The 1940s and 1950s took Americans from WWII atrocities and scarcities to post-war affluence of sprawling suburbias, mass consumerism, and the baby boom. It marked a time of changing American lifestyles—a rebound from the Great Depression just ten years before. At Duke, these were decades filled with dances and balls and Joe College Weekends, but also wartime limitations.
A year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Duke lost its president of thirty years, William Preston Few. The Chronicle reported Few to be “a remarkable man” who “worked ceaselessly towards [Duke University’s] growth” during a time when it was “a small, practically unheard-of college.” While Duke may have been relatively small in 1940, it boasted a good number of schools and colleges, and a lively social scene. Sorority and fraternity events abounded in the 1940s and 1950s. So, too, did fights to overhaul the fraternity and sorority rushing systems. Social organizations and clubs regularly made the Chronicle’s front page with their numerous events and catchy names, like Hoof ‘n’ Horn, Bench ‘n’ Bar, and Shoe ‘n’ Slipper. These two decades also saw milestone celebrations, like the Chronicle’s 50th anniversary and the 25th Founders’ Day celebration.
Sports was another big headliner. In 1942, Duke hosted the Rose Bowl. Usually played in Pasadena, California, the game was moved to Durham for fear of a Japanese attack on the West Coast during World War II. The 1940s also saw the rivalry between Duke and UNC escalate into violent outbursts. Pranks became more destructive and, in 1945, concerned student leaders pleaded for a “cease-fire.” Among the pranks were cases of vandalism and theft. In 1942, Duke “ramnappers” stole what they believed to be Carolina’s ram mascot, Rameses. It was later discovered they heisted the wrong ram. In 1949, unknown assailants painted the James B. Duke statuein Carolina blue, and Duke administration warned students against retaliation. As one article from 1944 informs us, the painting of Duke property by UNC rivals was not a new occurrence, and if a Carolina painting prankster was captured, the traditional punishment was a shaved head. In an attempt to reduce the vandalism and pranks, the two schools’ student governments introduced the Victory Bell tradition in 1948 to no avail. The pranks continued into the 1950s. In 1951, Carolina stole the Victory Bell from Duke, which was returned by police to avoid a riot. It was again stolen and returned in 1952 after Duke’s victory over Carolina. That year, the Chronicle headline echoed the enthusiasm on campus: BEAT CAROLINA! I urge you to explore the articles yourself to find out more about these crazy hijinks!
The articles highlighted here are only the tip of the iceberg. The 1940s and 1950s Chronicles are filled with entertaining and informative articles on what Duke student life was like over fifty years ago. Take a look for yourself and see what these decades have to offer!
While most of my Bitstreams posts have focused on my work preserving and archiving audio collections, my job responsibilities also include digitizing materials for display in Duke University Libraries Exhibits. The recent renovation and expansion of the Perkins Library entrance and the Rubenstein Library have opened up significantly more gallery space, meaning more exhibits being rotated through at a faster pace.
Working with such a variety of media spanning different library collections presents a number of challenges and necessitates working closely with our Exhibits and Conservation departments. First, we have to make sure that we have all of the items listed in the inventory provided by the exhibit curator. Secondly, we have to make sure we have all of the relevant information about how each item should be digitally captured (e.g. What image resolution and file specifications? Which pages from a larger volume? What section of a larger map or print?) Next we have to consider handling for items that are in fragile condition and need special attention. Finally, we use all of this information to determine which scanner, camera, or A/V deck is appropriate for each item and what the most efficient order to capture them in is.
All of this planning and preliminary work helps to ensure that the digitization process goes smoothly and that most questions and irregularities have already been addressed. Even so, there are always issues that come up forcing us to improvise creative solutions. For instance: how to level and stabilize a large, fragile folded map that is tipped into a volume with tight binding? How to assemble a seamless composite image of an extremely large poster that has to be photographed in multiple sections? How to minimize glare and reflection from glossy photos that are cupped from age? I won’t give away all of our secrets here, but I’ll provide a couple examples from the Duke Chapel exhibit that is currently on display in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family gallery.
