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Tag: Radioactive

“After Chernobyl” at Ebling Library

“The closer you are to Chernobyl, the less dangerous it seems.”

This is the theme of Ebling Library‘s latest exhibit, “After Chernobyl: Photographs by Michael Forster Rothbart.” Though the Chernobyl of popular mythology is a dead, barren wasteland (or, in some tellings, a radioactive breeding ground for monsters), Rothbart’s photographs tell a different story. The Chernobyl he shows us, nearly thirty years after the nuclear disaster, is filled with life in unexpected places. From the residents, many of them evacuees, of nearby “safe” towns and villages, to the workers and managers who maintain the inactive power plant as it is decommissioned, to the samosely—elderly evacuees who illegally returned to their homes inside the Exclusion Zone after the accident, and still live there now—the Chernobyl area is not quite as dead or barren as terrible horror movies would have you believe.

It would be interesting to ask Marie Curie if, had she known what her work would ultimately lead to—among other things, disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and, most recently, Fukushima (a link between our last Go Big Read book and our current one)—would she still have pursued her line of inquiry? Do the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks? In the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, is it worth it to try to build a new life in a radioactive home?

As the Ebling exhibit asks: after Chernobyl, would you stay?

“After Chernobyl: Photographs by Michael Forster Rothbart” runs until August 31st in Ebling’s third-floor gallery space.

For more information on the Chernobyl disaster, you can check out these library resources. Lauren Redniss writes about Chernobyl in the 2012-13 Go Big Read pick, Radioactive. The once-flourishing, now-abandoned city of Pripyat, which was built to house plant employees and their families, has its own fascinating website, set up by an organization seeking to turn Pripyat into a “museum city.” In the meantime, as seen in the Chernobyl Diaries trailer, there are guided tours that will take you into Pripyat and to the Chernobyl plant. If you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, you can take a look at these photos of Chernobyl and Pripyat at the Telegraph.

But your first stop, of course, should be the third floor of Ebling Library.

Science Expeditions

“‘Science Marches On’ in Chemistry Lab…”, UW Digital Collections

It’s been awhile, Go Big Readers! I hope everyone’s spring semester has been going well, and that you all got to take advantage of the nice weather over spring break.

For the past several weeks, the Go Big Read office has been kept very busy working on finding our Go Big Read book for 2013-14. The selection process is almost done: after receiving nearly 200 diverse and fascinating suggestions from all over the campus and Madison communities (thanks for those, by the way!), we’ve whittled our list down to our final choice, and we’re pretty excited about next year’s program! I can tell you that we’re doing something we’ve never done before. You’ll get to hear more about that later in the semester!

In the meantime, what are you up to this weekend? April 5, 6 and 7, UW-Madison and the Science Alliance present the 11th Annual Science Expeditions, a weekend of learning and exploration for all ages. On-campus events are free (!) and open to the public. You can even take a free Science Expeditions Trolley from place to place, while getting a free scientastic tour from a VIP tour guide. There are over 45 Exploration Stations, so it’s sure to be a busy weekend!

Included in the weekend’s events are free tours of Fallout, the Radioactive-inspired exhibit at Ebling Library. If you still haven’t seen it, first of all, what have you been doing with your life?! But also, this is a fantastic opportunity. Go get scienced this weekend!

You can find more information about Science Expeditions, including a list of Exploration Stations, info about the Expedition Trolley, and sneak peeks at Science Spectacular shows, at this link.

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab

If you’ve gotten to see “Fallout” at Ebling Library–or even if you haven’t!–here’s your chance to find out how the exhibit was put together! Join Ebling Library for Wednesday Nite @ the Lab on Wednesday, February 20th from 7:00-8:15 in Room 1111, 425 Henry Mall.

Curator Micaela Sullivan-Fowler

“Fallout” is an examination of subjects such as the early use of x-rays
in diagnosis & treatment, occupational hazards of working with
radiation, the military use of x-rays, the history of tanning, a UW
connection with Marie Curie, bomb shelters in the 1960’s, the bombing of
Hiroshima & concerns with nuclear accidents like Three-Mile Island,
UW’s Departments of Medical Physics & Radiology, shoe fitting
fluoroscopes and the like.

