A change in the ranks of the ArchiveGrid team

At the end of September, the Small but Mighty ArchiveGrid Team said farewell and adieu to our teammate Ellen Eckert. Ellen joined OCLC at the start of 2010 as a research assistant and was soon taking a lead role in assisting ArchiveGrid users and contributors. During her time, the ArchiveGrid index grew from under 1 million descriptions of collections and items to over 3.6 million. Ellen played a big part in helping that expansion take place, working with new contributors and evaluating the quality of the growing system. If you’ve been in touch with us to contribute collection descriptions or to ask a question about a collection in ArchiveGrid, you’ve likely benefited from Ellen’s careful attention.

Here’s the team at our last get together a week ago at OCLC headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. Thank you Ellen for all of your hard work!

Bruce and Merrilee

The Small But Mighty ArchiveGrid Team.. L-R, Bruce, Ellen, and Merrilee.

10 great Scots who shaped U.S. history

A Scottish vote for independence this week brings to mind Scotland’s global influence in the three centuries the country has been part of the United Kingdom. One realm of Scottish impact OCLC highlights in a 2013 report, Not Scotch, but Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record, is materials published in Scotland, by Scottish people, and about Scotland. Authors Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson and are just two of the many popular literary figures to shape Scotland’s national identity.

Scottish influence in the history of North America is also particularly strong. As Scots decide the future of their country, here are 10 figures in U.S. history with Scottish ties:

Andrew Carnegie – A  benevolent Scottish immigrant from Dunfermline, Carnegie’s wealth from the steel industry funded libraries and research groups which still operate today. Fittingly, a seven-box collection of materials related to the philanthropist is at Carnegie Mellon University.

Andrew Mellon – Another industrialist whose philanthropic work continues today as the Mellon Foundation, Andrew Mellon’s father was a Scots-Irish immigrant. One of Mellon’s positions was U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and he later established the National Gallery of Art with his own collection.

John Muir – A California namesake, Muir was born in Dunbar, East Lothian, and is perhaps best know for his exploration of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains during the 19th century. He founded the Sierra Club and devoted his life to wilderness preservation, including the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park. An extensive collection of Muir correspondence and papers are at University of California, Berkeley and University of the Pacific.

Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor of the telephone, Bell was born in Edinburgh and was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society. He became its second president. Library of Congress holds a large collection about the Bell family, however various repositories hold letters to and from Bell. In one at Brigham Young University, Bell is nominated for membership to the National Geographic Society.

The "real" Uncle Sam was Samuel Wilson, a Scottish-American meatpacker from Troy, NY. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Uncle Sam – Born in Massachusetts, Samuel Wilson’s Scottish ethnicity goes back to his grandfather. Wilson acquired the nickname “Uncle Sam” as he became more involved in settling the Troy, NY, community. During the war of 1812, his meatpacking business supplied fresh, inspected meat to the Northern Army. Soldiers from Troy recognized his barrels, which had a U.S. stamp on them so over time he became associated with U.S. Army property. His eventual personification as the American patriot “Uncle Sam” is especially reflected in music.

Alexander Winton – From Grangemouth, Winton designed and raced automobiles and is credited for inventing the semi-truck. He founded the Winton Motor Carriage Company, whose records can be found at The Henry Ford.

James Monroe – The fifth president of the United States and one of the founding fathers, Monroe’s great-grandfather was from Scotland.

Samuel Houston – Houston, Texas, is named after Sam Houston, who was of Irish-Scottish descent and brought the land which would become Texas into the United States. A large collection of his papers are at Stephen F. Austin State University.

David Dunbar Buick – Founder of the Buick Motor Company, he was born in Arbroath, Angus, and moved to Detroit with his parents at age two.

Johnny Cash – Musician Johnny Cash traced his ancestry to Scottish families. Styles of gospel and folk music, which Cash was known for, also have roots in Scottish musical tradition.

Please mention other influential Scots in the comments below. Thank you!

Fashion history names nod new school year, fashion week

A new academic year has started at most schools and the semiannual New York Fashion Week is happening through September 11. In the spirit of those who associate the back-to-school season with new apparel or a new look, or who research fashion history, here are five collections worth checking out.

As children in Berlin, Albert Einstein and renowned fashion designer Irene Saltern Salinger were friends and next-door neighbors. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Irene Saltern Salinger, a World War II-era Hollywood fashion designer who grew up in Berlin and lived next door to Albert Einstein. In the 1950s after her career turned toward commercial fashion design, she was the “originator of coordinated women’s sportswear separates in the 1950s,” according to her collection’s finding aid at the University of California Irvine.

