Getting to Know Us Even Better

Last Fall, this blog featured brief profiles of all your favorite Duke Library Information Technology Services staff, including our digitization specialists.   This week on the blog we thought we would shine the spotlight even closer on our still image digitization expert, Mike and learn more about his unique contribution to Duke University Libraries.

Mike Adamo, Still Image Digitization Specialist

 

Favorite thing about your job:

While there are a number of things I enjoy about my job I would have to say that working on the Digital Collections Implementation Team consistently rises to the top.  We are a small agile group that is tasked with publishing a wide variety of digital content created within the library and without for publication on the Library’s Digital Collections website.  Each member of the team has a different vantage point when working with digital collections but we have the same goal in mind.  We all strive to publish high quality digital collections in an efficient, consistent and innovative way.  Everyone on the team is constantly trying to expand our capabilities whether it be an enhancement to the interface, normalization of metadata, adding new digitization equipment, streamlining the proposal process or the overarching goal to fold all of our workflows and systems together.  It is rewarding to be on such an innovative, hard-working team.

What is the most noteworthy/most exciting/biggest change in your 10 years at Duke:

I would say that the Digital Production Center is always changing.  The DPC has been in 4 different locations. I think we have had over 10 department heads all with different priorities, communication styles and approaches to the work.  Our department has been under Conservation and IT (twice).  We have a steady flow of students to keep us on our toes.

Favorite collection/project you have worked on:

I’ve had a few favorite collections over the years but the one that rise to the top is the Jane Goodall Archive.  The Goodall Research papers was an interesting project to work on because it is such a large collection and it spanned many years.  The logistics of pulling this off were pretty complex with a lot of moving parts.  The highlight was that I (along with other members of the team) got to meet Jane Goodall.  She has an open, quiet strength and was very friendly.  Who knows if I’ll ever meet another legend in my lifetime?

Most challenging aspect of your work:

Just like many of us in the Library, the demands on my time are spread across many areas.  Our main focus in the DPC is to “create(s) digital captures of unique, valuable, or compelling primary resources for the purpose of preservation, access, and publication.”  This involves analyzing collections for digitization, developing project plans, consulting Conservation, providing supporting documentation for each project, training and monitoring students, color calibrating and profiling the environment, digitization of collections, quality control of collections, moving and posting of thousands upon thousands of images.  To make it more fun, we always have multiple projects going at one time.

 But just like most of us in the Library, in addition to my main job I have where many hats.  Some of them are: Normalization and ingest of legacy collections into the repository; test and make recommendations for new technology for use in the DPC and elsewhere in the Library; maintain existing technology; troubleshoot our own equipment and work with our vendors to resolve mechanical, software and enterprise issues; consult with faculty and staff in the Library and across campus on their digitization projects; train Library staff on digital imaging standards and equipment; monitor and maintain 7 servers used for production and storage of archival digital images; and field all manner of random questions related to still image capture.  So, balancing all of these things is probably the most challenging thing about my job.  I think many, if not all of us, in the Library deal with this and do a pretty good job of keeping up with everything.

Favorite image:

This is not on Duke Digital Collections, but we digitized it and it was displayed at the Nasher Museum.  For me, this picture personifies the severity of the struggle and sacrifice that is the Civil Rights Movement.

James Karales, Passive resistance training, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1960. Atlanta, Georgia. Gelatin silver print, 8.5 x 13 inches. The Duke University Special Collections Library.
James Karales, Passive resistance training, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1960. Atlanta, Georgia. Gelatin silver print, 8.5 x 13 inches. The Duke University Special Collections Library. Screenshot from Nasher Museum of Art webpage.

Building a Kiosk for the Edge

Many months ago I learned that a new space, The Ruppert Commons for Research, Technology, and Collaboration, was going to be opening at the start of the calendar year. I was tasked with building an informational kiosk that would be seated in the entry area of the space. The schedule was a bit hectic and we ended up pruning some of the desired features, but in the end I think our first iteration has been working well. So, I wanted to share the steps I took to build it.

Setting Requirements

I first met with the Edge team at the end of August 2014. They had an initial ‘wish list’ of features that they wanted to be included in the kiosk. We went through the list and talked about the feasibility of those items, and tried to rank their importance. Our final features list looked something like this:

Primary Features:

  • Events list (both public and private events in the space)
  • Room reservation system
  • Interactive floor plan map
  • Staff lookup
  • Current Time
  • Contact information (chat, email, phone)

Secondary Features:

  • Display of computer availability
  • Ability to report printing / scanning problems
  • Book locations
  • Scheduleable content on ‘home’ screen

Our deadline was the soft opening date of the space at the start of the new year, but with the approaching holidays (and other projects competing for time) this was going to be a pretty fast turn around. My goal was to have a functional prototype ready for feedback by mid October. I really didn’t start working on the UI side of things until early that month, so I ended up needing to kick that can down the road a few weeks, but that happens some times.

