Massachusetts real estate atlases to be online by next year

Being digitized at the State Library of Massachusetts as part of a federal grant-funded project are the Massachusetts Real Estate Atlases, used mostly by genealogists, architectural consultants, and people researching the history of their homes. Approximately 200 atlases, which include about 6,500 maps in 12 counties and more than 80 municipalities throughout the state, provide information about property boundaries, plot size, ownership, building shapes, and materials.

For example, volume one of George Washington Bromley’s Atlas of the City of Boston, published in 1883, shows the Massachusetts State House before the back half of the building was added in the 1890s and before the east and west wings were added in the early 20th century. It also shows the properties that were taken to make room for these additions.

Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the project will take more than a year to complete, but the first group of 45 atlases currently being digitized are expected to be in the library’s electronic repository by late spring. They include a statewide Massachusetts atlas, three county atlases, and municipal atlases of 45 cities and towns throughout the state.

New archives and special collections library open at UGA

At University of Georgia, a new home with new amenities for three special collections libraries is officially open following a Feb. 17 dedication ceremony held on the building’s front lawn. Construction started two years ago on the 115,000 square-foot Richard B. Russell Building, which has the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, and the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and the Peabody Collection. Read more about the new building on its new website.

Costing $46 million, the building has integrated security, customized climate control, exhibit galleries, classrooms to integrate archival materials into instruction, event hosting space, and room to grow for 40 years. The libraries have an oral history studio and digitization facilities for paper-based and audio materials and moving images. Mostly below ground level is a 30,000-square-foot, high-density storage space for off-site shelving facilities, with a motorized order picker to reach the 30-foot-high shelves and retrieve items.

OHSU acquires decorated 17-century medical atlas

Oregon Health and Science University has added to its History of Medicine collection an 18th-century medical atlas called Myotomia Reformata, or, An Anatomical Treatise on the Muscles of the Human Body. Written by William Cowper, an English surgeon and anatomist, and published in 1724 in London, the book is illustrated with full- and half-page plates and decorative capital letters. It is considered his most noted work. Cowper produced a first edition of the book with 10 illustrative plates three decades earlier, and it was shortly after that when he published The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, which some consider the greatest act of plagiarism in medical publishing.

40-day countdown to 1940 census release starts

A “40 Days to ’40 Census” campaign started this week, counting down to April 2 when the National Archives will release the entire digitized 1940 census and make it accessible free of charge at www.1940census.archives.gov. Staff spent around three months converting microfilm reels containing census data, including census schedules, maps, and enumeration district descriptions, into nearly 4 million digital images that will be searchable online and at the National Archives.

Why the 1940 census? In addition to standard census questions, such as name, age, gender, and race, education, and place of birth, the 1940 project asked new questions reflecting concerns about the Great Depression. Instructions asked the 120,000 enumerators (census-takers) nationwide to identify the name of the person furnishing information about the family and the state their parents were born in, whether the person worked for the CCC, WPA, or NYA (governmental programs) in March of 1940 and what their occupation otherwise was, and their income for 1939.

Questions gathered new information about women, too. Both married women and women who had been married had to say how many times they had been married before, and their age when they married for the first time.

Watch a YouTube video about the digitization project here.

Love letters are what to love on Valentine’s Day

Love letters and Valentine’s Day are good for each other in the world of archives and special collections because repositories are filled with letters that reveal love stories as strange and as familiar as those we hear today. Valentine’s Day is a reason to exhibit these fascinating primary sources. Here are some postings that caught my eye on the special collections and archives blog-o-sphere:

Harvard University’s Modern Books and Manuscripts department has a new online exhibit featuring love letters John Keats wrote to Fanny Brawne and manuscripts of poems his passion for Brawne inspired him to write. Here is an excerpt from a letter featured in the exhibit that Keats wrote to her in 1820:

“Upon my soul I have loved you to the extreme. I wish you could know the Tenderness with which I continually brood over your different aspects of countenance, action and dress...

University of Iowa featured on its blog a lengthy letter a Civil War soldier wrote by candlelight to his wife while in battle in 1861. Volunteers transcribed the letter, and here is a passage:

“I always thought that you had more attractions for me than any woman I ever saw long yes years before I married you, but now I know you, and indeed you are tenfold more woman than I ever imagined you in my love dreams…Darling you know that I am a man of very, very strong passions, but I pledge you my honor & my very soul before God that I am all yours, every whit…”

Wellesley College and Baylor University collaborated to digitize and put online a collection at Wellesley of 573 love letters between 19th-century poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. One letter Elizabeth wrote starts out expressing the joy and passion of their love:

“Ever dearest-how you can write touching things to me,-& how my whole being vibrates, as a string, to these! How have I deserved from God & you all that I thank you for? Too unworthy I am of all!”

Other treasures buried in archives and special collections are words of wisdom, and for Valentine’s Day, I am posting examples of what our predecessors had to say about love and living well.

University of North Carolina’s blog highlights anecdotes printed in 20th century cookbooks from their collections that dish out advice in the form of recipes about practical topics, like matchmaking (“Take a man in love and a girl not quite convinced…”), preserving a husband (“Be very careful in your selection…”), happiness, contentment, good days, and cooks.

Ready to explore Valentine’s Day ephemera on your own? ArchiveGrid has hundreds of finding aids for collections containing materials related to the topic, such as the ones for Cornell University’s diverse holding of Valentine’s Day greeting cards.

