Feb. 2, 2009 – Images from the Special Collections and Digital Library and Archives Departments at the University Libraries will be featured during the documentary The Polio Crusade, to air as part of the PBS American Experience series on February 2, 2009.
Part of the documentary is focused on the polio epidemic that occurred in Wytheville, VA in 1950. Images from the Virginia Tech Library's Earl Palmer Collection were used to document the event. The Palmer Collection contains approximately 750 photos taken by Palmer from the 1940s through the 1970s, and depict the landscape and culture of Appalachia. Many images from the collection can be accessed online from the Virginia Tech Imagebase.
The documentary will feature two photos from the Palmer Collection.
Born in 1905, Earl Palmer was a grocer and mayor of Cambria, Virginia from 1954-1964, when it merged with Christiansburg. Palmer was also a prolific photographer, billing himself as the "Blue Ridge Mountains' Roamin' Camera Man," and had photographs published in Life, National Geographic, and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as other newspapers and magazines. Though based in southwestern Virginia, Palmer traveled through Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia in search of subjects. He donated his collection to the University Libraries and Appalachian Studies Program in 1989. Palmer died at his home in 1996.
The Polio Crusade is an hour-long documentary that chronicles a decades long crusade, fueled by the March of Dimes, and features a bitter battle between two scientists and the breakthrough of a forgotten woman researcher. It is based in part on David Oshinsky's Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Polio: an American Story.