Cupid strikes twice for U.S. statehood on Valentine’s Day

Nathanial Robbins (signature circled) was one of 60 delegates elected to the Oregon Constitutional Convention. Original image source: Oregon Blue Book

While Arizona’s nickname is the Grand Canyon state, it has also long been known as the Valentine State because President William Taft gave it statehood on Feb. 14, 1912, making it the 48th state.

But Valentine’s Day in Oregon also celebrates the anniversary of when President James Buchanan 155 years ago made what was the Oregon Territory the nation’s 33rd state.

Signatures of the 60 men (women were not yet allowed to participate in politics) elected to the Oregon Constitutional Convention and who had signed the document include my great-great-great grandfather’s. He was Nathanial Robbins, a pioneer from Indiana who settled in Clackamas County after traveling the Oregon Trail, farmed, and was a Democrat.

Oregon State Archives holds the original signed document and made a scanned version accessible online for Oregon’s 150th birthday celebration in 2009.

Meanwhile, there is a tiny unincorporated community in Arizona named Valentine and a photograph taken there of “Route 66″ shows up in ArchiveGrid with a description for a collection at Illinois State Library. Northern Arizona University too has historic photographs of a government hospital and Hualapai Indians in Valentine. They’re included in a collection about a nurse named Florence Barker who worked on Indian reservations during her career.

Whether there is a connection between Valentine, Ariz., and its nickname isn’t certain, but Valentine’s Day gives Oregon and Arizona an opportunity to explore what else they may have in common.

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Wooden horse of the Chinese New Year sets pace for 2014

In the Chinese zodiac calendar, the Year of the Horse has begun. More specifically, we’re in the year of the “wooden” horse because the 12-year animal cycle and the five-year cycle of elements – earth, water, fire, wood, and metal – aligned to make 2014 the first Year of the Wooden Horse since 1954. Occurring every 60 years, the one before that was 1894.

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Wooden horse years haven’t always been peaceful. According to a list of eight Year of the Horse facts, “Years of the wooden horse are associated with warfare. The battle of Dien Bien Phu, which ended with the defeat of France by the Vietnamese, happened in 1954 and 1894 saw the start of the first Sino-Japanese war.”

True to the concepts of yin and yang in Eastern philosophy, however, those tumultuous years also saw steps toward social progress.

Governing the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi is the International Olympic Committee, formed in 1894 with a mission to promote human rights and ethics through sports. Past Olympic Games and preparations for this year’s have been marked by violence and controversy, but intolerance for those things remains consistent in the Olympic charter and shared by participants and spectators.

Intolerance also for animal mistreatment took shape in 1954 when the present-day Humane Society of the United States formed. Supported by Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Albert Schweitzer, the National Humane Society legislated humane slaughter practices, euthanasia reform, and regulation of experimentation on animals, and also opened shelters and exposed dog trading, leading to the Animal Welfare Act of 1966.

Find relevant primary sources about these events and more in ArchiveGrid.

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ArchiveGrid and NUCMC: What’s the relationship?

A scenario ArchiveGrid visitors have encountered before goes like this: An institution – in this example we’ll use Maine Historical Society – has records in ArchiveGrid describing their collections. This is a WorldCat MARC record view in ArchiveGrid for a collection at MHS of photographs taken more than 100 years ago:

Yet below the ArchiveGrid contributor location map on our homepage, MHS is not listed:


This is because MHS is represented in ArchiveGrid through the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), a 55-year-old cooperative cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress. According to a recent blog post on “Off the Record” by Society of American Archivists President Danna C. Bell about NUCMC and its advantaged for small repositories, “As of 2013, catalog records have been created describing approximately 130,000 collections in about 1,800 repositories.”

When Library of Congress catalogers create NUCMC in WorldCat for their members, we in turn bring them into ArchiveGrid about every four to six weeks when we update the index. Right now WorldCat has 74,976 records with the NUCMC holding symbol attached.

