Grant to enhance outdoor theater archive at ECU’s Joyner Library

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the 2013 Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Image source:

Put me in the category of Oregonians who hasn’t been to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, but will someday go. For nearly 80 years, the Tony award-winning OSF has attracted audiences to its outdoor Shakespearean stage plays each summer and more recently to indoor plays by other classical and contemporary playwrights.

Although OSF has its own archive, the professional theater company is a member of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre at East Carolina University’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. IOT membership provides the OSF and other theaters around the world with technical assistance, documentation of best practices in the field, management and feasibility studies, networking and conference activities, and other support.

More than 600 performing arts organizations, some dating back to the 1920s, have joined the IOT since it began in 1963. That means over time, the IOT has grown an archive of photographs, video and audio recordings, publicity materials, feasibility studies, original research, and other materials. Now the archive is on its way to reaching more researchers – especially set builders, folklorists, and historians.

A $56,290 National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant awarded this month to ECU’s Joyner Library will help pay to process the collections and publish a detailed EAD finding aid. ECU matched the one-year grant so a total of $119,500 can go toward the IOT archive project. The NHPRC of the National Archives funds projects  promoting the preservation and use of the nation’s most valuable archival resources.

Gena talks about genealogy, family history, and ArchiveGrid

Gena Philibert-Ortega

To find archival materials, genealogy and history researcher and writer Gena Philibert-Ortega says she regularly uses ArchiveGrid and recommends genealogy and family history researchers do the same. “I try to talk about ArchiveGrid in almost every genealogy presentation I give,” Gena said.

At Food.Family.Ephemera, the California-based author documents her focused research of community cookbooks to learn about women’s lives. Gena’s current research project involves a the life of a 19th century British woman who left behind a commonplace book. “That research has led me to study topics such as mineralogy, fossils, scrapbooks, and ‘spinsters,'” Gena said.

Gena has promoted ArchiveGrid on Twitter (@genaortega) and in her writings as an important research tool. She was willing to answer questions by email about her work and how ArchiveGrid plays a role, in an effort to learn more about our users.

How did you end up in your line of work?

I’ve always been interested in history and love to research, so after many years in the non-profit field I decided to switch careers. In my graduate work I concentrated on women’s history so genealogy seemed like a natural fit. My current research focus is on documenting female ancestors, food history and social history. I’ve been working in genealogy for about twelve years.

How did you learn about ArchiveGrid? How do you use it, and what do you want others to know about it?

I’m not sure how I first learned about ArchiveGrid but I use it almost daily to search for unique collections that family historians could use to tell the story of their ancestor’s lives. I use it to find collections documenting organizations and groups a particular ancestor may have been involved in. I also use it to see what is available for a particular geographic area. ArchiveGrid is a hidden treasure for many who are not in the academic world but still conduct research.

What impact has ArchiveGrid had on your work? Can you point to some specific collections in ArchiveGrid you have used, or found interesting?

I think the one impact ArchiveGrid has had for me is just the ability to uncover these collections and see what vast archival materials exist about individuals, groups and communities. ArchiveGrid makes searching and discovering materials easy. Some of my favorite collections have to do with women’s organizations like the Dorcas Society or the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

How do you think genealogists/family historians research, and what would improve research for them?

Typically genealogists are taught to search by an ancestor’s name which is effective when using genealogy websites. In the case of archival collections, it is better to search on a keyword or keyword phrase. Unless an ancestor is the author of a collection, searching by their name won’t yield results but it would be a mistake to think there is nothing that might be of use. I think examples of keywords and keyword phrases, outside of just searching on a place name, would be helpful. I also think guides of how to conduct searches would be of some benefit so that researchers know how to craft the best possible search.

Gena also blogs for genealogy and family history researchers at Gena’s Genealogy and her latest book is From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes. In addition to hundreds of articles, her bylines can also be found on the GenealogyBank blog and in the magazine Internet Genealogy.

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.”

Book of McSweeney’s best has ties to Harry Ransom Center

In the recent edition of my city’s alternative weekly newspaper, Willamette Week, is a beautifully-written review for a new book The Best of McSweeney’s, a 384-page anthology of top works McSweeney’s published in its 15-year history. Why did this article catch my eye? Back in July, The Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas, Austin, announced its acquisition of the McSweeney’s publishing company archive. That’s how I acquainted myself with McSweeney’s and its growing status as an award-winning independent literary publisher.

