Category Archives: Digital Collections

My Family Story through the Duke Digital Collections Program

Hello! This is my first blog as the new Digital Production Service Manager, and I’d like to take this opportunity to take you, the reader, through my journey of discovering the treasures that the Duke Digital Collections program offers. To personalize this task, I  explored the materials related to my family’s journey to the United States. First, I should contextualize. After migrating from south China in the mid-1800s, my family fled Vietnam in the late 1970s and we left with the bare necessities – mainly food, clothes, and essential documents. All I have now are a few family pictures from that era and vividly told stories from my parents to help me connect the dots of my family’s history.

When I started delving into Duke’s Digital Collections, it was heartening to find materials of China, Vietnam, and even anti-war materials in the U.S. The following are some materials and collections that I’d like to highlight.

The Sidney D. Gamble Photographs offer over 5,000 photographs of China in the early 20th century. Images of everyday life in China and landscapes are available in this collection.The above image from the Gamble collection, is that of a junk, or houseboat, photographed in the early 1900s. When my family fled Vietnam, fifty people crammed into a similar vessel and sailed in the dead of night along the Gulf of Tonkin. My parents spoke of how they were guided by the moonlight and how fearful they were of the junk catching fire from cooking rice.

The African American Soldier’s Vietnam War photograph album collection offers these gorgeous images of Vietnam. This is the country that was home for multiple generations for my family, and up until the war, it was a good life. I am astounded and grateful that these postcards were collected by an American soldier in the middle of war. Considering that I grew up in Los Angeles, California, I have no sense of the world that my parents inhabited, and these images help me appreciate their stories even more. On the other side of the planet, there were efforts to stop the war and it was intriguing to see a variety of digital collections depicting these perspectives through art and documentary photography. The image below is that of a poster from the Italian Cultural Posters collection depicting Uncle Sam and the Viet Cong.

In addition to capturing street scenes in London, the Ronald Reis Collection, includes images of Vietnam during the war and anti-war effort in the United States. The image below is that of a demonstration in Bryant Park in New York City. I recognize that the conflict was fought on multiple fronts and am grateful for these demonstrations, as they ultimately led to the end of the war.Lastly, the James Karales Photos collection depicts Vietnam during the war. The image below, titled “Soldiers leaving on helicopter” is one that reminds me of my uncle who left with the American soldiers and started a new life in the United States. In 1980, thanks to the Family Reunification Act, the aid of the American Red Cross, and my uncle’s sponsorship, we started a new chapter in America.

Perhaps this is typical of the immigrant experience, but it still is important to put into words. Not every community has the resources and the privilege to be remembered, and where there are materials to help piece those stories together, they are absolutely valued and appreciated. Thank you, Duke University Libraries, for making these materials available.

Digitization Details: The Process of Digitizing a Collection

About four and a half years ago I wrote a blog post here on Bitstreams titled: “Digitization Details: Before We Push the “Scan” Button” in which I wrote about how we use color calibration, device profiling and modified viewing environments to produce “consistent results of a measurable quality” in our digital images.  About two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post adjacent to that subject titled “The FADGI Still Image standard: It isn’t just about file specs” about the details of the FADGI standard and how its guidelines go beyond ppi and bit depth to include information about UV light, vacuum tables, translucent material, oversized material and more.  I’m surprised that I have never shared the actual process of digitizing a collection because that is what we do in the Digital Production Center.

Building digital collections is a complex endeavor that requires a cross-departmental team that analyzes project proposals, performs feasibility assessments, gathers project requirements, develops project plans, and documents workflows and guidelines in order to produce a consistent and scalable outcome in an efficient manner.  We call our cross-departmental team the Digital Collections Implementation Team (DCIT) which includes representatives from the Conservation staff, Technical Services, Digital Production, Metadata Architects and Digital Collections UI developers, among others.  By having representatives from each department participate, we are able to consider all perspectives including the sticking points, technical limitations and time constraints of each department. Over time, our understanding of each other’s workflows and sticking points has enabled us to refine our approach to efficiently hand off a project between departments.

I will not be going into the details of all the work other departments contribute to building digital collections (you can read just about any post on the blog for that). I will just dip my toe into what goes on in the Digital Production Center to digitize a collection.

Digitization

Once the specifics of a project are nailed down, the scope of the project has been finalized, the material has been organized by Technical Services, Conservation has prepared the material for digitization, the material has been transferred to the Digital Production Center and an Assessment Checklist is filled out describing the type, condition, size and number of items in a collection, we are ready to begin the digitization process.

