How This Pandemic Will Go Down in History

From the Library of Congress: “As part of our “National Book Festival Presents” series, Jill Lepore (bestselling historian and Harvard professor) and John Haskell (director of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress) discuss how the current pandemic, its effects and our reaction to them say something very real about America in this moment and in the historical record that will emerge from it.”

Lord of the Flies

In researching for a book entitled Humankind: A Hopeful History (due out this June), historian and author, Rutger Bregman came across a story of some schoolboys who were shipwrecked just like the fictional characters in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. The boys set off in a stolen boat from the island of Tonga and after getting caught up in a storm, they ended up shipwrecked on the island of Ata.  Unlike the boys in the fictional story, all six of these boys survived.  You can read the real boys’ story in this article, also written by Rutger Bregman, entitled “The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months”.  There is a follow up article interviewing one of the boys who is now a 73 year old; it’s entitled “The ‘real Lord of the Flies’: a survivor’s story of shipwreck and salvation”.  If you’ve never read the Lord of the Flies novel, it is available as an Ebook and and Eaudiobook through our library catalog.  If you are interested in other stories of shipwrecks (real and fictional), we have some of those as well. You can also read a blog post from earlier this week about Recently Discovered Shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. If you need help accessing the resources mentioned in this post, or you have any other questions, please Ask a Librarian for help. 

Boat, Sea, Sky, Landscape, Nature, Beach, Sand, Old

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.”

Recently Discovered Shipwrecks

In just one week last month, two historic shipwrecks were unearthed on the shores of Lake Michigan. On April 20th, near Manistique, an early 20th century schooner was discovered. Rapidly on its heels, a mid 19th hull washed up near Ludington on April 24th.

The Great Lakes have served as a transportation and recreation hub for hundreds of years. Many areas of the lakes are quite treacherous to navigate and it is believed that upwards of 6,000 ships lie wrecked in their waters. The cold, fresh water found in the Great Lakes preserves the wreckage exceptionally well. Recent years have seen some of the highest water levels on record. This has resulted in shoreline erosion and the in washing up of more and more shipwrecks.

The map pictured above is a snapshot of an interactive map of shipwrecks in Michigan waters. You can explore the map and lots more information on this Michigan History Center Shipwrecks site. And the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, at Whitefish Point Light Station on Lake Superior, provides even more information about shipwrecks across all of the Great Lakes.

Find out more about the history and ecology of the Great Lakes and about shipwrecks in MVCC Library resources.

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.

Murder Most Foul

Bob Dylan, an icon of rock music, has just released a new song, Murder Most Foul. The song explores “the impact the assassination of President John F. Kennedy had on the United States’ cultural history.”

There are numerous theories on why he wrote the song, why it is so long and will anyone listen to a 17 minute song? Hopefully during this period of isolation, people will take the time to reflect on the past and try to make sense of the present.

The New Digital Life of the Book Cart

Ah, the Book Cart. A librarian’s favored vehicle to promote timely, curated library books and movies. But, with the campus and library closed, the Book Cart remains sadly forlorn and unused where it was left. This could break a librarian’s heart, but we’re stronger than that! After all, we are more than a building! MVCC librarians have been working hard to move services online, and the Book Cart is no exception!

Meet the new Digital Book Cart! By clicking on the image below you can browse and borrow eBooks and streaming video from MVCC library’s collection. Today’s topic: Pandemics and Public Health. Check it out if you’re interested in our history with pandemics, the stories of our heath care workers, or the mental heath struggles we are facing.

Look for more of these “displays” in the future!

Pandemics and Public Health


Epidemic and Pandemic are words that most people in the United States use to associate with past historical events. Unfortunately, many of us now realize that these words are a reality in the present and the future. Our knowledge of contagious diseases has increased over the past month. We are now more familiar with terms like viruses, vaccines, and pandemics. Now we are able to differentiate between the various flu pandemics that took millions of lives. Some are surprised by the number of deaths from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that took place in the 1980s. One American epidemic, polio, seems “tame” when compared to the numbers of deaths from the Corona virus. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, polio emerged as an epidemic in the United States. During the late 1940s to the early 1950s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that polio paralyzed around 35,000 people each year. The highest amount of polio deaths recorded was 3,145 in 1952. The media coverage was intense and Americans were extremely fearful. “A 1952 survey revealed that Americans feared only nuclear annihilation more than polio.” A cure was found by a team of researchers led by Jonas Salk, but like most scientific discoveries, there were a lot of researchers whose names are lost in history.

I would like to recommend a documentary, The Polio Crusade directed by Sarah Colt. It is interesting to look back at America in the 1950s and compare and contrast how our country is handling the virus of 2020.

Meet Me at Chartres Cathedral Tomorrow!

I decided yesterday that I would take the advice of a French friend and continue my travels in France. I plan to proceed to a small city about an hour outside of Paris. The city is Chartres and the main tourist attraction is an ancient cathedral. There is something very special about Chartres Cathedral. It is one of the few intact French Gothic churches left in France. One of its most outstanding features are 176 stained glass windows. This is the most complete set of medieval windows in the world. In 1979 this building was recognized by UNESCO as “an essential landmark in the history of medieval architecture.” I would recommend watching this short video produced by UNESCO before we travel to the city of Chartres. It will give us a better understanding of the level of craftsmanship that was accessible in 1145 when construction was started and then reconstructed over a 26-year period after a fire in 1194. Another interesting facet of the cathedral is the labyrinth. Make sure you experience it.

I would like to recommend a novel, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. This book describes the story of a day by day, year by year, decade by decade of the construction of a medieval cathedral in England. It will help you understand not only the brilliant minds of these ancient people but also their artistic fervor of their faith. As usual, I would like to recommend one of the MVCC databases that may help you better understand the art and architecture of the Middle Ages.

See you tomorrow and remember…To be continued!

Revisit “How Plagues, Disease, and Outbreaks Have Changed History”: One Book, One College Programming on World War Z

Back in 2014, MVCC’s History faculty members Merri Fefles, Josh Fulton, Jim McIntyre, & Kristine VanBaren held a panel discussion on how plagues, disease, & outbreaks have changed history. This discussion was part of our One Book, One College programming on World War Z.

The various diseases they discussed were polio, the 1918 Spanish flu, the bubonic plague, & the HIV/AIDS crisis. The current COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to the 1918 Spanish flu, which is why we thought it timely to revisit this panel discussion.

We will continue sharing these World War Z themed discussions in the coming weeks, but also check out the full playlist of One Book: World War Z videos.

The fear of plagues and outbreaks has been part of literature and storytelling for many years. World War Z uses a zombie virus to end one civilization and bring about a new one. This panel of Moraine Valley Community College Historians considers the role of disease, plagues, and outbreaks throughout history. What major outbreaks have shaped history? How did they change the societies and cultures they affected? How have outbreaks & diseases impacted populations, living conditions, formations of communities, and migrations? How do historians view outbreaks and pandemics?

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