Category Archives: Featured Item

Celebrating a New Duke Digital Collections Milestone with Section A

Duke Digital Collections recently passed 100,000 items!

 

Last week, it was brought to our attention that Duke Digital Collections recently passed 100,000 individual items found in the Duke Digital Repository! To celebrate, I want to highlight some of the most recent materials digitized and uploaded from our Section A project. In the past, Bitstreams has blogged about what Section A is and what it means, but it’s been a couple of years since that post, and a little refresher couldn’t hurt.

What is Section A?

In 2016, the staff of Rubenstein Research Services proposed a mass digitization project of Section A. This is the umbrella term for 175 boxes of different historic materials that users often request – manuscripts, correspondence, receipts, diaries, drawings, and more. These boxes contain around 3,900 small collections that all had their own workflows. Every box needs consultations from Rubenstein Research Services, review by Library Conservation Department staff, review by Technical Services, metadata updates, and more, all to make sure that the collections could be launched and hosted within the Duke Digital Repository. 

In the 2 years since that blog post, so much has happened! The first 2 Section A collections had gone live as a sort of proof-of-concept, and as a way to define what the digitization project would be and what it would look like. We’ve added over 500 more collections from Section A since then. This somehow barely even scratches the surface of the entire project! We’re digitizing the collections in alphabetical order, and even after all the collections that have gone online, we are currently still only on the letter “C”! 

Nonetheless, there is already plenty of materials to check out and enjoy. I was a student of history in college, so in this blog post, I want to particularly highlight some of the historic materials from the latter half of the 19th century.

Showing off some of Section A

Clara Barton’s description of the Grand Hotel de la Paix in Lyon, France.

In 1869, after her work as a nurse in the Civil War, Clara Barton traveled around Europe to Geneva, Switzerland and Corsica, France. Included in the Duke Digital Collections is her diary and calling cards from her time there. These pages detail where she visited and stayed throughout the year. She also wrote about her views on the different European countries, how Americans and Europeans compare, and more. Despite her storied career and her many travels that year, Miss Barton felt that “I have accomplished very little in a year”, and hoped that in 1870, she “may be accounted worthy once more to take my place among the workers of the world, either in my own country or in some other”.

Back in America, around 1900, the Rev. John Malachi Bowden began dictating and documenting his experiences as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, one of many that a nurse like Miss Barton may have treated. Although Bowden says he was not necessarily a secessionist at the beginning of the Civil War, he joined the 2nd Georgia Regiment in August 1861 after Georgia had seceded. During his time in the regiment, he fought in the Battles of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, and more. In 1864, Union forced captured and held Bowden as a prisoner at Maryland’s Point Lookout Prison, where he describes in great detail what life was like as a POW before his eventual release. He writes that he was “so indignant at being in a Federal prison” that he refused to cut his hair. His hair eventually grew to be shoulder-length, “somewhat like Buffalo Bill’s.”

Speaking of whom, Duke Digital Collections also has some material from Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody), courtesy of the Section A initiative. A showman and entertainer who performed in cowboy shows throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Buffalo Bill was enormously popular wherever he went. In this collection, he writes to a Brother Miner about how he invited seventy-five of his “old Brothers” from Bedford, VA to visit him in Roanoke. There is also a brief itinerary of future shows throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. This includes a stop here in Durham, NC a few weeks after Bill wrote this letter.

Buffalo Bill’s letter to his “Brother Miner”, dated October 17, 1916.

Around this time, Walter Clark, associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, began writing his own histories of North Carolina throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Three of Clark’s articles prepared for the University Magazine of the University of North Carolina have been digitized as part of Section A. This includes an article entitled “North Carolina in War”, where he made note of the Generals from North Carolina engaged in every war up to that point. It’s possible that John Malachi Bowden was once on the battlefield alongside some of these generals mentioned in Clark’s writings. This type of synergy in our collection is what makes Section A so exciting to dive into.

As the new Still Image Digitization Specialist at the Duke Digital Production Center, seeing projects like this take off in such a spectacular way is near and dear to my heart. Even just the four collections I’ve highlighted here have been so informative. We still have so many more Section A boxes to digitize and host online. It’s so exciting to think of what we might find and what we’ll digitize for all the world to see. Our work never stops, so remember to stay updated on Duke Digital Collections to see some of these newly digitized collections as they become available. 

Multispectral Imaging Through Collaboration

I am sure you have all been following the Library’s exploration into Multispectral Imaging (MSI) here on Bitstreams, Preservation Underground and the News & Observer.  Previous posts have detailed our collaboration with R.B. Toth Associates and the Duke Eye Center, the basic process and equipment, and the wide range of departments that could benefit from MSI.  In early December of last year (that sounds like it was so long ago!), we finished readying the room for MSI capture, installed the equipment, and went to MSI boot camp.

