Barb Keleher

Bastille Day

July 14 is Bastille Day, the most important public holiday in France. The country joins in a celebration to honor its people and history. The French call this day la Fête nationale (the National Holiday).

The origin of this holiday took place in 1880. French government officials felt that the country needed a national day of celebration. After much debate, July 14 was chosen, the same day as the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison.

France has an interesting history and culture. The MVCC library has many resources to help you understand why this this holiday is celebrated worldwide.


Fireworks have been around for over 2000 years. Most historians agree that fireworks originated in China around 200 BC. Villagers would throw pieces of bamboo into a fire to ensure that evil spirits would be frighten away by the exploding bamboo. This country also invented gun powder in 600 AD. Serendipity played a pivotal role in the history of fireworks. Gunpowder was placed into a piece of hallowed bamboo thrown into a fire. There was no aerial show, just a series of explosions. Gunpowder also proved to be an amazing addition to the weapons of war. Explorers and traders brought the new technologies to Europe. The Europeans utilized this new knowledge on the battlefield and for special occasions.

Europeans used fireworks to celebrate religious holy days, military victories, and royal events. The shows became more colorful and in addition to noise, the pyrotechnics went aerial. English settlers brought the science of fireworks to the colonies. John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a letter to his wife on July 2, 1776, stating that “this day ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations (fireworks).” On July 4, 1777, fireworks were included in the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Happy 4th of July to all.

Take a Walk!

Many people are still apprehensive about venturing out this summer. Restrictions are being lifted but the threat of an increase in Covid-19 cases has kept people close to home. One activity that the medical field encourages us to do is walk. A wonderful backdrop for this activity is the numerous preserves of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The MVCC campus is surrounded by thousands of acres of nature. The library has some excellent e-books that may help you understand the importance of exercise.

“Let’s wander where the WiFi is weak”.

The Children’s Farm

The Children’s Farm, located in Palos Park, is a hidden gem of the southwest suburbs. The farm is a part of The Center whose mission “is to give people of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages the space to dream, grow, and become fully alive–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”

The Center consists of a chapel, a farm, classrooms, camps and an AA-based long-term recovery program. The land that surrounds the farm is a microcosm of mid-western geographical features. It includes a slough, marshes, forests, prairies, ponds and cultivated land. There is an abundance of wild animals that roam the land. There are also domesticated animals that include chickens, rabbits, cows, horses and pigs that are housed in pens and barns. You can walk the trails or ride in a tractor-driven wagon. It is easy to picture what Palos Park may have looked like in the late 1800s.

This farm is not just for children. In pre-Covid days, the farm offered adult art classes, yoga and various other programs. Hopefully all of the programs will return. The farm is celebrating a grand re-opening. Spend some time enjoying the beauty of nature and the wonders of farming.

Drive-In Movie Theaters

An old form of entertainment is back. Two drive-in movie theaters are opening in the Chicago-land area this weekend. Many people may not be familiar with this form of movie watching, but you may find this “blast from the past” an interesting way to view movies. In March, the coronavirus restrictions forced movie theaters to shut their doors. This is not the first time that Hollywood has faced a crisis. The movie industry was threatened by television in the 1950s and 1960s, new technology in the later decades, and the latest assault, streaming. However,the industry has always reinvented itself and survived the attacks. Ironically, it is using an outdated method to lure viewers back.

The future of movie theaters is evolving. It will be interesting to see how the social distancing movement will affect the industry.

What Is the National Guard?

In the past week, I have learned a lot more about the National Guard. “Bring in the National Guard to bring peace to the streets” or “Allow the local police to handle the unrest” is the argument that is being spread across America. As a researcher, I know it is important not only to research both sides of an argument, but also to explore background information that will help better understand the topic.

According to the National Guard website, “The National Guard is a unique element of the U.S. military that serves both community and country. The Guard responds to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counterdrug efforts, reconstruction missions and more.” The National Police Foundation describes four main functions of local police: enforcing laws, preventing crimes, responding to emergencies, and providing support services. It may also be helpful to investigate how the National Guard has been used in the past.

Where does a researcher go next? I think most people may want to understand why some groups prefer keeping local police in charge instead of deploying the military to keep the peace. TwitterFacebook, and other websites can be informative, but a researcher has to make sure the information is correct. The MVCC databases, especially the NEWS database, are good sources of reliable information.