The Hardware

The Library had purchased two Dell 27″ XPS all-in-one touchscreen machines for the purpose of serving as an informational kiosk near the new/temporary main entrance of Perkins/Bostock. For various reasons, that project kept getting postponed. But with the desire to also have a kiosk in the Edge, we decided we could use one of the Dell machines for this purpose. The touch screen display is great —  very bright, reasonably accurate color reproduction, and responsive to touch inputs. It does pickup a lot of finger prints, but that’s sort of unavoidable with a glossy display. The machine seems to run a little bit hot and the fan is far from silent, but in the space you don’t notice it at all. My favorite aspect of this computer is the stand. It’s really fantastic — it’s super easy to adjust, but also very sturdy. You can position it in a variety of ways, depending on the space you’re using it in, and be confident that it won’t slip out of adjustment even under constant use. Various positions of Dell computer I think in general we’re a little wary of using consumer grade hardware in a 24/7 public environment, but for the 1.5 months it’s been deployed it seems to be holding up well enough.

The OS

The Dell XPS came from the factory with Windows 8. I was really curious about using Assigned Access Mode in the Windows 8.1, but the need to use a local (non-domain) account necessitated a clean install of 8.1, which sounds annoying, but that process is so fast and effortless, at least compared to days of Windows yore, that it wasn’t a huge deal. I eventually configured the system as desired — it auto-boots into the local account on startup and then fires up the assigned Windows app (and limits the machine only to that app).

I spent some time playing around with different approaches for a browser to use with assigned access. The goal was to have a browser that ran in a ‘kiosk’ mode in that there was no ability for the user to interact with anything outside of the intended kiosk UI — meaning, no browser chrome windows, bookmarks, etc. I also planned to use Microsoft’s Family Safety controls to limit access to URLs outside of the range of pages that would comprise the kiosk UI. I tried both Google Chrome and Microsoft IE 11 (which really is a good browser, despite pervasive IE hate), but I ended up having trouble with both of them in different ways. Eventually, I stumbled on to a free Windows Store app called KIOSK SP Browser. It does exactly what I want — it’s a simple, stripped down, full screen browser app. It also has some specific kiosk features (like timeout detection) but I’m only using it to load the kiosk homepage on startup.

The Backend

As several of the requirements necessitated data sources that live in the Drupal system that drives our main library site, I figured the path of least resistance would be to also build the kiosk interface in Drupal. Using the Delta module, I setup a version of our theme that stripped out most of the elements that we wouldn’t be using (header, footer, etc.) for the kiosk. I could then apply the delta to a small range of pages using the Context Module. The pages themselves are quite simple by and large. Screen shots of the pages in the Edge Kiosk

  • Events — I used a View to import an RSS feed from Yahoo Pipes (which combines events from our own Library system and the larger Duke system).
  • Reserve Spaces – this page loads in content from Springshare’s LibCal system using an iFrame.
  • Map — I drew a simplified map in Illustrator based architect’s floor plan , then saved it out as an SVG and added ID tags to the areas I wanted to make interactive.
  • Staff — this page loads in content from a google spreadsheet using a technique I outlined previously on Bitstreams.
  • Help — this page loads our LibraryH3LP Chat Widget and a Qualtrics email form.

The Frontend

When it comes time to design an interface, my first step is almost always to sketch on paper. For this project, I did some playing around and ended up settling on a circular motif for the main navigational interface. I based the color scheme and typography on a branding and style guide that was developed for the Edge. Edge Kiosk home page design Many years ago I used to turn my sketches into high fidelity mockups in photoshop or illustrator, but for the past couple of years I’ve tended to just dive right in and design on the fly with html/css. I created a special stylesheet just for this kiosk — it’s based on a fixed pixel layout as it is only ever intended to be used on that single Dell computer — and also assigned it to load using Delta. One important aspect of a kiosk is providing some hinting to users that they can indeed interact with it. In my experience, this is usually handled in the form of an attract loop.

I created a very simple motion design using my favorite NLE and rendered out an mp4 to use with the kiosk. I then setup the home page to show the video when it first loads and to hide it when the screen is touched. This helps the actual home page content appear to load very quickly (as it’s actually sitting beneath the video). I also included a script on every page to go to the homepage after a preset period on inactivity. It’s currently set to three minutes, but we may tweak that. Video stills of attract loop All in all I’m pleased with how things turned out. We’re planning to spend some time evaluating the usage of the kiosk over the next couple of months and then make any necessary tweaks to improve user experience. Swing by the Edge some time and try it out!

