All posts by Molly Bragg

Vacation, all We Ever Wanted

We try to keep our posts pretty focussed on the important work at hand here at Bitstreams central, but sometimes even we get distracted (speaking of, did you know that you can listen to the Go-Gos for hours and hours on Spotify?).   With most of our colleagues in the library leaving for or returning from vacation, it can be difficult to think about anything but exotic locations and what to do with all the time we are not spending in meetings.  So this week, dear reader, we give you a few snapshots of vacation adventures told through Duke Digital Collections.

Artist’s rendering of librarians at the beach.

 

Many of Duke’s librarians (myself included) head directly East for a few days of R/R at the one of many beautiful North Carolina beaches.  Who can blame them?  It seems like everyone loves the beach including William Gedney, Deena Stryker, Paul Kwilecki and even Sydney Gamble.  Lucky for North Carolina, the beach is only a short trip away, but of course there are essentials that you must not forget even on such a short journey.

 

 

K0521

 

Of course many colleagues have ventured even farther afield to West Virginia, MinnesotaOregon, Maine and even Africa!!  Wherever our colleagues are, we hope they are enjoying some well deserved time-off.  For those of us who have already had our time away or are looking forward to next time, we will just have to live vicariously through our colleagues’ and our collections’ adventures.

Duke Joins the Digital Public Library of America!

We are excited to announce that Duke University Libraries has officially joined the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)! Our first contribution is metadata from the Broadsides and Ephemera digital collection, which is now accessible through DPLA.

dpla_duke
Broadsides and Ephemera collection in the DPLA’s interface.

Many of us here at Duke have been excited about the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) since their launch in April of 2013.   DPLA’s mission is to bring together America’s cultural riches into one portal.  Additionally, they provide a platform for accessing and sharing library data in technologically innovative and impactful ways via the DPLA API.   If you are not familiar with DPLA, be sure to take a look at their website and watch their introductory video.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (NCDHC) is our local service hub for DPLA and we met with them to understand requirements for contributing metadata as well as the nuts and bolts of exposing our records for harvesting.  They have a system in place that is really easy for contributing libraries around the state, and we are very thankful for their efforts.  On our side, we chose our first collection to share, updated rights statements for the items in that collection and contacted NCDCH to let them know  where to find our metadata (admittedly these tasks involved a bit more nitty gritty work than I am describing here, but it was still a relatively simple process).

Metadata for one of Duke University Libraries Broadsides as seen in the DPLA.
Metadata for one of Duke University Libraries Broadsides as seen in the DPLA.

In mid-June, NCDHC harvested metadata from our Broadsides and Ephemera digital collection and shortly thereafter, voila the records are available through DPLA!!

We plan to continue making more collections available to DPLA, but are still selecting materials. What collections do you think we should share?  Let us know in the comments below or through Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks again to NCDHC for the wonderful work they do in helping us and other libraries across North Carolina participate in the ambitious mission of the Digital Public Library of America!

New Collection Addition: Sidney D. Gamble’s Hand-Colored Lantern Slides

I started working on the metadata of Sidney D. Gamble photographs in January 2008 on a spreadsheet with no matching images. The nitrate negatives from the collection had just been digitized and resided in a different location. I was, however still amazed by the richness of the content as I tried very hard to figure out the locations of each picture, half of them were so challenging that I must have guessed wrong for most of them in my struggle to meet the project deadline. It was after the digital collection was published that I started to study more thoroughly these images of Chinese life more than 100 years ago. And they have since then continued to amaze me as I understand more of their content and context with the various projects I’ve done; and to puzzle me as I dig deeper into their historical backgrounds. I’ve imagined China in those times in readings, enhanced by films early and recent, yet Gamble’s photographs help me to get closer to what life really looked like and how similar or different things appeared. Recently the hand-colored lantern slides in the collection have made me feel even more so.

