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.
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.
We experience a number of different cycles in the Digital Projects and Production Services Department (DPPS). There is of course the project lifecycle, that mysterious abstraction by which we try to find commonalities in work processes that can seem unique for every case. We follow the academic calendar, learn our fate through the annual budget cycle, and attend weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.
The annual reporting cycle at Duke University Libraries usually falls to departments in August, with those reports informing a master library report completed later. Because of the activities and commitments around the opening of the Rubenstein Library, the departments were let off the hook for their individual reports this year. Nevertheless, I thought I would use my turn in the Bitstreams rotation to review some highlights from our 2014-15 cycle.
In a recent feature on their blog, our colleagues at NCSU Libraries posted some photographs of dogs from their collections. Being a person generally interested in dogs and old photographs, I became curious where dogs show up in Duke’s Digital Collections. Using very unsophisticated methods, I searched digital collections for “dogs” and thought I’d share what I found.
Of the 60 or so collections in Digital Collections 19 contain references to dogs. The table below lists the collections in which dogs or references to dogs appear most frequently.
The H. Lee Waters Film Collection we published earlier this month has generated quite a buzz. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in visits to Duke Digital Collections and received comments, mail, and phone calls from Waters fans, film buffs, and from residents of the small towns he visited and filmed over 70 years ago. It’s clear that Waters’ “Movies of Local People” have wide appeal.
The 92 films in the collection are clearly the highlight, but as an archivist and metadata librarian I’m just as fascinated by the logbooks Waters kept as he toured across the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee screening his films in small town theaters between 1936 and 1942. In the logbooks, Waters typically recorded the theater name and location where he screened each film, what movie-goers were charged, his percentage of the profits, his revenue from advertising, and sometimes the amount and type of footage shown.
As images in the digital collection, the logbooks aren’t that interesting (at least visually), but the data they contain tell a compelling story. To bring the logbooks to life, I decided to give structure to some of the data (yes, a spreadsheet) and used a new visualization tool I recently discovered called TimeMapper to plot Waters’ itinerary on a synchronized timeline and map–call it a timemap! You can interact with the embedded timemap below, or see a full-screen version here. Currently, the Waters timemap only includes data from the first 15 pages of the logbook (more to come!). Already, though, we can start to visualize Waters’ route and the frequency of film screenings. We can also interact with the digital collection in new ways:
Click on a town in the map view to see when Waters’ visited and then view the logbook entry or any available films for that town.
Slide the timeline and click through the entries to trace Waters’ route
Toggle forward or backwards through the logbook entries to travel along with Waters
For me, the Waters timemap demonstrates the potential for making use of the data in our collections, not just the digitized images or artifacts. With so many simple and freely available tools like TimeMapper and Google Fusion Tables (see my previous post), it has never been so easy to create interactive visualizations quickly and with limited technical skills.
I’d love to see someone explore the financial data in Waters’ logbooks to see what we might learn about his accounting practices or even about the economic conditions in each town. The logbook data has the potential to support any number of research questions. So start your own spreadsheet and have at it!
2015 has been a banner year for Duke Digital Collections, and its only January! We have already published a new collection, broken records and expanded our audience. Truth be told, we have been on quite a roll for the last several months, and with the holidays we haven’t had a chance to share every new digital collection with you. Today on Bitstreams, we highlight digital collection news that didn’t quite make the headlines in the past few months.
H. Lee Watersmania
Before touching on news you haven’t about, we must continue the H. Lee Waters PR Blitz. Last week, we launched the H. Lee Waters digital collection. We and the Rubenstein Library knew there was a fair amount of pent-up demand for this collection, however we have been amazed by the reaction of the public. Within a few days of launch, site visits hit what we believe (though cannot say with 100% certainty) to be an all time high of 17,000 visits and 37,000 pageviews on Jan 19. We even suspect that the intensity of the traffic has contributed to some recent server performance issues (apologies if you have had trouble viewing the films – we and campus IT are working on it).
We have also seen more than 20 new user comments left on Water’s films pages, 6 comments left on the launch blog post, and 40+ new likes on the Duke Digital Collections Facebook page since last week. The Rubenstein Library has also received a surge of inquiries about the collection. These may not be “official” stats, but we have never seen this much direct public reaction to one of our new digital collections, and we could not be more excited about it.
Early Greek Manuscripts
In November we quietly made 38 early Greek manuscripts available online, one of which is the digital copy of a manuscript since returned to the Greek government. These beautiful volumes are part of the Rubenstein Library and date from the 9th – 17th centuries. We are still digitizing volumes from this collection, and hope to publish more in the late Spring. At that time we will make some changes to the look and feel of the digital collection. Our goal will be to further expose the general public to the beauty of these volumes while also increasing discoverability to multiple scholarly communities.
