What’s in the water?

Ohio River headwaters in Pittsburgh
Formation of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh by the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Photograph taken by Eira Tansey, October 2017.

What’s in the water?

Ohio’s status as a “water-rich state” has meant that it has long been a flashpoint for concerns over how to ensure protection of our water resources, particularly as Ohio’s waterways have played a significant part in regional industry. One of the most famous images of the environmental movement was Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 – it was not the first time, as it had caught on fire several times before, going back to the mid-1800s. If you want to learn more about the political atmosphere of Cleveland during this event, UC history professor (and friend of the Archives and Rare Books Library) David Stradling has written a book about it.

One of the landmark federal laws that was placed under authority of the newly established EPA was the 1972 Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act actually traced its origins to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, and was the result of many amendments to the 1948 law. The Clean Water Act requires significant recordkeeping and information systems in order to support implementation of the law. Much of the Clean Water Act’s powers are delegated to state environmental protection agencies (for example, Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency, or Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection). One of the major parts of the Clean Water Act is a permitting system known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The NPDES system “regulates discharges of pollutants from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants, sewer collection systems, and stormwater discharges from industrial facilities and municipalities.”

As a system of bureaucratic recordkeeping, the NPDES system reveals much about how we have attempted to take hard-to-quantify aspects of our environment, and pack it down into standardized documentation about human impact.

For example, reviewing a recent draft permit for a wastewater facility in the greater Cincinnati area, this permit will last for five years. It requires the wastewater facility to self-report sampling levels of their discharges to one of the tributaries of the Ohio River. Sampling must take place Monday through Friday but the time of day doesn’t have to be reported, and the permit holder must retain records for three years. One can imagine arguing for modifying any of these recordkeeping requirements upwards or downwards, based on your orientation towards deregulation or to environmental protection.

Recordkeeping is not a neutral act. What is reported and recorded reflects information necessary for regulatory fulfillment. Choices about recordkeeping – what to record, when to record it, who should record it, how often to record it, where to store it, and public vs proprietary access, reflect competing values attached to environmental information.

The Archives & Rare Books Library’s Current Desiderata

By:  Kevin Grace

Gulliver's Travels, illustration by RackhamAs we are continually building the collections of the Archives & Rare Books Library in our areas of strength and making them more accessible for teaching and research, we know there are vital monographs or documents we would always like to acquire.  In some cases, our rare book budget will accommodate some special items, but when it comes to archival materials – and many rare books – we depend on the kindness of friends and strangers.  Our most current desiderata outlines some of the books and papers we are seeking, everything from documenting everyday lives in our German Americana Collection through cookbooks and organizational archives to rare books that strengthen our Shakespeare collection and our illustrated myth and legend holdings.  And of course, we always welcome Mick and Mackthe records of University of Cincinnati student organizations.

William ShakespeareThe items we list as desired acquisitions are primary resources in areas that are heavily used not only by UC students and faculty but by global scholars and the general public as well.  To view the list, go to http://libraries.uc.edu/arb/collections/desiderata.html and to learn more about the collections of the Archives & Rare Books Library and how to effectively use them in the classroom, in research, or in publications, call us at 513.556.1959, email ARB at archives@ucmail.uc.edu, have a look at our website at http://libraries.uc.edu/arb.html, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati, or visit us on the 8th floor of Blegen Library.

 

 

Environmental Records and Regulation

By:  Eira Tansey

Burning Barge on the Ohio River
Strode, William, “Burning Barge on the Ohio River”, 1972, Environmental Protection Agency: DOCUMERICA. Image source: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/543983

The relationship between local, state, and federal environmental protection has always been complicated – both by accident and by design. When the earliest environmental protections began, they typically started at the local and state levels, often following some kind of environmental disaster – and thus, environmental protections developed unevenly. By the time, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970, the decentralization of environmental policy was deliberately embedded in the original organization of the agency: much of EPA’s enforcement and regulatory duties are delegated to state environmental agencies.

