A Question for Complex Cataloging

This frontispiece from a 1703 library catalog shows a classical figure engaged in cataloging a collection. In real life, cataloging has fewer cherubs and more computer screens.
This frontispiece from a 1703 library catalog shows a classical figure engaged in cataloging a collection. In real life, cataloging has fewer cherubs and more computer screens.

Catalogers work behind the scenes in the library. We’re usually found in our very quiet building, examining books, checking over bibliographic records, or typing lines of code. The catalog records that we work on are mostly used by people whom we will never meet. But the Complex Cataloging department occasionally receives questions from researchers, and those questions help explain why we put certain pieces of information into our records.

For example, we recently got a question about the historical theses and dissertations that we catalog. A researcher compiling a bibliography of theses and dissertations for The Hymn Society found the record for a thesis or dissertation written by an FSU student in 1973. The question was: was it a thesis, written for a Master’s degree, or a dissertation, written for a Ph.D.?

As technology has advanced, catalogers have been able to provide an increasing amount of metadata for each item they catalog. We no longer have to limit ourselves to the space of a 3×5-inch catalog card, and changes in our digital platform have allowed us to include more information for electronic resources as well. The record in question had been created in 1976, using older cataloging standards, and it didn’t contain the information that the researcher wanted.

As we’ve been updating the records of historical theses and dissertations to current standards, however, we’ve been including this information in each record. Once we got the question from the researcher, we updated this record as well, so that now anyone looking at the record should be able to see that it’s describing a dissertation, not a thesis.

This screenshot shows the information we entered into the catalog record: the 502 field includes the degree for which this work was written.

My Year in Special Collections

As I sit down to write my final blog entry as the Special Collections and Archives graduate assistant, I can’t help but think about the pivotal moment that started me down this whole career path.

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It was the Fall semester of 2011 and I was the nerdiest college sophomore that you’ve ever met. I was completely obsessed with a class I was taking called Illuminated Manuscripts, which my brother still, to this day, jokingly refers to as “laminated manuscripts.” Once a week, our class would meet in one of the classrooms in Strozier Library to study the medieval facsimiles from Special Collections. The rare books librarian, who I thought had the greatest job in the whole world next to Alex Trebek, would administer over these extraordinarily recreated works of art as we students examined the pages with the unflinching attention of a neurosurgeon and took notes (in pencil, of course) on our discoveries.

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The Book of Kells, 800, ND3356 .B7S8 1914

The facsimile I found the most impressive was the iconic Book of Kells. Likely created around the year 800 CE on the Scottish island of Iona, the Book of Kells is widely regarded as the finest European medieval manuscript to survive. Comprising of the four gospel books of the New Testament, it is created in the Hiberno-Saxon, or Insular, style, which refers to a time period in post Roman Britain before the Viking Age when indigenous artistic conventions, such as stylized interlacing knot and animal motifs, were popular. There are a total of ten full page illustrations, including a whimsically blonde Christ and a vignette of cats eating the Eucharistic host, with numerous decorated initials and smaller abstract illustrations surrounding the text. The manuscript is massive, lavishly decorated, and constructed from the finest materials. Its pages are made of vellum, the highest quality calfskin parchment, and the colorful inks are made from a wide variety of imported materials. Ultimately, this manuscript is a showstopper. It’s the medieval equivalent of a modern day Ai Weiwei or Damien Hirst masterpiece.

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And now as I wrap up my assistantship and prepare to graduate I realize I’m sincerely going to miss my friend, the Book of Kells, who sparked my interest in medieval manuscripts and beckoned me to pursue this opportunity in Special Collections. It’s true; those of us who seek a career in libraries envision being surrounded by the materials that we feel the most passionately about. And as great as blonde Jesus is, it’s the people of Special Collections that really make the department so special. Looking forward to commencement and the nebulous unknown of the “real world” that will follow graduate school, I honestly hope that I can find a work environment as supportive and team as cohesive as the one I’ve spent the last year with.

Cheers!