Curious about bone saws, blood letting or other historic medical instruments? Look no further than the Rubenstein Libraries History of Medicine Artifact’s Collection Guide. In December we published over 300 images of historic medical artifacts embedded in the collection guide. Its an incredible and sometimes frightening treasure trove of images.
These are legacy images taken by the History of Medicine. While we didn’t shoot these items in the Digital Production Center, the digital collections team still took a hands on approach to normalizing the filenames and overall structure of the image set so we could publish them. This project was part of our larger efforts to make more media types embeddable in Rubenstein collection guides, a deceptively difficult process that will likely be covered more in depth in a future Bitstreams post.
Digitization to Support the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project Partnership
This one is hot off the digital presses. Digital Collections partnered with University Archives to publish Coach K’s very first win at Duke just this week in anticipation of victory # 1000.
What’s Next for Duke Digital Collections?
The short answer is, a lot! We have very ambitious plans for 2015. We will be developing the next version of our digital collections platform, hiring an intern (thank you University Archives), restarting digitization of the Gedney collection, and of course publishing more of your favorite digital collections. Stay tuned!
The motion picture films in the H. Lee Waters Collection play out a history of North Carolina (and Virginia, and South Carolina) in the late 1930s and early 1940s unparalleled in scope and vision. But what would eventually become such a grand gift to the citizens and scholars and artists of the region did not begin with that in mind. Like fellow commercial photographer and North Carolinian Hugh Mangum, Waters might be considered an accidental documentarian, taking to the road in the depths of the Depression as a resourceful businessman, filling theatre seats with audiences who paid to see themselves in the movies. And yet, a natural behind the camera, Waters knew composition and how to frame a shot; more importantly, he knew people, loved to be around them, and could draw from his subjects positive reactions to this unexpected man with a camera, outside the mill, on main street, in front of the school, in the shop. As Waters biographer and documentarian Tom Whiteside has noted, Waters’ quick-cut aesthetic managed the immediate goal of getting as many townsfolk into the movie as possible while achieving, in the long-term, an archive of still image frames that is vast in its scope and ripe for investigation. From this perspective, the vernacular of his art puts him in the company of the prominent documentary photographers of his day.
Waters used reversal film, and the film he projected was the same film he shot in the camera, edited for length and his beloved special effects. He worked quickly, didn’t make copies, and after coming off the road in 1942 shelved the films until, later in life, he started selling them to their respective communities. Duke’s collection of H. Lee Waters films therefore owes a debt to the towns, libraries, and historical societies who over the years have sent, and continue to send, Waters’ legacy to Duke, recognizing that centralizing these resources works in favor of the region’s cultural heritage. It also means that over the years Duke has accrued film in all conditions and states of preservation. There is film in the collection that is literally turning to dust; there is also beautiful Kodachrome that could have been shot yesterday. Since 1988, too, audiovisual preservation has changed dramatically. Thankfully, and with the help of the National Film Preservation Foundation, a substantial number of the films have received full film-to-film preservation; nevertheless, earlier, heroic attempts at saving some films to videotape, some formulations of which are now severely degrading, have left us in a few cases with only a blurred shadow of what must have been on that original film. So our digital project reflects the films and their creator, but also the history of the collection at Duke.
Many at Duke Libraries have made the Waters collection what it is today, and those of us working on bringing the films online build on the efforts of librarians, archivists, and technical staff who were as passionate about these movies as we are. Ever in transition, the collection is marked by growth, an element that we see as integral to the website. In fact we are already adding to it. In addition to the films and (for some of them) shotlists, there are oral history interviews with the children of H. Lee Waters. Tom Waters and Mary Waters Spaulding have not only been essential in bringing their father’s films online, they have a unique perspective on a talented man whose contribution to the history of North Carolina was only beginning to be appreciated when he died in 1997. Waters’ home movies will be added to the site soon, and we anticipate presenting select work inspired by the Waters films, because, in addition to their own sublime artistry, the movies remain a magnet for artists and documentarians mining archival sources. One such work will debut March 20 for Duke Performances, as Jenny Scheinman premieres her work “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,” based around film from the collection.
Of course, we also hope the site might draw other Movies of Local People out of hiding, because while Duke and the State Archives hold a good number of the films, we still don’t know the whereabouts of some of them. So when you visit the site, take advantage of the embed and share functions accompanying each of the videos, use them on your blog or Facebook page, guide people to H. Lee Waters at Duke, and who knows? It may lead them to investigate further, to liberate that can of film that’s been sitting in the closet or biding its time at the local library.
Post Contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team