Zagunao, Sichuan

Lantern slides are often hand-colored glass slides, commonly used in the first half of the twentieth century to project photographs or illustrations onto walls for better visualization. We are yet to find out whether Gamble colored these slides himself or instructed the work by giving details of the description of the objects. I find the colors in these images strikingly true, suggesting that they were done by someone familiar with the scene or the culture. Whether it is a remote hillside village in a minority region in Sichuan as shown above or the famous Temple of Heaven in Beijing below, the color versions are vivid and lively as if they were taken by a recent visitor.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Gamble used these color slides in his talks introducing China to his countrymen. He included both images of Chinese scenery and those of Chinese people and their lives. The large amount of images of Chinese life in the collection is a record of his social survey work in China, the earliest of its kind ever done in China; as well as a reflection of his curiosity and sympathy in Chinese people and their culture. Funeral is one of Gamble’s favorite subjects, and I have no clue whether green was the color for people’s clothes working at funerals as I see several images with men dressed in green doing all sort of jobs, such as this man carrying the umbrella, the color is not offensive but needs to be studied.

Funeral Men Umbrella Carrier Blowing Horn
Funeral Men Umbrella Carrier Blowing Horn

The Lama Temple, or Yonghegong, is an imperial Tibetan Buddhist Temple. Every year in early March, masked lamas performed their annual “devil dance”, a ritual to ward off bad spirits and disasters on a Monday. I learned about this performance through Gamble’s photographs and the color images have simply added more life. A search online for images taken today brought back photos that look just similar.

Devil dance at Lama Temple, Beijing
Devil dance at Lama Temple, Beijing

There are nearly 600 colored slides in the collection, one can imagine the reaction of the audience when Gamble projected them on the wall in his talk about the mysterious China in the Far East. With the help of a capable intern, I was able to create an inventory last fall, matching most of them with existing black and white one in the collection. A project was proposed and approved quickly to digitize these lantern slides. The project was done quickly and a blog post by one of our digitization experts  provided some interesting details. In June this year, selected color images will appear in the travelling exhibit that professor Guo-Juin Hong and I curated and started in Beijing last summer when it opens at Shanghai Archives’ museum on bund. I believe they will fascinate the Chinese audience today as much as they had when Gamble showed them to the American audience.

Post Contributed by Luo Zhou, Chinese Studies Librarian, Duke University Libraries

Our Most Popular Item is Probably not What you were Expecting

Part of my job is to track our Duke Digital Collections google analytics data.  As a part of this work, I like to keep tabs on the most popular digital collections items each month.  There is generally some variation among the most popular items from month to month. For example in May, a post on the New Yorker blog  pointed to some motherhood oriented ads and our traffic to these items spiked as a result.     

Be-Ro Home Recipes, our most popular item.

However there is one item that persists as one of our most popular items: the Be-Ro Home Recipes: Scones, Cakes, Pastry, Puddings.  Looking back at analytics since 2010 this is the most popular item by about 2000 hits (the book has seen 18,447 pageviews since Jan 1 2010).    In the six months that I’ve been studying our digital collections analytics I consistently wonder, why this item? no really, why?  Sure all the recipes call for lard, but that cannot be the only reason.

“Researching” the cookbook (conducting a few google searches) shows that the Be-Ro company was established in 1875 by the creator of the worlds first self rising flour.  Home Recipes was originally published as a pamphlet to promote use of the flour as early as the 1880s.  Our version includes over 50 recipes, was published in the 1920s, and is the 13th edition of the cookbook.

Duke’s Home Recipes claims that baking at home with Be-Ro is more economical and inspires the a better home, thanks to the woman of the house’s baking: “In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred she has a happy home, because good cooking means good food and good food means good health” (from page 2).  This cookbook has a storied history to be sure, but that still doesn’t explain why our version is so popular.

I kept searching, and found that there is a fervent and passionate following for the Be-Ro Cookbook.  Several UK cooking blog posts swoon over the book, saying they grew up with the recipes and first learned to bake from it.  The community aspect of the cookbook jives with our traffic as most of the users of the item on our website come from the UK.  Another factor driving traffic to our site is that Duke Digital Collections’ version of the cookbook tends to be the 4th hit on Google, when you search for “Be-Ro Cookbook”.