Here are the papers at the New York Public Library of a New York Fashion Week regular: Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.

New York Fashion Week started in 1943 as “Press Week” and was organized by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. She had also launched the Couture Group of the New York Dress Institute to draw attention to American fashion design. It later disbanded but there is a collection of its press clippings at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Mildred Levine Albert’s family provided Harvard University funding to process her collection of papers spanning nearly a century of life. She was an international fashion consultant, educator, lecturer, columnist, fashion shows producer, and media personality.

Anyone who makes their own apparel will appreciate this 19th century collection at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library of fashion plates and a sketchbook depicting garments available in patterns by the E. Butterick and Company.

Do you house or know of any fashion-related collections? Please nominate them in the comments below.

These 10 men and women paved ways in U.S. nature conservation

Fifty years ago on Sept. 3, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, which set aside a protected 9.1 million acres of federal land and designated September as National Wilderness Month. According to President Barack Obama in this year’s proclamation, “I invite all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.”

Red Mountain reflected in Crater Lake in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. Image courtesy of Carol Braman.

With the fall equinox approaching on Tuesday, Sept. 23, there aren’t many more warm-season weekends left to be in nature before mud, precipitation, lower temperatures, and longer nights make outdoor recreation less appealing. However, learning about the history and conservation of nature can be done year-round. In lieu of the outdoors, here are the archives of 10 wilderness conservationists to research.

Lorrie Otto – A natural landscaping advocate, she was involved in Wisconsin’s 1970 DDT ban.

Ted Trueblood – An award-winning Idaho conservationist who was associate editor of Field and Stream magazine.

Margaret Black – In 1967 when she retired from teaching at Drake University, she was named conservation educator of the year by the Iowa Wildlife Federation.

William K. Wyant – A prominent environmental reporter in the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote “Westward in Eden: The Public Lands and the Conservation Movement.”

Cora Call Whitley – Having represented women’s conservation clubs nationally, the Whitley Forest at Lake Ahquaki State Park near Indianola, Iowa, was named after her.

Edward Marx Franey – He was involved in wildlife conservation issues in Minnesota including the discontinuance of fox bounties and a ban on tagged fishing contests.

Margaret Wentworth Owings – The only woman on the California State Park Commission in the 1960s, she put aside a career in art in order to advocate for sea otters, mountain lions, California redwoods, and other wildlife.

Harvey H. Manning – A Washington state-based conservationist who had an interesting career in publishing for conservation groups.

Gertrude Glutsch Jensen – Was one of Oregon’s leading conservation activists in the mid-twentieth century.

Irving Brant – Speechwriter for Franklin D. Roosevelt and conservation consultant for U.S. secretary of the interior Harold L. Ickes, his involvement with the Emergency Conservation Committee helped establish Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Dog days offer year-round research opportunties in ArchiveGrid

National Dog Day was Tuesday the 26th and it started 10 years ago as a public effort by celebrity animal advocate Colleen Paige to promote kinder treatment toward dogs. Paige has since founded other pet and animal awareness holidays which get noted throughout the year. For the rest of summer and into fall, for example, you can celebrate National Wildlife Day on Sept. 4, National Walk Your Dog Week, running Oct. 1-7, National Cat Day on Oct. 29, and National Mutt Day on Dec. 2.

National Puppy Day won’t happen until next year on March 23, following National Pet Travel Safety Day (Jan. 2), National Dress Up Your Pet Day (Jan. 14), and National Horse Protection Day (March 1).

A bloodhound. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So that means there is plenty of time to do some research in ArchiveGrid for people and they pets they loved. One idea is George Brooks of LaCrosse, Wisc. He trained bloodhounds and while in his 30s, he started helping law enforcement officials track and apprehend criminal suspects and find lost people. His dogs helped in more than 3,000 cases, according to the finding aid for his papers at the LaCrosse Public Library.

Two names in criminal justice history associated with Brooks are Jens Thompson of Freeborn, Minn., and Ray Olson of Wisconsin. Both men were wanted for murder and found with the help of Brooks’s scenting bloodhounds.

When he wasn’t training dogs, Brooks worked at the Bodega Lunch Club – which is now the Bodega Brew Pub – and appeared in articles in the Saturday Evening Post, Life Magazine, American Magazine, and Reader’s Digest.

