New collection expands record of gay-rights history at Library of Congress

One finding aid we will have in ArchiveGrid after it gets prepared is for the new Lilli Vincenz collection the Library of Congress recently acquired. Vincenz started her work as a gay-rights activist in the 1960s and the collection of around 10,000 items documents both her personal biography and the larger movement. What’s interesting is that Vincenz’s agent, Charles Francis, co-founded the Kameny Papers Project, which previously donated the papers of gay civil-rights pioneer Franklin E. Kameny to the Library of Congress. Kameny was who a young Vincenz contacted after she was discharged from the U.S. Army because of her homosexuality and she wrote and edited articles for the gay-rights organization he co-founded in Washington, D.C. She was also one of the first lesbian members. In 1971, Vincenz helped Kameny run for Congress and her collection includes campaign materials. When the collection is made available, it will be of value for researchers to be able to study these two historical figures in tandem as the 1960s gay-rights movement fledged because of their work.

Cornell University’s hip hop collection set to grow

Archivists in New York City are processing around 40,000 vinyl records DJ Afrika Bambaataa collected during his career as the pioneer of hip hop before the collection goes to its permanent home at Cornell University. Bambaata is in the midst of a three-year term as a visiting scholar at the Cornell University Library Hip Hop Collection, the largest national archive on hip hop culture. It’s finding aid offers a closer read of this fascinating collection, which was found in an ArchiveGrid search for Afrika Bambaataa.

New TimesMachine is a giant leap for newspaper archives

July’s full moon on the 22nd will remind some it’s been 44 years since Neil Armstrong was the first human to step on our moon and 41 years since Gene Cernan was the last one off. Those whose memories of the Apollo 11 mission are as intact as Armstrong’s first footstep in the lunar powder may recall the July 20, 1969 New York Times which ran the same Sunday the Eagle landed. It’s accessible through a new version of TimesMachine, the search tool for the newspaper’s archives.

Available for the first time in its full original context, the edition is one of six available for viewing in the new TimesMachine prototype version for readers to try before it replaces the current version. Links to each article, letter, and advertisement in the new version are listed alongside scanned pages of the original paper they appeared in and they can also be shared on six sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and reddit. Article searching can also be done by filters for descriptors, organizations, people, places, titles, and words.

Skipping the articles and looking at advertisements created by real-life counterparts to Mad Men television characters, space wasn’t just a front-page theme. Castro Convertibles promised in its full-age ad “down-to-earth prices” on hide-a-beds, while Lord & Taylor’s full-page ad selling pram suits and planetarium gear said “We give them everything but the moon,” and asked “When was the last time you visited the Planetarium?”

Macy’s furniture show was all about “inner space,” its full-page ad boldly printed, while among the book ads is one for the newly-published novel “The Andromeda Strain” by a budding Michael Chrichton about “the world’s first space-age biological crises.” A large collection of advertising and marketing materials from this era are at the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History at Duke University, and descriptions can be found in ArchiveGrid.

Information overload led to looking for diaries in ArchiveGrid

While cleaning my email inbox today I finished reading some Above the Fold newsletters, and surfed farther away than I meant to from this featured article because the person interviewed in it has a website and this post contains links to long articles – all of which I read. In about an hour, my mind was stuffed from consuming information about spending habits among the tech industry’s new rich, so I decided to burn off some mental calories by searching for something – anything – in ArchiveGrid. I picked “diaries.”

Why diaries? They were what people today use blogs and websites for but they remained unpublished. I had read enough blogs and websites for today so I wanted to learn if ArchiveGrid could teach me about a collection containing someone’s musings from (insert wistfulness here) simpler times. Narrative in diaries and journals offers a “slice of life” about the past and they can be archival gems for researchers pursuing first-hand accounts by ordinary people and more prominent figures.

Here is one at Massachusetts Historical Society I would enjoy seeing: the Mildred Cox Howes diaries, 1896-1973. I found it by narrowing the topic in results overview to children-diaries, which interested me because children and young people can express some impressive insight.