Challenges of Embedding

One Person, One Vote project room in The/Edge. Countdown shows 17 days until launch
One Person, One Vote project room in The/Edge. Countdown shows 17 days until launch

During its first five months, the One Person, One Vote project concentrated on producing content. The forthcoming website (onevotesncc.org) tells the story of how the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) commitment to community organizing forged a movement for voting rights made up of thousands of local people. When the One Person, One Vote site goes live on March 2nd (only 17 days from today!), it will include over 75 profiles of the sharecroppers and maids, World War II veterans and high school students, SNCC activists and seasoned mentors that are the true heroes in the struggle for voting rights. From September through January, the project team scoured digital collections, archival resources, secondary sources, and internet leads to craft these stories.

At the end of January, the One Person, One Vote WordPress theme was finished and our url was working. The project had just settled into its new space in The/Edge, Duke Libraries new hub for research, technology, and collaboration, making it a great time to start a new phase of the project: populating and embedding.

An example of the layout of a profile on One Person, One Vote with photos embedded in the context and primary source documents in the right sidebar.
An example of the layout of a profile on One Person, One Vote with photos embedded in the context and primary source documents in the right sidebar.

Unlike traditional digital collections, the One Person, One Vote site does not host any of the primary source material it uses. Instead, it acts as a digital gateway, embedding and linking to material hosted in different digital collections at institutions across the country. These include the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Freedom Summer Collection, the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive at the University of Southern Mississippi, Duke’s SNCC 40th Anniversary and Joseph Sinsheimer collections, and the Trinity College’s 1988 SNCC conference tapes to name only a few. Every profile featured on the One Person, One Vote site includes 4 – 8 unique sources, and the entire site has over 400 items embedded in it.

Figuring out how to cleanly and uniformly  embed sources has been a challenge to say the least. Many archival institutions use the archival management system, CONTENTdm, to organize their digital collections. The Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement website hosts their documents as pdf files. The Library of Congress provides an embed code for the oral histories in their Civil Rights Oral History Project, but they also post them on YouTube. Meanwhile, the McComb Legacies Project and Trinity College use Vimeo. The amount of digitized material is staggering but how it’s made available is far from standardized. So by trial and error, One Person, One Vote is slowly coming up with answers to the question: how do we bring diverse sources together to tell a compelling story (both narrative-wise and visually) of the grassroots struggle for voting rights? Right now, these are some of our footnotes.

The One Person, One Vote Project's running footnotes on how to embed primary source material.
A selection of the One Person, One Vote Project’s growing list of footnotes on how to embed primary source material.

 

Indiana Jones and The Greek Manuscripts

One of my favorite movies as a youngster was Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It’s non-stop action as the adventurous Indiana Jones criss-crosses the globe in an exciting yet dangerous race against the Nazis for possession of the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Book of Exodus, the Ark is a golden chest which contains the original stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed, the moral foundation for both Judiasm and Christianity. The Ark is so powerful that it single-handedly destroys the Nazis and then turns Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford into billionaires. Countless sequels, TV shows, theme-park rides and merchandise follow.

emsgk010940010
Greek manuscript 94, binding consists of heavily decorated repoussé silver over leather.

Fast-forward several decades, and I am asked to digitize Duke Libraries’ Kenneth Willis Clark Collection of Greek Manuscripts. Although not quite as old as the Ten Commandments, this is an amazing collection of biblical texts dating all the way back to the 9th century. These are weighty volumes, hand-written using ancient inks, often on animal-skin parchment. The bindings are characterized as Byzantine, and often covered in leathers like goatskin, sometimes with additional metal ornamentation. Although I have not had to run from giant boulders, or navigate a pit of snakes, I do feel a bit like Indiana Jones when holding one of these rare, ancient texts in my hands. I’m sure one of these books must house a secret code that can bestow fame and fortune, in addition to the obvious eternal salvation.

Before digitization, Senior Conservator Erin Hammeke evaluates the condition of each Greek manuscript, and rules out any that are deemed too fragile to digitize. Some are considered sturdy enough, but still need repairs, so Erin makes the necessary fixes. Once a manuscript is given the green light for digitization, I carefully place it in our book cradle so that it cannot be opened beyond a 90-degree angle. This helps protect our fragile bound materials from unnecessary stress on the binding. Next, the aperture, exposure, and focus are carefully adjusted on our Phase One P65+ digital camera so that the numerical values of our X-rite color calibration target, placed on top of the manuscript, match the numerical readings shown on our calibrated monitors.

cradle
Greek manuscript 101, with X-Rite color calibration target, secured in book cradle.