This facsimile of a drawing for one of the Chapel’s carved angels was reproduced from an original architectural blueprint. It came to us as a large and tightly rolled blueprint–so large, in fact, that we had to add a piece of plywood to our usual camera work surface to accommodate it. We then strategically placed weights around the blueprint to keep it flattened while not obscuring the section with the drawing. The paper was still slightly wrinkled and buckled in places (which can lead to uneven color and lighting in the resulting digital image) but fortunately the already mottled complexion of the blueprint material made it impossible to notice these imperfections.
These projected images of the Chapel’s stained glass were reproduced from slides taken by a student in 1983 and currently housed in the University Archives. After the first run through our slide scanner, the digital images looked okay on screen, but were noticeably blurry when enlarged. Further investigation of the slides revealed an additional clear plastic protective housing which we were able to carefully remove. Without this extra refractive layer, the digital images were noticeably sharper and more vibrant.
Despite the digitization challenges, it is satisfying to see these otherwise hidden treasures being displayed and enjoyed in places that students, staff, and visitors pass through everyday–and knowing that we played a small part in contributing to the finished product!
Duke University has a long history of student activism, and the University Archives actively collects materials to document these movements. With the administration’s offices residing in the Allen Building, this is not the first time it is the center of activism activity. The Allen Building Study-In occurred November 13, 1967, the Allen Building Takeover occurred February 13, 1969, and the Allen Building Demonstration occurred in May 1970 to support the Vietnam Moratorium. In light of the current occupation of the Allen Building, we’ve compiled some digital resources you can use to find out more about the history of activism in relation to the 1969 Allen Building Takeover.
The University Archives has a collection of materials from the 1969 Allen Building Takeover, which includes many digitized images available through the online finding aid. This collection also has materials from the 2002 Allen Building lock-in that commemorated 1960s activism at Duke: Guide to the Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002.
WDBS, Duke University’s campus radio station at the time of the 1969 Allen Building Takeover, also broadcasted reports on the event. Listening copies of these recordings are in the Allen Building Takeover Collection, and a list of the broadcasts can be found in the WDBS Collection: Guide to the WDBS Collection, 1949-1983.
Currently, University Archives is documenting the present Allen Building occupation, and has captured over 7,000 tweets with #DismantleDukePlantation. To ensure that Duke activism will continue to be represented in the archives, efforts will be made to collect additional materials related to the occupation.
Last Summer, Sean and I wrote about efforts we were were undertaking with colleagues to assess the research and scholarly impact of Duke Digital Collections. Sean wrote about data analysis approaches we took to detect scholarly use, and I wrote about a survey we launched in Spring 2015. The goal of the survey was to gather information about our patrons and their motivations that were not obvious from Google Analytics and other quantitative data. The survey was live for 7 months, and today I’m here to share the full results.
In a nutshell (my post last Summer included many details about setting up the survey), the survey asked users, “who are you,” “why are you here,” and “what are you going to do with what you find here?” The survey was accessible from every page of our Digital Collections website from April 30 – November 30, 2015. We set up event tracking in Google Analytics, so we know that around 43% of our 208,205 visitors during that time hovered on the survey link. A very small percentage of those clicked through (0.3% or 659 clicks), but 20% of the users that clicked through did answer the survey. This gave us a total of 132 responses, only one of which seems to be 100% spam. Traffic to the survey remained steady throughout the survey period. Now, onto the results!
Question 1: Who are you?
Respondents were asked to identify as one of 2 academically oriented groups (students or educators), librarians, or as “other”. Results are represented in the bubble graphic below. You can see that the majority of respondents identified as “other”. Of those 65 respondents, 30 described themselves, and these labels have been grouped in the pie chart below. It is fascinating to note that other than the handful of self-identified musicians (I grouped vocalists, piano players, anything musical under musicians) and retirees, there is a large variety of self descriptors listed.
