laddmm's blog

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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