As the photography begins, each page of the manuscript is carefully turned by hand, so that a new image can be made of the following page. This is a tedious process, but requires careful concentration so the pages are consistently captured throughout each volume. Right-hand (recto) pages are captured first, in succession. Then the volume is turned over, so that the left-hand (verso) pages can be captured. I can’t read Greek, but it’s fascinating to see the beauty of the calligraphy, and view the occasional illustrations that appear on some pages. Sometimes, I discover that moths, beetles or termites have bored through the pages over time. It’s interesting to speculate as to which century this invasive destruction may have occurred. Perhaps the Nazis from the Indiana Jones movies traveled back in time, and placed the insects there?

worm2
Greek manuscript 101, showing insect damage.

Once the photography is complete, the recto and verso images are processed and then interleaved to recreate the left-right page order of the original manuscript. Next, the images go through a quality-control process in which any extraneous background area is cropped out, and each page is checked for clarity and consistent color and illumination. After that, another round of quality control insures that no pages are missing, or out of order. Finally, the images are converted to Pyramid TIFF files, which allow our web site users to zoom out and see all the pages at once, or zoom in to see maximum detail of any selected page. 38 Greek manuscripts are ready for online viewing now, and many more are coming soon. Stay tuned for the exciting sequel: “Indiana Jones and Even More Greek Manuscripts.”

On Tour with H. Lee Waters: Visualizing a Logbook with TimeMapper

The H. Lee Waters Film Collection we published earlier this month has generated quite a buzz. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in visits to Duke Digital Collections and received comments, mail, and phone calls from Waters fans, film buffs, and from residents of the small towns he visited and filmed over 70 years ago. It’s clear that Waters’ “Movies of Local People” have wide appeal.

The 92 films in the collection are clearly the highlight, but as an archivist and metadata librarian I’m just as fascinated by the logbooks Waters kept as he toured across the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee screening his films in small town theaters between 1936 and 1942. In the logbooks, Waters typically recorded the theater name and location where he screened each film, what movie-goers were charged, his percentage of the profits, his revenue from advertising, and sometimes the amount and type of footage shown.

As images in the digital collection, the logbooks aren’t that interesting (at least visually), but the data they contain tell a compelling story. To bring the logbooks to life, I decided to give structure to some of the data (yes, a spreadsheet) and used a new visualization tool I recently discovered called TimeMapper to plot Waters’ itinerary on a synchronized timeline and map–call it a timemap! You can interact with the embedded timemap below, or see a full-screen version here. Currently, the Waters timemap only includes data from the first 15 pages of the logbook (more to come!). Already, though, we can start to visualize Waters’ route and the frequency of film screenings.  We can also interact with the digital collection in new ways:

  • Click on a town in the map view to see when Waters’ visited and then view the logbook entry or any available films for that town.
  • Slide the timeline and click through the entries to trace Waters’ route
  • Toggle forward or backwards through the logbook entries to travel along with Waters

For me, the Waters timemap demonstrates the potential for making use of the data in our collections, not just the digitized images or artifacts. With so many simple and freely available tools like TimeMapper and Google Fusion Tables (see my previous post), it has never been so easy to create interactive visualizations quickly and with limited technical skills.

I’d love to see someone explore the financial data in Waters’ logbooks to see what we might learn about his accounting practices or even about the economic conditions in each town. The logbook data has the potential to support any number of research questions. So start your own spreadsheet and have at it!

[Thanks to the folks at Open Knowledge Labs for developing TimeMapper]

When it Rains, It Pours: A Digital Collections News Round Up

2015 has been a banner year for Duke Digital Collections, and its only January! We have already published a new collection, broken records and expanded our audience. Truth be told, we have been on quite a roll for the last several months, and with the holidays we haven’t had a chance to share every new digital collection with you. Today on Bitstreams, we highlight digital collection news that didn’t quite make the headlines in the past few months.

H. Lee Watersmania

waterschart
Compare normal Digital Collections traffic to our Waters spike on Monday January 19th.

Before touching on news you haven’t about, we must continue the H. Lee Waters PR Blitz. Last week, we launched the H. Lee Waters digital collection. We and the Rubenstein Library knew there was a fair amount of pent-up demand for this collection, however we have been amazed by the reaction of the public. Within a few days of launch, site visits hit what we believe (though cannot say with 100% certainty) to be an all time high of 17,000 visits and 37,000 pageviews on Jan 19.  We even suspect that the intensity of the traffic has contributed to some recent server performance issues (apologies if you have had trouble viewing the films – we and campus IT are working on it).

We have also seen more than 20 new user comments left on Water’s films pages, 6 comments left on the launch blog post, and 40+ new likes on the Duke Digital Collections Facebook page since last week. The Rubenstein Library has also received a surge of inquiries about the collection. These may not be “official” stats, but we have never seen this much direct public reaction to one of our new digital collections, and we could not be more excited about it.

Early Greek Manuscripts

An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.
An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.

