- 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
Category Archives: From the Frontlines
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.
According to Mapquest, driving between Santa Cruz and San Jose in California takes 42 minutes. A color film produced by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and stored in the Internet Archive’s Moving Image Archive shows the 32-mile trip in eight minutes and 51 seconds. Filmed in the 1980s as a driving simulator and sped up, according to comments on the clip, the front-seat vantage point winds through towns and up and down hills, passes oncoming traffic, and stops at red lights. It’s a pretty and nostalgic capture of a slice of rural California road travel.
What led me to this video? A link to it appeared near the top of a Google search for “Caltrans archives,” to find out if the agency has its organizational archives anywhere online. Academic institutions around California house some Caltrans history, according to my search in ArchiveGrid, but valuable materials for researchers contained in Caltrans’s historical record – in the state that lead the way in automobile transportation infrastructure – seem hard to access.
My inquiry was brought on by a Nov. 12 online article in SFGate about an archives room in a Caltrans office in Oakland, where the detailed history of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is stored. What makes this archive unique is how heavily engineers use the materials, but it’s not in a library or museum. I imagine a high number of other archives are in a similar situation. Oh, but its research value, perhaps to costume designers: “Photos taken in the bridge’s early days show (toll) collectors outfitted in dapper uniforms, including billed hats like those worn by police with the letters SFOBB (for San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge) across the front – and wearing guns.”
An ArchiveGrid search for “Bay bridge” also pulled up other research ideas, such as Warren B. James, a bridge engineer for whom there is a collection at University of California, Berkeley. James worked on the construction of the Bay Bridge between 1933 and 1936, but his career spanned into the 19050s with other bridges in California. The finding aid says his collection has reports, plans, drawings, photographs, and slides relating to his work, which perhaps California’s modern bridge system can credit.
When you want to do more for the environment, get online and transcribe old ship logs. According to leaders of a project called Old Weather, ship logs are packed with acute weather observations. As those ship logs get digitized, volunteers transcribe them, one page at a time, creating new data for scientists and historians to work with. Anyone can sign up to transcribe and there is a lot of work to be done. Old Weather’s partnership model has groups in Europe and North America involved, including National Archives and Records Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Its latest goal is to transcribe U.S. military ship logs of Arctic voyages between 1850 and the World War II era, in order to improve understanding of past Arctic weather and gain new environmental insights.
An archaeological look at born-digital content from the Library of Congress’s digital preservation blog: Preserving electronic literature and providing access to the 20th century platforms they were created on at the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
My favorite pull-quote, from MAL Director Lori Emerson: “The clackety-clack of the keyboard, the act of taking the 5.25″ floppy out of its sleeve, sliding it into the drive, hearing the whir and beep of the machine, the ability to open up the hood and insert an expansion card is integral to the reading/writing experience.”
An American Archives Month outreach activity that got covered by the Associated Press: The “name the tribble” contest at The American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. It came to the archives when Forrest J. Ackerman, a science fiction publisher credited with inventing the term “sci-fi,” donated items, including a tribble used on the set of the Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.” If you’re stumped or want to see what names other people have come up with, they’re being posted on the Heritage Center’s Facebook page.
Oregon 100 years ago was the seventh state to pass a women’s suffrage amendment, a movement led by Abigail Scott Duniway, an Oregon Trail pioneer and newspaper publisher who also had a brother in the business at The Oregonian – Harvey Scott. An elementary school and and an extinct volcano in Portland are named after Scott and a statue atop another extinct volcano commemorates him. Scott left his position as editor of The Oregonian in 1872, a year after Duniway started her rival paper in Portland to promote women’s suffrage. Duniway faced opposition from her brother, who had later returned to The Oregonian as editor-in-chief. Despite local political and social resistance, consistent failure of women’s suffrage referendums on state ballots, and divisions with Eastern suffrage organizations, Duniway prevailed and she eventually brought women’s voting rights to Oregon. At the request of governor Oswald West, Duniway wrote and signed Oregon’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation on Nov. 30, 1912, and became Multnomah County’s first female registered voter. She and her brother are buried at the same cemetery in Portland. To make the ending even happier, an elementary school and an urban park with a track and a lilac garden are named after Duniway.
On a warm fall Saturday in Portland, the marriage between women’s suffrage in Oregon and the American Archives Month each October bore a successful Oregon Archives Crawl, an annual expo the Portland Area Archivists puts on to educate the public about archives. Participating organizations set up exhibit booths at four research sites in the city: The City of Portland Archives and Records Center; Portland State University Special Collections, Millar Library; Multnomah County Library; Oregon Historical Society Research Library. Crawlers could start at any of those locations and look around and take tours, eat snacks, and pick up a guide to the other locations. Packaged as a “passport,” the guide got stamped at each location and advertised the after-party, thrown Portland-style: At a historic McMenamin’s.
Exhibits of course featured archival materials related to Oregon women’s suffrage, but other items allured just as much with their black-and-white photographs of people in early dress, municipal planning maps, penmanship on yellowed paper, and craft art. Relevant to current events, Pacific University (Harvey Scott graduated from there and another elementary school in its town of Forest Grove is named after him, by the way) displayed election collections, Oregon Health and Science University had from its storage a skull lacking much provenance, and some early cell phones – brick phones – were brought in by the Washington County Museum, which houses the “Silicon Forest” cultural memory of the region’s high-tech industry.
Most relevant to the “Celebrating Women, Celebrating Archives” theme was the actual Oregon’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation document, brought up from the Oregon State Archives in Salem. Most annoying was the use of flash-photography by some crawlers indoors where archival materials were out on tables. Most beneficial for ArchiveGrid and OCLC Research were opportunities to ask participating organizations what they were up to and inform them of ArchiveGrid and what OCLC Research is up to.