The results breakdown of responses to question 1 remained steady over time when you compare the overall results to those I shared last Summer. Overall 26% of respondents identified as student (compared to 25% in July), 14% identified as educator (compared to 18% earlier), 9% identified as librarian, archivist or museum overall (exactly the same as earlier), and 51% identified as other (47% in the initial results). We thought these results might change when the Fall academic semester started, but as you can see that was not the case.
Question 2: Why are you here?
As I said above, our goal in all of our assessment work this time around was to look for signs of scholarly use so we were very interested in knowing if visitors come to Duke Digital Collections for academic research or for some other reason. Of the 125 total responses to question 2, personal research and casual browsing outweighed academic research ( see in the bar graph below). Respondents were able to check multiple categories. There were 8 instances where the same respondent selected casual browsing and personal research, 4 instances where casual browsing was paired with followed a link, 3 where academic research was tied to casual browsing, and 3 where academic research was tied to other. Several users selected more than 2 categories, but by in large respondents selected 1 category only. To me, this infers that our users are very clear about why they come to Duke Digital Collections.
Respondents were prompted to enter their research topic/purpose whether it be academic, personal or other. Every respondent that identified with other filled in a topic, 73% of personal researchers identified their topic, and 63% of academic researchers shared their topics. Many of the topics/purposes were unique, but research around music came up across all 3 categories as did topics related the history of a local region (all different regions). Advertising related topics also came up under academic and personal research. Several of the respondents who chose other entered a topic that suggested that they were in the early phases of a book project or looking for materials to use in classes. To me these seemed like more academically associated activities, and I was surprised they turned up under “other”. If I was able to ask follow up questions to these respondents, I would prompt for more information about their topic and why they defined it as academic or personal. Similarly, if we were designing this survey again, I think we would want to include a category for academic related uses apart from official research.
The results to question 2 also remained mostly consistent since our first view of the results last Summer. Academic research and casual browsing were tied at a 28% response rate each initially, and finished tied at a 30% response rate. The followed a link response rate when down from 17% to an overall 11%, personal research also went down from 44% to 36% overall, and other climbed slightly from 11% to 15% overall.
Question 3: What will you do with the images and/or resources you find on this site?
The third survey question attempts to get at the “now what” part of resource discovery. Following trends with the first two questions, it is not surprising that a majority of the 121 respondences are oriented towards “personal” use (see bar graph below). Like question 2, respondents were able to select multiple choices, however they tended to choose only one response.
Everyone who selected “other” did enter a statement, and of these a handful seemed like they could have fit under one of the defined categories. Several of the write-ins mentioned wanting to share items they found with family and friends assumably using methods other than social media. Five “others” responded with potentially academic related pursuits such as “an article”, “a book”, “update a book”, and 2 class related projects. I re-ran some numbers and combined these 5 responses with the academic publication, teaching tool, and homework respondents for a total of 55 possibly academically related answers or 45% of the total response to this question. The new 45% “academicish” grouping, as I like to think of it, is a more substantial total than each academic topic on its own. I propose this as an interesting way to slice and dice the data, and I’m sure there are others.
My colleagues and I have been very pleased with the results of this survey. First, we couldn’t be more thrilled that we were successfully able to collect necessary data (any data!). At the beginning of this assessment project, we were looking for evidence of research, scholarly and instructional use of Duke Digital Collections. We did find some, but this survey along with other data shows that the majority of our users come to Duke Digital Collections with a more personal agenda. We welcome the opportunity to make this kind of individual impact, and it is powerful. If the respondents of this survey are a representative sample of our user base, then our patrons are actively performing our collections (we have a lot of music), sharing items with family, friends, and community, as well as using the collections to pursue a wide variety of interests.