In November we quietly made 38 early Greek manuscripts available online, one of which is the digital copy of a manuscript since returned to the Greek government.  These beautiful volumes are part of the Rubenstein Library and date from the 9th – 17th centuries.   We are still digitizing volumes from this collection, and hope to publish more in the late Spring.  At that time we will make some changes to the look and feel of the digital collection.  Our goal will be to further expose the general public to the beauty of these volumes while also increasing discoverability to multiple scholarly communities.

 

Link Media Wall Exhibit

In early January, the libraries Digital Exhibits Working Group premiered their West Campus Construction Link media wall exhibit, affectionately nicknamed the Game of Stones.   The exhibit features content from the Construction of Duke University digital collection and the Duke University Archives’ Flickr sets.   The creation of this exhibit has been described previously on Bitstreams (here and here).  Head on down to the link and see it for yourself!campus_constr

 

History of Medicine Artifacts

Medicine bottles and glasses from the HOM artifacts collection.

Curious about bone saws, blood letting or other historic medical instruments? Look no further than the Rubenstein Libraries History of Medicine Artifact’s Collection Guide.   In December we published over 300 images of historic medical artifacts embedded in the collection guide.  Its an incredible and sometimes frightening treasure trove of images.

These are legacy images taken  by the History of Medicine.  While we didn’t shoot these items in the Digital Production Center, the digital collections team still took a hands on approach to normalizing the filenames and overall structure of the image set so we could publish them.  This project was part of our larger efforts to make more media types embeddable in Rubenstein collection guides, a deceptively difficult process that will likely be covered more in depth in a future Bitstreams post.

Digitization to Support the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project Partnership

Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.
Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.

In the last year, Duke University Libraries has been partnering with the SNCC Legacy Project and the Center for Documentary Studies on One Person One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights.  As part of the project, the digital collections team has digitized several collections related to SNCC and made content available from each collections’ collection guide.  The collections include audio recordings, moving images and still images.  Selections from the digitized content will soon be made available on the One Person One Vote site to be launched in March 2015.  In the meantime, you can visit the collections directly:  Joseph Sinsheimer PapersFaith Holsaert Papers, and SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference.

 

Coach 1K

Coach K’s first Duke win against Stetson.

This one is hot off the digital presses.  Digital Collections partnered with University Archives to publish Coach K’s very first win at Duke just this week in anticipation of victory # 1000.

What’s Next for Duke Digital Collections?

The short answer is, a lot!  We have very ambitious plans for 2015.  We will be developing the next version of our digital collections platform, hiring an intern (thank you University Archives), restarting digitization of the Gedney collection, and of course publishing more of your favorite digital collections.   Stay tuned!

Embeds, Math & Beyond

This week, in conjunction with our H. Lee Waters Film Collection unveiling, we rolled out a handy new Embed feature for digital collections items.  The idea is to make it as easy as possible for someone to share their discoveries from our collections, with proper attribution, on other websites or blogs.

How To

It’s simple, really, and mimics the experience you’re likely to encounter getting embed code from other popular sites with videos, images, and the like. We modeled our approach loosely on the Internet Archive‘s video embed service (e.g., visit this video and click the Share icon, but only if you are unafraid of clowns).

Embed Link

Click the “Embed” link under an item from Duke Digital Collections, and copy the snippet of code that pops up. Paste it in your website, and you’re done!

Examples

I’ll paste a few examples below using different kinds of items. The embed code is short and nearly identical for all of these:

A Single Image

Paginated Item

A Video

Single-Track Audio

Multi-Track Audio

Document with Document Viewer

Technical Considerations

Building this feature required a little bit of math, some trial & error, and a few tricks. The steps were to:

  • Set up a service to return customized item pages at the path http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/embed/<itemid>/
  • Use CSS & JS to make the media as fluid as possible to fill whatever space it ends up in
  • Use a fixed height and overflow: auto on the attribution box so longer content will scroll
  • Use link rel=”canonical” to ensure the item’s embed page is associated with the real item page (especially to improve links / ranking signals for search engines).
  • Present the user a copyable HTML <iframe> element in the regular item page that has the correct height & width attributes to accommodate the item(s) to be embedded

This last point is where the math comes in. Take a single image item, for example. With a landscape-orientation image we need to give the user a different <iframe> height to copy than we would for a portrait. It gets even more complicated when we have to account for multiple tracks of audio or video, or combinations of the two.

Coming Soon

We’ll refine this feature a bit in the coming weeks, and work out any embed-bugs we discover. We’ll also be developing a similar feature for embedding digitized content found in our archival collection guides.

“See Yourself in the Movies!”: H. Lee Waters Goes Online

 

hleewaters-200x300_desaturated
H. Lee Waters, circa 1942.