Technology to the Rescue

The role of technology in the 2020 pandemic will be dissected and discussed for decades. The part that technology has played to combat the COVID-19 is amazing. “Tools such as supercomputers, software apps, virtual reality, big data and algorithms are now in play.” This technology is on a seek and destroy mission to eradicate the virus as quickly as possible.

“Today we want everything yesterday, and technology has complied.” Unfortunately, that is not happening with this virus. The medical field is learning quickly that the old ways of handling epidemics or pandemics do not work. There may not be a cure yet, but the scientific community has been able to quickly use some older technology and adapt it to control the virus. The “new” containment tools are proving extremely effective. Telemedicine, for example, is able to keep patients in their homes, enables doctors to communicate with their patients, and keeps the virus from spreading in medical offices or hospitals. “The COVID-19 pandemic may be the trial by fire that telemedicine finally needs to prove its worth, especially in the U.S. Despite the fact that apps and technology for virtual health visits have existed for several decades, uptake in the country has been slow.”

Silcon Valley has also joined in to help stem the spread of the virus. Apple and Google are working to help track the advance of Covid-19. Some people are concerned on how “this may impact user privacy.” For now, most people would probably agree that surveillance may be a necessary evil.

Hopefully, the combination of technology, scientists, and governments will work together and find a vaccine.

Did Woodstock Really Take Place During a Pandemic?

By now most of us are familiar with the history of 20th century pandemics and how they affected America. I recently read an account about the Hong Kong flu pandemic that took place between 1968 and 1970. The article, written by Jeffery Tucker, describes the pandemic and how the most famous rock concert played to over 300,000 fans with absolutely no social distancing. The article goes on to describe how America handled the virus that “killed 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly over the age of 65, and one million world wide.”

I was amazed that Woodstock Occurred in the Middle of a Pandemic. MVCC librarians always tell the students to determine if the information is credible. I decided to practice what I preach. I reacquainted myself with the MVCC Library Guide on News Literacy. I continued to research the topic and I found numerous articles that questioned the way the author presented certain facts.

Let this statement guide you on your research journey. “We all have a world view, a set of beliefs that we use to understand the world around us. These beliefs often develop into biases, a preference for a particular perspective that upholds our worldview. These biases aren’t necessarily bad, but they do often obscure vital pieces of information that may lead to a fuller understanding of a story. This section of the News Literacy Guide provides resources for how to recognize your own bias, how to recognize bias in the news and media you consume, as well as some strategies for getting a fuller picture of news events and issues in the media.”

The Cultural Memory of the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Most of us have read more about the 1918 flu pandemic in the past two months than we have in our entire lives. There are numerous theories why it has not been scrutinized more closely but that research will be for a future blog, because I found an interesting topic while I was researching. This blog will concentrate on some of the primary sources of this time period. There is a variety of sources from the National Archives that are fascinating to read. I recommend reading this article first because it sounds so contemporary. As you look at the Deadly Virus exhibit and view the masked letter carrier, read hospital reports and telegrams, it suddenly looks and feels like May 2020.

I found another interesting article about the sparse amount of research on the effects of the 1918 epidemic on American culture. Elizabeth Outka, a literary scholar, is interviewed on the lack of books and articles on the pandemic. “The pandemic ‘wasn’t forgotten’-it just went underground.” She goes on to state that the literature of the time period “captured” the feeling of loss and hopelessness. Outka is the author of Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature. I checked Hoopla from the MVCC library website and signed in using my login information. I found an ebook that may help us understand the culture of post-1918 pandemic and see if there are any similarities to the current 2020 pandemic.

Don’t You Know We’re Going on the Marrakesh Express

We have spent several weeks in France but it is time to depart. The people, the food, and the sights made it an experience that we will never forget. Let’s head south to Africa. Our destination is Morocco. It is a two hour flight from Paris to the city of Casablanca. We will spend two days in Casablanca. Afterwards, we will take a bus to the train station and begin our three hour journey to Marrakesh.

The train ride from Casablanca to Marrakesh became the place to be for young Americans in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash wrote a song about his experience traveling on the Marrakesh Express train. It brought fame and fortune to Nash and more tourists to Morocco.

There is much to do in Marrakesh. We will use guides to take us to various places of interest. Many people in the city speak English, in addition to Arabic and French, so fortunately we will be able to communicate. We will travel to the desert and sample the local cuisine and the tea-drinking customs. We will also visit some museums that will help us understand the people and the culture of this area.

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