Founder Dave Eggers says in the press release, “The Ransom Center is a world-class institution, and we’re honored to be included among their holdings. McSweeney’s is celebrating our 15th anniversary this year, and we’ve had the honor and pleasure of publishing hundreds of authors, established and upcoming, while navigating the choppy seas of independent publishing.”

Since the Harry Ransom Center’s collections can be found in ArchiveGrid, we look forward to when the McSweeney’s collections will also be included. After they’re processed, they will join the ranks of other publishers’ records the Ransom Center holds and makes available to researchers, including Alfred A. Knopf, P.E.N. International, Nancy Cunard‘s Hours Press, Anvil Press Poetry, Commentary magazine, the “London Review of Books” and “Little Magazine.”

One author mentioned in the Willamette Week review is David Foster Wallace, whose archive is also at the Ransom Center.

The Roaring Twenties tunes into New York City’s noisy past

A page from "The Roaring Twenties" project, which mapped archived noise complaints from the 1920s and 1930s to reveal more about New York City's relationship with noise.

Because I live in the suburbs and drive most places I go, I assume I will hear my cell phone ring when I’m in my quiet car and someone calls. Two years ago when I visited New York City with friends, I basked in the urban hustle and bustle but couldn’t hear my phone ring amid the noise. Pedestrians carried cell phones and mobile devices in their hands and took calls, so I naively wondered how people knew when they got a call. Back home in Portland, I can be downtown and still hear my ringtone. Sonically speaking though, downtown Portland to Manhattan is a car horn to a train whistle.

An acquaintance who lives in Manhattan and showed us around the city said, “They keep them on vibrate.”

New York City’s love/hate relationship with noise goes back more than a century and is marked by noise complaints stored in the city’s municipal archives. Grievances filed by residents during the 1920s and 1930s – when new industry resulted in an unprecedented “roar” of sounds and volumes – inspired Emily Thompson, a Princeton University history professor, in her research on the history of noise in Prohibition-era New York City. Her project called “The Roaring Twenties” was recently released and described in an online multimedia journal the University of Southern California called Vectors.

Using a historical New York City map laid over a Google map, “The Roaring Twenties” reveals where New York City residents filed noise complaints around the year 1930 and what their grievances were. About half of the 600 letters used in the project are digitized and viewable on the map. Other digitized newspaper articles about noise and Fox Movietone newsreel clips capturing the city’s noisiest and most crowded spots can be accessed. Her goal is acquaint people with historical soundscapes. For me, it reminded me of my own encounter with modern New York City noise.

Fall crawl toasts Oregon State University’s new brewing archive

Before Oregon became a state, German immigrants Henry Saxter and Henry Weinhard had established a thriving Pacific Northwest beer industry which today includes 137 brewing companies in Oregon. To help tell, preserve, and provide access to the state’s story of hops production and the craft brewing industry, Oregon State University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives Research Center recently started the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archive (OHBA). An active Tumblr blog goes in-depth about the project.

Historian Tim Cox of Old World Deli in Corvallis gave a talk on local brewing history and brought 19th-century business documents to show.
Buttons promote the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives (OHBA) at OSU's Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

To promote the archive, the research center put on a downtown Corvallis brewery crawl on Saturday, Oct. 19 for the public to learn about Oregon’s beer industry from a historical perspective. A schedule of events included talks, presentations, and brewery tours. Organizers distributed buttons and a colorful self-guided walking tour map of Corvallis breweries and sites of pre-Prohibition breweries. Some spots were picked for their  historical interest, such a newer locale which crafts an ale named after Linus Pauling – a nod to the two-time Nobel Prize-winning OSU alum whose papers and other materials are in the school’s archives.

The OHBA brewery crawl was one of several events OSU planned for Oregon Archives Month, the state’s celebration of American Archives Month each October. It also helped promote the connection between the OHBA’s research and scholarly value and Oregon’s beer industry. OSU is one of two universities in the country with a Fermentation Science program and a 120-year-old hops research program gets U.S. Department of Agriculture support. Oregon lawmakers also approved funds for a new distilling program and further fermentation research at OSU. This means that as the Oregon beer industry and related research – from hops to production – grows, so will the archive and its impact.