Water issues have been roiling the Midwest, with significant attention paid to the Flint lead crisis and the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Ohio’s water issues may not be in the headlines as much, but the risks are worth paying attention to. Ohio is often described as a “water-rich” state with Lake Erie to the north, and the Ohio River to the south. Although we may be water-rich, this water is often quite contaminated. The Ohio River is consistently ranked as the most polluted river in the United States, and UC researchers have conducted studies of pollutants from Ohio River-sourced drinking water supplies connected with past manufacture of Teflon. Both Lake Erie and the Ohio River routinely experience harmful algae blooms, which are often connected to runoff from agricultural activities – and much harder to regulate. In addition, Cincinnati is under a federal consent decree due to the overflow from infrastructure deficiencies with the local sewer system.  Continue reading Environmental Records and Regulation

Donald and Marian Spencer: Lives of Love and Social Justice

By:  Sam Whittaker, History Department Intern

Donald and Marian SpencerThe Archives and Rare Books Library recently received a new collection of papers from Marian and Donald Spencer.  For over fifty years, the Spencers fought for educational equity and equal rights with organizations such as the NAACP, the U.S. Commission on Human Rights Ohio Board, and the Cincinnati Board of Education. While processing the papers of Marian and Donald Spencer, I learned a vast amount about their groundbreaking electoral campaigns, keynote speeches, court cases, and community boards. However, I also came to know them as people. Donald and Marian Spencer met while they were both students at the University of Cincinnati, married in 1940, and raised two boys. They spent a great deal of their nearly 70 years of marriage in Cincinnati fighting for social justice and equality in the community. Continue reading Donald and Marian Spencer: Lives of Love and Social Justice

In Memoriam: Edgar Slotkin, Ardent Friend of the Archives & Rare Books Library

Edgar SlotkinOn June 21st, the Archives & Rare Books Library lost a friend. Edgar Slotkin, professor emeritus of English, died at the age of 72. Edgar was a remarkable folklorist and Celtic scholar, but most of all he was a man generous of his time and knowledge. At his retirement in 2011, he donated his local folklore collection to us and it became the Southwest Ohio Folklore Archive. Additionally, several years ago Edgar worked with Jerry Newman, our Associate Dean for Collections at the time, to acquire and catalog two wonderful rare book collections of Irish and Welsh literature. Of the former, much of it is from the early 20th c. Celtic Revival period in Ireland and represents a physically fragile gathering of books that might otherwise have been lost. Edgar Slotkin was a kind and learned man, and someone who is greatly missed.

Adventures in Tutus

By:  Sydney Vollmer, ARB Student Worker

I have never been to a ballet in my life. Why? Simply put: everyone in my family (excluding one aunt) has told me it’s boring and weird.  Indeed, I have let the opinions of others shape my own experiences (or lack thereof). I was perfectly happy never thinking to attend a ballet…until I started working at the Archives and Rare Books Library.

As the student worker here, part of my role includes sorting, inventorying, and processing collections so they can be properly stored in the archives for future research. The project I am currently working on is sorting everything that was recently given to us by Cincinnati Ballet Company (CBC).

We hold the collections of CBC that were acquired before I was hired, so the material I’m working on is a recent addition to the archive.  From what I hear, the last round was much more manageable. Below, you can see some pictures of the room where I am working. This is the collection AFTER a preliminary sorting. I’ve probably spent about 12 hours in there over the past few weeks and I’ve even had help and supervision. Even if it doesn’t look like it, this is progress!

Continue reading Adventures in Tutus

Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

By:  Kevin Grace

BagpiperOn Tuesday, March 17, the world will recognize St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish and Irish descendants with various celebrations and events, but this weekend will feature the many parades devoted to the day.  Dublin, New York, Savannah, Chicago, Sydney, Butte, New Orleans, and, Cincinnati all have community parades, and studying how these parades are historically manifested reveals a great deal about urban culture – the elements of religion, ethnicity, enfranchisement, inclusion, social mores, and political influence.  The day was first celebrated in America in Boston in 1737. Continue reading Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade