- Updates and recent developments on ArchiveGrid webinar lineup
- National parks libraries hold rich potential for ArchiveGrid
- Index update comes with new features, contributors, and webinar plans
- OCLC Research bids “dag” to our intern, Marc Bron
- Earth Day week in ArchiveGrid: Five days, four keywords, three events, two people, one finding aid
Author Archives: Ellen
This week in the American Libraries Association’s e-newsletter, American Libraries Direct, is a featured article about libraries at America’s national parks and five of the best ones were highlighted. Toward the end of last year, the ArchiveGrid team looked at a list we had compiled of U.S. national park libraries to search for finding aids in hopes we could enrich ArchiveGrid with collection descriptions about these Ken-Burns-documentary-worthy gems of nature our government protects for us to enjoy. At that time, two national parks in California – Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – were represented in ArchiveGrid via the Online Archive of California. To our pleasant surprise, we were contacted in January by Yellowstone National Park’s archivist for inclusion of its finding aids. When our first index update of the year happened a short time later, their collections were among our set of new contributors we harvested. As more finding aids for collections housed in national park libraries get online, we look forward to including them in ArchiveGrid.
This index update is different than previous index updates because it coincides with two new features we’re adding to ArchiveGrid and one event later this month we’re preparing for now.
First: A widget (code is at the bottom of our about page) which Bruce Washburn created for anyone to embed on guide pages so users can start an ArchiveGrid search and get taken to search results in our system.
Second: Extent, or physical descriptive data, in search result displays. These brief additions come from MARC record sources that include a 300 field subfield a, and for EAD sources that include an extent element value.
Third: A webinar from 3-4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 23. In this hour-long session we will review what ArchiveGrid is and how it works, share our latest developments, and answer questions. Please register here to attend. Advance registration is required.
Also we welcome five new finding aid contributors to ArchiveGrid:
University of California, Berkeley – Environmental Design Archives
Seton Hall University
University of California, Los Angeles – Ethnomusicology Archive
Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation – Presidio Research Center
West Virginia University – West Virginia and Regional History Center
With the addition of data from these new contributors, our index count is now nearly two million finding aids. Number of visits to ArchiveGrid has also climbed and was most recently at its second-highest since we started keeping track toward the end of 2011. We are thankful for these achievements and we hope for the growth to continue!
Today is Queen’s Day in the Netherlands and its new king, Willem-Alexander, was welcomed. While today signified a new beginning for the country where our intern, Marc Bron, comes from, it also signified the end of Marc’s three-month internship at OCLC Research in San Mateo, Calif. Marc started today early by watching live coverage of his country’s coronation ceremonies and ended it by gathering with co-workers and friends in San Francisco. Marc returns to the Netherlands tomorrow to continue his doctoral studies at University of Amsterdam and complete a series of papers about his work at OCLC Research.
Among those who attended the farewell dinner for Marc was Bruce Washburn, who worked closest with Marc on projects involving ArchiveGrid data and TopicWeb. TopicWeb, putting it bluntly, is a way to “play” with archival data in the context of a game and we expect it will change the way archivists think about and interact with collections. It’s something that hasn’t been done before and to accomplish such a task is a milestone in Marc’s early career in library and information science. It definitely won’t be his last.
Right now, however, is a time to talk about last’s. After a somber ArchiveGrid team meeting – the last one we would have with Marc – Bruce wrote about Marc’s time with us:
“Marc has been an outstanding addition to the small but mighty ArchiveGrid team … we miss him already. While here, Marc was instrumental in carrying out the first comprehensive tag analysis of the 130,000 or so EAD files that we’ve gathered together in ArchiveGrid, and is working with Merrilee to complete and publish a report of the results. He worked with our colleagues Jean Godby and Devon Smith in OCLC Research to test Named Entity Recognition tools with the EAD sources, with the results of that effort providing a way to better support faceted searching in ArchiveGrid.
“Marc led the team on a journey to find innovative ways to find related archival collection descriptions: the NER work was part of that effort, but it evolved into the development of an experimental collaborative game for searching ArchiveGrid and drawing connections between collections related to a topic. In a few short but very busy weeks we were able to assemble a system that we could demonstrate at the Society of California Archivists meeting in April, and we’re continuing to develop this idea into a system that we can share more widely. In all, an important and transformative period in ArchiveGrid’s history, primarily due to Marc’s intelligence, persistence, and deep and wide-ranging knowledge of information retrieval.”
