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.
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.
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.
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).
Before you let your eyes glaze over at the thought of metadata, let me familiarize you with the term and its invaluable role in the creation of the library’s online Digital Collections. Yes, metadata is a rather jargony word librarians and archivists find themselves using frequently in the digital age, but it’s not as complex as you may think. In the most simplistic terms, the Society of American Archivists defines metadata as “data about data.” Okay, what does that mean? According to the good ol’ trusty Oxford English Dictionary, it is “data that describes and gives information about other data.” In other words, if you have a digitized photographic image (data), you will also have words to describe the image (metadata).
Better yet, think of it this way. If that image were of a large family gathering and grandma lovingly wrote the date and names of all the people on the backside, that is basic metadata. Without that information those people and the image would suddenly have less meaning, especially if you have no clue who those faces are in that family photo. It is the same with digital projects. Without descriptive metadata, the items we digitize would hold less meaning and prove less valuable for researchers, or at least be less searchable. The better and more thorough the metadata, the more it promotes discovery in search engines. (Check out the metadata from this Cornett family photo from the William Gedney collection.)
The term metadata was first used in the late 1960s in computer programming language. With the advent of computing technology and the overabundance of digital data, metadata became a key element to help describe and retrieve information in an automated way. The use of the word metadata in literature over the last 45 years shows a steeper increase from 1995 to 2005, which makes sense. The term became used more and more as technology grew more widespread. This is reflected in the graph below from Google’s Ngram Viewer, which scours over 5 million Google Books to track the usage of words and phrases over time.
Because of its link with computer technology, metadata is widely used in a variety of fields that range from computer science to the music industry. Even your music playlist is full of descriptive metadata that relates to each song, like the artist, album, song title, and length of audio recording. So, libraries and archives are not alone in their reliance on metadata. Generating metadata is an invaluable step in the process of preserving and documenting the library’s unique collections. It is especially important here at the Digital Production Center (DPC) where the digitization of these collections happens. To better understand exactly how important a role metadata plays in our job, let’s walk through the metadata life cycle of one of our digital projects, the Duke Chapel Recordings.
The Chapel Recordings project consists of digitizing over 1,000 cassette and VHS tapes of sermons and over 1,300 written sermons that were given at the Duke Chapel from the 1950s to 2000s. These recordings and sermons will be added to the existing Duke Chapel Recordings collection online. Funded by a grant from the Lilly Foundation, this digital collection will be a great asset to Duke’s Divinity School and those interested in hermeneutics worldwide.
Before the scanners and audio capture devices are even warmed up at the DPC, preliminary metadata is collected from the analog archival material. Depending on the project, this metadata is created either by an outside collaborator or in-house at the DPC. For example, the Duke Chronicle metadata is created in-house by pulling data from each issue, like the date, volume, and issue number. I am currently working on compiling the pre-digitization metadata for the 1950s Chronicle, and the spreadsheet looks like this:
As for the Chapel Recordings project, the DPC received an inventory from the University Archives in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. This inventory contained the preliminary metadata already generated for the collection, which is also used in Rubenstein Library‘s online collection guide.
The University Archives also supplied the DPC with an inventory of the sermon transcripts containing basic metadata compiled by a student.
Here at the DPC, we convert this preliminary metadata into a digitization guide, which is a fancy term for yet another Excel spreadsheet. Each digital project receives its own digitization guide (we like to call them digguides) which keeps all the valuable information for each item in one place. It acts as a central location for data entry, but also as a reference guide for the digitization process. Depending on the format of the material being digitized (image, audio, video, etc.), the digitization guide will need different categories. We then add these new categories as columns in the original inventory spreadsheet and it becomes a working document where we plug in our own metadata generated in the digitization process. For the Chapel Recordings audio and video, the metadata created looks like this:
Once we have digitized the items, we then run the recordings through several rounds of quality control. This generates even more metadata which is, again, added to the digitization guide. As the Chapel Recordings have not gone through quality control yet, here is a look at the quality control data for the 1980s Duke Chronicle:
Once the digitization and quality control is completed, the DPC then sends the digitization guide filled with metadata to the metadata archivist, Noah Huffman. Noah then makes further adds, edits, and deletes to match the spreadsheet metadata fields to fields accepted by the management software, CONTENTdm. During the process of ingesting all the content into the software, CONTENTdm links the digitized items to their corresponding metadata from the Excel spreadsheet. This is in preparation for placing the material online. For even more metadata adventures, see Noah’s most recent Bitstreams post.
