laddmm's blog

The 2nd Annual Special Collections Lecture: Telling the Stories of Freedom Summer

Mark Levy, at right

Mark Levy, at right

During the summer of 1964, the Western College campus in Oxford, Ohio served as the training ground for a remarkable undertaking: the coordinated and determinedly peaceful effort to register African-Americans to vote in the hostile and heavily segregated state of Mississippi. Most of the volunteers were white college students who felt a personal calling to support the civil rights of beleaguered African-Americans. A few were themselves African-Americans. Three young men – two white, one black – left Oxford for Mississippi and were never seen alive again.

But there was more to that summer than those three tragic deaths. There were many acts of individual courage, many acts of connection and enlightenment, and many lives, both of Mississippi residents and of volunteers that were forever changed by the experience of that summer. Next weekend about 50 of those volunteers will return to Oxford to remember that summer and to share the impact on their lives during a special reunion and 50th anniversary conference.

On Friday, Oct. 10, three of them will share their stories with us in a panel presentation, “Telling Our Stories: Building the Freedom Summer Legacy,” beginning at 4:15 p.m. This panel serves as the Second Annual Special Collections Lecture, highlighting the Freedom Summer Archive in the Western College Memorial Archives.

Carole Gross Colca, in front with children

Carole Gross Colca, in front with children

Our three guests – Carole Gross Colca, Mark Levy and Roland Duerksen – have all donated personal materials to the Freedom Summer Archive. During the panel presentation they’ll talk about the impact of Freedom Summer on their lives, as well as why they felt it was important to preserve and share the documents of that experience.

The fall exhibit in the Special Collections gallery showcases materials they have donated. “Stories of Freedom Summer from the Western College Memorial Archives” will be on view before and after the panel presentation and through the remainder of the semester, until December 12.

Please join us on October 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. for a fascinating presentation, followed by a reception and an opportunity to view the exhibit and interact with our speakers. The event is free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Brice
Assistant Dean for Technical Services & Special Collections

Prof. Roland Duerksen, at right behind children

Prof. Roland Duerksen, at right behind children

Bowden Postcard Collection Online Update: Donations, Maps, and More

Please note that, as of June 1st, the URL of the Bowden Postcard Collection Online is http://digital.lib.MiamiOH.edu/postcards.

It's been about a year since the project first began, so I thought now would be a good time to review the latest updates to the Bowden Postcard Collection Online. As I wrote about in November, this digital collection is being developed from the donation of roughly 480,000 postcards by two friends and Miami alumni: Clyde N. Bowden and Charles Shields. The project began last summer with a pilot that used a handful of cards from each state in Bowden's collection. These cards were digitized, given metadata records, and added to CONTENTdm - our digital content management system.

One of the Oxford, Ohio, postcards being pulled from the cabinet.
One of the Oxford, Ohio, postcards being pulled from the cabinet.

In the year since we began, we have digitized nearly 2,200 postcards, mostly from Ohio. There have been some setbacks along the way, most notably the recognition in December for a need to revise our already existing metadata records. At the same time, however, we have also made great strides forward. Clyde N. Bowden, the donor and namesake, was very excited to hear about the project and has given us a very generous donation to fund the current Ohio-focused work. His was not the only positive feedback we have had, either. Since joining the Commons, our digital collections' Flickr account - of which the postcards represent a substantial portion - has averaged between 10-20,000 views a day, and the number of monthly hits we have received in CONTENTdm for the full collection has likewise increased several times over. One particularly memorable response was from someone who recognized his father in a photograph used for one of the Oxford postcards.

The work of creating card numbers and sorting the cards in the Shields collection was made significantly easier thanks to his labels.
The work of creating card numbers and sorting the cards in the Shields collection was made significantly easier thanks to his labels.

In addition to his financial contribution, Mr. Bowden also donated to us several boxes of books about postcards, books of postcards, and other postcard-related miscellanea. We are also receiving another generous donation from the Columbus Metropolitan Library in the form of roughly 500 postcards from their own collection - many of them being from the mid-20th century Middle East.

So where do we go from here? Thanks to Mr. Bowden's donation, we are able to investigate commercial digitization which will save a significant portion of our students' time and labor, allowing them to focus on creating the metadata records and adding them to the collection online. We also are expanding our operation and bringing on a third student this summer to help with the work. With the digitization outsourced and the extra help, I am anticipating having over 5,000 postcards online by the end of 2014. Once we have completed the roughly 8,000 postcards remaining in the Bowden collection, we will add the Ohio postcards from the Shields collection. My goal for the project is to complete both collections' Ohio cards - about 15,000 in total! - by the end of spring 2016. I have also created a Twitter account - @bowdenpostcards - to track new postcards being added to the collection. Although currently inactive for the summer break, I look forward to seeing the account continue to log the latest additions to the collection, including a fascinating postcard flipbook from early 1900's Portsmouth, Ohio (watch a video of it on the Special Collections blog here).

Finally, as part of the aforementioned metadata revisions, we have narrowed the geographic location of each card - sometimes even to a specific street or building! Using this new information, we are developing a map to visualize the data in the collection. The map will be created using the Leaflet JavaScript Library, as well as some homegrown PHP and MySQL. In order to gather the necessary information from the CONTENTdm database, I wrote a script that queries the API for information about each item. This information is then pushed to a SQL database on one of our library's server - and in turn will be used to populate the map. The script itself is set to run on a weekly basis to continually update the SQL database. By preloading all the responses from the API, we are able to significantly reduce the time required to load the map. I am hoping to deploy the map by the end of June, so keep an eye on the collection!

Proof of concept for postcard map
Proof of concept for postcard map

Happy browsing.

Marcus Ladd
Special Collections Librarian & Postcard Czar

New Digital Collections Portal

As of Friday April 16, 2014, the portal to our digital collections is now http://digital.lib.miamioh.edu/.

Digital Collections homepage

On behalf of Special Collections and the Center for Digital Scholarship, I am excited to announce the launch of our new digital collections portal. The new website is the end result of a long migration process of collections divided across instances of DSpace and CONTENTdm version 4.3 into a single, up-to-date instance of CONTENTdm 6.6. In addition to a variety of new features, the new instance is based on a significantly improved platform to allow for better searching and viewing of the items in our digital collections.

List of currently available collections

In total, our digital collections hold roughly 90,000 items, shared between over two dozen collections. These collections include:

The migration project began over a year ago and was spearheaded by John Millard, the Head of the Center for Digital Scholarship, and Elias Tzoc, the Digital Initiatives Librarian. From Special Collections, I have been collaborating with them to migrate and update the information about our collections that have been digitized. The project had several stages, each with their own unique set of challenges, including coordinating import/export tools from different platforms, updating image files to current standards, and preparing for a seamless-as-possible transition to a new platform.

This migration also comes ahead of Miami University’s domain name overhaul - migrating from the muohio.edu domain name (which will be defunct June 1st of this year) to the newer MiamiOH.edu. As a part of this, we are working to ensure that citations to our digital collections elsewhere on the web are ready for the migration and domain name change. One of the biggest current challenges in this is updating the links in our Flickr collections that lead back to the full objects and metadata records in CONTENTdm. Earlier this year, Miami University Libraries’ digital collections officially joined the Flickr Commons. Since then, I have been tracking the changes in views of both our Flickr account and their comparable collections in CONTENTdm. I have been thrilled to note the significant increase of both, but it has become clear to me that when it comes to access, there is no competition - the increase of views of the Bowden Postcard Collection Online in CONTENTdm is outnumbered fifteen times over by the views on Flickr. While the Flickr collection only shows the front of the card and a limited version of the metadata found in the CONTENTdm collection, the number of views is undeniable evidence of the importance of social media platforms for access in the modern world of information.

