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Researching Epidemics in the Rubenstein Library: Getting Started

An introduction to resources related to epidemics, pandemics, and infectious disease.

What's in this guide?

In this guide, you'll find resources that can be used to research a variety of epidemics and infectious diseases throughout history. While most of the material is held by the Rubenstein Library, this guide also includes primary sources from other Duke libraries as well as online resources from other institutions.

Resources represented in this guide include archival collections and printed material, like books, government reports, and journals, that may be useful in your research. The guide is organized around diseases that caused widespread outbreaks in the past, like smallpox, as well as more contemporary diseases, like HIV/AIDS. Use the tabs to navigate to each section of the guide.

Many of these resources are available online, but others are not and can only be accessed in the Rubenstein Library's reading room. This is the case for most of the archival collections listed in this guide.

Please note: this is not a complete list of all resources related to disease outbreaks in the Rubenstein Library. This guide is intended to provide a sample of the types of resources available for research. We also have material related to diseases not included in this guide. This is just a starting place and there is more to discover! Use the search tips included in this guide or ask a librarian for help!



[Image from Edward Jenner's famous book on smallpox vaccination from 1798. Catalog record here.]

Tips for Finding Additional Resources

Have you reviewed this guide and want to find more resources? Here are a few tips for searching:

To find more archival sources, start by searching the Rubenstein's collection guides. Collection guides provide a description of an archival collection's content and can be keyword searched. You can try searching for specific diseases or for more general terms like "epidemic."

To find additional books, journals, and periodicals, start by searching the library catalog. You can try keyword searching terms associated with a disease, searching the names of people or groups involved in research or treatment efforts, or searching for people or publications that you've seen referenced in other sources.

As you search, keep in mind that the names of diseases as well as other medical terms often change over time and you may need to try a variety of different search terms. The words and phrases that you see in the resources listed in this guide (as well as the subject headings associated with the listed items) can serve as a starting point. 

Ask a librarian for help!