When in the late 1980s Duke Libraries first began collecting H. Lee Waters’ “Movies of Local People,” the only way the films could be seen was through projection or, given the deluxe treatment, played back on a video tape.  Nearly 30 years later the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Duke Library’s Digital Projects and Production Services team are proud to bring the films online.  It is an important milestone for a collection that has grown so organically through the years and whose individual films have come from so many sources.

The motion picture films in the H. Lee Waters Collection play out a history of North Carolina (and Virginia, and South Carolina) in the late 1930s and early 1940s unparalleled in scope and vision.  But what would eventually become such a grand gift to the citizens and scholars and artists of the region did not begin with that in mind.  Like fellow commercial photographer and North Carolinian Hugh Mangum, Waters might be considered an accidental documentarian, taking to the road in the depths of the Depression as a resourceful businessman, filling theatre seats with audiences who paid to see themselves in the movies.  And yet, a natural behind the camera, Waters knew composition and how to frame a shot; more importantly, he knew people, loved to be around them, and could draw from his subjects positive reactions to this unexpected man with a camera, outside the mill, on main street, in front of the school, in the shop.  As Waters biographer and documentarian Tom Whiteside has noted, Waters’ quick-cut aesthetic managed the immediate goal of getting as many townsfolk into the movie as possible while achieving, in the long-term, an archive of still image frames that is vast in its scope and ripe for investigation.  From this perspective, the vernacular of his art puts him in the company of the prominent documentary photographers of his day.

 

A still from Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Waters used reversal film, and the film he projected was the same film he shot in the camera, edited for length and his beloved special effects.  He worked quickly, didn’t make copies, and after coming off the road in 1942 shelved the films until, later in life, he started selling them to their respective communities.  Duke’s collection of H. Lee Waters films therefore owes a debt to the towns, libraries, and historical societies who over the years have sent, and continue to send, Waters’ legacy to Duke, recognizing that centralizing these resources works in favor of the region’s cultural heritage.  It also means that over the years Duke has accrued film in all conditions and states of preservation.  There is film in the collection that is literally turning to dust; there is also beautiful Kodachrome that could have been shot yesterday.  Since 1988, too, audiovisual preservation has changed dramatically.  Thankfully, and with the help of the National Film Preservation Foundation, a substantial number of the films have received full film-to-film preservation; nevertheless, earlier, heroic attempts at saving some films to videotape, some formulations of which are now severely degrading, have left us in a few cases with only a blurred shadow of what must have been on that original film.  So our digital project reflects the films and their creator, but also the history of the collection at Duke.

A still image from Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1), one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still  from “Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Many at Duke Libraries have made the Waters collection what it is today, and those of us working on bringing the films online build on the efforts of librarians, archivists, and technical staff who were as passionate about these movies as we are.  Ever in transition, the collection is marked by growth, an element that we see as integral to the website.  In fact we are already adding to it.  In addition to the films and (for some of them) shotlists, there are oral history interviews with the children of H. Lee Waters.  Tom Waters and Mary Waters Spaulding have not only been essential in bringing their father’s films online, they have a unique perspective on a talented man whose contribution to the history of North Carolina was only beginning to be appreciated when he died in 1997.  Waters’ home movies will be added to the site soon, and we anticipate presenting select work inspired by the Waters films, because, in addition to their own sublime artistry, the movies remain a magnet for artists and documentarians mining archival sources.  One such work will debut March 20 for Duke Performances, as Jenny Scheinman premieres her work “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,” based around film from the collection.

A still from "Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1)," one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Of course, we also hope the site might draw other Movies of Local People out of hiding, because while Duke and the State Archives hold a good number of the films, we still don’t know the whereabouts of some of them.  So when you visit the site, take advantage of the embed and share functions accompanying each of the videos, use them on your blog or Facebook page, guide people to H. Lee Waters at Duke, and who knows? It may lead them to investigate further, to liberate that can of film that’s been sitting in the closet or biding its time at the local library.

Post Contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Winter Cross-Training in the DPC

The Digital Production Center engages with various departments within the Libraries and across campus to preserve endangered media and create unique digital collections. We work especially closely with The Rubenstein Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, as they hold many of the materials that we digitize and archive on a daily basis. This collaboration requires a shared understanding of numerous media types and their special characteristics; awareness of potential conservation and preservation issues; and a working knowledge of digitization processes, logistics, and limitations.

In order to facilitate this ongoing collaboration, we recently did a semester-long cross-training course with The Rubenstein’s Reproductions Manager, Megan O’Connell. Megan is one of our main points of contact for weekly patron requests, and we felt that this training would strengthen our ability to navigate tricky and time-sensitive digitization jobs heading into the future. The plan was for Megan to work with all three of our digitization specialists (audio, video, & still image) to get a combination of hands-on and observational learning opportunities.

