Since the mid-nineteenth century, public health professionals have collected data about large populations to understand problems, and make changes that improve people's lives. A wealth of historical data on public health is found in OHSU Library, particularly its Historical Collections & Archives, which contain original studies, surveys, reports, and other records of public health in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

What can this data tell us about the past and how can historical data support public health today? Oregon's history of leadership and innovation in public health can help today's historians, health professionals, students, and teachers answer these questions. Digitizing these archival collections makes data accessible to new generations of researchers.

Historical Exhibit

This exhibit is a presentation on the development of Public Health services in Oregon and of OHSU Library's work to improve access to public health data held in its unique historical collections. Learn more about the history of public health in Oregon and about the important role of data in that history.

Exhibit text by Historical Collections & Archives staff and Morgen Young. Last updated June 2017.

Digital Collection

OHSU Library's Historical Collections & Archives has developed a digital collection of primary sources on public health in Oregon. The collection includes downloadable PDFs of scanned materials, along with Excel files of transcribed data.

 The digitized collection materials and transcribed data files can be accessed in the Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data digital collection.

Items can be viewed and browsed from the main page, or searched to find more specific materials via the search bar on the left side of the screen. While it is not currently possible to search only for files with data transcriptions, the majority of ledgers, annual reports, and public health surveys have transcriptions attached, as well as many other files. Additionally, the advanced search feature can be used to further narrow search results, however, due to the nature of the Digital Commons interface, restricting search results may result in not finding records that still pertain to your research. It is recommended that researchers utilize the broader search options and spend a bit more time with the materials. Future enhancements may be employed as technology options change.

For the most part, only structured data was transcribed, such as data tables, patient information ledgers, and research findings. Annual reports and similar items also often contain transcribed data regarding membership, attendance, and results of initiatives. Data transcriptions are linked directly below the download link for the record's full PDF, as seen in the image below.

You can locate original materials in the Library's catalog (books and published materials) or through Archives West (archival records).

An accompanying physical exhibit for this project was on view in the OHSU Library in 2017. Access the archived exhibit web page.

Recommended citation for the project as a whole: Oregon Health & Science University. (2017). Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data. doi:10.6083/7JH4-8C58

If you need assistance, wish to viewer higher resolution images, or have feedback on the project, please contact us at

Project Director:

  • Maija Anderson, Director of Curatorial Services

Project Manager:

  • Steve Duckworth, University Archivist (2016-2017)
  • Max Johnson, University Archivist (2015-2016)

Project Contributors:

  • Shahim Essaid, Research Associate
  • Kate Thornhill, Repository Community Librarian
  • Morgen Young, Consulting Historian, Exhibit Development
  • Defteling Design, Project logo design

Student Assistants:

  • Rachel Blume
  • Rachel Fellman
  • Sherra Hopkins
  • Lacey Legel
  • Grayce Mack
  • Sam White

Technical information:


  • EPSON 10000 XL Flatbed scanner
  • Indus Color Book Scanner 5005


  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Acrobat DC
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Image Magick

Descriptive standards:

  • Dublin Core
  • LCSH
  • fast
  • MeSH
  • Getty AAT

Digitization standards (preservation copy):

  • DPI:600
  • Bit-depth: 8-bit per channel
  • Color: RGB
  • Adjustments: Rotate to straighten, cropping close to the edges with an evidentiary border visible
  • File Format: TIFF

Digitization standards (access copy):

  • DPI: 300
  • Bit-depth: 8-bit per channel
  • Color: RGB
  • Adjustments: Inherited from the Master copy. No other adjustments.
  • File Format: JPEG, PDF

Data from scanned materials was translated into machine-readable format through manual normalization and transcription. Project staff review data against library metadata standards and other ISO standards. Staff edit field entries in compliance with these standards to support analysis. Staff transcribe data from scans directly into Excel, reproducing the structure and functionality of the original data sets.

Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data was supported in whole or part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.