400 Years of Shakespeare

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A page from Shakespeare’s Second Folio (1632)

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Although the exact dates of his birth and death are disputed, they are both known to have occurred in late April. In honor of 400 years of Shakespeare, libraries and museums throughout the world are putting on exhibits to celebrate his life and works. The Folger Shakespeare Library, partnering with the Cincinnati Museum Center and American Library Association, is hosting a First Folio Tour, which will bring the famous first edition of Shakespeare’s plays to universities and museums in every state.

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An illustrated adaptation of Shakespeare (circa 1895)

While FSU Special Collections & Archives is not fortunate enough to have one of the 234 known extant first folios (out of the approximately 750 printed), there are over 350 volumes by and about Shakespeare available through our research center, including facsimiles of the first folio and extracts from the fourth folio, published in 1685. As Shakespeare’s genius and influence have firmly entrenched him in the canon of English literature, his works have been constantly published, republished, edited, re-edited, repackaged, illustrated, and re-illustrated ever since his death in 1616. Many famous authors, printers, and illustrators have tried their hands at Shakespeare over the years, from Laura Valentine’s Shakspearian Tales in Verse (PR2877.V3 1899) to the Kelmscott edition of Shakespeare’s poems (PR2842.E4).

One of the most exciting discoveries we’ve made in the stacks lately is an uncatalogued leaf from Shakespeare’s second folio, printed in 1632, nine years after the first folio and sixteen years after Shakespeare’s death. Our leaf is pages 195-196 from The Taming of the Shrew and includes Pettruchio’s famous lines to Katerina:

For I am he am born to tame you Kate,

And bring you from a wild Kat to a Kate

Conformable as other household Kates …

I must, and will have Katherine to my wife.

This page from the second folio and other editions of Shakespeare’s works will be on display in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the first floor of Strozier from Friday, April 22nd until the end of May. Stop by and see it Monday-Friday 10am-6pm!

The 1971 Westcott Talk-In

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, FSU was fraught with student protest, and Westcott was the primary site for demonstrations and sit-ins. FSU earned its moniker “Berkley of the South” during this time as students became more concerned with equal rights for women and minorities, free speech, and the anti-war movement. While some of the protests were accompanied by increased police presence and arrests (most famously The Night of Bayonets in 1968), some protests were peaceful. One such event was a “talk-in” organized by black students at FSU.

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“200 Blacks confront Marshall,” The Florida Flambeau, April 26, 1971

On April 23, 1971, a group of nearly 200 black students descended on President Stanley Marshall’s office, demanding a moment of his time. Fed up with discrimination on campus and disillusionment about FSU possibly being merged with FAMU, the students approached President Marshall at his office at Westcott to ask him to use his administrative powers to intervene in two situations on campus. The first demand was for President Marshall to re-appoint Gayle Andrews, FSU’s first black cheerleader, to the cheerleading squad. The second request was for President Marshall to grant amnesty to Enoch Saunders and Skip Young, two black students accused of assaulting a white student.

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Prior to the talk-in, students from FSU’s black community staged a protest outside of Westcott on April 20th, 1971. “FSU Blacks Stage Protest,” The Florida Flambeau, April 21, 1971.

Gayle Andrews previously participated on the FSU cheerleading squad for two years before she wasn’t elected onto the following year’s team. Claiming discrimination by the squad, the Black Student Union officially demanded on Gayle Andrews’ behalf that she be placed back on the squad. In an interview for the Florida Flambeau, Andrews stated “[when] they overlooked me, they overlooked all blacks at school.” Neither the squad nor President Marshall would reinstate Andrews, but two other black cheerleaders, Shirley Preston and Jim Wilson, were chosen to join the next year’s squad at tryouts.