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Still image comprises the bulk of our workload, so we decided to spend most of the training on these materials. “Still image” includes anything that we digitize via photographic or scanning technology, e.g. manuscripts, maps, bound periodicals, posters, photographs, slides, etc. We identified a group of uniquely challenging materials of this type and digitized one of each for hands-on training, including:

  • Bound manuscript – Most of these items cannot be opened more than 90 degrees. We stabilize them in a custom-built book cradle, capture the recto sides of the pages, then flip the book and capture the verso sides. The resulting files then have to be interleaved into the correct sequence.
  • Map, or other oversize item – These types of materials are often too large to capture in one single camera shot. Our setup allows us to take multiple shots (with the help of the camera being mounted on a sliding track) which we then stitch together into a seamless whole.
  • Item with texture or different item depths, e.g. a folded map, tipped into a book – It is often challenging to properly support these items and level the map so that it is all in focus within the camera’s depth of field.
  • ANR volume – These are large, heavy volumes that typically contain older newspapers and periodicals. The paper can be very fragile and they have to be handled and supported carefully so as not to damage or tear the material.
  • Item with a tight binding w/ text that goes into the gutter – We do our best to capture all of the text, but it will sometimes appear to curve or disappear into the gutter in the resulting digital image.

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Working through this list with Megan, I was struck by the diversity of materials that we collect and digitize. The training process also highlighted the variety of tricks, techniques, and hacks that we employ to get the best possible digital transfers, given the limitations of the available technology and the materials’ condition. I came out of the experience with a renewed appreciation of the complexity of the digitization work we do in the DPC, the significance of the rare materials in the collection, and the excellent service that we are able to provide to researchers through the Rubenstein Library.

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Check out Megan’s blog post on the Devil’s Tale for more on the other media formats I wasn’t able to cover in the scope of this post.

Here’s to more collaboration across boundaries in the New Year!

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Holiday Notes from the Homefront and Abroad

The following is a series of loosely linked stories, loosely based on our digital collections, and loosely related to the holidays, where even the word “loosely” is applied with some looseness.


 

War ration book one. Ration order no. 3.

An American looking forward to baking delicious treats for the holidays in 1942 would have been intimately familiar with War Ration Book One. The Office of Price Administration issued Ration Order No. 3 in April of that year, and distributed the ration books via elementary schools in the first week of May. Holders could purchase one pound of sugar every two weeks between May 5 and June 27. By the end of the year, butter, coffee, and other foods joined the list of regulated goods.

As the holidays approached, the newspapers ran articles advising homemakers how to cope with the unavailability of key ingredients. Vegetable shortening could help stretch butter, molasses made cookies prone to burning, and fruit juice was a natural sweetener. The New Orleans Times-Picayune’s “Round Table Talk About Food” exhorted homemakers to make the best of it:

There is something stimulating this approaching holiday time in planning Christmas meals and gift packages or baskets with those substitute items we are permitted to use, rather than with the usual abundance of foods to suit every whim of the appetite.


"YMCA Christmas, Children" (1917-1919)
“YMCA Christmas, Children” (1917-1919)

I wrote before about how YMCA missionaries took basketball overseas after its invention, including to Japan. Did they also take Santa beards to China?


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“Certificate of registration to buy, sell, and transfer men’s rubber boots and rubber work shoes.” Ration order no. 6, September 29, 1942.

The Office of Price Administration provided Duke Law alum Richard Nixon with his first job in Washington, beginning in January of 1942. Rubber was his area of focus. He was industrious and diligent in his work, and by March, had been promoted to “acting chief of interpretations in the Rubber Branch.

But the life of a government regulator was not to be for Dick Nixon. He joined the Navy in August, and by year’s end found himself serving at an airfield in Ottumwa, Iowa.

- Summarized from Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, by Conrad Black.


True story. Terry Sanford spent December 21 and 22 of 1944 riding in a convoy that took the 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team from Soissons, France to the town of Soy in Belgium. His unit fought Germans for the next few days, losing more than a hundred men, in the conflagration that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

They were able to sleep on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, there was roasted turkey, but at noon orders came to take a hill, which they did. The next day, they held it, repelling a German counterattack.

In the action, Sanford tackled a German officer, disarmed him, and drove him off for interrogation. Years later, he speculated that the man was probably shot before being processed as a POW, as retaliation against a recent massacre of American troops.

Sanford would write home that “things are going well in this country,” and they had “[m]ore food than elsewhere,” without explaining why there was more to go around.

While riding with his commander, Lt. Colonel “Wild Bill” Boyle, shortly after the New Year, he was wounded. He later received the Purple Heart.

- Summarized from Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, Howard E. Covington and Marion A. Ellis.


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December 24, 1940 entry from Mary McMillan’s journal.