NUCMC data in ArchiveGrid currently accounts for more than 50,113 records, or about 2.5 percent of the index, associated with hundreds of institutions including MHS. They’re made freely available for users to search, learn about what an institution holds, and contact the repository for help accessing materials. When a NUCMC contributor in ArchiveGrid don’t have its own listing in our contributor database, they won’t appear on our homepage as part of our discovery system.

A project to identify all of our NUCMC institutions and make contributor records for each one is a worthwhile and feasible project, and like other organizations we work with, resources and time are the challenges. In the meantime, we will set up any NUCMC member who asks us to be listed individually on the homepage.

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Justice for big California crimes captured in courtroom sketches

Lasting California legal legacies stored in 27 boxes of courtroom drawings by sketch artist Rosalie Ritz live on in Berkeley in the University of California campus’s Bancroft Library. More than 1,800 of Ritz’s colorful works spanning the late 1960s to the early 1980s have also been digitized and made publicly visible in the Online Archive of California.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

An artist living in the San Francisco area at the apex of Haight-Ashbury, Ritz sketched people and moments during some of the country’s most riveting trials, from Charles Manson to Patty Hearst to Sirhan Sirhan.

With courthouse cameras not yet ubiquitous, Ritz’s sketches stood as compelling images alongside coverage by renowned journalists.

Depicted in the full Ritz collection, researchers can find the details of these and many other big cases.

Some highlights:

1. Sirhan was tried in 1969 for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in a crowd at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel.

2. Also in 1969, 27 prisoners at San Francisco’s Presidio received swift and severe punishment following separate courts martial at Fort Ord after they staged a protracted sit-down protest following the death of one of their own.

3. In the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, many of the pioneering leaders of the Black Panthers, including Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, faced justice for various ultra-radical actions. Cleaver finally faced a long period of self-expatriation and in 1976  pled guilty to assaulting a police officer. He received probation and later became involved with the Mormon Church and the Republican Party.

4. The 1970s also saw the introduction of a few new defense trial terms. In 1974, newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by an ultra-radical faction known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. Later, prosecutors said, she helped members of the SLA rob a bank. When she refused to testify against army members, her attorneys called it a classic example of “Stockholm Syndrome,” where a captive is brainwashed into becoming enamored of her captors.

5. And 1979 saw the introduction of the media term “twinkie defense,” in which San Francisco city employee Dan White claimed he suffered depression, and had changed his diet from healthy to sugary foods, before murdering city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. Contrary to belief, White’s attorneys did not say eating sugary food caused his depression, but was symptomatic of his underlying condition. Nevertheless, the term became synonymous with any frivolous defense. White served time for voluntary manslaughter.

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New record types infuse ArchiveGrid in 2014

Vitamin K and potassium, symbolized by the chemical symbol K, improve the body’s nervous, circulatory, and muscular systems. So too, adding WorldCat MARC records coded with a record type of “k” (indicating the materials they describe are two-dimensional graphics) to ArchiveGrid has improved our “system” of finding aids and collection descriptions. With this addition, nearly 600,000 rich new records have been added to our index.

How was this done? By telling our filter to find the Leader byte 6 (indicating type of record) in WorldCat MARC records, and “k” (materials indicated by this value include prints, photographs, posters, etc.). More about how we filter WorldCat records into ArchiveGrid can be read on our about page.

For ArchiveGrid users, this means more records will show images the contributor has digitized, such as this one from the Denver Public Library:

Girl with cat two boys with dog woman watching them. Image courtesy of Denver Public Library Digital Collections.

It also means using descriptive keywords in a search, such as “photographs,” will retrieve more precise listings. Browsing can also be fun because of the unique types of materials described. Take, for example, design blueprints of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb. Or watercolors of Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska. Or rubbings from Buddhist cave temples.

This index update also includes finding aids from three new contributors: Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, Akron-Summit County Public Library in Ohio, and Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in Rhode Island.

A happy new year from the ArchiveGrid team to our contributors and users!