Diaries Mildred Cox Howes kept as a child are in this collection, however, according to the finding aid, she kept line-a-day diaries for 68 years, starting Jan. 1, 1905 when she was a teenager – maybe it was a new year’s resolution – until she died in 1973. She compiled 14 line-a-day diaries which account her daily life along with travel and yachting diaries.

With technology replacing traditional ways of keeping memories, I wonder if Mildred Cox Howes, if she lived today, would take to the 140-character Twitter format, or stick to line-a-day-books, or use both.

Summertime marks wintertime poem author’s birthday

A Christmas in July nod is the birthday today of Clement Clarke Moore, who is most famous for writing the winter-themed poem which became “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

But Moore’s name also carries historic fame in New York City, where he was born in 1779 and owned the Chelsea estate, which later become the city’s Chelsea neighborhood. General Theological Seminary, whose library has collections data in ArchiveGrid, sits where Moore’s apple orchard was before he donated the land to the Episcopal Church. Moore died in 1863 in Rhode Island, five days before his 84th birthday.

A name search in ArchiveGrid shows most collections of materials and papers related to Moore and his family members are at institutions he is affiliated with, such as his alma mater, Columbia University, and General Theological Seminary. Various archives have copies of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” but Cornell University has one that Moore signed. According to the collection description, that item is “Accompanied by a printed version of a note written by Moore on March 24, 1856, referring to the poem.”

Wikipedia also cites Moore’s poem as the inspiration for the modern wintertime image of Santa Clause and his reindeer. In southern hemispheres where it’s currently winter, reading “Twas the Night before Christmas” today on the author’s birthday might make a fitting Christmas in July activity. Poetic lyrics about snow and a long winter’s nap would resonate more than in the hot mid-summer north which marked the days Moore was born and died.

ArchiveGrid: What’s “Tiers for Fears” got to do with it?

Physical location is not the access barrier it once was between researchers and materials they need, but what about access to rare and unique – and delicate – items housed for safekeeping in archives and special collections? To help answer that question, a new OCLC Research report by Program Officer Dennis Massie presents approaches to handling loans of physical items from special collections for research purposes, offers advice on how to determine whether a loan would satisfy a particular research request, and more.

According to the report, titled “Tiers for Fears: Sensible, Streamlined Sharing of Special Collections,” increased visibility of special collections has led to more requests for physical loans. This led me to wonder about the connection between ArchiveGrid and increased visibility of special collections. We index finding aids and collection descriptions and make them free for researchers to cross-search. Our success relies on how well archivists work at the institution level and cooperate at the consortia level to give us their data. ArchiveGrid (and other archival discovery systems) helps propagate visibility of archives and special collections, but we don’t know much about what happens after our users leave ArchiveGrid by following “contact information” links we provide to institutions’ websites. That researchers want to be able to do that is what we know from earlier user studies. But how many users who make a find in ArchiveGrid later request access to items for which a loan is necessary? We congratulate Dennis and those who helped make Tiers for Fears happen and look forward to watching solutions unfold in the archives and special collections community.

Wimbledon once welcomed Pound, a women’s sports pioneer

Years before the start of Great Britain’s 77-year losing streak at Wimbledon for men’s singles in tennis, which Andy Murray of Scotland ended last weekend, a 55-year-old Nebraska woman named Louise Pound attended the 1927 Wimbledon championships in London and took home some materials, which are now in her collection at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Imagining traditions haven’t changed much since Wimbledon started in 1877, “excited” probably understates how Louise Pound felt to smell the grass court, experience the world’s top tennis players wear white and compete, eat strawberries and cream, mingle, and be etched in the event’s history – just as generations after her have done.

According to the finding aid for Louise Pound’s 1872-1958 collection, she was a pioneer in women’s athletics, especially in tennis:

“In 1890, at age 18, Louise Pound became Lincoln City Tennis Champion. She competed against men for the University of Nebraska title in 1891 and 1892, winning both years. In 1897 she won the Women’s Western Tennis Championship and in 1900 the Championship of Heidelberg. She also played a tie match with the Olympic men’s singles tennis titleholder while at Heidelberg. She won the state golf championship in 1916 and a 100 mile cycling medal in 1906, was a figure skater on ice, introduced skiing to Lincoln, and managed the university women’s basketball team. She is the only woman in the University of Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame.”