One way to say “bye” in Dutch is “dag,” and we look forward to following Marc’s promising future.
If things happen in three’s, three events within five days recently which had a global impact are no coincidence. On Monday, April 22, the world celebrated Earth Day. On Friday, April 26, John James Audubon was born 228 years ago in Haiti and his work continues to inspire bird conservation. In 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident happened when the plant at Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine, exploded.
With themes of Earth Day, nature conservation, and environmental destruction threaded throughout one week, what’s an ordinary person concerned about such matters to do?
According to the Louis Friedman papers in Swarthmore College’s Peace Collection, a citizen can do a lot. The finding aid for his papers from 1973 to 2003 which were gifted to the college is the only record retrieved in ArchiveGrid for a keyword search using: earth day audubon chernobyl. In the 35 linear feet of papers related to the work of Louis Friedman and his wife Judi, there are National Audubon Society publications, items from Earth Day 2000 in Beijing, and materials related to Chernobyl.
Beyond what the keyword search matched, however, is a finding aid describing a trove of testimony in line with the spirit of Earth Day: the power individuals have to facilitate, or participate in, meetings where productive relationships which can advance progress start.
Friedman and his wife traveled extensively together as citizen diplomats, peacemakers, and activists, and gained recognition for their work in each of those roles. They used an effective combination of passion, diplomacy, and media knowledge to build relationships, organize events, and educate the public for the better of environmental, social, and political causes. In the finding aid’s historical background, “While in a country, I would meet with officials employing my skills of patience and open-mindedness, conciliation, mediation, reconciliation, conflict resolution, peace-making; and my knowledge of the media.”
So although Earth Day week is ending, a practical take on the spirit of positive global change can be this: Take one passion, and double it – or triple it, quadruple it, whatever…and work endlessly until there is progress.
(People pictured above: Merrilee Proffitt, Bruce Washburn)
Don’t let these frustratingly tiny mobile image uploads fool you. They tell the story of a big week we just wrapped up at OCLC Reseach. While eggs laid by Canadian geese outside OCLC Research’s San Mateo, Calif., offices hatched, we geared up for the annual Society of California Archivists (SCA) conference held April 11-13 across the San Francisco Bay in Berkeley.
Big ideas and strategies about TopicWeb, a newly-hatched development of our own in connection with ArchiveGrid meant to improve how we understand key collections, filled an office whiteboard. But that scenario has already happened more than once before, so what’s more significant is what resulted from hours of intelligent and hard-working people perfecting TopicWeb for demonstration at SCA. This post cannot go further without crediting the natural teamwork between Bruce Washburn and Marc Bron to put together TopicWeb and promote it at SCA to interested archivists who visited the ArchiveGrid booth.
What is Topic Web? Here is the short answer: TopicWeb is a game we developed and refer to endearingly as “Yelp for Archives,” yet it’s more. It’s designed to bring a team of experts on a particular topic together to evaluate EAD and MARC collection descriptions in the ArchiveGrid index for their relevancy, or importance, to a topic that one person, the TopicWeb creator, chose. Building the TopicWeb happens when players on the team search for and locate collections relevant to the topic and add them to the web and leave comments explaining why. Then the team members review suggested collections and vote on whether they are relevant or not to the topic, and again leave comments explaining why. Each team has one week to complete their TopicWeb before it can get published – although we have not finalized that stage. Points accrue, players advance levels, and other incentives happen. It’s filled with potential for capturing the exchange of knowledge between archivists and collections in ways we will gain valuable research data from and that are fun.
Since TopicWeb is still in development mode, we welcome any feedback, and interest in helping us improve the game further.
Today is 3/14 – national Pi day because the month and day match 3.14 – the first three numbers of π.
For kicks, I searched for the symbol π in ArchiveGrid because the term pi as a keyword retrieved a list of unrelated results that seemed as endless as the number itself. But π retrieved a more rational set: eight matches with direct links to online finding aids.
