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Exhibit Guide: The Legacy of Public Health in Our Region

This is an online guide to the library exhibit on local public health history developed to coincide with National Public Health Week 2018.

Exhibit Overview

The 2018 National Public Health Week (April 2-8) is celebrated under the shadow of an especially severe influenza season that has already caused 253 deaths in North Carolina between October 1st, 2017 and February 24th, 2018. Fortunately, it is not nearly so devastating as the 1918-1919 “Spanish” flu pandemic that killed 341 people in Mecklenburg county alone in October 1918 and 6,152 North Carolina residents in that same month, according to local UNC Charlotte expert Lauren A. Austin.

The 100-year anniversary of that public health disaster makes us want to learn more about the history of public health in the Charlotte region. “The Legacy of Public Health in Our Region” exhibit, opening April 2, explores local public health practice and organization from 1900 into the 1970s.  The five glass cases contain materials illustrating the variety of concerns that public health must address, often simultaneously. These themes are “Epidemics and Vaccination,” “Sanitary Conditions and Mills,” “Mother and Child Care—Public Health Nursing,” and “Local Public Health Heroes.” The fifth case presents a poster that shows how those public health heroes reached the public.  

This exhibition exemplifies how the J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives serves the broader community by documenting and preserving the history and culture of the University and the Charlotte region. The Department of Public Health Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services at UNC Charlotte provide leadership every year in celebrating National Public Health Week.

Sources:  NC Division of Public Health, “NC Weekly Influenza Surveillance Summary, 2017-2018 Influenza Season, Week O8: Ending February 24, 2018,” accessed @; Public Policy PhD  Candidate Lauren A. Austin, personal communication; J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections & University Archives, “Our Mission,” accessed @

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Thanks to William P. Brandon, PhD, MPH, CPH, faculty emeritus Mecklenburg Medical Foundation Distinguished Professor of Health Policy in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, library board member, and expert on Dr. Watson S. Rankin, for originating the idea for this exhibit and writing the exhibit description and narrative. 

Thanks to Lolita Rowe and many others from Special Collections and University Archives for pulling, digitizing, and assisting with the photographs, documents, and other items from the library's special collections featured in this exhibit.

Thanks to Sharon Reichard, Ryan Miller, and Jordan Murphy for helping to promote this exhibit as well as format and print all the material reproduced from Special Collections.