In 1971, FSU students Enoch Saunders and Skip Young were accused of assaulting a white student. Both men cited self-defense and felt they were unjustly arrested. Speaking about his arrest experience at a rally at Moore Auditorium, Saunders stated “We are the victims of selective law enforcement,” and that he “was told by [his] arresting police officers that they were going to kill [him].” Young, a basketball player who would eventually go on to lead the FAMU Lady Rattlers to their first state championship in 2004, also spoke about his experience at the rally. “My actions were provoked by the slurs of the white cheerleader whom I attacked, and I feel the charges brought against me are false.” President Marshall, not having the authority to grant amnesty in legal matters, declined to do anything about Enoch Saunders and Skip Young’s charges.

Even though not much was accomplished by the talk-in at Westcott, student leaders applauded administration for handling it without the intervention of police force. After the talk-in at Westcott, relations between the student body and began to improve.

To see more photographs, ephemera, and artifacts related to the history of Florida State, check out the FSU Heritage Protocol Digital Collections or like the Heritage Protocol Facebook page.

Claude Pepper & Edward Ball: A Long History & A Brief Summary

Spring is in the air, the sun is out and that usually means it’s time to find a body of water to sit by and enjoy since we live in Florida. One of those places you could visit this spring and summer (or anytime really) would be the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

Wakulla Springs Contest Winner Austin Hackimer "Manatee"
Wakulla Springs Contest Winner Austin Hackimer “Manatee”

This Florida State Park is home to plenty of wildlife including alligators, deer, birds, and of course the majestic manatee. There are guided water boat tours and a spring for swimming where the water is always a nice, cool temperature. Find more information about this beautiful state park here.

The park is named Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, you might wonder, “who is Edward Ball?” According to the Florida State Parks website, he was a “financier” who “purchased the property in 1934 and developed it as an attraction focusing on wildlife preservation and the surrounding habitat.” The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was built in 1937 as a guest house on the 4,000 acres Ball purchased the same year. In the 1960s’ Ball donated land to Florida State University for a marine lab which is now the Edward Ball Marine Laboratory.

Now you could be wondering, “what does any of this have to do with Claude Pepper?” The former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper and Edward Ball were like the Cady Heron and Regina George of their time, publicly civil with one another, but deplored each other in reality. Pepper writes about his relationship with Ball in his autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness To A Century.

Ed Ball was a financier who amassed a great amount of wealth and power due to his family connections. His brother-in-law Alfred I. duPont was one of the wealthiest men in the country in the early 20th century. After duPont’s death in 1935, Ball took over control of the duPont Trust and emerged as a wealthy political dominant force in Florida in the 1940s’. Ball never ran for political office himself, but backed and tried to defeat political candidates running for office. One of those candidates he tried to defeat in the 1944 Florida Senate election and eventually succeeded in defeating was Claude Pepper in the now infamous 1950 Florida Senate election.

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Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A (33)-08 Front
Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A(33)-08 back
Claude Pepper Campaign Card FSUPhoto A(33)-08 Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The history of these two men is long and extensive and I encourage any reader of this blog entry to read more on the subject. A great place to start would be Tracy E. Danese’s book, Claude Pepper & Ed Ball: Politics, Purpose, and Power published by the University Press of Florida in 2000. These two men played a great role in shaping the political history and future of Florida. I hope this blog gave you a brief summary of their relationship and intrigued you to read more about it.

Order in the Manuscripts Archives

IMG_1967Everyone enters a field of work for one reason or another. For me, pursuing a Masters of Library and Information Studies began from a desire to be an archivist, a type of information professional that is largely underrated, misunderstood, or even unheard of by the public. The mystery regarding the profession drew me in initially. Popular culture depicts archives as dark and secluded repositories with strict access restrictions guarded by a gatekeeper, hesitant to divulge any of the archives’ secrets. Think of the less-than-helpful associate in the Jedi Archives who turns Obi-Wan away in Star Wars Episode II; she might as well have shushed him while she was at it!

The reality of archives is quite the opposite. In all of my experiences, archivists are more than happy to help you in your research and want to share the collections as much as possible with the public. That’s why they collect it all. In order to do so, however, they must establish order. 

IMG_1976In a job where creating order out of disorder is a top priority, the profession tends to attract many an OCD history buff. There’s something viscerally satisfying about organizing a dusty old mess of papers into a neat collection of documents in acid-free folders, legibly labeled for ready accessibility.