Obligatory before and after shot. In the bottom image, the new MSI system is in the background on the left with the full spectrum system that we have been using for years on the right. Other additions to the room are blackout curtains, neutral gray walls and black ceiling tiles all to control light spill between the two camera systems. Full spectrum overhead lighting and a new tile floor were installed which is standard for an imaging lab in the Library.

Well, boot camp came to us. Meghan Wilson, an independent contractor who has worked with R.B. Toth Associates for many years, started our training with an overview of the equipment and the basic science behind it. She covered the different lighting schemes and when they should be used.  She explained MSI applications for identifying resins, adhesives and pigments and how to use UV lighting and filters to expose obscured text.   We quickly went from talking to doing.  As with any training session worth its salt, things went awry right off the bat (not Meghan’s fault).  We had powered up the equipment but the camera would not communicate with the software and the lights would not fire when the shutter was triggered.  This was actually a good experience because we had to troubleshoot on the spot and figure out what was going on together as a team.  It turns out that there are six different pieces of equipment that have to be powered-up in a specific sequence in order for the system to communicate properly (tee up Apollo 13 soundtrack). Once we got the system up and running we took turns driving the software and hardware to capture a number of items that we had pre-selected.  This is an involved process that produces a bunch of files that eventually produce an image stack that can be manipulated using specialized software.  When it’s all said and done, files have been converted, cleaned, flattened, manipulated and variations produced that are somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 files. Whoa!

This is not your parents’ point and shoot—not the room, the lights, the curtains, the hardware, the software, the pricetag, none of it. But it is different in another more important way too. This process is team-driven and interdisciplinary. Our R&D working group is diverse and includes representatives from the following library departments.

  • The Digital Production Center (DPC) has expertise in high-end, full spectrum imaging for cultural heritage institutions along with a deep knowledge of the camera and lighting systems involved in MSI, file storage, naming and management of large sets of files with complex relationships.
  • The Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3) offers a scholarly and research perspective on papyri, manuscripts, etc., as well as  experience with MSI and other imaging modalities
  • The Conservation Lab brings expertise in the Libraries’ collections and a deep understanding of the materiality and history of the objects we are imaging.
  • Duke Libraries’ Data Visualization Services (DVS) has expertise in the processing and display of complex data.
  • The Rubenstein Library’s Collection Development brings a deep understanding of the collections, provenance and history of materials, and valuable contacts with researchers near and far.

To get the most out of MSI we need all of those skills and perspectives. What MSI really offers is the ability to ask—and we hope answer—strings of good questions. Is there ink beneath that paste-down or paint? Is this a palimpsest? What text is obscured by that stain or fire-damage or water damage? Can we recover it without having to intervene physically? What does the ‘invisible’ text say and what if anything does this tell us about the object’s history? Is the reflectance signature of the ink compatible with the proposed date or provenance of the object? That’s just for starters. But you can see how even framing the right question requires a range of perspectives; we have to understand what kinds of properties MSI is likely to illuminate, what kinds of questions the material objects themselves suggest or demand, what the historical and scholarly stakes are, what the wider implications for our and others’ collections are, and how best to facilitate human interface with the data that we collect. No single person on the team commands all of this.

Working in any large group can be a challenge. But when it all comes together, it is worth it. Below is a page from Jantz 723, one processed as a black and white image and the other a Principal Component Analysis produced by the MSI capture and processed using ImageJ and a set of tools created by Bill Christens-Barry of R.B. Toth Associates with false color applied using Photoshop. Using MSI we were able to better reveal this watermark which had previously been obscured.

Jantz 723

I think we feel like 16-year-old kids with newly minted drivers’ licenses who have never driven a car on the highway or out of town. A whole new world has just opened up to us, and we are really excited and a little apprehensive!

What now?

Practice, experiment, document, refine. Over the next 12 (16? 18) months we will work together to hone our collective skills, driving the system, deepening our understanding of the scholarly, conservation, and curatorial use-cases for the technology, optimizing workflow, documenting best practices, getting a firm grip on scale, pace, and cost of what we can do. The team will assemble monthly, practice what we have learned, and lean on each other’s expertise to develop a solid workflow that includes the right expertise at the right time.  We will select a wide variety of materials so that we can develop a feel for how far we can push the system and what we can expect day to day. During all of this practice, workflows, guidelines, policies and expectations will come into sharper focus.

As you can tell from the above, we are going to learn a lot over the coming months.  We plan to share what we learn via regular posts here and elsewhere.  Although we are not prepared yet to offer MSI as a standard library service, we are interested to hear your suggestions for Duke Library collection items that may benefit from MSI imaging.  We have a long queue of items that we would like to shoot, and are excited to add more research questions, use cases, and new opportunities to push our skills forward.   To suggest materials, contact Molly Bragg, Digital Collections Program Manager (molly.bragg at Duke.edu), Joshua Sosin, Associate Professor in Classical Studies & History (jds15 at Duke.edu) or Curator of Collections (andrew.armacost at Duke.edu).

