January 16, 2022

The Archive of Healing: UCLA Researchers Digitize Massive Collection of Folk Medicine

From UCLA:

A project more than 40 years in the making, the Archive of Healing is one of the largest databases of medicinal folklore from around the world. UCLA Professor David Shorter has launched an interactive, searchable website featuring hundreds of thousands of entries that span more than 200 years, and draws from seven continents, six university archives, 3,200 published sources, and both first and second-hand information from folkloric field notes.

The entries address a broad range of health-related topics including everything from midwifery and menopause to common colds and flus. The site aims to preserve Indigenous knowledge about healing practices, while preventing that data from being exploited for profit.

“The whole goal here is to democratize what we think of as healing and knowledge about healing, and take it across cultures in a way that’s respectful and gives attention to intellectual property rights,” said Shorter, the director of the archive and a professor of world arts and cultures/dance.In 2012, the UCLA Library asked Shorter whether the archive — now digitized, but with very limited searchability — should be preserved, and if so, in what form? Over the next nine years, Shorter and his team of students developed a strategy for providing public access to the materials in the database while protecting community interests. They re-coded all the data and developed a web-based interface that shows visitors differing results based on their user roles, e.g. general user, librarian/researcher or healer/doctor. Visitors can now search the archive by healing modalities, and can further refine search results by treatment types, e.g. those that are worn, consumed, plant-based or performed.

Learn More, Read the Complete Story, Listen to an Interview with Professor Shorter

Direct to the Archive of Healing

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.