Here is a brief photographic record of the event:
Women dressed up as suffragettes at the Oregon Historical Society spoke with archives crawlers (above, below).
A skull in the collections at Oregon Health and Science University engaged archives crawlers.
University of Oregon displayed “Duck” memorabilia. Oregon State University also displayed “Beaver” memorabilia.
City of Portland Archives and Records Center makes jigsaw puzzles out of historical photographs and puts them out for visitors to work. I am a jigsaw puzzle aficionado so I could not resist.
At around noon, the City of Portland Archives and Records Center (above, below) had a full house.
An early stamp machine was used to stamp archives crawl passports.
All four Archives Crawl locations were within walking distance of each other and located along the downtown no-fare mass transit tram line. Trams reminisce early Portland, around the time of local women’s suffrage, when private companies installed elaborate rail systems that ran until they disappeared to make room for automobile traffic.
The historic Multnomah County Library central branch (above) gave rare public tours of its John Wilson Special Collections (below) for the archives crawl.
Terry Baxter with the Multnomah County Records Program talked to crawlers (above) who were greeted by Multnomah County Library staff (below).
No one went unfed, thirsty, and uncaffeinated (again, this is Portland).
Even better than receiving a re-useable grocery sack from Society of American Archivists for starting the archives crawl early with my eager fiancee was getting photographed with the LBB (little blue bag).
Three archival collections about the history of railroads in northeastern Pennsylvania that Syracuse University gave to the Steamtown National Historic Site was a nice story in The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Penn. The collections increased the park’s archival collections by about 40 percent and made it more attractive for railroad researchers, specifically with the help of thousands of glass plate negatives.
An archive of everything Frank Lloyd Wright saved will move from locked storage in Wisconsin and Arizona to the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. This news was in the New York Times’s Art and Design section.
This story from The Tennessean, about Vanderbilt University’s new online exhibit of digitized recordings of interviews between Robert Penn Warren and 20th century Civil Rights leaders, tells an interesting story of how it happened well and pictures the key players. Warren, a poet laureate and three-time Nobel Prize winner, graduated from Vanderbilt in Nashville and dedicated his literary life to helping the Civil Rights movement.
Recognizing that this week is Archives Week, the St. Albert Gazette featured the archivist at the Musée Héritage Museum in Canada and the activities she has planned there for the community.
When an archivist has a book published, the occasion should call for a news story. Winona County Historical Society archivist Walter Bennick was featured in the Winona Daily News for his new book he compiled and wrote on the history of Winona, Minn.
At the new Davidson College Archives and Special Collections website called Community Space, anyone can transcribe hand-written manuscripts, identify photographs related to Davidson or upload some to the online photograph collection, or submit historical stories about the college’s people, places, and events, or the Town of Davidson, NC, itself.
You would become a transcriber and metadata writer, but also a researcher because there are links to explore Davidson’s archives and special collections.
- In an article in central Utah’s daily newspaper, The Daily Herald, featuring a book about the history of filmmaking in Utah, author and Brigham Young University Film Archivist James V. D’Arc remembers his early days in the profession: “There wasn’t a film archive at the time…I suggested to the department chair who hired me…that the university branch out into that area.” Sounds like sound advice for graduates too, especially if you have an upcoming interview. Identify what’s missing and inform your prospective employer how you will fill said gap.
- My favorite passage from a Wall Street Journal article we (OCLC Research staff) shared this week about corporate archivists: “Other times, archivists have to get down into the trenches of eBay and fight for memorabilia. That is the case for Ruth Porter, who typically begins her days by sitting down at her computer, popping a peppermint candy and cruising the online auction site.” I should start doing that, it might do wonders for my concentration. Porter is the L.L. Bean archivist.
- You don’t have to be from a place in order to get charged with preserving its history. A 28-year-old from Wisconsin is the first archivist for the Indiana Room at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library in New Albany, Ind., and he is excited to expand and improve services. A county historian in an article in the six-day News and Tribune says, “They have numerous original documents and having a professional there looking over them is a good move on their part…I think the Indiana Room is one of the best places around for research. I really appreciate the library’s administration seeing the importance of that room and hiring an archivist.”
- A roof over the Henry County Archive and Genealogy Library in Paris, Tenn., leaks because it’s flat and eight years past its life expectancy. The archive room housing the county’s historical documents is located in the lowest part of the building, exposing it to other roof leaks that will run there. Repairs will cost $250,000 and work on a new home for the archives promised in 2008 has not yet started. Good for The Paris Post-Intelligencer for reporting everything that’s wrong with this situation. Maybe in the meantime, archivists can use the new scanner the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Chattanooga purchased, and digitize documents before the tarps covering them right now can’t prevent further rain damage.
- Hallways in the New York statehouse once bare now display artifacts from the state’s collections. Associated Press’s article about it that re-ran in local media reminded me of when I raided my own attic and found childhood mementos to display as art, like a porcelain cat figurine collection. Not the same, but definitely a practical way to blend beauty, history, function, and pleasure.
- The Unionville Times, an online-only news source for townships in Chester County, Penn., featured the upcoming 30th anniversary Aug. 27 of the Chester County Archives and Records Services – a partnership between the county and the Chester County Historical Society. Chester County’s print newspaper, Daily Local News, ran a story about it two days later.
- A short article in AdelaideNow, an online-only news source for South Australia, is about the state library’s efforts to raise money for a $200,000 digital film scanner needed to preserve and make available online 7,500 films, some of which are in obsolete formats.
- Record numbers of researchers in the last few years to the 50-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan., was reported on in The Salina Journal daily newspaper.