Want to learn even more about MSI at DUL?

A Sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South (1956)

The Library is currently in the middle of digitizing sermons from the Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Within this collection there are audio and video recordings along with printed sermons. While it takes many people to digitize and publish a collection of this size in its entirety, my part is to digitize the printed sermons.

MontgomeryBusBoycott

While I didn’t have time to read all of the sermons, a few titles caught my eye.  Moral Crisis in a Troubled South, The Dangerous Gift of Freedom, The South Under God, Demonstrations in the Street and in the House of God, An Address on Occasion of a Memorial Service (for Martin Luther King Jr.), to name a few.  martinlutherkingAll in someway related to the Civil Rights Movement. Here is a link to Moral Crisis in a Troubled South written by Hilrie Shelton Smith and preached in the Duke University Chapel on April 29, 1956.  The sermon speaks directly to the state of race relations in the South in 1955 amid civil rights unrest related to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court decision on Racial Segregation in Schools, and the tragic death of Emmett Till. This sermon speaks of the long road that may be ahead of us to achieve a nation of racial equality. Indeed.

This sermon struck me because of its direct reference to specific events related to the Civil Rights Movement (at least more than the others) and how closely it echoes current events across the nation, particularly the story of Emmett Till’s horrific murder and the fact that his mother chose to have an open casket so that everyone could see the brutality of racism.Emmett Till

I am in awe of the strength it must have taken Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, to make the decision to have an open casket at her son’s funeral.

Duke has many collections related to the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This collection provides a religious context to the events of our relatively recent past, not only of the Civil Rights Movement but of many social, political and spiritual issues of our time.

Please visit Duke Digital Collections to see additional digitized material related to the Civil Rights Movement.

Again, here is a link to the sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South

 

The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection

As Curator for the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, I have the opportunity to work with incredible items, including Renaissance era amputation saws, physician case books from the nineteenth century, and anatomical illustrations with moveable parts, just to name a few.

HOM1
One of the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets with flap down.
HOM2
Same image as the previous one, but with top flap up.

In my opinion, our holdings of anatomical fugitive sheets are some of the most remarkable and rare items one can find in historical medical collections. Our collection includes ten of these sheets, and each one is fascinating for its own reasons.

These anatomical fugitive sheets, which date from the early sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, are single sheets, similar to broadsides, that are unique in that they contain overlays or flaps that lift to reveal the inside of the human body.

I have read arguments that such items would have been used by barber surgeons or medical students, but others say these were hung in apothecary shops or purchased and kept by individuals with an interest in knowing what was inside their body. After almost 500 years, it is amazing that these anatomical fugitive sheets still exist. While we do have a few sheets that have lost some or all of their flaps, I think it’s fascinating to examine where flaps are broken. Somehow these broken and missing parts make these sheets more real to me – a reminder that each one has a story to tell. How and when did the flap get torn? How would this have really been used in 1539?

After the success of our Animated Anatomies exhibit, many of my colleagues and I have been discussing how to make our materials that contain flaps available online. I can tell you, it’s no easy task, but I am thrilled that we now have a digital version of our collection of anatomical fugitive sheets. With funding from the Elon Clark Endowment, a local custom web design firm, Cuberis, was outsourced to create the code, making these items interactive. Our own amazing Digital Collections Team not only photographed each overlay, but also took the code and applied it to DUL’s digital collection site, making it all work freely to a public audience.

There are so many people involved in making something like this happen. Thanks to Mark Olson, Cordelia and William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies here at Duke University, for his role in getting this project started. And here in the DUL – a huge thanks to Erin Hammeke (Conservation), Mike Adamo and Molly Bragg (Digital Production Center), Noah Huffman and Lauren Reno (Rubenstein Library Technical Services), Will Sexton, Cory Lown, and especially Sean Aery (Digital Projects Department). They are an incredible team that makes beautiful things happen. Obviously.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold

Embeds, Math & Beyond

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

How To

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

Embed Link

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

Examples

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

A Single Image

Paginated Item

A Video

Single-Track Audio

Multi-Track Audio

Document with Document Viewer

Technical Considerations

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

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

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

Coming Soon

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

Dear Dads

Thanks for all you do throughout the year to make our lives better, brighter, and a bit more fun!  From teaching us to fish to helping us move, fathers and father-figures have always been there to help children learn, grow and achieve.  While parenting roles and identities continue to evolve, the love of family persists.  So, this Father’s Day here is a Digital Collections salute to dads everywhere!

 

Fishing Boy
The pure joy of catching a fish under dad’s approving eye!

 

Moving
Thanks, Dad, for helping me move all my furniture (again)!