In the final stage of the process, the compiled metadata and digitized items are published online at our Digital Collections website. You, the researcher, history fanatic, or Sunday browser, see the results of all this work on the page of each digital item online. This metadata is what makes your search results productive, and if we’ve done our job right, the digitized items will be easily discovered. The Chapel Recordings metadata looks like this once published online:
Further down the road, the Duke Divinity School wishes to enhance the current metadata to provide keyword searches within the Chapel Recordings audio and video. This will allow researchers to jump to specific sections of the recordings and find the exact content they are looking for. The additional metadata will greatly improve the user experience by making it easier to search within the content of the recordings, and will add value to the digital collection.
On this journey through the metadata life cycle, I hope you have been convinced that metadata is a key element in the digitization process. From preliminary inventories, to digitization and quality control, to uploading the material online, metadata has a big job to do. At each step, it forms the link between a digitized item and how we know what that item is. The life cycle of metadata in our digital projects at the DPC is sometimes long and tiring. But, each stage of the process creates and utilizes the metadata in varied and important ways. Ultimately, all this arduous work pays off when a researcher in our digital collections hits gold.
Fifty years ago this week, Duke students faced off with computers in model car races and tic-tac-toe matches in the annual Engineers’ Show. In stark contrast to the up-and-coming computers, a Duke Chronicle article dubbed these human competitors as old-fashioned and obsolete. Five decades later, although we humans haven’t completely lost our foothold to computers, they have become a much bigger part of our daily lives than in 1965. Yes, there are those of you out there who fear the imminent robot coup is near, but we mostly have found a way to live alongside this technology we have created. Perhaps we could call it a peaceful coexistence.
At least, that’s how I would describe our relationship to technology here at the Digital Production Center (DPC) where I began my internship six weeks ago. We may not have the entertaining gadgets of the Engineers’ Show, like a mechanical swimming shark or mechanical monkey climbing a pole, but we do have exciting high-tech scanners like the Zeutschel, which made such instant internet access to articles like “Man To Fight Computers” possible. The university’s student newspaper has been digitized from fall 1959 to spring 1970, and it is an ongoing project here at the DPC to digitize the rest of the collection spanning from 1905 to 1989.
My first scanning project has been the 1970s Duke Chronicle issues. While standing at the Zeutschel as it works its digitization magic, it is fascinating to read the news headlines and learn university history through pages written by and for the student population. The Duke Chronicle has been covering campus activities since 1905 when Duke was still Trinity College. Over the years it has captured the evolution of student life as well as the world beyond East and West Campus. The Chronicle is like a time capsule in its own right, each issue freezing and preserving moments in time for future generations to enjoy. This is a wonderful resource for researchers, history nerds (like me!), and Duke enthusiasts alike, and I invite you to explore the digitized collection to see what interesting articles you may find. And don’t forget to keep checking back with BitStreams to hear about the latest access to other decades of the Duke Chronicle.
The year 1965 doesn’t seem that distant in time, yet in terms of technological advancement it might as well be eons away from where we are now. Playing tic-tac-toe against a computer seems arcane compared to today’s game consoles and online gaming communities, but it does put things into perspective. Since that March day in 1965, it is my hope that man and computer both have put down their boxing gloves.
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.
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.
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.
Once you’ve passed all of your exams, thoughts turn to time-honored traditions of graduation.
52 years ago at Duke
A 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.
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?
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?
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.
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team