What two changes we made to ArchiveGrid mean for users

When Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey was dedicated on July 4, 1933 as the first national historic park in the United States, there was a parade. Its theme was Spirit of ’76, referring to the Revolutionary War when a cluster of three historic military posts, Jockey Hollow, the Ford Mansion, and Fort Nonsense, served as George Washington’s army headquarters.

Imagine you’re in Google looking for photographs of the parade. You click on something and go to a page in ArchiveGrid, and this digitized black-and-white photograph from the dedication is discovered:

If you have visited ArchiveGrid before, you’ll know you’re looking at an archival collection description. You’ll be able to find out who holds the collection (this one’s at the Morristown and Morris Township Public Library) and how to access it.

Google Analytics shows that around 80 percent of ArchiveGrid visitors arrive this way, by clicking on a collection description or item they found in Google. These descriptions act as a kind of “home page” for most new visitors to our site, and this might be our best opportunity to show them what ArchiveGrid is all about and provide them maximum value.

With our new “More like this” feature, we’re hoping to do exactly that. Located in a box on the right-hand side of an individual record display, “More like this” uses connections made in ArchiveGrid’s Solr index to offer extra contextual information and links to related materials – without disrupting the flow for those who just want contact information and to learn more about access to the resource.

Success of “More like this” depends on how rich the collection description is and the extent to which related people and topics can be found in other descriptions.

Right away we noticed this feature seems to work well for items from digitized collections, such as in the example above. It provides a way to view other items in the collection without searching:

For other collections, it can suggest closely-related resources at other institutions:

Now imagine you’re doing a search in ArchiveGrid. A relevance ranking algorithm that mostly paid attention to keyword matches, compared to the number of times they occur in a description, and the description’s overall length, used to generate your search results.

We made some adjustments so now matches in certain metadata elements (title, author, scope and content) get emphasized over other fields in the keyword index. Behind the scenes, we’re grouping descriptions by their extent into small, medium, and large. This allows us to give greater weight to collection descriptions over sub-series and items.

As a result, we’re doing a better job of making “key collections” appear near the top of a related search result in ArchiveGrid.

You won’t believe what people preserved until you see these collections

A wearable herbarium? Flowers preserved in a necklace. Image by Ellen Eckert.

A recent ArchiveGrid blog post comment by Mount Holyoke College pointed us to a woman’s collection of interesting items, including an herbarium – a collection of plant specimens. We wondered what else a search for “herbarium” in ArchiveGrid would retrieve. It turns out, names of people who collected plants for various reasons surface and preserving fragile biota is a unique challenge archivists face.

Here are 10 collections containing herbaria, pulled from the first 100 set of search results in ArchiveGrid. Do you have an herbarium to let us know about? If so, please leave a comment.

1. While at Amherst Academy, poet Emily Dickinson produced a large herbarium which is now at Harvard University.

2. This herbarium Henry David Thoreau started in 1850 grew to about 900 specimens of New England plants. Like Emily Dickinson’s herbarium, access to this rare collection at Harvard University is restricted.

3. Another New England writer’s herbarium at Harvard University is in the Frederick Goddard Tuckerman collection.

4. It makes sense that the Olmsted family of American landscape architecture and park design fame had herbariums. They’re at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Massachusetts.

5. Caroline Henderson was quite a lady. During the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, Caroline and her husband remained on their farm in the Oklahoma panhandle. She was in her late 50s when she earned a Master’s degree, and on the farm she canned, cooked, grew vegetables and flowers, ironed, and kept chickens. Her collection at Mount Holyoke College – her alma mater – includes an herbarium of native Iowa and Massachusetts growth.

6. Lillian Rhoades put ferns and wildflowers in her herbarium for a botany class in 1891 at Ursinus College. Now the cloth-bound volume is at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

7. “Under Tuition of Mr. Horace Sprague” around the mid-1800s at Kingsboro Academy, Miss M.A. Andries made a notated volume of pressed plants, which is now at Johnstown Historical Society in New York.

8. What Selma Heideman collected in the late 1800s in La Crosse County, Wisc., are at the Lacrosse Public Library.

9. And what Ella Damp of New York collected in the 19th century, and from whose funeral came some of the flowers, are at the Capital District Library Council in Albany.

10. Not all herbaria are in east coast archives. Pressed plants from Pennsylvania made by Elva E. Stoner are at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.