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Born 85 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. fueled change

Martin Luther King Jr.'s boyhood home. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the winter of 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Auburn Avenue across the street from shotgun homes in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood outside of downtown Atlanta, Ga. He grew up a block from Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was ordained a minister as a teenager. Over a decade later, he returned to co-pastor the church, becoming his family’s third generation of pastors there and leading the African American Civil Rights movement.

Rapid accomplishments filled his short life. By his mid-20s, he had enrolled in Boston College University as a doctoral fellow, married Coretta Scott, became pastor of his own Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala., and started his public work toward racial equality after Rosa Parks defied segregation on public buses and protests followed.

He was 34 during the March on Washington when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, 35 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and 39 when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Years prior when he recognized his work was putting his life at risk, he said: “Well, if physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”

Today, Doctor King would be celebrating his 85th birthday. Parts of Sweet Auburn are now protected as a national historic site in order to preserve King’s legacy there and the area’s heritage as a thriving African American neighborhood.

What exists that would reveal what growing up on Auburn Avenue was like for a young, formative King? Searching ArchiveGrid’s “collection” of collection descriptions for keywords “Sweet Auburn” and “Auburn Avenue” lead to oral history interviews with neighborhood residents and papers of well-known names in the area. A 1992 oral history interview at Georgia State University with the former head librarian of the Auburn Branch Library covers an array of topics and would be a great source to help answer that question because she talks about Martin Luther King Jr. and Maynard Jackson as youths at the library. It’s no surprise that one of the greatest leaders in American History grew up going to the library, where great minds are fueled.

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Physicist remembered for solid advancements in crystallography

Last month on Twitter, a tweet by the National Society of Black Physicists pointed to a record in ArchiveGrid for an oral history interview with Donald Anderson Edwards, who was born 109 years ago Jan. 5 and died in 1999. He was a child when scientists discovered how to study physical matter structures by the way their crystals and X-Rays interact, or crystallography – a career Edwards spent most of his life pursuing and received numerous awards for as a physicist. His most notable work was determining the complete crystal structure of potassium nitrate.

The two sound tapes totaling an 84-minute interview with Edwards are at the American Institute of Physics archives.

A crystallography learning exercise for children. Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Because X-Ray crystallography breakthroughs occurred around 1914, the year German scientist Max von Laue won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his team’s study of X-Ray diffraction in crystals, UNESCO and the International Union of Crystallography declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography. Through programs, the groups intend to promote the value of crystallography and research through five areas of future global impact: Food, water, energy, “green” industrial chemicals, and health.

Crystallography also allowed Edwards to break racial barriers for African Americans in the sciences. A researcher, teacher, and administrator, Dr. Edwards chaired a new physics department at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro until 1971.

In that position he inspired his students to build careers in science and physics. Some made history – Joseph McNeill was an engineering physics undergraduate when became part of the Greensboro Four who led the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s store. Dwight Davis went into medicine and was chief cardiologist of the Penn State Heart Transplant Team when it was one of the first to keep a patient alive with an artificial heart. And Ronald McNair became an astronaut and died in the Jan. 28, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.

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2013: The ArchiveGrid Year in Review

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives

Starting 2013 with nearly 1.8 million descriptions in ArchiveGrid inspired us to declare that our first database update of the year “rocked,” a playful nod to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being one of the new contributors included.

What the small but mighty ArchiveGrid ensemble would find out as the year progressed is that were going to get on a roll.

In February, Marc Bron – a scholar from the University of Amsterdam – joined OCLC Research’s San Mateo, Calif., office for a three month internship. Marc’s speciality is in information retrieval and visualization, and he led several interesting projects which headlined some of our year’s main events. Marc carried out a thorough analysis of tag usage in the approximately 130,000 EAD XML finding aids in ArchiveGrid. You can read some interesting findings from the perspective of “discovery,” published in the October Code4Lib Journal article by Marc and Merrilee.