 

TV dinner
Who doesn’t love snacks in front of the TV?

 

WorkLife
As Raul Castro knows, work-life balance issues aren’t new for fathers.

 

Soap
And, finally, please keep in mind the family that shares a soap together, stays together.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

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!

Exams? Graduation? Already?

Yes, it is here; exams and graduation. It can be a time of stress, a time to recognize your hard work, even a time of celebration. But first, take a moment for diversion.

On Exams

Feeling stressed?
Learn how to deal with stressful exams through vintage advertising such as this ad for Lifebuoy soap: Whew! This Exam Is A Tough One! At least you won’t lose any dates if you follow their directions.

Ad for Lifebuoy soap

Tough questions?cover of teacher exam
Could you pass this 1892 teacher’s examination found in our Broadsides collection? Answers to the math questions have already been filled in. But alas, they didn’t show their work. Shouldn’t that lead to partial credit?

Who had an exam?
We even hear from Thomas Long about “Jesus’ Final Exam.” Can’t anyone get a break from exams? Long’s sermon begins at 32 minutes into the audio recording of this 1986 worship service from the Duke Chapel recordings collection.

Commencement

Once you’ve passed all of your exams, thoughts turn to time-honored traditions of graduation.

52 years ago at Duke
four-page issue of The Duke Chronicle notes what the Duke community could expect during the four days of commencement activities in June, 1962. But when you still have exams and papers due, graduation can still seem so far away.

Cover of Duke Chronicle 1962 commencement issue

Drama at commencement?
This commencement program from June, 1905 for the Memminger High and Normal School Academy of Music highlights not only a valedictory speech, but also the presentation of two essays, five musical performances, and two dramatic plays. Now, what drama would exemplify your academic experience?

Ahhh…

Once you work is done, whether you are graduating or simply completing another year of rigorous study at Duke, it’s time to unwind.

Taking to the streets
This photo from the William Gedney collection shows people celebrating in the streets of Benares, India. Gedney had just told them that you would ace your exams this year and so they started partying. Now that you know how they’ve celebrated your success, how do you plan to celebrate?

Image of people celebrating in the streets of Benares, India

Definitely time for cake
Will this vintage Pillsbury commercial from our AdViews collection tempt you into including their Deluxe Chocolate Cake in your party plans? Or, will you resist the cake and simply use the commercial as inspiration for your wardrobe choices for your end-of-year soirées?

May all of your papers, projects and exams go well. Good luck and best wishes from Duke University Libraries.

Spring Break Travel Tips from Digital Collections

Leave Winter Behind

Today marks the beginning of Spring Break 2014 for Duke students!  We recognize that Spring Break is normally a time of quiet reflection, but for those interested in getting away this week, we’d like to offer some travel tips courtesy of our historic advertising collections.  There’s still time to plan your trip!  Let’s get started.

Dude Ranch Vacations

Where to Go

Sure, the beach is always popular with spring breakers, but consider some alternatives.  Did you know that now is the time to plan Dude Ranch Vacations?

How to Get There

With so many transportation options available it’s hard to choose.  Take in the scenery at a slower pace aboard the Vista Dome cars on the California Zephyr train, “the most talked about train in the country,” or go by Greyhound Bus to “meet the real America.

If efficiency is more your thing, travel by air to get to your destination a little faster, because, as American Airlines reminds us, “air is everywhere.”  Still not convinced?  Take United Airline’s advice: “All the Important People Fly nowadays.

Compared to buses and trains, modern air travel offers such an abundance of options and amenities. For an authentic Spring Break experience, you could reserve a seat on Resort Airline’s “Flying Houseparty” to the Caribbean or maybe grab a beverage in Continental Airline’s Coach Pub in the Sky as featured in the commercial below.

If you’re looking for something a bit more refined,  be sure to book a flight on United where master chefs demonstrate their “cosmopolitan artistry in the finest meals aloft” and where your flight attendant is guaranteed to meet United’s strict qualifications for employment (gender, age, height, weight, and marital status).

What to Take

vacation hair Whether you travel by air, train, or bus, you’ll want to pack only the essentials for your Spring Break getaway.  Start with Dr. West’s Travel Kit, which includes toothpaste and a mini-toothbrush in a “handsome sanitary glass container,” all for just 50 cents.  Be sure to include a bottle of Kreml Shampoo as well so you don’t get caught with embarrassing vacation hair.

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you need to leave your entertainment at home. “Lead the Vacation Fun Parade” by packing super-tiny, ultra-compact Zenith portable radios (only 5 1/2 pounds!).

Finally, if you’re overwhelmed by too many travel options and would rather stay home, avoid the crowds, and spend your money elsewhere this Spring Break, treat yourself to something special:  It’s Spring, Get a Pontiac.

Post contributed by Noah Huffman

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!!