Five final Friday thoughts

To end a busy work week, here are five things I didn’t get a chance to write about that deserve mentioning:

  • Issue 22 of the Code4Lib journal came out Monday, Oct. 14 and it features two works by OCLC Research staff, including members of the ArchiveGrid team. Bruce Washburn, Merrilee Proffitt, and Marc Bron (our intern from earlier this year) co-authored a report about their recent EAD tag analysis using ArchiveGrid data and what it means for online discovery. A case study by Wikipedian-in-Residence Maximilian Klein and his counterpart at the British Library is about their integration of VIAF authority data in biographical Wikipedia articles and what it means for broader presentation of library data.
  • What happened on Dec. 28, 1986? Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gene Weingarten wants to know. Good stories will be included in a book he’s working on, scheduled for release in 2016. Do you have a story about that date from your life to tell, or a story about someone or something you researched? Let ArchiveGrid help.
  • The 16-day government shutdown ended on Thursday, Oct. 17, which means one of my favorite blogs, “The Bigger Picture” by staff at the Smithsonian archives, was back in action. I look forward to their next round of Link Love.
  • This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Home Movie Day, an amateur film and video screening held around the world for individuals and families to show their recordings and learn about preserving them. While most events will be Saturday, Oct. 19, HMD in some locations have already happened or will take place through early November.
  • A newspaper in Belfast noted all week its oldest surviving edition from 1738 by republishing it as an insert in Monday’s print edition. Highlights from that and the News Letter’s second earliest edition, both of which are held at Linen Hall Library, were also featured the rest of the week both in print and online.

George Washington’s new library opens with a look at what he read

CC Image courtesy of MoneyBlogNewz on Flickr

When George Washington was a teenager, he studied this list of 110 short rules about personal conduct from a popular book at the time, “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior.” Rule 55 sheds light into how the future first United States president may have eaten: “Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.”

More intriguing to scholars than Washington’s taste for seasonal foods, however, has been what he read. An exhibit about his intellectual life called Take Note! George Washington and the Reader, kicked off the opening today in Mount Vernon, Va., of a new presidential library for Washington. Asking how his lifelong devotion to reading and self-education influenced him, the exhibit explores the connection between what Washington read and how he lead. Also commemorating the new library is a book for sale about the exhibit and its contents.

Unlike other presidential libraries under the the National Archives and Records Administration umbrella, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is privately funded. It contains an archive of hundreds of primary and secondary resources, including items from Washington’s own collection. Recent acquisitions were purchased at auctions, including his 1789 signed copy of the Acts of Congress, according to the Washington Post.

Archivist’s family donates 1963 bombing remnant to Smithsonian

Earlier I wrote about the 50th anniversary this month of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. Not many remains from the blast still exist, except a piece of twisted metal and broken stained glass from a destroyed window that the father of Randall Jimerson, an archivist and history professor at Western Washington University, collected that day and kept in the family. This month, the family donated the piece to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in 2015. I first heard of Randall Jimerson in library school when a book he edited, “American Archival Studies: Readings in Theory and Practice” was used in a course. His next book due out next year, “Shattered Glass in Birmingham: One Family’s Fight for Civil Rights, 1961-1964,” will be an interesting look at the life he and his family lived in the Civil Rights-era south.

A user asks about Michigan pioneers

Marjorie, a new ArchiveGrid user, recently wrote:

I am researching Antoine Picard aka Peter Robesco, a Linden Lake pioneer. Is it possible for me to electronically view two folders from the Clarence Monette Collection? They are 70. 3 Lake Linden Early Pioneers and 118. 32 Rousseau, who I believe partnered with Picard at Whitefish Point.

Marjorie is referring to a record she found in ArchiveGrid for the Clarence Monette Collection, which the Michigan Tech archives and historical collections holds. This is quite a big collection; It’s 48 cubic feet and fills 120 manuscript boxes with folders inside. A PDF finding aid the record links to describes the collection and lists what each folder contains. 

Here are the two folders, highlighted in blue, Marjorie wants to look inside:

Folder 31 is also highlighted because its subject is a name Marjorie mentioned in her email.

If Marjorie cannot travel to the archive, her next step would be to contact the archive for help accessing these materials, which she can do in ArchiveGrid by clicking on the blue “contact information” link provided in the record. From there, she will be able to locate information about how to reach a staff member and her ArchiveGrid discovery experience will be complete.