Marc also did innovative work to try and train a program to examine EAD documents to detect the names of – and find relationships between – people, groups, places and events, and to then find connections between related documents and collections. Marc and others in OCLC Research tested various Named Entity Recognition processes, and the ArchiveGrid team and some brave volunteers tried methods to annotate sample document sets.


What followed was a crescendo to new and novel ways of thinking about archival collections, connections, collaboration and annotation.

During one of Marc’s first few weeks in our office, we ambled over to the Stanford University campus to see a presentation by Amy Jo Kim about collaborative games. Her presentation got us thinking about how we might employ similar techniques in ArchiveGrid, and engage with domain experts to help identify relationships between collections. We developed a game of our own to test this approach. Called “TopicWeb,” it used the ArchiveGrid index and a dash of gamification to help experts assemble and sort the relationships of collections for a topic. We were able to get some great real-time reactions from archivists at the Society of California Archivists conference in April, and also from a more formal focus group in June.

Marc Bron, Brian Tingle, and Bruce Washburn at SCA

In May, TopicWeb starred in a well-attended webinar we held to update the archival community on recent developments.

Staying tuned to organizing collection discovery around topics, we thought these connections might be staged in the ArchiveGrid user interface. Nine hand-crafted topic pages got their big break in July, when we implemented them on the ArchiveGrid homepage. And during the summer we also published the results of a survey we conducted in 2012, asking archive users about Social Media and Archives.

SAA ArchiveGrid booth

Our summer ArchiveGrid demonstration tour hit both ends of the Mississippi River: Merrilee in Minneapolis for the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section preconference in June, and Bruce, Merrilee, and Ellen in New Orleans for the SAA Annual meeting in August. We met a great many of our colleagues, some familiar and some new, at the ArchiveGrid exhibit booth, and took part in a range of meetings and panel discussions.

We wrapped up our summer by sharing a testbed of finding aids from ArchiveGrid with the Technical Subcommittee for Encoded Archival Description (the group reports to SAA’s Standards Committee) to help them test a program to automatically convert EAD 2002 format documents to the new EAD 3 format.

October brought the launch of the new ArchiveGrid user interface. Based on version 3 of the popular Bootstrap front-end framework, it’s a “Mobile First” redesign that aims to give us a strong foundation on which to extend ArchiveGrid’s features. We also tested some heatmaps to give us a better idea of what ArchiveGrid interface features are used the most, which helped us ascertain ways in which the update improved the user experience. Based on other analytics we’ve been tracking, the interface changes along with improved sitemaps for crawling by search engines have increased ArchiveGrid’s visibility and utility, with use continuing to track upwards since October.

ArchiveGrid visits through November 2013

And we ended the year with some promising work on “localizing” the view of ArchiveGrid, getting lots of good advice on that from colleagues at a couple of ArchiveGrid contributing institutions. It’s still an experiment and a work in progress, but we may have more to say about it soon.

But until then, there’s shopping to do for the holidays. Not ending the year without an encore, the team put out the call to our archivists colleagues (who have been very good this year) for advice on gift ideas, and Ellen assembled a fun and practical guide on the ArchiveGrid blog (to date our most popular blog post, by a mile).

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24 fun and practical gifts for archivists

If there’s an archivist to shop for, here is a list of ideas suggested by actual archivists:

Horn folders

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The black swan of paper creasers, this folder made from cow horn is smoother and harder than bone folders.

Passes to historical sites

Photograph by Bruce Washburn, via Flickr Creative Commons.

April 9 of next year 2015 is the 150th anniversary of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House, now part of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in Virginia. An annual pass covers fees into this park and more than 2,000 other national parks and federal recreation lands.


Image source: Miami University Libraries via Flickr Creative Commons

They abate bugs and rodents, warm laps in chilly rooms, and stare – keeping visitors on their best behavior. Plus, there is never a shortage of kitties needing adoption.

Feather dusters

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Say good-bye to dust collections with ostrich feather bundles.

Microfiche necklaces

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Let these conversation starters do the networking at conferences.