While this survey data assures us that we are making individual impacts, it also reveals that there is more we can do to cultivate our scholarly and researcher audience. This will be a long term process, but we have made some short term progress. As a result of our work in 2015, my colleagues and I put together a “teaching with digital collections” webpage to collect examples of instructional use and encourage more. In the course of developing a new platform for digital collections, we are also exploring new tools that could serve scholarly researchers more effectively. With a look towards the longer term, all of Duke University Libraries has been engaged in strategic planning for the past year, and Digital Collections is no exception. As we develop our goals around scholarly use, survey data like this is an important asset.
I’m curious to hear from others, what has your experience been with surveys? What have you learned and how have you put that knowledge to use? Feel free to comment or contact me directly! (molly.bragg at duke.edu)
The 1970s are here! That is, in digital form. The Duke Chronicle digital collection now includes issues from the grooviest decade of the twentieth century.
The American memory of the 1970s is complex, wavering from carefree love to Vietnam and civil rights. As the social turmoil of the 1960s flowed into the 1970s, Terry Sanford was sworn in as president of Duke University. This marked the beginning of his sixteen-year term, but also marked the decade in which Sanford twice ran for president and partook in heated debates with Alabama governor George Wallace. He presided over the university In the midst of the Vietnam War and national protests, the Watergate scandal, and the aftermath of the Allen Building occupation in 1969.
In response to the demands from the Allen Building takeover, the Duke University community worked to improve social inequalities on campus. The 1972 incoming freshman class boasted more than twice as many black students than ever before in university history. Black Studies Program faculty and students struggle to create their own department, which became a controversial event on campus throughout the ‘70s. One Chronicle article even tentatively labeled 1976 as “The Year of the Black at Duke,” reflecting the strides made to incorporate black students and faculty into campus life and academics.
The 1970s was also a decade of change for women at Duke. In 1972, Trinity College and the Woman’s College merged, and not all constituents agreed with the move. Women’s athletics were also shaken by the application of Title IX implemented by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. This regulation significantly impacted the future of the Physical Education Department as well as women’s sports at Duke.
The addition of the 1970s to the Duke Chronicle digital collection marks a milestone for the Digital Projects and Production Services Department. We can now provide you with a complete run of issues from 1959 to 1989, and the 1950s will be heading your way soon! We invite you to explore the 1970s issues and see for yourself how history unfolded across the nation and across Duke campus.
Q: How is a silent H. Lee Waters film like an oral history recording?
A: Neither is text searchable.
But, leave it to oral historians to construct solutions for access to audiovisual resources of all stripes. No mistake, they’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Purposefully, profoundly non-textual at their creation, oral histories have since their postwar genesis contended with a central irony: as research they are exploited almost exclusively via textual transcription. Oral histories that don’t get transcribed get, instead, infamously ignored. So as the online floodgates have opened and digital media recorders and players have kept pace, oral historians have seen an opportunity to grapple meaningfully with closing the gap between the text and its source, and perhaps at the same time free the interview from the expectation that it should be transcribed.
Enter OHMS (http://www.oralhistoryonline.org/). In 2013, Doug Boyd at the University of Kentucky debuted the results of an IMLS-funded project to create the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. A free, open-source tool, OHMS empowers even the smallest oral history archive to encode its media with textual information. The OHMS editor enables the oral historian to easily create item level metadata for an oral history recording, including an index or subject list that can drop a researcher into an interview at that selected point. OHMS can also timestamp an existing transcript, so that researchers can track the audio via the text. In its short life, OHMS has demonstrated a way to bridge the great divide among oral history theorists, which reads something like this: Should our focus be the audio or the transcript?