Digitization Guide
A starter digitization guide is created using output from ArchivesSpace and the DPC adds 16-20 fields to capture technical metadata during the digitization process. The digitization guide is an itemized list representing each item in a collection and is centrally stored for ease of access. 

Setup
Cameras and monitors are calibrated with a spectrometer.  A color profile is built for each capture device along with job settings in the capture software. This will produce consistent results from each capture device and produce an accurate representation of any items captured which in turn removes subjective evaluation from the scanning process.

Training
Instructions are developed describing the scanning, quality control, and handling procedures for the project and students are trained.

Scanning
Following instructions developed for each collection, the scanner operator will use the appropriate equipment, settings and digitization guide to digitize the collection.  Benchmark tests are performed and evaluated periodically during the project. During the capture process the images are monitored for color fidelity and file naming errors. The images are saved in a structured way on the local drive and the digitization guide is updated to reflect the completion of an item.   At the end of each shift the files are moved to a production server.

Quality Control 1
The Quality Control process is different depending on the device with which an item was captured and the nature of the material.  All images are inspected for:  correct file name, skew, clipping, banding, blocking, color fidelity, uniform crop, and color profile.  The digitization guide is updated to reflect the completion of an item.

Quality Control 2
Images are cropped (leaving no background) and saved as JPEGs for online display.  During the second pass of quality control each image is inspected for: image consistency from operator to operator and image to image, skew and other anomalies.

Finalize
During this phase we compare the digitization guide against the item and file counts of the archival and derivative images on our production server.   Discrepancies such as missing files, misnamed files and missing line items in the digitization guide and are resolved.

Create Checksums and dark storage
We then create a SHA1 checksum for each image file in the collection and push the collection into a staging area for ingest into the repository.

Sometimes this process is referred to simply as “scanning”.

Not only is this process in active motion for multiple projects at the same time, the Digital Production Center also participates in remediation of legacy projects for ingest into the Duke Digital Repository, multispectral imaging, audio digitization and video digitization for, preservation, patron and staff requests… it is quite a juggling act with lots of little details but we love our work!

Time to get back to it so I can get to a comfortable stopping point before the Thanksgiving break!

Vote!

In anticipation of next Tuesday’s midterm elections, here is a photo gallery of voting-related images from Duke Digital Collections. Click on a photo to view more images from our collections dealing with political movements, voting rights, propaganda, activism, and more!

This image is part of a series of photographs taken by James Karales on assignment for Look Magazine during the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965.
Propaganda poster of the Italian Socialist Party. It reads: “Workers, vote for socialism means voting for women’s rights and labor.”
Image is part of “Thirteen-Month Crop: One Year in the Life of a Piedmont Virginia Tobacco Farm,” which documents the Moore family farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Poster with depiction of large PCI flag with the Italian flag behind it.
Leaflet created by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.
Socialist Party literature, explaining their views.

If you haven’t already taken advantage of early voting, we at Bitstreams encourage you to exercise your right on November 6!

“To Greenland in 105 Days, or, Why Did I Ever Leave Home”: Henry J. Oosting’s Misadventure in the Arctic (1937)

When Duke professor and botanist Henry J. Oosting agreed to take part in an expedition to Greenland in the summer of 1937 his mission was to collect botanical samples and document the region’s native flora. The expedition, organized and led by noted polar explorer Louise Arner Boyd, included several other accomplished scientists of the day and its principal achievement was the discovery and charting of a submarine ridge off of Greenland’s eastern coast.

Narwhal sketch
Oosting’s sketch of a Narwhal

In a diary he kept during his trip titled “To Greenland in 105 Days, or Why did I ever leave home,” Oosting focuses little on the expedition’s scientific exploits. Instead, he offers a more intimate look into the mundane and, at times, amusing aspects of early polar exploration. Supplementing the diary in the recently published Henry J. Oosting papers digital collection are a handful of digitized nitrate negatives that add visual interest to his arctic (mis)adventures.

Oosting’s journey got off to an inauspicious start when he wrote in his opening entry on June 9, 1937: “Frankly, I’m not particularly anxious to go now that the time has come–adventure of any sort has never been my line–and the thought of the rolling sea gives me no great cheer.” What follows over the next 200 pages or so, by his own account, are the “inane mental ramblings of a simple-minded botanist,” complete with dozens of equally inane marginal doodles.