She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Nebraska and taught there for 50 years. Papers for her sister Olivia, her brother Roscoe, and mother Laura, are also at the Nebraska State Historical Society and finding aids for those collections are indexed in ArchiveGrid. An article about the Pound family’s impact on Nebraska history, Louise’s athletic accomplishments, and contributions other family members made in their respective fields, are described in a local newspaper column.

Keeping an eye on a city’s cup collection

In an alternate universe, I do acquisitions work at a museum or archive and I am keeping an eye on this native New Yorker’s collection of deli cups, which he has about 100 of right now and keeps in his apartment. Most of his collection includes the iconic Greek-themed coffee cups, which reminisce the city’s pre-Starbucks commercial and social environment.

The article was linked to from another New York Times article about the shift of the Metropolitan Museum Art’s admission tickets from metal tags to paper ones. Those metal tags were cited along with subway tokens and the coffee cups as a trinity of New York City’s cultural record.

New topic pages showcase collection highlights and more

A design goal of ArchiveGrid is to give visitors multiple ways to access collection descriptions, and this week we launched an improvement to a topic-oriented feature we use to do that. After being in development most of this year, our new “selected topic” display in the upper left-hand corner of our homepage (screenshot below) replaces the “browse topics” list which before had served as access points to search results for collection descriptions tied to a specific topic.

Bruce, Merrilee, and Ellen last year each picked three topics and chose three collection descriptions from ArchiveGrid to highlight each one. Clicking on any of the nine topics that cycle through the “select topic” display slideshow goes to a page (see example for National Parks) displaying the highlighted collections, Wikipedia data about the topic, and ArchiveGrid index facets for the topic search.

Before this change, a list of topic guides inspired by landing pages from the subscription version of ArchiveGrid served as a browse list for users who didn’t have a keyword query in mind, or who simply needed ideas. From a design perspective, however, we weren’t convinced that users knew what the “browse topics” list was and what it was supposed to do. Now that the “selected topics” feature is live, we are pleased at how clean and engaging it makes ArchiveGrid look and we hope for user feedback about its functionality.

On Canada Day, try an ArchiveGrid search for Dominion Day

Today in 1862, the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Province of Canada joined under the British North America Act, creating Canada. Annual July 1 observances of Canada’s birthday were called Dominion Day until 1982, when Canada gained political control of its constitution from Britain and the federal holiday was renamed Canada Day.

A search in ArchiveGrid for Canada Day turned up decent supporting primary source materials in the Glenbow Museum archives in Calgary, Alberta. (Note: Today the Glenbow Museum is offering free admission in celebration of Canada Day.) Imagining a step back in time and trying a search in ArchiveGrid for Dominion Day, however, turned up another collection at the Glenbow Museum for the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA). Intrigued, a closer read of the finding aid describing a rodeo posters series from 1944 to 1973 led to one from the Manville Dominion Day Stampede and Sports Day in 1953.

Two ideas in this poster – A rodeo, which seems like a purely North America sport, and Dominion Day, which commemorates the establishment of a nation whose political control still had ties to British parliament – seem to juxtapose.

Here is a brief history of the CPRA in the finding aid:

“The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association originated in 1944 when a group of rodeo cowboys banded together to form the Cowboys’ Insurance Association…The name soon changed to the Cowboys’ Protective Association…In 1965 the group incorporated under the name Canadian Rodeo Cowboys’ Association, and in 1980 the present name was adopted. Under the auspices of CPRA, rodeo has become a well-organized and well-regulated sport, with a comprehensive insurance and medical program, and a system of fines and suspensions for those breaking CPRA rules. In 1968 CPRA took over publication of the rodeo newspaper, Canadian Rodeo News…”