While it springs from the minds of oral historians, OHMS might more accurately be termed the Media Metadata Synchronizer. When I saw Doug’s presentation on OHMS at the Oral History Association meeting in 2013, two alternative uses immediately came to mind: OHMS had the potential to help us provide bilingual entry to the 3,500+ recordings in our Radio Haiti Collection (currently being digitzed), and it could dramatically enhance access to one of Duke’s great collections, the H. Lee Waters Films. Waters filmed his Movies of Local People in mostly smaller communities around North Carolina from 1936-1942, using silent reversal film stock. Waters’ effort to supplement his family’s income has over the intervening years become a major historical document of the state during the Great Depression. And yet as rich as the collection is, it is difficult for students, scholars, and filmmakers to find specific scenes or subjects among the thousands of two-second shots Waters put to film. Several years ago, an intern in the archive created shotlists for some of the films, but these existed independently of the films and were not terribly accurate in matching times since they were created using VHS tapes (and VHS players are notorious for displaying incorrect times). OHMS would give us the opportunity to update the shotlists we had and create some new ones, linking description to precise points within the films.
Implementing OHMS at Duke Libraries was a pleasure, mostly because I had the opportunity to work with my colleagues in Digital Projects and Production Services, an outstanding team that can do amazing things with our equally amazing archival resources. Recognizing the open-source spirit of OHMS, Sean Aery, Will Sexton, and Molly Bragg immediately saw how the system could help us get deeper into the Waters films without having to build out a complex infrastructure (or lay out lots of cash). And so, when the H. Lee Waters website went live last year with 35 hours of mostly undescribed digital video (although we did post those older shotlists too, where we had them), it was generally agreed that a phase two would happen sooner rather than later and include a pilot for OHMS shotlists. Rubenstein Audiovisual Intern Olivia Carteaux worked diligently through the spring to normalize existing shotlists and create new ones where possible. This necessitated breaking down the descriptive data we had into spreadsheets, so we could then “crosswalk” the description into the OHMS xml file that is at the heart of the system.
While the OHMS index viewer allows for metadata including title or description, partial transcript, segment synopsis, keywords, subjects, GPS coordinates and a link to a map, we concentrated on providing a descriptive sentence as the title and, where it was easy to find, the location of the action.
While on the face of it generating description for the H. Lee Waters films might seem fairly straightforward, we found a number of challenges in describing his silent moving images. For starters, given Waters’ quick edits, what would adequate frequency of description look like? A new descriptive entry at every cut would be extremely unwieldy. At the same time we recognized that without a spoken or textual counterpart to the image, every time we chose not to describe would deprive potential users of a “way in.” We settled on creating entries whenever the general scene or action changed; for instance, when Waters shifts from a scene on main street to one in front of a mill or school, or within the scene at a school when the action goes from schoolyard play to the pledge of allegiance. Sometimes the shifts are obvious, other times they are more subtle, so watching the action with a deep focus is necessary. We also created new entries whenever Waters created a trick shot, such as a split screen, a speed up or slow down of the action, a reverse shot, or a masking shot. Additionally, storefront signs, buildings, and landmarks also became good places to create entries, depending on their prominence; for these, too, we attempted to create GPS coordinates where we could easily do so.
Our second challenge was how much to invest in each description. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “every picture tells a story” sum up much of the Waters footage, but brevity was of value to the workflow. One sentence, which did not have to be properly complete — a sort of descriptive bullet point — was decided on as our rule of thumb. In the next phase of this process I hope to use the keywords field more effectively, but that requires a controlled vocabulary, which brings me to our third challenge: normalizing description was the most difficult single piece of describing the films. Turns out there’s not a lot of library-based methodology for describing moving images, although there are general recommended approaches for describing images for the visually impaired. Then, of course, there’s the difficulty in deciding how to represent nuanced factors such as race, ethnicity, class, and gender. It is clear that in the event we undertake to create shotlists for all the Waters films, the first order of business will be to create a thesaurus of terms, to provide consistent description across the films.