Musk Ox Steak doodle
Oosting sketch of Musk Ox steak

The Veslekari, the ship chartered by Louise Boyd for the expedition, first encountered sea ice on July 12 just off the east coast of Greenland. As the ship slowed to a crawl and boredom set in among the crew the following day, Oosting wrote in his diary that “Miss Boyd’s story of the polar bear is worth recording.” He then relayed a joke Boyd told the crew: “If you keep a private school and I keep a private school then why does a polar bear sit on a cake of ice…? To keep its privates cool, of course.”  For clarification, Oosting added: “She says she has been trying for a long time to get just the right picture to illustrate the story but it’s either the wrong kind of bear or it won’t hold its position.”

Hoisting a polar bear
Crew hoisting a polar bear on board the Veslekari

When the expedition finally reached the Greenland coast at the end of July, Oosting spent several days exploring the Tyrolerfjord glacier, gathering plant specimens and drying them on racks in the ship’s engine room. On the glacier, Oosting observed an arctic hare, an ermine, and noted that “my plants are accumulating in such quantity.”

Oosting sketch of foot
Oosting sketch of foot

As the expedition wore on Oosting grew increasingly frustrated with the daily tedium and with Boyd’s unfailing enthusiasm for the enterprise. “In spite of everything…we are stopping at more or less regular intervals to see what B thinks is interesting,” Oosting wrote on August 19.  “I didn’t go ashore this A.M. for a 15 min. stop even after she suggested it–have heard about it 10 times since…I’ll be obliged to go in every time now regardless or there will be no living with this woman. I am thankful, sincerely thankful, there are only 5 more days before we sail for I am thoroughly fed-up with this whole business.”

Arctic Hare
Arctic Hare

By late August, the Veslekari and crew headed back east towards Bergen, Norway and eventually Newcastle, England, where Oosting boarded a train for London on September 12. “This sleeping car is the silliest arrangement imaginable,” Oosting wrote, “my opinion of the English has gone down–at least my opinion of their ideas of comfort.” After a brief stint sightseeing around London, Oosting boarded another ship in Southampton headed for New York and eventually home to Durham. “It will be heaven to get back to the peace and quiet of Durham,” Oosting pined on September 14, “I’m developing a soft spot for the lousy old town.”

Veslekari
Veslekari, the vessel chartered by Louise Boyd for the 1937 Greenland expedition

Oosting arrived home on September 21, where his diary ends. Despite his curmudgeonly tone throughout and his obsession with recording every inconvenience and impediment encountered along the way, it’s clear from other sources that Oosting’s work on the voyage made important contributions to our understanding of arctic plant life.

In The Coast of Northeast Greenland (1948), edited by Louise Boyd and published by the American Geographic Society, Oosting authored a chapter titled “Ecological Notes on the Flora,” in which he meticulously documented the specimens he collected in the arctic. The onset of World War II and concerns over national security delayed publication of Oosting’s findings, but when released, they provided valuable new information about plant communities in the region.  While Oosting’s diary reveals a man with little appetite for adventure, his work endures.  As the forward to Boyd’s 1948 volume attests:  “When travelers can include significant contributions to science, then adventure becomes a notable achievement.”

Oosting sketch
Oosting sketch

We are Hiring!

Duke University Libraries is recruiting a Digital Production Services Manager to direct the operations of our Digital Production Center, its staff (3 FTE plus student assistants), and associated digitization services. We are seeking someone experienced in leading digitization projects who is excited to partner with colleagues around the library to reformat and preserve unique library collections and provide access to them online. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who likes working with people, projects, and primary sources!

This newly created position combines people and project management responsibilities with hands-on digitization duties. Previous supervisory experience is not required; however, the ability to direct the work of others is essential to this position, as is a service oriented attitude. Strong organizational and project management skills are also a must. Some form of digitization experience in a library or other cultural heritage setting is required for this role as well. The successful candidate will join the highly collaborative Digital Collections and Curation Services department and work under the direct supervision of the department head.

The Digital Production Center (DPC) is a specialized unit that creates digital surrogates of primary resources from Duke University Libraries collections for the purposes of preservation and access. Learn more about the DPC on our web page, or through the Digital Strategies and Technology division’s blog, Bitstreams. To see some of the materials we have digitized, check out Duke Digital Collections online.

Duke is a diverse community committed to the principles of excellence, fairness, and respect for all people. As part of this commitment, we actively value diversity in our workplace and learning environments as we seek to take advantage of the rich backgrounds and abilities of everyone. We believe that when we understand, celebrate, and tap into our uniqueness to creatively solve problems and address shared goals, our possibilities are limitless. Duke University Libraries value diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and background and are actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect.