Micaela Sullivan-Fowler has been the curator and history of health
sciences librarian at Ebling Library for the past 14 years. She acts as
the liaison to the Department of Medical History & Bioethics within
the School of Medicine and Public Health. She works with graduate and
undergraduate students, helping them navigate the print and electronic
worlds when using primary material for their research papers. In designing exhibits, Micaela’s
primary goals are to highlight books in Ebling’s collections, and to
create thematic pathways between the subjects in the individual cases.
While the current exhibit on the history of radioactivity, x-rays and
radium has had glowing reviews, it was perhaps the most difficult to
tell in such a limited space. The discovery of so many interesting
stories is what Micaela loves to share…

Dear Faculty,

Here on the west side of campus we have an engaging exhibition entitled: Fallout: The Mixed Blessing of Radiation & the Public Health. One visitor suggested, “…this is the coolest compilation of things I didn’t know about radiation.” The exhibition covers the time period of 1895 to the present and is culturally contextualized in terms of how x-rays, radiation and radioactivity have influenced diagnostics, treatment, occupational health protocols, politics, the teaching of radiology, the public’s engagement with fallout shelters, the aftermath of nuclear accidents and the like.

In addition to a narrative which weaves together the conflation of these three fascinating topics, x-rays, radiation and radiotherapy, there are artifacts, photos and provocative printed matter which illustrate this multi layered subject.
For example, one can learn the story of UW’s unfulfilled connection with Madame Curie or see the switch (usually held by the University Archives) that cut off the electricity before the first atomic bomb detonation.

I can give tours and explanations of the contents of the cases (there are 13). I can talk to students about how one designs such an exhibit. I can talk about what did not fit in the exhibit. I can discuss how one can start with this small bit of primary material and design an entire research project based on one resource.

In short, if you are looking for a field trip to take up your student’s class time when you have to go to a conference, if you’d like to bring your class, if you’d like to assign a visit to the class for extra credit…this is an open invitation to visit. Especially for those who may be reading Radioactive as part of UW’s Go Big Read program, Fallout was imagined in response to that initiative, so it would be particularly germane to your class.

Let me know if I can help with your Spring Semester…

Micaela Sullivan-Fowler, Ebling Library for the Health Sciences, 750 Highland Ave. Madison (608) 262-2402 or msullivan@library.wisc.edu

Here are a few links to add to the excitement.

Still time to sign up for spring semester!

Big thank yous to all of the instructors who have signed up to use Radioactive in their spring semester courses!  Instructors and faculty: if you haven’t yet signed up to use Radioactive next semester, you can do so with the form right here.

If you’re not sure yet whether the book will fit into your syllabus, that’s just fine!  Email us at gobigread @ library.wisc.edu with your campus mailing address to receive a review copy.  If you do decide to use the book, you can sign up to join our list of participating courses, using the form linked above.

We’re excited to work with you!

Go Big Read in the spring semester

It seems hard to believe that the fall semester is almost over, but there’s only a few weeks left until winter break.  And after winter break, of course, the rush and chaos of the semester starts right back up in the spring!

Faculty and instructors: if you’d like to use Radioactive in your spring semester course, let us know!  Fill out this form to be added to our list of participating courses.  If you would like to receive your own copy of the book, please check the box marked “I need a desk copy for myself.”  Desk copies will be distributed right away.

We will begin distributing student vouchers in early January.  Student vouchers can be redeemed at several campus libraries (Chemistry Library, College Library, Ebling Library, Memorial Library, Steenbock Library, and Wendt Commons) for free copies of the book.  Your students will not need to purchase the book.

If you have any questions, please email us at gobigread @ library.wisc.edu.  We look forward to working with you in the spring semester!

Brooke Williams, GBR Graduate student

Are you “prepped”?