When we felt like we had enough transformed shotlists for a pilot OHMS project for the Waters website, the OHMS player was loaded onto a server and the playlists uploaded. Links to the 29 shotlists were then placed below the video windows on their respective pages. To access the video and synchronized description, simply click on the link that says “Synchronized Shot List.” In this initial run we’re hoping to upload about 20 more shotlists, and at that point take a breath and see how we can improve on what we’ve accomplished. Given the challenges of presenting audiovisual resources online, there’s never really a “done,” only steady improvement. OHMS has provided what I believe is a clear step forward on access to the Waters films, and has the potential to help us transform other audiovisual collections into deeply mined treasures of the archive.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, Rubenstein Library
Its that time of year when all the year end “best of” lists come out, best music, movies, books, etc. Well, we could not resist following suit this year, so… Ladies in gentlemen, I give you in – no particular order – the 2015 best of list for the Digital Projects and Production Services department (DPPS).
In 2015, DPPS welcomed a new staff member to our team; Maggie Dickson came on board as our metadata architect! She is already leading a team to whip our digital collections metadata into shape, and is actively consulting with the digital repository team and others around the library. Bringing metadata expertise into the DPPS portfolio ensures that collections are as discoverable, shareable, and re-purposable as possible.
King Intern for Digital Collections
DPPS started the year with two large University Archives projects on our plates: the ongoing Duke University Chronicle digitization and a grant to digitize hundreds of Chapel recordings. Thankfully, University Archives allocated funding for us to hire an intern, and what a fabulous intern we found in Jessica Serrao (the proof is in her wonderful blogposts). The internship has been an unqualified success, and we hope to be able to repeat such a collaboration with other units around the library.
Our digital project developers have spent much of the year developing the new Tripod3 interface for the Duke Digital Repository. This process has been an excellent opportunity for cross departmental collaborative application development and implementing Agile methodology with sprints, scrums, and stand up meetings galore! We launched our first collection not the new platform in October and we will have a second one out the door before the end of this year. We plan on building on this success in 2016 as we migrate existing collections over to Tripod3.
Repository ingest planning
Speaking of Tripod3 and the Duke Digital Repository, we have ingesting digital collections into the Duke Digital Repository since 2014. However, we have a plan to kick ingests up a notch (or 5). Although the real work will happen in 2016, the planning has been a long time coming and we are all very excited to be at this phase of the Tripod3 / repository process (even if it will be a lot of work). Stay tuned!
Digital Collections Promotional Card
This is admittedly a small achievement, but it is one that has been on my to-do list for 2 years so it actually feels like a pretty big deal. In 2015, we designed a 5 x 7 postcard to hand out during Digital Production Center (DPC) tours, at conferences, and to any visitors to the library. Also, I just really love to see my UNC fan colleagues cringe every time they turn the card over and see Coach K’s face. Its really the little things that make our work fun.
New Exhibits Website
In anticipation of opening of new exhibit spaces in the renovated Rubenstein library, DPPS collaborated with the exhibits coordinator to create a brand new library exhibits webpage. This is your one stop shop for all library exhibits information in all its well-designed glory.
Audio and Video Preservation
In 2014, the Digital production Center bolstered workflows for preservation based digitization. Unlike our digital collections projects, these preservation digitization efforts do not have a publication outcome so they often go unnoticed. Over the past year, we have quietly digitized around 400 audio cassettes in house (this doesn’t count outsourced Chapel Recordings digitization), some of which need to be dramatically re-housed.
On the video side, efforts have been sidelined by digital preservation storage costs. However some behind the scenes planning is in the works, which means we should be able to do more next year. Also, we were able to purchase a Umatic tape cleaner this year, which while it doesn’t sound very glamorous to the rest of the world, thrills us to no end.
Revisiting the William Gedney Digital Collection
Fans of Duke Digital Collections are familiar with the current Gedney Digital Collection. Both the physical and digital collection have long needed an update. So in recent years, the physical collection has been reprocessed, and this Fall we started an effort to digitized more materials in the collection and to higher standards than were practical in the late 1990s.