This investigation left me with a  better understanding of why this cookbook is so popular, but I’m still surprised and amused that among all the significant holdings we have digitized and available online, this cookbook is consistently the most visited.  Are there conclusions we can take away from this?  We are not going to start only digitizing cookbooks as a result of this knowledge, I can promise you that. However analytics shows us that in addition to the more traditionally significant items online, items like this cookbook can tap into and find a strong and consistent audience.   And that is data we can use to build better and more resonant digital collections.

Hmmmm…lard.
Hmmm…Fancies!

Society of North Carolina Archivists Annual Meeting Slides

On Tuesday April 8, I had the honor of presenting at the annual meeting of the Society of North Carolina Archivists with representatives from Wake Forest University and Davidson College. The focus of our panel was to present alternatives to CONTENTdm, a system for displaying digital collections widely used by libraries. At Duke, we have developed our own Tripod interface to digital collections. Wake Forest and Davidson use a variety of tools most notably DSpace and Islandora (via Lyrasis) respectively. It was great to present with and learn more about the Wake Forest and Davidson programs! I’ve embedded slides from all three speakers below.





A New Dimension for Duke’s Digital Collections

As our long-term readers of Bitstreams will attest, the Duke Digital Collections program has an established and well-earned reputation as a trailblazer when it comes to introducing new technologies, improved user interfaces, high definition imaging, and other features that deliver digital images with a beauty and verisimilitude true to the originals held by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Thus, we are particularly proud to launch today our newest feature, Smell-O-Bit, which adds a whole new dimension to the digital collections experience.

Smell-O-Bit is a cutting-edge technology that utilizes the diffusers built into most recent model computers to emit predefined scents associated with select digital objects within the Duke Digital Collections site.  While still in a test phase, the Digital Collections team has already tagged several images with scents that evoke the mood or content of key images.   To experience the smells, simply select Ctl-Alt-W-Up- while viewing these test images:

 

A bold scent for a bold product, Pabst-ett cheese!

Made by the Pabst brewing company while beer was off limits due to Prohibition, Pabst-ett cheese was soft, spreadable, and comfort-food delicious.  We’ve selected a bold, tangy scent to highlight these comforts.  The scent may make you happy enough to slap your own cheeks!

The smell of late a night chess match.

The smell of cigarette smoke, margaritas, and salt from around glass rims and chess players’ brows will make you feel as if you have front row seating at this chess match between composer John Cage and a worthy, but anonymous opponent.

A scent strong enough to eat!

You may feel yourself  overwhelmed with the wafting scent of char-broiled deliciousness, but don’t forget to take a deep inhale to detect the pickles, ketchup, and mustard which makes this a savory image all around.

Perhaps you smell garbage? If so, your Garbex isn’t working!  What about flies, cats, or dogs? Or, perhaps you just smell a rat. Alright, you caught us.

Happy April Fool’s Day from Duke Digital Collections!!

Post Contributed by Duke Digital Collections

 

A Day in the Life of Digital Collections

I joined the digital collections team in early December 2013, and from day 1 I have been immersed in the details of our long list of unique projects, all with their own set of schedules, stakeholders, and resource needs.  My task has also been to evaluate and improve our overall workflow, create outreach and promotional opportunities (like this blog!), and really anything else that comes up that is related to digital projects. What does that all mean in terms of day-to-day work? It means I attend A LOT of meetings.

Haitian Declaration of Independence
Just another day in the Digital Production Center imaging the Haitian Declaration of Independence!

Luckily most of my meetings are absolutely fascinating and revolve around very exciting projects and materials.  Here are some of my favorite meetings from the last few weeks.  Truth be told, I didn’t go to all of these in one day, but they are a pretty representative sample of the types of meetings I do attend everyday.