Malcolm X speech discovery is a lesson in archival research instruction

How Malcolm Burnley, the Brown University senior whose research led to the only existing recording of a speech Malcolm X gave at Brown in 1961, ended up using archives in the first place caught my attention. Looking into the realm of academic librarianship from the outside, I don’t imagine that the road between point A – archives – and point B – students – is always paved in gold. That’s why stories about students like Burnley who use archives and special collections for research interest me because they mean something or someone in their academic career got them interested in archives. Or at least literate enough in the world of primary sources to make use of them in some way.

According to this report from National Public Radio, Burnley took a narrative writing course where students had to learn basic archival literacy for schoolwork: “One of the assignments was to write a fictional story based on something true — and that true event had to be found inside the university archives.” That seems reasonable to me, because the simplest approach worked the best. College kids used archives out of necessity, and Burnley got interested in them and what happened as a result popped up in news headlines last week. His research led to a boxed-up recording of a Malcolm X speech that had not been heard in 50 years, and now that recording has been digitized and made accessible to others, along with a narrative account Burnley wrote of the notable characters and events that led to Malcolm X’s visit to Brown.

Hopefully the longer version of the assignment Burnley is working on inspires a shift toward more archival research instruction. I wonder what society be like in 20 years if every college graduate, just once, had to find something inside an archive for an assignment? What about every high school student? Archival material is at the disposal of anyone online now. As more stories like Burnley and the Malcolm X speech get told, I hope more people with pedagogical pull at their institutions take note for the sake of archivists and their advocacy efforts.

ArchiveGrid index now includes NWDA finding aids

Here is a snippet from a full press release published today on the OCLC Research website, about our recent index update that includes finding aids from the Northwest Digital Archives. We are excited to have collection descriptions for some fine collections in the Pacific Northwest, and we thank everyone at NWDA for the work that went into this new partnership. Happy searching!

“Descriptions of research materials that Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA) hosts for its members in NWDA finding aids are now available in ArchiveGrid, giving end users worldwide another access point to the Pacific Northwest’s unique archival and manuscript collections.

“NWDA’s decision to include all of their finding aids in ArchiveGrid complements the services they provide to their members and also provides a central harvesting location so they are automatically aggregated.

“NWDA is a program of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, a consortium of 37 academic libraries in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho serving faculty and the equivalent of more than 258,000 full-time students through a number of programs, including NWDA. Access is facilitated through a union database of Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids.”

Videotaped talks, lectures now online

Video recordings held in Ball State University’s archives and special collections of “UniverCity” talks and lectures have been digitized and can now be viewed online in the library’s digital media repository, along with other digitized primary sources in visual, audio, and video formats. UniverCity talks were given in 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2002 for adults in the Ball State and Muncie, Ind., communities. Ball State invited prominent scholars, artists, advocates, and others to speak and gave artistic performances, cultural demonstrations, and panel discussions.

Headstone mystery help sought

Staff at Duke University archives seek help identifying the original home of a woman’s headstone, reportedly found in the 1960s during a campus construction project and in 1993 handed to the archives for care. Despite years of research in an effort to return the headstone – which bears the name of Emily Johnson who died in 1895 at age 70 – to its proper resting place, where it came from and how it ended up on campus remains a mystery. Until it’s solved, Johnson’s headstone rests inside a custom box the conservation department created.

Unfortunately, an exact search in ArchiveGrid for “Emily Johnson” does not retrieve any leads. When we stumble upon any information that can help, we will contact Duke’s archives, and they ask you to please do the same.

Bad days make good Groundhog Days

Groundhog Day at OCLC Research was spent finishing preparations to refresh the ArchiveGrid index, which is now available with more than 1.7 million collection descriptions both harvested directly from contributors and imported from WorldCat.

Almost 7,000 of those harvested finding aids are from eight new ArchiveGrid contributors. One in particular, Michigan State University, showed up in a search in ArchiveGrid for “Groundhog Day” because its archives and historical collections has greeting cards from the 1960s and 1970s that a Michigan printmaker created for Groundhog Day and CandleMas Day – also celebrated on February 2 as the Christian celebration of mid-winter and the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

A finding aid for its Rob Run Press Archive describes a collection of more than 250 examples of letterpress items designed and printed by MSU bibliographer Robert E. Runser during the 47 years he ran Rob Run Press and Paper Mill. Here, one learns how to properly wish someone a happy Groundhog Day: By hoping for bad weather. One folder stores Runser’s Groundhog Day and CandelMas Day cards, which affectionately wish the recipient a early and favorable spring by hoping their holiday is miserable, foul, and unpleasant.

Because the archive includes books, pamphlets, holiday cards and remembrances, exhibit posters, and more, the finding aid’s collection summary says “Students of graphic design, typography, printing and museum studies will each find something of value within the archive to inform their studies.” An eloquent example of why primary sources are valuable. It doesn’t matter if you are an educator, a student, family historian, genealogist, documentary filmmaker, or someone who just loves archives. Research and discovery opportunities abound here in the world of primary sources.

So although we unfortunately had beautiful weather on Groundhog Day, it meant good news for improvements to ArchiveGrid. By wishing the best, here is wishing a terrible – and terribly belated – Groundhog Day to our other new contributors:

University of Toledo

American Geographical Society Library

Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures

LaCrosse Public Library

University of Arizona – Center for Creative Photography

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

University of Wisconsin, Parkside