Page from Thomas B. Marshall's diary

Another exciting part of this migration is the relaunch of our Civil War Diaries online collection. These diaries include three kept by Miami students and three by local Ohio community members who took up arms to fight for the Union. The diarists, all of whom served as members of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, record their impressions and experiences on a variety of topics, including their interrupted college studies, the daily life of a soldier, military engagements and news from the home front. In the near future we will be also relaunching our digitized Samuel Richey Collection of the Southern Confederacy, as well as digitizing and making available new materials related to the American Civil War.

Studio 14 host Rick Ludwin

Finally, I am pleased to announce the completion of our newest digital collection: the Studio 14 Archives. This collection features digitized copies of the variety show produced by Miami students under the oversight of Dr. Bill Utter, from 1968-1970. The two-inch wide quadruplex videotape originals were kept by the show’s producer, Miami alumnus Rick Ludwin, who had them digitized and donated them to Special Collections so that we might be able to make them publicly available online. Special Collections continues to enjoy an ongoing relationship with Mr. Ludwin, who spoke at Special Collections’ first Annual Lecture Series. In addition to being a Miami alumnus, Rick Ludwin was also VP at NBC, where he is remembered for backing a new show called Seinfeld. The Studio 14 episodes in this collection feature a wide range of sketch comedy, musical performances, and famous guests. Happy viewing!

Marcus Ladd
Special Collections Librarian

AP Story on the Myaamia Collection!

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections staff is pleased to announce the latest additions to the Myaamia Collection Online, eight original land grants from 1823 and 1843 to the Miami Tribe by Presidents Monroe and Tyler and Lafontaine's 1846 addition to the town of Huntington, Indiana.

Front of 3rd land grant to John Baptiste Richardville in 1843
The land grants were also featured in an Associated Press story on Sunday, December 15th, and the story can be found in news sources across the country! As with the original annuity rolls in the Myaamia Collection Online, each land grant is accompanied by a transcription. We invite you all to explore these fascinating historical documents.

Join Us for an Exciting October in Special Collections!

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With the many and varied resources in Special Collections, it's always a challenge choosing which ones to focus on for exhibits and special events. This October we will be celebrating two fascinating collections and we hope you will join us.

On Homecoming Saturday, October 19, we'll host a reception for our main exhibit this semester, Cradle of Coaches: A Legacy of Excellence. From 4 to 6 p.m. in the Special Collections Exhibit Gallery and Reading Room, and the adjacent room 320, all on the 3rd floor of King Library, we'll celebrate the legacy of our coaching heritage with an extended exhibit, additional media, and refreshments. At 5 p.m., after a welcome from Interim Dean Jerome Conley, Nick Selvaggio, one of the original donors of the Cradle of Coaches Archive, will talk about the origin of the collection. Then Johnathan Cooper, the exhibit curator, will lead guests on a guided tour of the exhibit.

On the following Wednesday, October 23, at 4 p.m., Miami alumnus and former NBC vice president Rick Ludwin will give the inaugural Annual Special Collections Lecture. Each year this new lecture series will highlight one of our many special collections.

“STUDIO 14,” Miami University Television and Radio, 1966-1970, will highlight the Rick Ludwin Collection, which includes recordings of Miami radio and television productions made during Ludwin’s student days. The lecture is being presented in honor of Professor Emeritus William Utter, former faculty sponsor. It will be held in King 320 and will be followed by a reception at 5 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public. Please join us to learn more about the amazing resources available here in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

Elizabeth Brice
Assistant Dean for Technical Services and Head, Special Collections & Archives

L-R Rick Ludwin, Richard Hackney, Eric Goodyear.  November 14, 1966.
L-R Rick Ludwin, Richard Hackney, Eric Goodyear. November 14, 1966.

New Online Exhibit: A Gift of History

I am excited to announce the release of our first wholly digital exhibit: A Gift of History!

