Category Archives: Uncategorized

Repository Mega-Migration Update

We are shouting it from the roof tops: The migration from Fedora 3 to Fedora 4 is complete!  And Digital Repository Services are not the only ones relieved.  We appreciate the understanding that our colleagues and users have shown as they’ve been inconvenienced while we’ve built a more resilient, more durable, more sustainable preservation platform in which to store and share our digital assets.

shouting_from_the_rooftops

We began the migration of data from Fedora 3 on Monday, May 23rd.  In this time we’ve migrated roughly 337,000 objects in the Duke Digital Repository.  The data migration was split into several phases.  In case you’re interested, here are the details:

  1. Collections were identified for migration beginning with unpublished collections, which comprise about 70% of the materials in the repository
  2. Collections to be migrated were locked for editing in the Fedora 3 repository to prevent changes that inadvertently won’t be migrated to the new repository
  3. Collections to be migrated were passed to 10 migration processors for actual ingest into Fedora 4
    • Objects were migrated first.  This includes the collection object, content objects, item objects, color targets for digital imaging, and attachments (objects related to, but not part of, a collection like deposit agreements
    • Then relationships between objects were migrated
    • Last, metadata was migrated
  4. Collections were then validated in Fedora 4
  5. When validation is complete, collections will be unlocked for editing in Fedora 4

Presto!  Voila!  That’s it!

MV5BMTEwNjMwMjc3MDdeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg0OTA4MDIx._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

While our customized version of the Fedora migrate gem does some validation of migrated content, we’ve elected to build an independent process to provide validation.  Some of the validation is straightforward such as comparing checksums of Fedora 3 files against those in Fedora 4.  In other cases, being confident that we’ve migrated everything accurately can be much more difficult. In Fedora 3, we can compare checksums of metadata files while in Fedora 4 object metadata is stored opaquely in a database without checksums that can be compared.  The short of it is that we’re working hard to prove successful migration of all of our content and it’s harder than it looks.  It’s kind of like insurance- protecting us from the risk of lost or improperly migrated data.

We’re in the final phases of spiffing up the Fedora 4 Digital Repository user interface, which is scheduled to be deployed the week of July 11th.  That release will not include any significant design changes, but is simply compatible with the new Fedora 4 code base.  We are planning to release enhancements to our Data & Visualizations collection, and are prioritizing work on the homepage of the Duke Digital Repository… you will likely see an update on that coming up in a subsequent blog post!

Color Bars & Test Patterns

In the Digital Production Center, many of the videotapes we digitize have “bars and tone” at the beginning of the tape. These are officially called “SMPTE color bars.” SMPTE stands for The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the organization that established the color bars as the North American video standard, beginning in the 1970s. In addition to the color bars presented visually, there is an audio tone that is emitted from the videotape at the same time, thus the phrase “bars and tone.”

color_bars
SMPTE color bars

The purpose of bars and tone is to serve as a reference or target for the calibration of color and audio levels coming from the videotape during transmission. The color bars are presented at 75% intensity. The audio tone is a 1kHz sine wave. In the DPC, we can make adjustments to the incoming signal, in order to bring the target values into specification. This is done by monitoring the vectorscope output, and the audio levels. Below, you can see the color bars are in proper alignment on the DPC’s vectorscope readout, after initial adjustment.

vectorscope
Color bars in proper alignment with the Digital Production Center’s vectorscope readout. Each letter stands for a color: red, magenta, blue, cyan, green and yellow.

We use Blackmagic Design’s SmartView monitors to check the vectorscope, as well as waveform and audio levels. The SmartView is an updated, more compact and lightweight version of the older, analog equipment traditionally used in television studios. The Smartview monitors are integrated into our video rack system, along with other video digitization equipment, and numerous videotape decks.

dpc_video_rack
The Digital Production Center’s videotape digitization system.