Haitian Declaration of Independence:  Perhaps you have heard that the Rubenstein library has a copy of this historic document?  The digital collections implementation team recently met with RL curator Will Hansen to discuss digitizing and providing access to the declaration, and of course he brought it with him.  Its not that large to be honest, but very impressive.  In DPPS we are using this project as catalyst to implement an image server and a new document viewing tool to provide better access to documents like the declaration.

 

“Girl Lost in Thought at Fast Food Counter” Image from the William Gedney Digital Collection

Workflows, Workflows, workflows:  Every week I attend operational meetings with both the Duke Digital Collections Implementation teams and the Digital Production Center to discuss work in progress, scheduling, new projects, and how to perfect our ever changing workflows.  I presented, along with my colleagues from Digital Projects and Production Services as part of our monthly ITS meeting, First Wednesday, on our overall process and some of the changes we have been making since I came on board.  Check out all of our slides! 

Gedney:  Duke Digital Collections patrons are no strangers to the William Gedney Photographs and Writings digital collection.  The physical collection is being re-processed and we will be digitizing more of it later in 2014.  This is a large project with a long timeline, but we are so excited to provide access to more materials in one of our most popular digital collections.

 

Early Greek MS:  the Rubenstein Library has a large collection of early Greek manuscripts.  Many items have already been digitized, and Rubenstein Technical Services is in the process of cataloging them.     Once cataloging is complete, we will be able to plan the publishing aspects of this project.  Both DPPS and our colleagues in the Collaboratory for Classics Computing are thrilled to provide access to digital versions of these items.

Stay tuned for continuing developments in these and all the other projects we have in progress!

GreekMS
A scanned image from one of the Greek Manuscripts in the Rubenstein collection.

 

Post authored by Molly Bragg

Announcing the Duke Chapel Recordings Digital Collection and Video Player!

Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital collection: Duke Chapel Recordings!

 dukechapel

This digital collection consists of a selection of audio and video recordings from the extensive collection of Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.   The digital collection features 168 audio and video recordings from the chapel including sermons from notable African American and female preachers.  This project has been a fruitful collaboration between Duke Chapel, the Divinity School, the Rubenstein Library and of course the digital projects team in Duke University Libraries.  To learn more, visit the Devil’s Tale blog (the blog of the Rubenstein Library).

But wait, there’s more!

sermon video
Brenda Kirton speaks in this still from one of the Duke Chapel Recordings digital collection.

Fifteen of the recordings were digitized from VHS tapes and are available as video playable from within the digital collection.  These are our first digitized videos delivered via our own infrastructure. Our previous efforts have all relied on external platforms like YouTube, iTunes, and the Internet Archive to serve up the videos. While these tools are familiar to users, feature-rich, and built on a strong technological backbone, we have been intending for quite awhile to develop support for delivering digital video in-house.

When you view a video from the Duke Chapel Recordings, you’ll see a “poster frame” image of the featured speaker. Click the play button to begin (of course!) and the video will play within the page. Watching the videos is a “pseudo-streaming” or “progressive download” experience akin to YouTube. That is, you can start watching almost immediately, and you can click ahead to arbitrary points in the middle of the video at any time.  And while you might occasionally have to wait for things to buffer, videos should play smoothly on desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices, and can be easily enlarged to full-screen. Finally, there’s a Download link right below the video if you’d like to take the files with you.

Behind the scenes, we are using the robust JW Player tool, for which the Pro version was recently made available by site-license to the Duke community by our friends in the Office of Information Technology. JW Player is media player software that uses a combination of HTML5 video and Javascript. It can play video from a streaming server, but as in our case, it can also pseudo-stream video over HTTP via a standard web server. Using HTML5 video, the browser requests and receives only the chunks of the video file that it needs as it plays. Almost all of the major modern browsers support HTML5 video delivering H.264/AAC MP4 content (our video encoding of choice), and a peek at our use statistics indicates that more than 80% of our users visit our site with these browsers.  For the rest, JW Player renders a nearly identical media player using Adobe Flash.