Duke offers a comprehensive benefit package, which includes both traditional benefits such as health insurance, leave time and retirement, as well as wide ranging work/life and cultural benefits. Details can be found at: http://www.hr.duke.edu/benefits/index.php.

For a full job description please see https://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/dpsmanager. To apply, submit an electronic resume, cover letter, and list of 3 references: https://hr.duke.edu/careers/apply – refer to requisition #401463554. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Open, Flip, Scan, Close: Observations from The Duke Chronicle Collection Project

Beginning Launch in….

Exciting news from Digital Collections! The 1990’s decade of The Duke Chronicle is being prepped for completion. It has been nine months since I started scanning The Chronicle, and I have come across some interesting stories and images. Despite the fact that I can’t digest the 1990’s being twenty years ago, flipping through the pages brought back some good memories of those days. They also brought some perspective of events I was too young, and too focused on the new trendiest toy, to recall.

It all falls down

As I’m sure some of you remember, in the 1990’s, the world saw the slow destruction of the massive empire that was the Soviet Union. I was much too young to remember the monumental days of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the gradual independence of the Eastern European nations, but the students at Duke were old enough to witness and digest it. Apparently, there was such an interest in the topic that course enrollments skyrocketed in some areas. Since the situation was so new at the time, professors did not have any readings to assign, and previous course materials were made obsolete! I could see myself being one of the many students signing up for these courses.

     

Barbecue or peace of mind

Another random yet interesting article I found involved hog farms in North Carolina. Allegedly, the smell was so bad and spread so wide that neighbors were experiencing mood changes. A medical psychology professor completed an odor study, and found people were more depressed, angry and tired compared to people who didn’t live near hog farms. It became enough of an issue for local residents to file a lawsuit against the nearby hog farms. Although I have never lived near a hog farm, if I had to smell feces, urine and hog feed every time I came home, I don’t think I would be a happy camper either.

    

We have come so far

This particular article hit close to home. The University Archives were worried about navigating the preservation of important emails and other electronic documents. They discussed printing emails back in 1999, but we have now moved on to preserving electronic records in their original form. There are even courses dedicated to the subject in the archival field. It’s funny reading this article after scanning it for the very same purpose. Preservation.

    

Back in the day

Some more goodies I noticed while scanning this project.

Did anyone have any of these state of the art electronics?

Ohh, so this is how you found out what classes were available.

In the meantime 

I know the students, faculty and staff of the ’90s will probably get a kick out of viewing these old newspaper issues, but I’m sure everyone else will enjoy reading through The Chronicle too. While you wait for the 1990’s to be made available publicly, take a look  at the current digitized Chronicle collection.

 

 

 

Woman: The World Over

An amazing collection of lantern slides depicting women from nations around the world. At first glance, the women in these portraits seem like other portraits of the time, generally nondescript portraits of people at some random moment in time.  But upon closer inspection, and with the use of an accompanying lecture booklet, a much deeper picture is painted of the lives of these women.

Women: The World Over is a commercially-produced set of slides created by the European firm Riley Brothers in Bradford, England in 1901 that boasts a catalogue of 1,500 slide sets for sale or hire with lecture-format captions. These slides include women of different classes, working in agricultural, service, and industrial settings with lecture notes that refer to problematic social conditions for women, particularly regarding marriage, and changing social norms as the 20th century begins.

These lantern slides are part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a large collection with a common thread of revealing the often hidden role of women working and being productive throughout history.  The slides  will be a part of the exhibition, 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection on display from March 5-June 15, 2019 in the Biddle Rare Book Room, Stone Family Gallery, and History of Medicine Room.

Included with the images below are transcriptions from the lecture booklet that accompanies this set of slides and contain views of the time and the author’s opinion.