If you are old enough to have grown up in the black and white television era, you may recognize this old TV test pattern, commonly referred to as the “Indian-head test pattern.” This often appeared just before a TV station began broadcasting in the morning, and again right after the station signed off at night. The design was introduced in 1939 by RCA. The “Indian-head” image was integrated into a pattern of lines and shapes that television engineers used to calibrate broadcast equipment. Because the illustration of the Native American chief contained identifiable shades of gray, and had fine detail in the feathers of the headdress, it was ideal for adjusting brightness and contrast.

indian_head
The Indian-head test pattern was introduced by RCA in 1939.

When color television debuted in the 1960’s, the “Indian-head test pattern” was replaced with a test card showing color bars, a precursor to the SMPTE color bars. Today, the “Indian-head test pattern” is remembered nostalgically, as a symbol of the advent of television, and as a unique piece of Americana. The master art for the test pattern was discovered in an RCA dumpster in 1970, and has since been sold to a private collector.  In 2009, when all U.S. television stations were required to end their analog signal transmission, many of the stations used the Indian-head test pattern as their final analog broadcast image.

Looking to the Future of the Duke Digital Repository: Defining a Program for Digital Preservation, Management & Access

Our modern day lives and professional endeavors are teeming with digital output.  We participate in the digital ecosystem every day, contributing our activities, our scholarship, and our work in new and evolving ways.  Some of that contribution gets lost in the Internet ether, and some gets saved, or preserved, in specific, often localized ways that are neither sustainable nor preservable for the long haul.  We here at the Duke University Libraries, want to be able to look to the future with confidence, knowing that we have a game plan for capturing and preserving digital objects that are necessary and vital to the university community.  Queue the new Duke Digital Repository.  

DDR

The Duke Digital Repository is a software development initiative undertaken by the Digital Repository Services department in the Duke University Libraries.  It is a preservation repository architected using the Fedora Open Source software project, which is intended to replace the current manifestation of our institutional repository, Duke Space.  It is a superior product that is provisioned specifically for the preservation, storage, and access of digital objects.  The Duke Digital Repository is fully operational; we are now in the process of refining user interfaces, ingesting new and varied collections, and assessing descriptive metadata needs for ingested collections.  

fed

So what’s next?  Well we’ve got the Duke Digital Repository as a platform, now we need the Duke Digital Repository as a program.  We need to clarify the services and support that we offer to the university community, we need to fully define its stakeholders, and we need to implement an organizational structure to support a robust service.  

Here are just a few things that we’re engaged in that are seeking to define our user groups and assess their needs in a preservation platform and digital support service.  Defining these expectations will allow us to take the next step in crafting a sustainable and relevant program to support the digital scholarship of the university.

  • ITHAKA Faculty Survey: In the Fall semester of 2015, the Libraries deployed the ITHAKA S+R Faculty Survey.  Faculty are considered a primary stakeholder of the repository, as it is well provisioned to meet their data management needs.  260 faculty members responded to the survey, sharing their thoughts on a variety of topics including scholarly communications services, research practices, data preservation and management needs, and much more.  There was a lot of valuable, actionable data contributed, which pertains directly to the repository as a preservation tool, and a service for data support.  The digital repository team is working through this data to identify and target needs and desires in a repository program.
  • Graduate & Undergraduate Advisory Boards:  The Digital Repository staff are also working with the Assessment & User Experience team within the library to reach out to graduate and undergraduate student constituents to capture their voice.  We have collectively identified a list of questions and prompts that will engage them in a discussion about their needs pertaining to the repository as a tool and a service.  From this discussion we are also gauging their understanding of ‘a repository’ and hoping to glean some information that will help us to understand how we might brand and market the repository more effectively.  
  • Fedora Community: Fedora is an open source software product developed and stewarded by the DuraSpace community.  The Duke University Libraries are active participants in the community which is essentially a consortium of academic institutions that are working toward a common goal of preserving intellectual, cultural, and scientific heritage.  We are reaching out to our community constituents to ask how other institutions similar to ours are supporting their repository  programs.  We’re assessing  various models of support and generating a discussion around repository support as a resourced program, rather than a simple software solution.  We are also working with Assessment & User Experience to conduct an environmental scan and literature review to gain greater insight and understanding of best practice.

special

In short, we want to make the repository special, and relevant to its users.  We want to feel confident that it provides a service that is valuable and necessary for our university community.  We invite your feedback as we embark on this effort.  For further information or to give us your feedback, please contact us.