Mary McMillan’s 1940 journal tells of her experiences as a missionary in Japan. Her entry for Christmas Eve of 1940 reads:

To doctor’s for sinus treatment, then down on Ginza shopping for Christmas presents: perfume for Umeko, a dog purse for Eiko, cookies for Mrs. Natsuzoe, toys for Mineko san and Masao chan. Lunch of fried oysters and fresh strawberries in Olympic Grille.

Brought Eiko home for her first Christmas. Tried to tell her the Christmas Story, but my limited knowledge of Japanese and her excitement made direct teaching impossible. Was up wrapping presents till almost mid-night.

A month later she wrote of talks with “Bishop Abe, and Ambassador Grew:”

They advised us to begin making preparations to leave Japan – as is we were certain that war were coming and we were sure to be called home by our Board.”

Her next entry, dated “Feb. 29, ‘41,” is headed “Homeward Bound.”


Hanukah Variant spellings for hanukkah occur three times in the OCR text of our 1960s Duke Chronicle collection. (Due to the imprecision of OCR, the actual occurrences may be more).

A photograph on the front page of the December 17, 1968, issue depicts a Star of David hanging on the side of a building. The caption reads, “It is now Hanukah, ‘the festival of lights.’”

At the top of that page, the lead story of the issue is headlined, “X-Mas amnesty asked for draft dodgers.” It reports that the “cabinet of the YMCA” at Duke had resolved to write to President Johnson on the matter. Of course, Johnson was a lame duck by then. That same day, the New York Times reported that he had spent an hour conferring with John Mitchell, Nixon’s incoming Attorney General.


Wind Song Haldeman J. Walter Thompson Company News, November 30, 1960, the two lead articles:

WIND SONG USES HANDSOME “SANTA” TO BOOST  PRE-CHRISTMAS SALES

BOB HALDEMAN NAMED MANAGER OF THE LOS ANGELES OFFICE

Eight years later, the newsletter noted the appointments of Haldeman and his subordinate, Ron Ziegler, to the White House staff. Haldeman would serve as Nixon’s Chief of Staff, and later did 18 months in prison for his role in the Watergate coverup. Ziegler became White House Press Secretary.


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Sit in, Allen Building. December, 1967.

On November 17, 1967 – the Friday before Thanksgiving – the Chronicle ran a story about Terry Sanford and his newly published book, Storm over the States. He started writing Storm soon after leaving the NC governor’s office in 1965. Supported by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, he holed up in an office at Duke, hired a staff, and wrote about a model for state government that is federalist but proactive and constructive. Sanford’s point of view stood in stark, if unmentioned, contrast to the doctrines of “nullification” and states’ rights that segregationists like George Wallace wielded in their opposition to Civil Rights.

That Friday ended a tumultuous week at Duke. The lead story that same day was headlined “Knight bans use of segregated facilities by student groups.” The school’s president, Douglas Knight, had “re-interpreted” a university policy statement prohibiting the use of off-campus facilities that discriminated on the basis of race. Knight extended the policy, purported to apply to staff and faculty organizations, to include student organizations as well.

The previous week, the student body had defeated a referendum that would have had the same effect. Black students reacted by staging a sit in at Knight’s office (one holding a sign that read “Students Await An Overdue Talk With Our WHITE KNIGHT”), demanding that he take action. Knight acceded, complaining in his statement that “the application of this practice would have been made in the normal course of events,” but “we were confronted with an ultimatum, which carried with it a threat of disruption of the ordinary processes of the University.”

Confrontations between the administration and black students continued to escalate, leading to the Allen Building takeover in 1969, Knight’s resignation, and his succession by Terry Sanford.


First Days Back in Japan Mary McMillan’s journals stretch from 1939 to 1991. Her “1939” journal actually contains entries from the 1940s, though there are significant gaps. In October of 1942 she wrote of traveling to Delta, Utah. She didn’t mention her purpose, and no other entries appear from that period, but she was heading to Utah to teach in the Topaz Relocation Center, an internment camp for Japanese Americans. En route, she wrote:

Those nice Marine recruits who got on our train in St. Louis shouldn’t be required to go so far from home to fight for objectives that seem to me not to be in keeping with United Nations Aims, as given in the Atlantic Charter.  Why should Japan “be crushed”? The military mind there – and elsewhere – must be forced from power; but are we on the right track towards achieving that objective? I fear most of us have become too material-minded. By following methods resulting from our materialistic thinking, we only create atmospheres for other hostile “spiritual” forces – like Naziism.

Then, the week of Christmas in 1947 she traveled to Seattle, and embarked on a return to Japan. She arrived in Hiroshima in January, the first Christian missionary to return after the war. She lived there for more than thirty years before retiring.


On page 4 of the December 17, 1967 issue of the Chronicle – just below the article about Terry Sanford’s Storm Over the States – this ad ran: RoadGoesEverOn I have to believe at least a few students and faculty got the book or the record as stocking stuffers that year.

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team