When the Rubenstein Library re-opened, our neighbor moved into the new building, and the DPC got to expand into his office! The extra breathing room means more space for our specialists and our equipment, which is not only more comfortable but also better for our digitization practices. The two spaces are separate for now, but we are hoping to be able to combine them in the next year or two.
2015 was a great year in DPPS, and there are many more accomplishments we could add to this list. One of our team mottos is: “great productivity and collaboration, business as usual”. We look forward to more of the same in 2016!
The initial thought I had for this blog post was to describe a slice of my day that revolved around the work of William Gedney. I was going to spin a tale about being on the hunt for a light meter to take lux (luminance) readings used to help calibrate the capture environment of one of our scanners. On my search for the light meter I bumped into the new exhibit of William Gedney’s handmade books displayed in the Chappell Family Gallery in the Perkins Library. I had digitized a number of these books a few months ago and enjoyed pretty much every image in the books. One of the books on display was opened to a particular photograph. To my surprise, I had just digitized a finished print of the same image that very morning while working on a larger project to digitize all of Gedney’s finished prints, proof prints, contact sheets and other material. Once the project is complete (a year or so from now) I will have personally seen, handled and digitized over 20,000 of Gedney’s photographs. Whoa! Would I be able to recognize Gedney images whenever one presented itself just like the book in the gallery? Maybe.
Once the collection is digitized and published through Duke Digital Collections the whole world will be able to see this amazing body of work. Instead of boring you with the details of that story I thought I would just leave you with a few images from the collection. For me, many of Gedney’s photographs have a kinetic energy to them. It seems as if I can almost feel the air. My imagination may be working overtime to achieve this and the reality of what was happening when the photograph was taken may be wholly different but the fact is these photographs spin up my imagination and transport me to the moments he has captured. These photographs inspire me to dust off my enlarger and set up a darkroom.
It may take some time to complete this particular project but there are other William Gedney related projects, materials and events available at Duke.
Life in Duke University Libraries has been even more energetic than usual these past months. Our neighbors in Rubenstein just opened their newly renovated library and the semester is off with a bang. As you can read over on Devil’s Tale, a lot of effort went on behind the scenes to get that sparkly new building ready for the public. In following that theme, today I am sharing some thoughts on how producing digital collections both blesses and curses my perspective on our finished products.
When I write a Bitstreams post, I look for ideas in my calendar and to-do list to find news and projects to share. This week I considered writing about “Ben”, those prints/negs/spreadsheets, and some resurrected proposals I’ve been fostering (don’t worry, these labels shouldn’t make sense to you). I also turned to my list of favorite items in our digital collections; these are items I find particularly evocative and inspiring. While reviewing my favorites with my possible topics in mind (Ben, prints/negs/spreadsheets, etc), I was struck by how differently patrons and researchers must relate to Duke Digital Collections than I do. Where they see a polished finished product, I see the result of a series of complicated tasks I both adore and would sometimes prefer to disregard.
Let me back up and say that my first experience with Duke digital collections projects isn’t always about content or proper names. Someone comes to me with an idea and of course I want to know about the significance of the content, but from there I need to know what format? How many items? Is the collection processed? What kind of descriptive data is available? Do you have a student to loan me? My mind starts spinning with logistics logistics logistics. These details take on a life of their own separate from the significant content at hand. As a project takes off, I come to know a collection by its details, the web of relationships I build to complete the project, and the occasional nickname. Lets look at a few examples.
Parts of this collection are published, but we are expanding and improving the online collection dramatically.
What the public sees: poignant and powerful images of everyday life in an array of settings (Brooklyn, India, San Francisco, Rural Kentucky, and others).
What I see: 50,000 items in lots of formats; this project could take over DPC photographic digitization resources, all publication resources, all my meetings, all my emails, and all my thoughts (I may be over dramatizing here just a smidge). When it all comes together, it will be amazing.
Benjamin Rush Papers We have just begun working with this collection, but the Devil’s Tale blog recently shared a sneak preview.