It’s cold and flu season, and your friendly neighborhood Go Big Read blogger took a sick day earlier in the week and spent the afternoon on the couch.  Buried under blankets, I ended up catching a few episodes of the show Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel.

An underground fallout shelter.  Image source.

In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss recounts an interview with Vic Rantala, president of Safecastle, LLC.  Safecastle is a major seller of “prepping” materials, from meals-ready-to-eat to body armor to portable solar power generators to full-blown fallout shelters.  Vic Rantala describes how his personal experience, working as a “designated NBC – Nuclear, Biological, Chemical – specialist” in Germany during the Cold War, led to his personal belief in preparing for worst-case scenarios.  “You don’t have to be a wacko,” he says.  “You don’t have to be a gun nut.  You don’t even have to suspect the government of any conspiracies.  It’s logical to have a plan. […] What I’m selling is not necessarily protection.  What I’m selling is peace of mind. Whenever something big happens, it’s going to be something that no one expected.” (Redniss 149)

Doomsday Preppers explores the lives of people who have taken Rantala’s philosophy to heart, and are busily preparing for the end of the world, whatever form it happens to take.  Preppers stockpile food, water, and other resources; they build fallout shelters in their homes or maintain shelters elsewhere; they practice “bug out” drills (bugging out refers to quickly leaving home for a safer location in the event of an emergency) and outfit themselves with body armor, hazmat suits and, yes, weapons.  You can view clips of the show on the National Geographic Channel website, and you can even take a quiz to determine your own “prepper score.” (Your score is determined by the length of time you would likely survive in a worst-case scenario. If that’s not anxiety-inducing, I don’t know what is!)

As bizarre as this might seem to some of us, however, prepping is certainly not a new phenomenon.  Anyone who studied the Cold War in high school or college will probably remember the famous Duck and Cover video, put out by the Federal Administration for Civil Defense in 1952.  Below, a clip from the film.



 Federal Administration for Civil Defense, 1952.

These were the scariest years of the Cold War, the height of the McCarthy era, when every stranger was a potential communist and it was assumed that the Soviet Union could be deploying its nuclear weapons at any moment (weapons built, of course, on the foundation of the Curies’ research on radiation—though neither of them lived long enough to see where their research had led).  At this time, citizens were encouraged by civil defense organizations to build fallout shelters in their homes and to stockpile food, water, gas masks and other resources to help them survive in the event of a nuclear war. Today’s Doomsday Preppers are only following in a long tradition. Though the Communists with their atomic bombs may no longer be the “Big Bad” of our collective cultural imagination, there are other things to fear: global warming, government conspiracies, bioterrorism, a zombie apocalypse, the supposed “2012 prophecies,” and more.

Certainly, there are things in this world that are frightening, and preparation for certain disasters and emergencies is wise. As Vic Rantala points out, peace of mind is a valuable thing. However, sixty years from now, these prepping extremes might seem as silly and antiquated as Bert the Turtle and his “duck and cover” technique—or maybe the preppers will have the last laugh after all.

To learn more about modern-day prepping, head over to the American Preppers Network, and check out their guide to getting started in prepping.  Or visit either of these sites for more information. You can also check out Vic Rantala’s company, Safecastle, LLC.

Doomsday Preppers airs Tuesday nights at 8pm CT on the National Geographic Channel.

Brooke Williams, Go Big Read grad student

Upcoming book discussions

The Radioactive author event might have come and gone, but you haven’t missed your chance to hear (and participate in!) a fantastic discussion of the book!  Go Big Read and the Madison Public Library have partnered to bring you a whole slew of Radioactive events over the next couple of weeks.

Starting on Tuesday in Stoughton, various branches of the Madison Public Library across the city will be hosting their own book discussions, some of which will be led by students at the UW’s very own School of Library and Information Studies.  The Stoughton event is on Tuesday, November 13th, at 7:00pm.  On Thursday the 15th, the Monroe Street branch opens its doors at 6:00pm, and on Saturday, November 17th, you can head over to the Goodman South branch at 1:30pm.