IMG_1980Many steps go into creating this order, however. After gaining legal custody of the documents, the archivist has to “gain intellectual control,” which is a sophisticated way of saying “learn exactly what kind of stuff is in the collection.” In order to do this, one must comb through the contents, which could take a very long time depending on how many linear feet the collection is, and create an inventory. The collection I’ve been “gaining intellectual control” of is called the Douglas and Jeannette Windham Papers, which contains the papers and publications of Douglas and Jeannette Windham, a distinguished FSU alumni couple. I’ve listed the materials that are in the collection, including personal papers, correspondence, academic articles, photographs, and professional reports. Once intellectual control is established, I can work with the archivist to determine a plan for order and begin to folder the contents into acid-free folders. A.K.A. the fun part! The kind of fun that is on par with labeling the shelves of your pantry, or color-coding your closet. (Yes, this is how I live).

The ordering continues when the boxes are stored in the stacks which are kept under strict environmental regulations in order to best preserve the archival materials from accelerated deterioration. The last step of creating order in the archives is to write the online finding aid so potential researchers can get an understanding of what is in the collection. This helps the collections get used more, which is, after all, the whole point in the first place! And there you have it: archives de-mystified.

Spring Fashion at FSCW

The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom, thunderstorms have started rolling through in the afternoon, and sunbathers and hammock dwellers have returned to their regular spots on Landis Green, which can only mean one thing: spring has arrived in Tallahassee! While the weather and native plant life hasn’t changed much in the past 70 years, fashion sure has. Take a look at some FSCW Easter styles, which in true southern fashion was all about white shoes and big hats.

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My Easter Hat, Mary Tarver Willis Photograph Collection (HP 2009-043), 1948-1951.

Continue reading Spring Fashion at FSCW

Protecting digital material: Strategies for digital preservation

In the first post in this digital preservation series, I shared some of the unique challenges digital material brings to the preservation game. In this one we will look at some of the technologies and tools digital stewards employ to protect our digital assets.

How can you tell when a computer file has been corrupted? If you try to open it funny, glitchy things might happen. How can you test whether a digital file is uncorrupted? This requires a bit more thought. Digital files are at their base-level a long string of 1’s and 0’s. This is called the file’s bitstream. Preservationists could compare one bitstream to an earlier copy of it, but this requires a lot of processing power for large files, with no guarantee that your comparison copy isn’t also corrupted.

This is where checksums can help us out. Checksums are character strings generated by a class of algorithms called hash functions or cryptographic hashes. You can try one out here: http://md5checksum.com/. Hash functions are used to encrypt lots of things. Passwords submitted to websites are hashed in your browser. Kind of like this:miguezBlog003encryption.png

Hash functions can also be applied to the bitstream of a file. Due to the nature of the various algorithms used even a single change in a one or zero will produce a drastically different checksum. If at the beginning of the preservation process a digital steward produces a checksum for the bitstream, she can now test for data integrity by rerunning the hash and comparing that output to the original checksum.

Now that we can test for unwanted changes in computer files, how can we ensure we always have a valid copy of it? A system called LOCKSS can help with this. LOCKSS stamiguezBlog003LOCKSS.pngnds for Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. Similar to the idea of backing up personal files, LOCKSS will duplicate the files given to it and then distribute copies of files across several servers. The idea is to spread the system out over many servers in diverse geographic areas to minimize the risk of a single disaster (natural or otherwise) compromising the entire system. These distributed copies are then regularly hashed, and the checksums compared to test the validity of the files. If a checksum comparision fails, that server can delete it’s failing copy of the file, and ask the other servers for a new one.

Digital preservation is a rapidly developing field. New challenges requiring new solutions arise every day. In the third and final post in this digital preservation series, I’ll discuss activities you can undertake to protect your personal digital heritage.