“Arab women. Here we have some city Arab women coming from the well. These women are always veiled in public, the long black veil extending from their eyes down to their waist, and sometimes to their feet. Between their eyes, and stretching upwards to their foreheads, is a curious brass ornament resembling three stout thimbles, one on top of another. This serves a double purpose­ to act as an ornament, and to still further conceal the features. The rest of the figure is enveloped in a long gown with very wide sleeves. No one can fail to be struck with the upright walk of the women in Egypt, and some say it is due to their habit of carrying heavy weights on their heads, which renders it necessary to walk very erect and firmly.”
“Market Women, Madeira. We are now in sunny Madeira, where a group of market women await our notice. The streets of Funchal are always bright and busy. Sledges laden with sugar cane, barrels of wine or luggage, and drawn by oxen, dispute the road with hammock bearers and porters of all descriptions. But the gaily dressed women and girls who hasten about with heavy loads upon their backs, and with bright coloured handkerchiefs upon their heads, are the most interesting sight. Baskets of fruit and vegetables are their commonest burdens, and very picturesque the groups look, whether they are standing at the street corner discussing the rise and fall in prices, or seated upon the ground as in the present instance, or walking slowly homewards in the cool of the day. They are a pleasant folk, and live a life of comparative freedom and pleasure.”
“Hulling Rice in the Philippines. Here we have come across some Philippine women engaged in hulling rice. There are immense rice fields in all parts of the island which give employment to thousands of people. Rice is their staple food and the home product is not yet sufficient for the home consumption. A family of five persons will consume about 250 lbs. of rice per month. No rice husking or winnowing machines are in use, save small ones for domestic purposes The grain is usually husked in a large hard-wood mortar, where it is beaten with a pestle, several women, and sometimes men working over one mortar.”
“Haymaking in Russian. Then we all know that woman from the earliest recorded times has been employed in harvest operations, and has been at home in the field of peace. This seems fitting work for women, and work which she seems always willing to undertake.
The picture introduces us to a Russian haymaker, whose garment is of the most striking colours, and whose frame is built for hard work. The Russian peasantry of her class are a cheerful and contented folk, courteous to strangers, but not too friendly to soap the water.”

All 48 slides and the accompanying booklet will be published on the Digital Collections website later this year, included in the exhibit mentioned above and will also be traveling to the Grolier Club in New York city in December of 2019.  Keep an eye out for them!

 

Catalog Record: https://search.library.duke.edu/search?id=DUKE008113723

Finding Aid: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/womantheworldover/

To Four Years and Beyond

It is graduation week here at Duke and everyone is scattering about like pollen in the air. There are large tents popping up, students taking pictures in gowns, and people taking long walks across campus. These students, like the groups before them, are embarking on new territory.

They are setting out into the world as adults preparing for the rest of their lives. For four years, they have been studying, partying and sleeping their way through life as pseudo grown ups, but now they have reached an unfamiliar page in their lives. They are being faced with societal expectations, financial obligations, and a world that is still in progress. How will this fresh batch of individuals fit into our ever changing society? I’m sure people have been asking this question for decades, but in asking this question I managed to find some digital collections featuring people who contributed to society in various ways.


Judy Richardson took part in the Civil Rights Movement through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.


Deena Stryker went to Cuba in order to document the Cuban Revolution.


Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer went to Argentina during the Dirty War.


H. Lee Waters travelled through the South to film and showcase the daily lives of Southerners.


All of these individuals went out into the world and gave something to it. For the past four years, our country has witnessed copious changes. We have seen serious adjustments in political climate, social activism, and technology. It will be interesting to see where the 2018 Duke graduates will go and what they will do in their open future.

Baby Advice (from Duke Digital Collections)

As a recent first-time parent, I’m constantly soliciting advice from other more experienced people I meet about how best to take care of my baby. I thought it might be fun to peruse the Duke Digital Collections to see what words of wisdom could be gleaned from years past.


This 1930 ad, part of the Medicine and Madison Avenue collection, advises that we should make regular visits to the doctor’s office so our baby can be ‘carefully examined, measured, weighed and recorded.’ Excellent – we’ve been doing that!


This one from 1946 offers the ‘newest facts and findings on baby care and feeding.’ Overall the advice largely seems applicable to today. I found this line to be particularly fun:

Let your child participate in household tasks — play at dusting or cooking or bedmaking. It’s more of a hindrance than a help, but it gives the youngster a feeling of being needed and loved.


Baby strollers seem to have many innovative features these days, but more than 100 years ago the Oriole Go-Basket — a ‘combined Go-Cart, High Chair, Jumper and Bassinet’ — let you take your baby everywhere.


I’m a puzzled father of a rather young child — it’s like this 1933 ad was written just for me…


Of all the digitized materials in the collections I searched through, this 1928 booklet from the Emergence of Advertising in America collection seems to hold the most knowledge. On page 15, they offer ‘New Ways to Interest the Whole Family’ and suggest serving ‘Mapl-Flake’ and ‘Checkr-Corn Flake’ — are these really Web startups from 2005?


And finally, thanks to this 1955 ad, I’m glad to know I can give my baby 7-up, especially when mixed in equal parts with milk. ‘It’s a wholesome combination — and it works!’