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.

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 advantages 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.