Rediscovering the Tuscarora Indians through The Trinity Archive

This is a story about how our own digital collections program led us to rediscover an amazing manuscript collection that has been at Duke since at least 1896. The Trinity Archive, now published as The Archive, is a Duke University student literary and cultural journal, first published in 1887 while the college was still based in Trinity, N.C. It is one of the oldest continuously-published literary magazines in the United States. Early editions of the Trinity Archive, held in the University Archives, were digitized through Duke’s digital collections program and are now available through the Internet Archive.

It turns out that the Duke University Archivist, Valerie Gillispie, enjoys reading digitized issues of the Trinity Archive. While perusing the December 1896 edition, she found an interesting article: “The Removal of the Tuscarora Indians from North Carolina.” Written by Sanders Dent, then manager of the magazine, the article aims to “arrange some facts found in the old papers of General Jeremiah Slade and, thus, preserve an interesting bit of North Carolina history for her future historian. General Slade was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Legislature in 1802 to settle the affairs of the Tuscarora Indians and from his letters we get most of the material for this sketch.” Dent’s article recounts the history of the Tuscarora in North Carolina in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Following the end of the Tuscarora War in 1713, many Tuscarora fled to upstate New York and joined the Iroquois Confederacy as the Sixth Nation. Those that remained in North Carolina were granted land in Bertie County, but by the late eighteenth century they too were being forced to lease their land to the whites and leave the state for New York.

Dent’s article liberally quotes from letters held in the Jeremiah Slade Papers. Between 1803 and 1818, Slade served as an agent for the Tuscarora, managing their land leases in North Carolina and tracking money owed them by their white tenants. The papers include letters, receipts, and legal documents between Slade and the Tuscarora in Niagara, New York, with several documents signed with an X by the chiefs representing their tribe. Dent adds in a footnote that Slade’s “papers are now in the possession of the Trinity College Historical Society.”

A power of attorney sent to Jeremiah Slade in 1817, signed by Tuscarora chiefs and warriors
A power of attorney sent to Jeremiah Slade in 1817, signed by Tuscarora chiefs and warriors

Thanks to Dent’s footnote, Val found that the Jeremiah Slade Papers were now held in the Rubenstein Library (but under his son’s name, as the William Slade Papers). It was an exciting connection to our Rubenstein Library ancestors, the Trinity College Historical Society. Founded by Trinity College students and professors in 1892, TCHS sought to “collect, arrange, and preserve a library of books, pamphlets, maps, charts, manuscripts, papers, paintings, statuary, and other materials illustrative of the history of North Carolina and the South.” It was a history club and a museum and a library all-in-one, and many of the library’s oldest Southern collections were acquired by TCHS before being transferred to Duke’s manuscript department in the early twentieth century. (You can read more about the TCHS here and here.)

IMG_20160204_143328161
Undated letter to Slade from the Tuscarora, asking for transfer of funds and telling him they intended to “prosecute their claims” to the N.C. Legislature

How and when the Slade Papers first came to the Trinity College Historical Society is still a mystery. The TCHS records, held by the University Archives, are incomplete for that period. A clue lies in the Slade Papers, with an 1884 item from J.D.B. Hooper, a professor at the University of North Carolina. Hooper writes that “I have consented to receive from Mr. William B. Slade, a Box of Scraps, culled by him, from newspapers, magazines, &c. with a request that I will endeavor to have them received into some library, public or private, where they may, at some future time, become useful…” He goes on to write, “I think that they may furnish materials for interesting Scrap books, when they shall fall into the hands of a person of leisure and literary taste.” Um, sure. Thanks Professor Hooper! (His papers are held at UNC.) The only other hint I have found as to the initial transfer of the Slade Papers to Duke lies in this undated clipping from the collection:

Undated clipping announcing the transfer of Slade's scrapbooks to the Trinity College Library
Undated clipping announcing the transfer of Slade’s scrapbooks to the Trinity College Library

But I can find no record of Slade scrapbooks in our accession logs or catalog records from the 1890s. I can only assume that with the scrapbooks came the box of papers that Hooper mentions. It all must have arrived sometime before 1896, when Dent wrote the Trinity Archive piece.

Since this all came to light after Val’s browsing of the Trinity Archive, we decided to revisit the Slade Family Papers, update their housing, and enhance the collection’s description to reflect contemporary descriptive standards and scholarship interests. The original catalog record had no mention of the Tuscarora, and there was no finding aid or other web presence for the collection. It was really fun to re-process such an old collection and see its contents firsthand. The Tuscarora documents, while fascinating, are only a small piece of the Slade story. The majority of the collection documents the nineteenth-century operations of the Slade plantations, farms, and fisheries around Williamston, N.C. Plus, each generation of the Slade family had many children, so there are a lot of letters between all the siblings and cousins discussing their activities, family life, education, politics, and entertainment. There are also extensive legal and financial documents, including receipts, account books, land deeds, court cases, and other items. I was amazed at the amount of documentation discussing slaves; items recording student life at different North Carolina colleges in the early nineteenth century; letters detailing life in the Confederacy during the Civil War; and materials about postwar recovery and politics, including the new business arrangements between the Slades and their former slaves, now freedmen.

Slave valuation, 1820, in the Slade Family Papers
Estate inventory including slave valuations, 1820, in the Slade Family Papers

It’s always wonderful to see what sort of research can happen as a result of digitization and online access to our collections. But the re-processing and new finding aid for the Slade Family Papers was special. It is one of those rare projects where it all came full circle: because the Trinity Archive was available online, we rediscovered this collection, and along with it, further evidence of the work of the Trinity College Historical Society. The TCHS acquired the Slade Family Papers, among many other things, over 120 years ago for future historians to study and use. We are active participants in that legacy today.

William Gedney Wants Me To Build A Darkroom

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopscotch Design Fest

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Hopscotch Design Festival, a 2-day precursor to the music event of the same name in Raleigh, NC. The Design Fest used a very wide tent in gathering speakers from the world of design — they included urban planners, architects, musicians, and writers, in addition to more typical designer/illustrator/interactive types. While I haven’t been to that many conferences, the ones I’ve attended have usually been heavy on the tech side, typically exemplified by a sea of glowing silver macbook pros. During the opening keynote, so far as I could see, I was the only one with a laptop. This crowd was heavy on the analog side (pens and moleskines). This ethos was reinforced by Austin Kleon’s presentation on essential tools for the analog desk. I wasn’t all that familiar with Kleon, but he was clearly a very skilled presenter and offered some interesting tips on maintaining creativity. I was particularly impressed with his newspaper poetry. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and will hopefully be able to attend again in the future.

Here are some of the speakers I particularly enjoyed:


JustinJustin LeBlanc

I don’t watch much TV. But one show I really enjoy, thanks to my wife, is Project Runway. My favorite contestant, by far, has been Justin LeBlanc. Not only did he come across as a genuinely wonderful person on the show, his designs were amazing. I especially appreciated how his work incorporated non-traditional materials and technology, like 3D printing. Which is all to say that I was super excited to seem him in person. He talked a lot about his creative process, showed off some projects he’d worked on in grad school [before he hit the big time], and also showed some newer work that he’ll debut on the runway soon. He stressed that his latest work is heavily influenced by living in North Carolina. He’s collaborated with local companies to procure materials, print fabrics, and more. The whole thing felt very positive to me.


