The Internet yukked it up this past year over the stone-washed camp of the blog Awkward Family Photos. It became an instant meme, and even led to a forthcoming book blurbed by no less a joker than Judd Apatow. If the phenomenon got mileage from the bad ‘dos and goofy pleats of decades past, at its heart lay the simple pleasure of bringing our own frames of reference to intimate portraits of strangers.
Duke Digital Collections published the Hugh Mangum Photographs collection a few years ago, and while it inspires maybe a more dignified response and less of the beverage-snorting amusement, it affords many of the same simple pleasures. Mangum was an itinerant portrait photographer who set up shop along rail routes in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. As Karen Glynn, our Visual Materials Archivist wrote, “Mangum photographs are distinctive for the level of comfort exhibited by his subjects in front of the camera.” Using inexpensive negatives, he took numerous shots of his subjects, capturing them in relaxed poses.
This week we added images of the 688 negatives – many of which contain multiple exposures – to our flickr account. We hope they will inspire appreciation, but also closer examination. We would like to identify the subjects of these photographs, and enhance our frame of reference for them. Please help us if you can, by adding your comments to the versions of the photos there.
As I uploaded the photographs to flickr, I took a few moments to re-connect with this collection, one of the first digitization projects I worked on at Duke. I took particular interest in the small number of outdoor shots. In nearly all of Mangum’s photos the setting is the studio, but forty of them are exterior shots. Our metadata notes the distinction, so it’s easy to pull them up in a search. This link will list them all on a page, but I recommend selecting the 3-d wall option to view them in cooliris. Continue reading The Hugh Mangum Photographs: People in brushy patches→
A new exhibit entitled “Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam in Contemporary Chinese Art” opens tonight at the Nasher Museum of Art here at Duke. In the exhibit, four contemporary artists respond to the Three Gorges Dam, a project to build a hydroelectric dam across the Yangtze River, completed near Yichang, China, in 2008. Construction of the dam “displaced more than one million people and submerged more than 1,200 towns,” including some important cultural and archaeological sites.
Yesterday, I gave a guest presentation to a User Interface Design class at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information & Library Science. The presentation reviews our process for redesigning our Digital Collections web site: how we have assessed the current site, what we have learned, what tools we have used to help the process, and what we plan to do next.
The Digital Collections team has been watching a lot of commercials lately. In fact, in building the AdViews Collection, we’ve digitized, reviewed, described, and published close to 10,000 vintage television commercials dating from the 1950s to the 1980s. Over the last year, we’ve learned some valuable lessons from our work on AdViews. For example, 10,000 videos require a lot of server space, spreadsheets can be your friend, and most digital projects take longer than you expect. More importantly, though, courtesy of hundreds of jingles, we’ve learned not to squeeze the Charmin, that Cool Whip comes whipped and stays whipped, and that Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.
A Little Jingle History
More than commercials today, television ads from the 1950s to the 1970s relied heavily on the jingle. According to a trusted source, the jingle is “a memorable short tune with a lyric broadcast used in radio and television commercials which are usually intended to convey an advertising slogan.” While the 1950s marked a “golden age” of the jingle on television, the jingle first appeared on radio during the 1930s as a way to circumvent industry regulations that prohibited direct advertising of products. With a catchy jingle, advertisers could mention a product name during the introduction to a broadcast without explicitly pitching a product.
In the 1950s and 1960s jingles easily made the transition from radio to television. This same period also saw the rise of the “singing commercial,” a longer format version of the jingle. In the last few decades, however, commercially licensed pop songs have slowly replaced jingles in television commercials, but some believe that jingles may be making a comeback.
Whether its a jingle, a singing commercial, or a pop song, researchers classify these “pleasantly melodic, easy to remember hooks” as earworms. They even suggest that women may be more susceptible to earworms than men.
While some jingles from our AdViews Collection are more memorable than others, here are links to our Top 10 favorites.
Top 10 Jingles and Songs from AdViews (available via ITunesU)
Some of us here at Duke Digital Collections have been in “All Olympics, All The Time” mode the past couple of weeks, and are therefore now suffering through serious withdrawal. What did we talk about around the water cooler and on Facebook before snowboard cross? What gave our lives meaning before curling? To keep the spirit of the Games alive even though they’re over, here are some interesting images from our digital collections that relate to the Vancouver Olympics.
First, here’s a British Overseas Airways Corporation advertisement offering travel to the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, the first Games held after WWII (the host city was selected at least partly because Switzerland was neutral during the war). These Olympics were noteworthy for the figure skating gold medal won by Dick Button, now well-known as an “amusingly opinionated” TV commentator. The 1948 Games also introduced a new demonstration sport called “military patrol,” which combined cross-country skiing with shooting at targets and later, of course, was renamed “ice dancing.” (Ha ha, we kid. It became biathlon. But admit it, you would watch ice dancing if there were shooting at stuff involved.)
This ad is interesting for a couple of reasons: BOAC no longer exists, having later merged with British European Airways to create British Airways, but the “Speedbird” name endures to this day as the callsign used by air traffic control to refer to British Airways flights. The $746 round-trip fare is about $6700 in today’s dollars; for comparison, round-trip fares between NYC and Geneva today begin at $448. Of course, in 1948 you probably didn’t have to pay extra for checked baggage, pillows, food, and armrests.
[Note: This is a guest post from Rita Johnston, Project Digitization Assistant for the NHPRC-funded ROAD 2.0 project. Thanks, Rita!]
ROAD 2.0 (Resource of Outdoor Advertising Descriptions) is a project to digitize images of billboards described in the ROAD database and match them with existing metadata. What I find interesting about the collection as a whole is that it offers an abundant variety of examples of advertising throughout the 20th century, and the content often uniquely reflects the times in which the advertisements were designed. This WWII-era advertisement encourages citizens to pay their taxes on time by linking paying taxes with the war effort. [ROAD metadata record: AAA0618]
This morning, I gave a presentation to our library staff to show and discuss our possible wireframe prototypes, as well as the analysis that informed the designs. It’s a sort of visual summary of our redesign-related blog posts to this point. The embedded version here is small, but you can view the full presentation here.
At long last, here’s the final group of wireframes we’ll blog about for our site redesign project: the individual collection homepages. Here’s an annotated look at one of our current collection homepages:
We’d like to share some of our ideas for the future portal page to Duke Digital Collections. We have included highlights from user feedback that draw attention to important navigation elements, as well as examples of websites that have informed these designs. Please let us know what you think!
Emphasis has been placed on ways to ease navigation by providing clear, easy ways to browse and prominently displaying visual content that highlights an assortment of interesting materials from our collections.