Here are 10 collections in ArchiveGrid about Ken Burns

When a Ken Burns film on PBS ends and the credits roll, I enjoy seeing which names listed as archival sources also contribute collection descriptions to ArchiveGrid. Hopefully ArchiveGrid will help scholars find archival footage for a future Emmy-winning Burns work about American history. In the meantime, we’re paying tribute to our favorite documentary filmmaker’s 61st birthday today by highlighting 10 records in ArchiveGrid describing collections with materials about Burns’ career:

Ken Burns turns 61 today. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

1. In the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, there are around 4,900 items in the archives of Burns’ production company, Florentine Films.

2. A script draft at the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the series “Baseball” also includes the music log sheets.

3. An interview on videocassette with Burns was recorded in 1998 as part of a television history collection project at Syracuse University.

4. After the series “The War” came out, Burns gave a presentation at the University of North Florida about his research interests and goals for the film. The DVD recording is in the school’s special collections.

5. Burns also gave a lecture at Brown University and a file for that occasion is in the school’s special events department archives.

6. Thirty-eight boxes in the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming include the client files of Gerard F. McCauley, a literary agent who represented Burns.

7. Here is a collection at the Library of Virginia of the Charles McDowell papers. His career in news reporting landed him spots on PBS shows, most notably as a panelist on “Washington Week in Review” for 18 years. McDowell provided voice-overs for Burns’ “The Civil War” and “Baseball.”

8. Papers of another name related to “The Civil War” are at Stanford University. Don Edward Fehrenbacher was a historian, writer, professor, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and he was a consultant on the film.

9. The papers at the Rhode Island Historical Society of Maj. Sullivan Ballou, a Woonsocket lawyer and Civil War solder, include a letter he wrote to his wife shortly before dying from wounds. Dated July 14, 1861, it is known as one of the most stirring letters written during the war and Burns featured it in “The Civil War.”

10. Sports history is documented in the papers of Peter Levine, a historian and retired Michigan State University professor. He was a consultant for “Baseball.”

Since 1887, hope has been kept alive in Esperanto

The Esperanto flag. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ludwik Lazarus Zamenhof “…grew up fascinated by the idea of a world without war, and believed that this could happen with the help of a new international language which he first developed in 1873,” according to the Polish physician’s Wikipedia page. That language became Esperanto, which Google Translate added as its 64th language two years ago after gaining global support in the last century. Considered to be easier to learn than English, Esperanto is a written and spoken blend of various languages and is used today by up to two million people, 1,000 of which claimed is as a native language.

Doctor Zamenhof wrote the first book about Esperanto and it was published on July 26, 1887 under his pseudonym, Doktoro Esperanto. Esperanto means in its own language, “one who hopes.” He hoped Esperanto would bring about international peace, harmony, and neutrality – hopes which are even more relevant today.

Other works by Zamenhof in Esperanto can be found in WorldCat. For archival researchers, ArchiveGrid has leads to collections of materials related to Zamenhof and the history of Esperanto. For example: A search for “Zamenhof” retrieves information about a collection of his letters and pamphlets at the Washington state library. At the state library of Western Australia, there is a collection containing a photograph of Zamenhof and the language’s green and white flag.

World Cup images aim at archival goals

Germany’s emotional 1-0 victory over Argentina in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro repeated history. In 1990, West Germany beat Argentina 1-0 to win the World Cup in Rome and avenged its 3-2 championship loss to Argentina four years earlier in Mexico City.

German World Cup wins before that were by West Germany in 1974 in Munich, against the Netherlands, and in 1954 in Bern, against Hungary. When East and West Germany re-unified after the 1990 World Cup, three German soccer teams merged into the current one governed by the 114-year-old German Football Association (DFB).

West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1974 FIFA World Cup final. After the Cold War, Berti Vogts (second from left) was the first coach of Germany's newly-unified soccer team. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Growing with the Germany-Argentina grudge was Annie Leibovitz’s photography career. She was the official World Cup portrait photographer for the 1986 games and ArchiveGrid lists a collection containing one of her images, of a Mayan sculpture with a soccer ball. Leibovitz has since established fame for photographing soccer players for major publications such as Vanity Fair. Hopefully more of her early soccer photography will soon become discoverable online.

Soccer is a photogenic sport. Thanks to organizations who photograph, preserve, and enable access to images from the World Cup, Mario Götze’s winning goal at the 2014 games should go down in history much like Andreas Brehme’s penalty kick in 1990.