SteveSteve Frykholm

While I had never heard of Steve Frykholm before, I was immediately impressed by him. He’s been a designer at the famed Herman Miller company for 45 years. He’s clearly seen a lot of things change in the design industry over that time, so the perspective he shared was really insightful. He told an interesting story of the first Herman Miller catalog that was designed by George Nelson in 1952. The original proposal was for a highly stylized, photo-heavy book printed on nice paper — a sharp contrast to the text-heavy catalogs of the day. The top brass shot it down, saying it would be incredibly expensive to produce, and asked the team to come up with a new and more affordable version. The next iteration kept the same design, but added a bound cover and a $3 price tag. No one had ever charged for a product catalog, so this was a bold step. However, the bosses eventually relented and the catalog went on to be a huge success. The next year their competitors were charging $5 for their catalogs. [As an aside, an original copy of the catalog is available at the UNC Art Library.] His point in sharing this story was that sometimes you need to be the first at something — it’s OK to take bold steps and try something new. It won’t always work out, but sometimes it does. He also shared a bit about his creative process and how design work happens at Herman Miller. Towards the end of his time he talked about a series of posters he designed for the company’s annual Spring Picnic. These posters were recently added to the permanent collection at MoMA. I could have listened to him talk for much longer. He’s truly an inspiring individual.


CheetieCheetie Kumar

I first encountered Cheetie Kumar as the lead guitarist for her band, Birds of Avalon. I just thought she was a great musician. Then I learned she was also a recording engineer/producer, an entrepreneur, a chef and restaurateur, a designer, and generally an awesome person. So, I was excited to attend her talk. She came across to me as very humble, but she was also very inspiring. She talked about how she first settled in Raleigh and how she and her band mates / business partners have been dedicated to making it a better place ever since. She explained that they would be out on the road for months at a time then come back home only for a short time, almost like visiting, and with this fresh perspective they were able to find new and exciting things to love about the city that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise. She also highlighted the design features she came up with in creating the space for her restaurant — wood floors salvaged from a basketball court, an awning made from leftover construction material, a penny-covered floor in the bathroom, and a wall of paintings towards the back of the space. She mentioned multiple times how much hard work friends and others contributed to making it all a success. It’s literally amazing how much she juggles in her day to day life. She also said she doesn’t get a lot of sleep.


GrahamGraham Roberts

I was familiar with Graham Roberts’ work without realizing it. He’s worked on some truly amazing projects at the New York Times, such as Inside the Quartet, Music and Gesture, and Skrillex, Diplo, and Bieber make a hit. During his talk he essentially walked us through the process of working on these projects. There were way more people involved in building these things than I would have guessed. For the Kronos Quartet piece, they captured real-time 3-D data using multiple microsoft connect cameras. He then had to visualize what ended up being a staggering amount of data. The end result is beautiful; abstract, but graceful in capturing the essence of their performance movements. He also talked about what it’s like working at the Times and how he approaches his work from the perspective of a journalist, not just as a designer/animator/3D artist. In short, his work is stunning. And while it’s inspiring, in a way it’s also hard to imagine being able to create something so amazing. But I’m hopeful with the richness and diversity of our collections at DUL that we’ll continue to make our own inspiring work.

The Elastic Ruler: Measuring Scholarly Use of Digital Collections

Our Digital Collections program aspires to build “distinctive digital collections that provide access to Duke’s unique library and archival materials for teaching, learning, and research at Duke and worldwide.” Those are our primary stated objectives, though the reach and the value of putting collections online extends far beyond.  For instance, these uses might not qualify as scholarly, but we celebrate them all the same:

Digital Collections items pinned on Pinterest
Digital Collections items pinned on Pinterest

Regardless of how much value we assign to different kinds of uses, determining the impact of our work is a hard problem to solve. There are no simple instruments to measure our outcomes, and the measurements we do take can at times feel uncertain, as if taken of a moving object with a wildly elastic ruler.   Some helpful resources are out there, of both theoretical and practical varieties, but focusing on what matters most remains a challenge.