This exhibit features the original 19th century Miami annuity rolls which were donated by Margaret Sue Strass to the Myaamia Heritage Museum and Archive. Part of the agreement to the donation was that the rolls would be kept at Miami University, here in Special Collections, to be viewed by interested scholars, students, and Myaamia for genealogical research.

There are 35 sheets, each 2.5 x 1.5 feet in size

The rolls donated include:

  • Myaamia annuity, 1880
  • Myaamia annuity, 1881
  • Eel River annuity, 1880
  • Eel River annuity, 1881
  • Myaamia census, 1882
  • Myaamia census, 1882, duplicates
  • Eel River census, 1882

To make them more accessible, we digitized the rolls and they became the foundation of our new Myaamia Collection Online - a resource that is already receiving new donations. While we are excited at the prospect of further expanding the collection, we wanted to commemorate the original gift of the annuity rolls that was its beginning.

Each page incorporates the CONTENTdm compound object viewer, allowing you to navigate the roll

For some time, Elias Tzoc in the Center for Digital Scholarship and I had discussed developing an exhibit in Omeka, but we were limited by Omeka's difficulty in managing compound objects like the annuity rolls, each comprising several sheets of paper. However, in a stroke of genius, Elias was able to import the compound object viewer from the Myaamia Collection Online in CONTENTdm to the Omeka platform, allowing us to move forward with the exhibit you now see. This exhibit demonstrates the power of open source platforms like Omeka, allowing designers to import and adapt tools to their specific needs.

In addition to the rolls themselves, the exhibit also details the importance of the time for the Miamis in Indiana when these rolls were compiled: in 1881, 63 registered Miami were granted citizenship to the state of Indiana and the United States, making them the last large group of Miamis in the state to receive citizenship to the United States. The exhibit also provides information on the process by which we digitized the rolls and created a digital collection around them.

Each roll's page links to the item in the Myaamia Collection Online, including a full metadata record

This was my first major project here in Special Collections and it has been a fascinating (and, yes, sometimes frustrating) process to bring the collection and this exhibit together, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with these rolls. I would like to thank Elias, Jody, John, and Lori for their help with the project, and invite you all to explore this fascinating gift of history.

