The Albert B. Sabin Digitization Project

Polio is a devastating disease that is currently found in four countries in the world – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, this wasn’t always the case. Throughout the 20th century, polio was a disease that caused much anxiety and fear among parents all over the world. This disease was most likely to affect young children and caused paralysis, which could lead to death.

Dr. Sabin in his military uniform

During the mid-20th century, several researchers were trying to find a way to prevent more children from being affected by polio. One of the front runners, Albert B. Sabin, developed the oral polio vaccine for this purpose. Much of the research for this vaccine was done here in Cincinnati, and one of the first trials for the oral polio vaccine in the United States was held in Hamilton County.

Dr. Sabin and his contributions to science and humanity are important parts of the history of Cincinnati. At the Henry R. Winkler Center, we recognize the importance of the collection of correspondence and photographs that he and his wife donated to us, which are currently in the Hauck Center for the Albert B. Sabin Archives. In July 2010, we began work on a grant sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize over 50,000 pages of correspondence and 1000 photographs for the purpose of making Dr. Sabin’s materials more accessible to researchers across the world. The digitization of the correspondence and photographs of Albert Sabin has been designated a NEH “We the People” project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

As project archivist, I helped to develop selection criteria for the materials. We had several wonderful people to advise us during the selection process: Sydney Halpern, David Morens, David Oshinsky, and Frank Snowden. I have also been working with our scanning vendor to digitize the material that we feel researchers would be interested in viewing. The next step is to put the documents online and make them searchable by adding relevant data. I also plan to make an EAD compatible finding aid for the collection, to provide better access for our users.

Over the course of the project, I plan to blog about some of the interesting things I find. Along the way, I hope to provide some insight into Dr. Sabin’s life and work. I hope that you will follow along!

For more on the Hauck Center for the Albert B. Sabin Archives and the digitization of the correspondence and photographs, contact the Winkler Center at (513) 558-5120 or