitting that the first collection Michael and I processed at Temple University was the records of the Socialist Review. Published from 1970-2006 under the various titles Socialist Revolution, Socialist Review, and Radical Society, this lefty periodical was an important forum for socialist discourses at the end of the twentieth century. SR, as it is often abbreviated, was not narrowly focused on socialism, however: its pages were filled with articles on American politics, labor, feminism, racial and sexual minorities, international relations and development, technology and the environment, and cultural and social theory. I even found a submission entitled “Latke vs. Hamentash: A Feminist Critique”!

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Michael and I have had the opportunity to process some incredible collections during this project, but the Socialist Review collection is one of my favorites. It is a fantastic resource for anyone studying the intellectual history of late 20th century American socialist ideology, or any number of new social movements (feminism, worker’s rights, environmentalism, etc.). Many prominent intellectuals were involved with the journal; I found myself star-struck when I stumbled across correspondence with some of my idols, including Noam Chomsky and Barbara Ehrenreich. There is also a lot of material in the collection that is just plain fun, because the editorial board had a sense of humor and joked around a lot.  My absolute favorite item is a mock form letter for rejected submissions. Editors could simply check off the reason for rejecting a manuscript: “Stalinist / Workerist / Papist / Foolish,” or provide a more detailed critique: “Your succinct analysis and breezy style make this piece too accessible for readers of Socialist Review. Also you should be aware that a piece as relevant and contemporary as this is—in a word—too current for SR. With a lag time of 10-14 months…We’re primarily interested in material with strong library value—they’re our most important subscribers you know.”

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Ever-selfless, we archivists usually say that we do minimal processing for the benefit of researchers, so that they can have access to more collections with less wait time. Of course that’s our primary motivation, but since starting on the Socialist Review collection, I recognize how I, as a processing archivist, am also benefiting from MPLP. The National Archives was supposed to be Michael’s and my last stop on our grand PACSCL-CLIR tour. However, through our efficient use of minimal processing practices, we were able finish ahead of schedule. That meant we had enough time to move on to Temple University, where the Socialist Review papers turned out to be one of my favorite collections. MPLP benefits processing archivists because it allows us to work on more different collections, and that means the opportunity to discover even more important, interesting, humorous, and beautiful materials hidden in the archives!

Stay tuned, because with two weeks left in the project, Michael and I are lucky to have one more collection waiting for us at Temple University…

Former dancers (subject specialists) process the Pennsylvania Ballet records

Friday, July 1st, 2011

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One of the first discussions my processing partner, Christiana, and I had was about our secret past as ballet dancers. This didn’t have much bearing on the first two collections we processed (the papers of the Safe Energy Communication Council and Health/PAC), but our third was the Pennsylvania Ballet records at Temple University Special Collections. Our knowledge of ballets, costumes, performances, and famous dancers would obviously have some effect on how we processed this collection, but we weren’t sure whether our subject knowledge would help or hinder our attempt to process at 2 hours per linear foot. This collection had a lot of photographic materials, and a not insignificant amount of those were unidentified or “miscellaneous.” Would we be so bogged down in trying to assign ballets to unidentified performance photographs that our processing speed suffered? Or would our knowledge of costumes and sets enable us to blithely sort miscellaneous photographs into piles of  Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Giselle, and so on?

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Subject knowledge is a clear advantage when doing traditional processing. Knowing something about your collection before you start can save you research hours and make both arrangement and description easier. In the case of minimal processing, however, subject knowledge can only do so much good. There are some strict time limits on processing speed and everything must be considered in terms of trade offs: you can spend more time researching if you process a little quicker. If you leave those “general” or “miscellaneous” folders as they are, then you can do something more elaborate with the next series. Taking the time to utilize subject knowledge must be considered in the same way, which means there is a tipping point when doing so is no longer worth the time.

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For example, in the Pennsylvania Ballet Collection there were times when we could have given titles or added description to previously untitled photographs and folders. We tried only to do this only when it would be quick and not break our stride. So if we looked through a folder of publicity photographs from, say, Sleeping Beauty, and found that unlabeled photographs from Giselle were included, it only took seconds to add the second ballet to the folder title. However, there were more situations in which we could have used our subject knowledge but chose not to, because we simply didn’t have the time. At the bottom of one box we found a thick layer of loose and unlabeled photographs of dancers, performances, and fundraising events. It would have been fairly easy to sort out all of the Nutcracker photographs. Or any photographs of a famous dancer. Or photographs we could date to a specific span of years when a certain dancer was in the company. But we couldn’t, because while this would have been easier for us than for processors without subject knowledge, it still would have taken an awful lot of time (which of course we didn’t have). So we decided to place these photographs in the dreaded “miscellaneous” folders and move on, doing the same with a box of loose slides. We also didn’t touch any chunky folders already labeled “miscellaneous,” “general,” or other vague terms that didn’t tell you much about content. (Folders with only one or two items in them, though? Those got re-titled.) If we had taken the time to identify every single one of those unlabeled items, then we would have had to skimp on arrangement and description elsewhere, which was not an option.

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In the discussion of minimal processing using archivists with subject knowledge, it’s also worth  discussing how much this can help researchers. In the above Sleeping Beauty and Giselle example, our addition would only help someone who was looking for photographs of Giselle productions by the Pennsylvania Ballet (so, probably not the vast majority of people who will access this collection). The place where subject knowledge was most needed was in the un-arranged jumble of photographs and slides, but these are also the parts the collection that would have taken the most time to deal with and were therefore unlikely to be touched during any minimal processing project.

To sum up, subject knowledge helps in traditional processing and certainly didn’t hurt us here; but it didn’t greatly improve the quality of the description and arrangement we were able to do, nor did it save us much time. Because we were practicing minimal processing, we didn’t have the luxury of using our subject knowledge to its full extent. Having knowledge about the material in your collection before you begin can help you, but the rewards are small given that you might not be able to apply it without devoting more time than you can spare.

Things I did not expect to find in a collection of records from a safe energy advocacy group:

Monday, April 18th, 2011

A Toxic Avenger movie poster.  If you’re interested in learning more about the movie, here’s a link to its imdb abstract: http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0017860/

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An anti-nuclear power billboard illustration that spoofs romance novel covers, in which our heroine has three breasts and our hero has a foot for a hand. (It’s called, of course “Mutated Love.”)

A political demonstration itinerary that includes the line, “Tether pig to podium by 11:30 a.m.”

Larry the Space Cat.

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Folders full of materials about Leslie Nielsen.

The Safe Energy Communication Council (papers at Temple University Special Collections) was involved in the writing and production of Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, which had an anti-nuclear, pro-clean energy message mixed in with all of its slapstick and puns. The campaign files about the movie include correspondence between the movie’s director, Steve Steveman, and SECC Executive Director, Scott Denman. The SECC was even thanked in the closing credits of the film.

For your viewing enjoyment, here’s a clip from Naked Gun 2 1/2: http://www.youtube.com/embed/dtSYbGKv7v4

Of course, everyone at SECC was incredibly excited about this. Scott Denman’s handwritten notes about Naked Gun 2 1/2 from board of directors meetings include multiple underlinings and exclamation points. The SECC sent out invitations to a private screening of the movie to politicians, both pro- and anti-nuclear energy, with a “highly energy efficient and renewable” party at the National Museum of Natural History afterward. Oddly enough, the pro-nuclear power politicians seem to have mostly declined the invitation.  The SECC also sent copies of the movie to politicians (perhaps those who couldn’t make it to the screening), some of whose replies are in the Naked Gun files. A few replied by indicating that they do not accept these kinds of gifts, while others reported that they found the movie both hilarious and informative.

When I started drafting this blog post, there was a paragraph here about how nuclear energy wasn’t at the forefront of anyone’s mind anymore and hey, isn’t it weird how this 90′s paranoia about nuclear power has gone away? But on March 11th, an earthquake, tsunami, and series of powerful aftershocks happened on the other side of the globe. The earthquake and its aftereffects have damaged several nuclear reactors and thus brought the risks of nuclear power back into the American consciousness. Once again we’re seeing discussions of nuclear power similar to the ones present in SECC media campaigns, in which nuclear energy is depicted not with scientific detachment, but with emotional rhetorical appeals. For all the science that’s present in the SECC papers (and it is there), most of the media campaigns and published material use emotional rhetoric, like the pictures of injured and dead animals in their Licensed to Kill publication. This was a smart and successful attempt to appeal to the average Joe, who wouldn’t have or want the knowledge required to understand the technical aspects of nuclear power.

One of the interesting aspects of the debate about the safety of nuclear power happening on the internet is the availability of information from both anti- and pro-nuclear power camps. It’s not uncommon to read online articles or blog posts arguing for for or against nuclear energy, and to see someone supporting the opposing case in the comments or in a rebuttal that links back to the original piece. Perhaps this availability of information will prevent public opinion from becoming as strongly anti-nuclear power as it was in 1991, when these discussions that created a culture in which nuclear weapons and power were so obviously evil that they could be involved in  the evil machinations of a bad guy in a slapstick comedy movie.