Back to our mission: how much are our collections actually used for the scholarly purposes we trumpet–teaching, learning, and research–versus other more casual uses? How do we distinguish these uses within the data we collect? Getting clearer answers could help us in several areas. First, what should we even digitize? What compelling stories of user engagement could be told to illustrate the value of the collections? How might we drum up more interest in the collections within scholarly communities?

Some of my Duke colleagues and I began exploring these questions this year in depth. We’ll have much more to report later, but already our work has uncovered some bits of interest to share. And, of course, we’ve unearthed more questions than answers.

Analytics

Like many places, we use a service called Google Analytics to track how much our collections are accessed. We use analytics to understand what kinds of things that we digitize resonate with users online, and to to help us make informed improvements to the website. Google doesn’t track any personally identifiable data (thankfully); data is aggregated to a degree where privacy is protected yet site owners can still see generally where their traffic comes from.

For example, we know that on average1, our site visitors view just over 5 pages/visit, and stay for about 3.5 minutes. 60.3% of visitors bounce (that is, leave after seeing only one page). Mobile devices account for 20.1% of traffic. Over 26% of visits come from outside the U.S.  The most common way a visit originates is via search engine (37.5%), and social media traffic—especially from Facebook—is quite significant (15.7% of visits). The data is vast; the opportunities for slicing and dicing it seem infinite. And we’ll forever grapple with how best to track, interpret,  report, and respond to the things that are most meaningful to us.

Scholarly Traffic

There are two bits of Analytics data that can provide us with clues about our collections’ use in scholarly environments:

  1. Traffic on scholarly networks (a filtered view of ISPs)
  2. Referrals from scholarly pages (a filtered view of Referrer paths)

Tracking these figures (however imperfect) could help us get a better sense for the trends in the tenor of our audience, and help us set goals for any outreach efforts we undertake.

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 4.41.52 PM

Traffic on Scholarly Networks

One key clue for scholarly use is the name of visitors’ Internet Service Provider (ISP). For example, a visit from somewhere on Duke’s campus has an ISP “duke university,” a NYC public school “new york city public schools,” and McGill University (in Canada) “mcgill university.” Of course, plenty of scholarly work gets done off-campus (where an ISP is likely Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, etc.), and not all network traffic that happens on a campus is actually for scholarly purposes. So there are the usual caveats about signal and noise within the data.

Alas, we know that over the past calendar year1, we had:

  • 11.7% of our visits (“sessions”) from visitors on a scholarly network (as defined in our filters by: ISP name has universit*, college*, or school* in it)2.
  • 74,724 visits via scholarly networks
  • 4,121 unique scholarly network ISPs

Referrals from Course Websites or Online Syllabi on .Edu Sites

Are our collections used for teaching and learning? How much can we tell simply through web analytics?

A referral happens when someone gets to our site by following a link from another site.  In our data, we can see the full web address of any referring pages. But can we infer from a site URL whether a site was a course website or an online syllabus–pages that’d link to our site for the express purpose of teaching?  We can try.

In the past year, referrals filtered by an expression3 to isolate course sites and syllabi on .Edu sites

  • 0.18% of total visits
  • 1,167 visits
  • 68 unique sites (domains)

Or, if we remove the .Edu restriction2

  • 1.21% of total visits
  • 7,718 visits
  • 221 unique sites (domains)

It’s hard to confidently assert that this data is accurate, and indeed many of the pages can’t be verified because they’re only accessible to the students in those classes. But regardless, a look at the data through this lens does occasionally help discover real uses for actual courses and/or generate leads for contacting instructors about the ways they’ve used the collections in their curriculum.