We’re looking forward to hearing from our users and learning from our peers who are working with digital media to keep refining our approach.  We hope to make many more videos from our collections available in the near future.

Post authored by Sean Aery and Molly Bragg.

Digitization Details: Re-Formatting Audio Cassettes

Cassette
A real live audio cassette!

The 310 oral histories that comprise the newly published additions to the Behind the Veil digital collection were originally recorded in the 1990’s to the now (nearly) obsolete compact cassette format—what were commonly called “tapes”.  The beauty of the compact cassette format was that it was small and portable (especially compared to the earlier reel-to-reel tape format), relatively durable due to its hard plastic outer shell, and most of all—could easily be recorded to at home by non-professional users.  This made it perfect for oral historians who needed to be able to record interviews in the field at low cost with minimal hassle.  

Unfortunately, the compact cassette format hasn’t aged particularly well.  Due to cheap materials, poor storage conditions, and normal mechanical wear and tear, many of these tapes are already borderline unplayable a short 40 years after their first introduction.  This introduces a number of challenges to our process of converting the audio information on the tapes into a digital file format that can easily be accessed online by patrons.  I won’t exhaustively detail our digitization process here, but only touch on a few issues and how we dealt with them.

Inspecting a tape
Our fearless audio digitization expert carefully inspects a tapes.

Physical degradation and damage to tapes: We visually inspected each tape prior to digitization.  Any that were visibly broken or had twisted or jammed tape were rehoused in new outer shells.  At least with this collection, rehousing allowed us to successfully play back all of the tapes.

Poor quality of original recordings: We also did a brief audio inspection of each tape before digitization.  This allowed us to identify issues with audio quality.  We found that the interviews were done in a wide variety of locations, often with background traffic, television, appliance and conversation noise bleeding into the recording.  There was no easy fix for this, as these issues are inherent in the recording.  Our solution was to provide the best possible playback on a high-quality cassette deck, a direct and balanced signal path, and high quality analog-to-digital conversion at the preservation standard of 24 bits, 96.1 kHz.  This ensured that the digital copy faithfully reproduced the audio material on the cassette, warts and all.

Other errors in original recordings: There were some issues in the original recordings that we opted to fix via digital editing or processing in our files for patron use (while retaining the unaltered preservation files).

  • In cases where there was a significant gap of silence in the middle of a tape, we edited out the silence for continuity’s sake.
  • In cases where there were loud and abrasive clicks, pops, or microphone noise at the beginning or end of a tape side, we edited out these noises.
  • Several tapes were apparently recorded at the wrong speed, resulting in a “chipmunk voice” effect.  I used a Speed/Pitch function in our audio capture software to electronically slow these files down so that they play back intelligibly and as intended.
deck
Audio digitization deck

Another challenge, common to all time-based analog media, is the cassette tape’s “real-time” nature.  Unlike a digital file that can be copied nearly instantaneously, a 90-minute cassette tape actually takes 90 minutes to make a digital copy.  Currently we run two cassette decks simultaneously, allowing us to double our throughput.

As you can see, audio cassette digitization is more than just a matter of pressing “play”!

–post written by Zeke Graves

Still want to learn more about the Behind the Veil collection of oral histories?  Check out coverage of the collection over at Rubenstein Library blog, The Devil’s Tale.

 

On This Valentine’s Day, Cook up Something Special

Your Duke Digital Collections team, as well as most of the rest of the university have been locked down at home for the past two days due to snow, ice and the dreaded “wintry mix”.  If you, like us are looking for ways to entertain yourself and celebrate Valentine’s Day, you are in luck!

Among the treasures in the Emergence of Advertising digital collection, we have a cookbook specially designed to help you plan and execute meals for all holiday occasions from children’s parties to, you guessed it, Valentines Day!  Check out some of the recipes below.

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/eaa_CK0045/
Valentine’s Day inspired goodies from “Selected Recipes and Menus for Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions”

Nothing says, be my valentine like Chicken a la King and Drip Coffee!!