One finding aid at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at University of Texas caught my eye because a piece of the display text read “Notes on transcendence of π,” which sounded profound. Mathematically, pi is a prominent example of a transcendental number, and I hoped to find a more philosophically transcendent connection between pi and something, or someone, in ArchiveGrid.
And I did. Read on:
The finding aid is for a collection of papers William T. Reid accrued between 1925, when he was an undergraduate student in Texas, and 1977, when he died in Texas after a lifelong career in mathematics.
Reid was a mathematics professor at University of Chicago from 1931 to 1944 and at Northwestern University from 1944 to 1959. During those years in the Chicago area, Reid would have known a fellow mathematician, Ernst Hellinger. We know this because in Reid’s collection are materials related to Hellinger, a German mathematician whose career for 29 years as a university professor in Germany ended when the Nazi regime removed him and other Jewish mathematicians and scientists from German universities. Later Hellinger was arrested and spent six weeks in the Dachau concentration camp until a job which friends arranged for him at Northwestern allowed him to emigrate. He joined the faculty in 1939 and died in 1950.
By the time Hellinger was safe from the effects of World War II, Reid’s involvement for the United States in the war had started. According to the finding aid’s biographical note, “During World War II he served as consultant in mathematics to the Army Air Corps and served in the Pre-Meteorology program. He was chairman of the subcommittee on examinations of the War Policy Committee of the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.”
In Reid’s papers are correspondence about Hellinger’s death and biographical and memorial items, a photograph of Hellinger, manuscripts, notes, seminars, letters, reprints, and a few other remnants of his career.
One remnant is Hellinger’s “Notes on transcendence of π; Bericht über die Entwicklung seit 1933 und über den gegenwärtigen Stand des Mathematischen Seminars der Universität Frankfurt, 1949.” (Via Google Translate: “Report on developments since 1933 and on the current state of the Mathematics Department of the University Frankfurt, 1949.”)
Such findings leave more questions that access to these primary sources could answer. What was the friendship between Reid and Hellinger like? Did Hellinger ever return to Germany following World War II? Both pi and war can be described as irrational – what did Hellinger think?
One thing some archivists in New York City and at Yellowstone National Park have in common is that their organizations joined ArchiveGrid as new finding aid contributors. Trinity Wall Street archives and Carnegie Hall archives in Manhattan, Queens College in Queens, and Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Mont., are among the six new contributors included in our index update this week and we welcome them. Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisc., and New College of Florida in Sarasota are our other two new contributors.
Here are links to their collections:
Circus World Museum – Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center
New College of Florida – Jane Bancroft Cook Library
Trinity Wall Street – Archives
Carnegie Hall Archives
Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
Queens College – Benjamin Rosenthal Library
Yellowstone’s presence in ArchiveGrid is also what we hope a start to getting collection descriptions from more national parks archives represented in our system. We also hope the presence of collection descriptions from our other new contributors is a start to more smaller archives getting their finding aids online and available for machines to harvest.
Anyone who has camped at Yellowstone, driven through, or encountered wildlife there may appreciate a nearly 100-year-old photograph collection of sagebrushers (campers), who traveled by train to West Yellowstone, Mont., and entered the park in wagons because automobiles were not yet allowed inside. According to the finding aid, “Images of a black bear include several photographs depicting members of the party feeding the bear.”
However, this collection is also appropriate for anyone who likes historic photographs of views and everyday people. In addition to images of landscapes, geysers and thermal features, and buildings, “Images with people include one image of a Reverend Rice as well as views of hiking, camping, a picnic, and cooking outdoors. There are also views of the tents, a camp stove, the wagons, and a surrey.”
If Daylight Savings Time this weekend prompts people to start making summer travel plans, Yellowstone is a good destination choice. Just don’t feed any bears.
As our intern Marc Bron leads team ArchiveGrid in analyzing EAD tags in archival collection descriptions, we get to learn what EAD brings – and doesn’t bring – to a finding aid, and ultimately, to researchers who encounter it. One observation Bruce Washburn mentioned after sifting through EAD and all its lines, fields, tags, and text, is how scrapbooks are accounted for in many finding aids. A New York Times blog article about scrapbooking gives context to what was a widely-practiced habit and art of clipping collation in the 19th century and parallels scrapbooking with 21st century information management. While the archival industry is still establishing how to best preserve artifacts of scrapbooking today – digital “clippings” a person pulls from various sources and compiles into one realm, such as a Facebook, for example – there is no shortage of finding aids pointing researchers to 19th and 20th century scrapbooks in a collection. Should a researcher ever find themselves searching in ArchiveGrid for scrapbooks, or discovering that a scrapbook in a collection may lead to something, they won’t be disappointed.