Other Methods

We know web analytics are just a single tool in a giant toolbox for determining how much our collections are contributing to teaching, learning, and research. One technique we’ve tried is using Google Scholar to track citations of collections, then logged and tagged those citations using Delicious. For instance, here are 70 scholarly citations for our Ad*Access collection. Among the citations are 30 articles, 19 books, and 10 theses. 26 sources cited something from the collection as a primary source.  This technique is powerful and illuminates some interesting uses. But it unfortunately takes a lot of time to do well.

We’ve also recently launched a survey on our website that gathers some basic information from visitors about how they’re using the collections. And we have done some outreach with instructors at Duke and beyond. Stay tuned for much more as we explore the data. In the meantime, we would love to hear from others in the field how you approach answering these very same questions.

SLA3935


 

Notes

  1. Data from July 1, 2014 – June 26, 2015.
  2. We had first looked at isolating scholarly networks by narrowing to ISP network domains ending in “.edu” but upon digging further, there are two reasons why the ISP name provides better data. 1) .EDUs are only granted to accredited postsecondary institutions in the U.S., so visits from international universities or middle/high schools wouldn’t count. 2) A full 24% of all our visits have unknowable ISP network domains: “(not set)” or “unknown.unknown,” whereas only 6.3% of visits have unknown ISP names.
  3. Full referrer path: blackboard|sakai|moodle|webct|schoology|^bb|learn|course|isites|syllabus|classroom|^class.|/class/|^classes.|/~CLASS/

…and We’re Putting it on Wax (The Frank Clyde Brown Collection)

My last several posts have focused on endangered–some would say obsolete–audio formats: open reel tape, compact cassette, DAT, and Minidisc. In this installment, we travel back to the dawn of recorded sound and the 20th Century to investigate some of the earliest commercial recording media. Unlike the formats above, which operate on post-WW2 magnetic and optical technology, these systems carved sound waves into stone (or, more accurately, wax) behind strictly acousto-mechanical principles.

Thomas Edison is credited as inventing the first phonograph (“soundwriter”) on July 18, 1877. It consisted of tinfoil wrapped around a hand-cranked metal cylinder. Sound waves would be funneled through a horn, causing a stylus to vibrate and indent a groove around the outside of the cylinder. The cylinder could be played by reversing the procedure: By retracing the groove with the stylus, the sound would be amplified back through the horn and heard as a rough approximation of the original sound.

cylinder2

Alexander Graham Bell quickly improved the innovation by introducing wax as a superior material for the cylinders and using a needle to scratch the sound waves into their surface. He called his device the “Graphophone”. By 1888, Edison had also adopted wax as the preferred medium for recorded cylinders and a patent-sharing agreement was signed. In 1889, the wax cylinder because the first commercially marketed audio medium.

cylinder1

Initially, the cylinders were installed in the ancestors of jukeboxes in public places. Drop a coin into the slot, and the machine would magically dispense a song, monologue, or comedy routine. The technology was soon adapted for home use. Consumers could purchase prerecorded cylinders to play on their machines. Perhaps more amazingly, they could buy a home recording attachment and cut their own content onto the wax.

[PAUSE—shift from PLAY to RECORD mode]

nc_folklore

Biographical and Historical Note

Frank Clyde Brown (1870-1943) served as a Professor of English at Trinity College, Duke University, from 1909 until his death. A native of Virginia, he received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1908. While at Duke University he served in many capacities, including being chairman of his department, University Marshal, and Comptroller of the University during its initial construction. These aspects of his life are chronicled in his papers held by the Duke University Archives.