What people will see: letters to and from fellow founding fathers including Thomas Jefferson (Benjamin Rush signed the Declaration of Independence), as well as important historical medical accounts of a Yellow Fever outbreak in 1793.
What I see: Ben or when I’m really feeling it, Benny. We are going to test out an amazing new workflow between ArchivesSpace and DPC digitization guides with Ben.
This collection of photographs was published in 2008. Since then we have added more images to it, and enhanced portions of the collection’s metadata.
What others see: a striking portfolio of a Southern itinerant photographer’s portraits featuring a diverse range of people. Mangum also had a studio in Durham at the beginning of his career.
What I see: HMP. HMP is the identifier for the collection included in every URL, which I always have to remind myself when I’m checking stats or typing in the URL (at first I think it should be Mangum). HMP is sneaky, because every now and then the popularity of this collection spikes. I really want more people to get to know HMP.
The orphans are not literal children, but they come in all size and shapes, and span multiple collections.
What the public sees: the public doesn’t see these projects.
What I see: orphans – plain and simple. The orphans are projects that started, but then for whatever reason didn’t finish. They have complicated rights, metadata, formats, or other problems that prevent them from making it through our production pipeline. These issues tend to be well beyond my control, and yet I periodically pull out my list of orphans to see if their time has come. I feel an extra special thrill of victory when we are able to complete an orphan project; the Greek Manuscripts are a good example. I have my sights set on a few others currently, but do not want to divulge details here for fear of jinxing the situation.
I could go on and on about how the logistics of each project shapes and re-shapes my perspective of it. My point is that it is easy to temporarily lose sight of the digital collections garden given how entrenched (and even lost at times) we are in the weeds. For my part, when I feel like the logistics of my projects are overwhelming, I go back to my favorites folder and remind myself of the beauty and impact of the digital artifacts we share with the world. I hope the public enjoys them as much as I do.
Many of my Bitstreams posts have featured old-school audio formats (wax cylinder, cassette and open reel tape, Minidisc) and discussed how we go about digitizing these obsolete media to bring them to present-day library users at the click of a mouse. In this post, I will take a different tack and show how this sound technology was represented and marketed during its heyday. The images used here are taken from one of our very own digital collections–the Duke Chronicle of the 1960s.
Students of that era would have primarily listened to music on vinyl records purchased directly from a local retailer. The advertisement above boasts of “complete stocks, latest releases, finest variety” with sale albums going for as little as $2.98 apiece. This is a far cry from the current music industry landscape where people consume most of their media via instant download and streaming from iTunes or Spotify and find new artists and songs via blogs, Youtube videos, or social media. The curious listener of the 1960’s may have instead discovered a new band though word of mouth, radio, or print advertising. If they were lucky, the local record shop would have the LP in stock and they could bring it home to play on their hi-fi phonograph (like the one shown below). Notice that this small “portable” model takes up nearly the whole tabletop.
Duke students of the 1960s would have also used magnetic tape-based media for recording and playing back sound. The advertisement above uses Space Age imagery and claims that the recorder (“small enough to fit in the palm of your hand”) was used by astronauts on lunar missions. Other advertisements suggest more grounded uses for the technology: recording classroom lectures, practicing public speaking, improving foreign language comprehension and pronunciation, and “adding fun to parties, hayrides, and trips.”
Creative uses of the technology are also suggested. The “Add-A-Track” system allows you to record multiple layers of sound to create your own unique spoken word or musical composition. You can even use your tape machine to record a special message for your Valentine (“the next best thing to you personally”). Amplifier kits are also available for the ambitious electronics do-it-yourselfer to build at home.
These newspaper ads demonstrate just how much audio technology and our relationship to it have changed over the past 50 years. Everything is smaller, faster, and more “connected” now. Despite these seismic shifts, one thing hasn’t changed. As the following ad shows, the banjo never goes out of style.
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team