Scrapbooks in collections come in more than one distinction. Bruce found in ArchiveGrid’s search results one collection, “Scrapbook.,” at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, has materials about the International Earth Ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl in August, 1950. In formats one might typically find in a scrapbook: newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs. What we know from the finding aid is who gifted the scrapbook to the museum. What we don’t know is who the scrapbook is by. Maybe no one knows, maybe the donor made it, or maybe that information is accessible somewhere else. Or maybe that information would be more relevant in connection with a personal scrapbook rather than one that functioned for a group. Either way, (in my opinion I think) a name or biographical information – or preferably both – indicating the creative force behind the making of a scrapbook would be useful because it would give the researcher context.
So I searched ArchiveGrid for a finding aid which would give me exactly that: A name and biographical information about who a scrapbook is by. Since I saw the movie Lincoln not too long ago and enjoyed it, I narrowed my search to scrapbooks about Abraham Lincoln. Three scrapbooks in a collection at University of California Santa Barbara pertain to the centennial celebration in 1909 of his birth. “The scrapbooks were compiled by Benjamin DeForest Curtiss,” states the finding aid, and “The collection contains…mainly newspaper and magazine clippings, with portraits and accounts of the life and death of Abraham Lincoln, including tributes paid him on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1809.” Since we have studied the use of names and locations in our EAD tag analysis, this record contains a hefty amount: “Newspapers represented include the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Globe and Commercial Advertiser (New York), New York Daily Tribune, New York Evening Post, and New York Times.”
What else will we see in our EAD? Stay tuned.
February started off with a new employee at OCLC Research’s San Mateo, Calif., office. Marc Bron, a PhD candidate at University of Amsterdam, will spend the next three months focusing on archival data and incorporating his findings into ArchiveGrid, before returning home to The Netherlands and finishing his information retrieval (computer science) program.
In his own words, here is a description of what Marc’s project this spring will be:
“Archival collections provide us with a window into history, and Encoded Archival Descriptions (EAD’s) support the discovery of these collections by carefully describing each collection. Each EAD, however, describes an individual collection in isolation of other collections. That both collections have something in common, i.e., the history of California, remains hidden. In the next three months we will investigate whether it is possible to make meaningful connections between EAD’s and thus the collections they describe. As a starting point we focus on entities and perform Named Entity Recognition (NER) on the EAD’s. By analyzing the co-occurrences of entities across EAD’s we will gain an understanding of what type of co-occurrence constitutes a meaningful connection. We plan to incorporate these findings into the ArchiveGrid system as a new discovery model and to evaluate the model through A/B testing.
“My personal interest lies in investigating the type of connections between entities that can be automatically detected in contextually sparse documents such as EAD’s. Answering this question would further our knowledge about the opportunities for using automatic methods to supplement the annotation of archival collections.”
Marc has been thoroughly enjoying the weather and the beautiful environment in the San Francisco Bay area and he is planning some weekend trips to the national parks.
Striving to better serve the information needs of music fans and connect with scholars, the library and archives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of ArchiveGrid’s new contributors included in our most recent index update this week. With nearly 300 finding aids describing collections related to the history of rock and roll and its role in society now discoverable in ArchiveGrid, this move advances the hall of fame’s mission to raise the museum’s visibility and recognition as a learning institution and tell the story of rock and roll through exhibits and programs.
One such program related to American Archives Month last October showcased archival materials related to local music and musicians from Ohio, many of whom led rock music genres: Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest, Devo, The Black Keys, and The Pretenders. Materials related to these musicians and more appear in ArchiveGrid, advancing our new year’s resolution we discussed this week to reach more types of researchers.
Our count of archival collection descriptions now nears 1.8 million.
We also welcome our other new contributors:
Bowdoin College – George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives
Illinois Wesleyan University – Ames Library
Bowling Green State University – Browne Popular Culture Library