This collection of materials, however, is concerned with activities to which he devoted equal time and energy, the organization of the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1913 and his personal effort to gather and record the nuances and culture of “folk” of North Carolina and its near neighbors, which occupied him from 1912 until his death. Under the impetus of a 1912 mailing from John A. Lomax, then President of the American Folklore Society, Brown as well as other faculty members and other citizens in North Carolina, became interested in folklore and organized the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1913, with Brown as secretary-treasurer. As secretary-treasurer of this organization from its inception until his death, he provided the organizational impetus behind the Society. Through his course in folklore at Duke, he also sent class after class out to gather the folklore of their locales, both during their studies and afterward. And virtually every summer he could be found in the most remote parts of the state, with notebook and recorder — first a dictaphone employing cylinders, and later a machine employing aluminum discs provided for his use by the University. The result, by 1943, was a collection of about 38,000 written notes on lore, 650 musical scores, 1400 songs vocally recorded, and numerous magazine articles, student theses, books, lists, and other items related to this study. The material originated in at least 84 North Carolina counties, with about 5 percent original in 20 other states and Canada, and came from the efforts of 650 other contributors besides Brown himself.

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Thanks to our Audiovisual Archivist, Craig Breaden, for the excellent photos and unused title suggestion (“The Needle and the Damage Done”). Future posts will include updates on work with the Frank C. Brown Collection, other audio collections at Duke, and the history of sound recording and reproduction.

 

Back to the ’80s – Duke Chronicle Style

Ah, the 1980s…a decade of perms, the Walkman, Jelly shoes, and Ziggy Stardust.  It was a time of fashion statements I personally look back on in wonderment.

Personal Computer Ad, 1980
Personal Computer Ad, 1980

Fashionable leotards, shoulder pads, and stirrup pants were all the rage.  And can we say parachute pants?  Thanks, MC Hammer.  If you’re craving a blast from the past, we’ve got you covered.  The digitized 1980s Duke Chronicle has arrived!  Now you can relive that decade of Hill Street Blues and Magnum P.I. from your own personal computer (hopefully,you’re not still using one of these models!).

As Duke University’s student-run newspaper for over 100 years, the Duke Chronicle is a window into the history of the university, North Carolina, and the world.  It may even be a window into your own past if you had the privilege of living through those totally rad years.  If you didn’t get the chance to live it firsthand, you may find great joy in experiencing it vicariously through the pages of the Chronicle, or at least find irony in the fact that ’80s fashion has made a comeback.

Sony Private Stereo Ad, February 12, 1980
Sony Private Stereo Ad, February 12, 1980

 

Here at Duke, the 1980s was the decade that welcomed Coach Krzyzewski to the basketball team, and made it (almost) all the way to the championship in 1986.  In 1980, the Chronicle celebrated its 75th year of bringing news to campus.  It was also a time of expansion, as Duke Hospital North was constructed in 1980 and the Washington Duke Inn followed in 1988.  President Reagan visited campus, Desmond Tutu spoke at Duke Chapel, and Princess Grace Kelly entertained with poetry at Page Auditorium almost two years to the day before she died.

 

The 1980s also saw racial unrest in North Carolina, and The Duke Chronicle headlines reflected these tense feelings.  Many articles illustrate a reawakened civil rights movement.  From a call to increase the number of black professors at Duke, to the marching of KKK members down the streets of Greensboro, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolinians found themselves in a continued struggle for equality.  Students and faculty at Duke were no exception.  Unfortunately, these thirty-year-old Chronicle headlines would seem right at home in today’s newspapers.

 

The 1980s Chronicle issues can inform us of fashion and pop culture, whether we look back at it with distaste or fondness.  But it also enlightens us to the broader social atmosphere that defined the 1980s.   It was a time of change and self-expression, and I invite you to explore the pages of the Duke Chronicle to learn more.

Fashion Ad, May 10, 1984
Fashion Ad, May 10, 1984

 

The addition of the 1980s issues to the online Duke Chronicle digital collection is part of an ongoing effort to provide digital access to all Chronicle issues from 1905 to 1989.  The next decades to look forward to are the 1970s and 1950s.  Also, stay tuned to Bitstreams for a more in-depth exploration of the newspaper digitization process.  You can learn how we turn the pages of the Duke Chronicle into online digital gold.  At least, that’s what I like to think we do here at the Digital Production Center.  Until then, transport yourself back to the 1980s, Duke Chronicle style (no DeLorean or flux capacitor necessary).