Marcus Ladd
Special Collections Librarian

Show Me The Awesome: New Kid on the Blog


Show Me The Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion is an initiative by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, and Kelly Jensen to encourage librarian bloggers to think and talk about self-promotion. You can follow the series with the tag #30awesome on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram
As part of “Show Me The Awesome”, I want to step away from our usual fare and talk instead about the challenges of establishing a voice for yourself and your library in new settings. Being the newest member of our library staff, self-promotion for me is as much showing my worth to my peers as to our patrons. My challenge is to promote myself in a way that convinces my new coworkers to make room for me and my work. In parallel to establishing my voice here, I am also working to find a voice for our library in online communities. Much like being a new hire to the department, joining a social media community requires a degree of self-promotion to show that you are able to contribute to the conversation. One of the key elements to a successful social media presence for an institution is a feeling of personability; social media should not be treated as a bullhorn for attention, but rather as an opportunity to build connections. Consequently, it is important for the library to feel like an individual when engaging other users, and I cannot help but see an association between finding my voice among my new peers and finding the library’s voice online.
As with any new setting – physical or digital – the first (and often hardest!) step to making your voice heard is joining the conversation. It can be intimidating to enter a workplace community and show you can make valuable contributions, but some of the best advice I’ve been given about starting a new job was ‘remember that they hired you because you have something they’re missing’; the first hurdle to promoting your abilities is passed. However, when it comes to social media, there is no careful hiring process for quality control; for better or for worse, the Internet gives everyone a chance to make their voice heard. So how can a library promote itself and promise valuable contributions to online conversations?
Like the newcomer to the staff, the first step is knowing what your library has to offer that’s been lacking. By their nature, special collections libraries like mine have many things that are rare, unique, or even uncataloged – but by that same nature these are not materials that can leave the library. Developing a social media presence where awareness of these materials can be shared and gain popularity is a great opportunity to promote the library.
However, there is also a temptation to focus too much on showing off what you or your library has to offer. An early mistake I made in promoting the library with social media was relying on one-directional communication. Tumblr, a platform the university libraries had not previously engaged, was my first solo social media effort. Tumblarians – as the librarians, library students, and sundry bibliophiles on Tumblr call themselves – are a diverse group who welcomed me and the special collections blog warmly on my initial appearance. With some assistance from the excellent and helpful ex-tabulis, we got on a few lists of library blogs, and soon had a few dozen followers. But it wasn’t long until that number slipped. My mistake? I was talking too much and listening too little. I was researching what people were talking about and contributing from our collection, but that isn’t a conversation. As important as it is to show your own talents, part of promoting yourself is also showing that you are someone that can build connections and relationships.
At many libraries, the in-person interview process will involve lunches, coffee breaks, or other similar gatherings. While it might be a nice change after hours of presentations and questions, these ‘social interviews’ are every bit as important as the demonstration of your professional qualities. Libraries are collaborative environments and those social events demonstrate how you would fit in to the workplace community – do you seem to be someone they could write papers with, travel to conferences with, see every weekday for the next ten years? Similarly, social media users’ evaluation of your library and blog will not be based solely on your ability to formally present information, but their ability to feel some sort of connection to your institution.
Like the coffee break during the interview process, breaks from serious posting are important in developing your library’s presence online. To date, my single most successful Tumblr post (judging by the number of times it was liked and reblogged) was a photo of a bit of manuscript waste in a 17th century book – nothing overly rare or unique, but a joking exchange with another librarian (again ex-tabulis) about turning it into a historical mystery movie script saw it reblogged by around thirty other users. Hardly viral, but encouraging nonetheless.
What got the image of our book spread was not the value in it alone, but that little connection that was built in the brief back-and-forth conversation. Formal language does little in the way of effectively building social relationships, but relaxed, friendly language goes hand in hand with the lateral connections that social media relies on. Self-promotion is not only a matter of showing what you can do, but showing that you can fit into the community you’re joining.
Besides, even academic libraries need to be a place of fun sometimes.
See y’all online.
Marcus Ladd Special Collections Librarian

Head’s Up: Traveling with Victorians

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Late last year a new book by Dr. John H. “Jack” White, Jr. (MU ’58) was published by the Indiana University Press.  Wet Britches and Muddy Boots: A History of Travel in Victorian America is noteworthy for many reasons, as the laudatory reviews now appearing make clear.

The book spans the millennia of human travel but focuses primarily on travel in the nineteenth century, when transportation was revolutionized by industrialization. It especially focuses on the experience of travel. What was it like to ride a stagecoach from one town to the next? Or travel by steamboat? What were roads like? Accommodations?  Food?  And how long did it take to travel distances we scarcely give a thought to today?

Jack has written the work as popular history; it is indeed highly readable and illustrated with a wide range of helpful and fascinating images. But it is also based on meticulous research. Jack, after all, retired as Senior Historian after a long curatorial career at the Smithsonian Institution in the Division of Transportation, Museum of History and Technology. His authority is well-established by a number of distinguished publications.

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We in Special Collections are especially delighted with the book because Jack is a loyal friend and supporter and because he did much of his research right here. Our collections are rich in primary resources for the nineteenth century, and transportation is a particularly strong area. We know how much time and effort Jack invested in research and writing. So we take special pride in his achievement.

Jack’s achievement is also an achievement for the former Head of Special Collections, Janet Stuckey, who supported, assisted, and (according to Jack) occasionally pushed him to the finish line. Jack is generously donating the profits from the book to the Miami University Libraries Janet Stuckey Fund, which supports acquisitions for Special Collections.

So it’s a win-win. And win. That last “win” is yours when you read the book.

Elizabeth Brice
Assistant Dean for Technical Services and
Head, Special Collections & Archives

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