Visualizing an Invisible Machine

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View of the current exhibit on the digital library

For our current exhibit, What’s Past is Pixels, we faced a challenge. How do we represent our digital library in a physical space? To some extent, we could easily do so with pulling the physical objects we’ve digitized and talk about the challenges and decisions we made when translating them online. We could visualize the metadata created, highlight digital representations through screens and screenshots. What I could not wrap my head around, and what of course was on my list to figure out, was representing what the digital library was in some visual form…

As an exhibit planning group, we decided on the words representing the main functions of the digital library: discovery, scholarship and engagement. We also as a group decided on the raw ingredients that made those functions go: materials, community and system. My colleague working on the visualization with me originally suggested some sort of web visual, which would show the interconnectedness of the ingredients and functions. However, while that solved one problem (showing how the digital library works), it didn’t quite show how it worked in the bigger context of DigiNole, the platform that also held the Research Repository.

I kept playing around with the idea of engines, which eventually led me to the final graphic of cogs and functionality as the motion moving the cogs. The digital library was only one engine of DigiNole so the Research Repository could be represented as a part of the greater machine in which the digital library moved. From there, I assigned each ingredient to a cog of the machine and then named the movements after the different functionality we wanted to highlight. It was clean, simple and did its job in illustrating a highly conceptual idea in a straightforward manner for the exhibit without lots of text and using vocabulary that our intended audience (non-librarians) wouldn’t understand. Hopefully it succeeded!

The finished visual to explain how the digital library works
The finished visual to explain how the digital library works

What’s Past is Pixels: Developing the FSU Digital Library is located in the Strozier Library Exhibit Room and is open 10am to 6pm, Monday through Thursday, 10am to 5:30pm Friday. It will be held until April 8, 2016.

A Book Collector’s Legacy

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Title page of Dame Wiggins of Lee by John Ruskin with illustrations by Kate Greenaway (1855)

At over 22,000 rare books and over 65 linear feet of manuscript materials, The John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection is easily the largest single collection in FSU Special Collections & Archives. It serves as a living testament to its creator, John MacKay Shaw (May 15, 1897-March 15, 1984), an AT&T business executive, philanthropist, writer, and bibliophile. While the original 5,000+ volumes in Shaw’s book collection focused on 18th and 19th century British and American poetry written about childhood and/or for children, it has expanded to contain volumes on biography, bibliography, collecting, writing, and publishing. The collection contains works by major authors and illustrators — Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Kate Greenaway, Thomas Bewick, and Lewis Carroll, to name a few — and can serve research interests as diverse as publishers’ bindings, Victorian serials, sacred hymns, and World War I.

The books of the Shaw Collection are wonderfully complimented by the John MacKay Shaw manuscript collection (01/MSS 2008-006). This collection includes Shaw’s personal correspondence (including letters from Dr. Seuss!), lectures, and photographs, as well as administrative information about the development of the Shaw Collection at FSU Libraries. Among the literary materials in the manuscript collection can be found Shaw’s meticulous notes and source materials for his five-volume bibliography on Childhood in Poetry. It is these bibliographic notes that give us window into the world of a twentieth-century book collector.

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Shaw’s bibliographic notes on John Ruskin (01/MSS 2008-006, Box 62, Folder 58)

Shaw’s bibliographic notes are organized by author, with a listing and description of every book by that author in the collection. There are also notes on where each volume was purchased and for how much (invaluable information to anyone studying the provenance of books in the collection), sometimes accompanied by the delightful anecdotes of a true bibliophile. Under the file for John Ruskin, Shaw remarks of the 1885 edition of Dame Wiggins of Lee, and Her Seven Wonderful Cats illustrated by Kate Greenaway:

“This has been for me a most illusive book. Although not an expensive one… it has seemed that I either bid low or my order gets to the bookseller just after someone else has bought it. Now I have a copy, and an almost perfect one it is.”

In a digital world, where online auction sites and search engines have revolutionized the world of book selling and collecting, Shaw’s notes tell of the struggles and triumphs of a collector in this golden age of bibliophilia. Shaw’s manuscripts add rich layers of meaning to the books in his collection, and both will live on for generations to come.