Professional Cordovan Cabrio from the Stapled Clog

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Footwear favored by female processing archivists are sturdy, long-lasting, chic, and comfortable Dansko’s.


Yorkshire Gold Tea, 40-Count


Yorkshire Gold Tea is a beverage of choice among archivists.

Personalized pencils


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Where it’s pencils-only, high-quality 2B pencils in different colors work.

Fingerless gloves

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Open access: Cozy cashmere mitts keep hands warm and digits free.


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Layers are essential to staying warm in a cool workplace. A classic cashmere cardigan will do the job well without sacrificing a sharp, professional look.

Lap desks

Contour Lap Desk, Natural

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Perfect for laptop use and note-taking for on-the-go description and processing.

Archival fiction

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A reluctant archivist in a Russian prison during World War II is stirred by the writings in confiscated manuscripts which the government put him in charge of weeding.

Clever cups

Grammar Grumble Mugs - Set of all six

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Mugs for the meticulous mind.

Fancy hand creams and scrubs

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Hands that handle history deserve the royal treatment.

Travel mugs

18 oz. Microwavable Wide Base Ceramic Travel Mug white

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Where beverages aren’t allowed, these mugs break the rule with their sip tops and wide bottoms to avoid tipping.


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Archivists and winemakers have a lot in common, according to the description of these aptly-themed red and white wines.

Zaner-Bloser notebooks

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Proceeds of these Moleskine notebook sets benefit the care, preservation, and digitization of the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection at University of Scranton.


No. 003 Clean Candle

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Purge musty stereotypes with these appropriately-themed candles.

Gift cards for coffee

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Present the plastic in coffee-themed gift card holders, such as these made from reclaimed burlap coffee bean sacks.

Basbanes books


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Author Nicholas Basbanes explores the worlds of paper, books, and those who encounter them.

Versatile coats

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Leather layers like blazer jackets can wow in the workplace and beyond year-round, and go outdoors in cooler temperatures.

Record jackets

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For the sound archivist.

Small scanners

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Chip at daunting digitization projects with an iris scan mouse and other portable scanners. They’re compatible with mobile devices and optical character recognition technology.

Microfiber cloths

E-cloth cleaning cloths

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They’re washable, and they don’t take fabric softeners; Microfiber cleaning cloths hold both dust and their worth as worthwhile investments.

Please leave other gifts for archivists ideas in the comments section of this post, on Twitter using #giftsforarchivists, or on the “Gifts for archivists” Pinterest board.

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Roosevelt archives now open for virtual research in FRANKLIN

Seventy years ago, two years before World War II ended, President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his State of the Union address noted accomplishments the country had made at home and abroad, and credited Americans for their labor, sacrifices, and cooperation in the midst of stricter government regulations.

A powerful leader, FDR empathized with Americans who were affected by unprecedented regulations put in place in order to win the war without compromising quality of life: “We all know that there have been mistakes – mistakes due to the inevitable process of trial and error inherent in doing big things for the first time.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He went on:

“Fortunately, there are only a few Americans who place appetite above patriotism. The overwhelming majority realize that the food we send abroad is for essential military purposes, for our own and Allied fighting forces, and for necessary help in areas that we occupy.”

And he asked:

“We should never forget the things we are fighting for. But, at this critical period of the war, we should confine ourselves to the larger objectives and not get bogged down in argument over methods and details.”

If any of this resonates with current politics, then learning from the past would be worth the research involved. Hundreds of thousands of primary sources by and about FDR exist and now anyone can access those held at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, online through FRANKLIN. It’s set up to create a virtual experience of browsing papers and photographs held at the library. There is no charge for anyone to browse from a remote location more than 350,000 digitized pages of archival documents and photographs documenting FDR’s leadership through World War II and the preceding Great Depression.

From the home page:

“Whether you are a lover of history, a student working on a school project, or a scholar, FRANKLIN allows you to keyword search for archival documents and photographs and to search, browse, and view whole files, just as you could if you came to the Library’s research room in-person.”

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