If art and design is more your thing, you should make your way to the Meadowridge branch of MPL on Wednesday, November 14th at 6:30pm.  The library is hosting a discussion on “the aesthetics of Radioactive,” which is sure to be fascinating.

You can find more information about these and other upcoming events on the Go Big Read event calendar, as well as the Campus Events Calendar and the Madison Public Library’s own Go Big Read page.

Brooke Williams, GBR graduate student

Happy birthday, Marie Curie!

Madame Curie was born on this date in 1867, and would have been one hundred and forty-five years old today—pretty impressive!
Why not celebrate Marie’s birthday in true scientific fashion?  Head over to Memorial Library and spend a few minutes with the Marie and Pierre Curie exhibit in the lobby (just past the check-in desk).  Or wander over to Ebling to see Fallout: The Mixed Blessing of Radiation and Public Health, a fascinating exhibit currently on display in the gallery.  If you missed Lauren Redniss when she came to campus, you can watch her talk here.  Or, if you’d rather spend this gray day just curled up with a good book, you can always check out one of these great Marie Curie biographies in the library catalog.  (Or just re-read Radioactive—it’s always worth a second look!)
However you choose to celebrate, everybody here in the Go Big Read office wishes you a truly radioactive day!
Brooke Williams, GBR graduate student

La Loïe Fuller: Danse Radioactive?

When the Curies announced their discovery of radium in 1898, the world took note–and not just the scientific community.  Many uses were proposed for the gently glowing substance, from toothpaste to house paint.  The Curies themselves began investigating radium’s possible medical uses, while the less scrupulous rushed the product immediately to market as a cure for anything that ailed consumers, whether the complaint was acne or heart disease or anything in between.

“La Loïe Fuller,” Henri Toulose-Lautrec

One figure who was particularly fascinated by radium’s potential was Loïe Fuller, a famous dancer at the Folies-Bergère.  Born and raised just outside Chicago, Mary Louise Fuller had made a name for herself as an actress on the vaudeville circuit.  By the time she arrived in Europe, however, her focus had shifted from acting to dance, and she was already well known for her Serpentine Dance, which she had begun performing in 1891.  While touring in France, Fuller found the audiences particularly receptive to her work, and she chose to remain in Paris, changing her stage name from Louie to Loïe Fuller.  She became a star attraction at the Folies, where her innovative technique and colorful performances won her the devotion of the crowd.  Fuller’s image, as depicted by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and other notable artists of the time, adorned the famous posters of Paris.

Loïe Fuller saw radium as an artistic medium.  The style of dance for which she was famous involved wildly swinging and shaking her billowing gown under colored lights, to give the illusion that her gown changed color as she danced.  She had already conducted experiments with Thomas Edison using phosphorescent salts on a black dress, and had relished the effect: her veil, when thrown into the air, “disappeared in the darkness and only the falling luminous drops were seen elongated in their descent taking on the form of great violet blue tears…these things looked ethereal, spiritual, and made me feel in touch with the supernatural.”  Now Loïe realized that radium, with its gentle glow, could produce an even more enchanting effect.



Loïe Fuller’s famous Danse Serpentine.

But the Curies turned her down.  Radium was too rare, they felt–after all, it had taken them months of work to produce even a small amount of the substance.  There were other things that could be done with it, better uses that could be made.

Loïe must have been disappointed.  But, as Lauren Redniss points out in Radioactive, she bore her disappointment well: “A moth to the Curies’ flame, Loïe Fuller came to dance in their home.” (Redniss 64)

To learn more about Loïe Fuller, check out these resources:
Loïe Fuller’s autobiography: Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life, with some account of her distinguished friends (Library catalog)
Loïe Fuller biography at Time Lapse Dance
Electric Salome: Loïe Fuller’s Performance of Modernism, Rhonda K. Garelick (Library catalog)
Loïe Fuller, Goddess of Light, Richard Nelson Current (Library catalog)

Brooke Williams, GBR graduate student