Capturing Virtual FSU

When the world of FSU changed in March 2020, the website for FSU was used as one of the primary communication tools to let students, faculty, and staff know what was going on. New webpages created specifically to share information and news popped up all over fsu.edu and we had no idea how long those pages would exist (ah, the hopeful days of March) so Heritage & University Archives wanted to be sure to capture those pages quickly and often as they changed and morphed into new online resources for the FSU community.

Screenshot of a capture of the main FSU News feed regarding coronavirus. Captured March 13, 2020.

While FSU has had an Archive-It account for a while, we hadn’t fully implemented its use yet. Archive-It is a web archiving service that captures and preserves content on websites as well as allowing us to provide metadata and a public interface to viewing the collected webpages. COVID-19 fast-tracked me on figuring out Archive-It and how we could best use it to capture these unique webpages documenting FSU’s response to the pandemic. I worked to configure crawls of websites to capture the data we needed, set up a schedule that would be sufficient to capture changes but also not overwhelm our data allowance, and describe the sites being captured. It took me a few tries but we’ve successfully been capturing a set of COVID related FSU URLs since March.

One of the challenges of this work was some of the webpages had functionality that the web crawling just wouldn’t capture. This was due to some interactive widgets on pages or potentially some CSS choices the crawler didn’t like. I decided the content was the most important thing to capture in this case, more so than making sure the webpage looked exactly like the original. A good example of this is the International Programs Alerts page. We’re capturing this to track information about our study abroad programs but what Archive-It displays is quite different from the current site in terms of design. The content is all there though.

On the left is how Archive-It displays a capture of the International Programs Alerts page. On the right is how the site actually looks. While the content is the same, the formatting and design is not

As the pandemic dragged on and it became clear that Fall 2020 would be a unique semester, I added the online orientation site and the Fall 2020 site to my collection line-up. The Fall 2020 page, once used to track the re-opening plan recently morphed into the Stay Healthy FSU site where the community can look for current information and resources but also see the original re-opening document.

We’ll continue crawling and archiving these pages in our FSU Coronavirus Archive for future researchers until they are retired and the university community returns to “normal” operations – whatever that might look like when we get there!

New Ancient Texts Research Guide

“What are the oldest books you have?” is a common question posed to Special Collections & Archives staff at Strozier Library. In fact, the oldest materials in the collection are not books at all but cuneiform tablets ranging in date from 2350 to 1788 BCE (4370-3808 years old). These cuneiform tablets, along with papyrus fragments and ostraka comprise the ancient texts collection in Special Collections & Archives.

In an effort to enhance remote research opportunities for students to engage with the oldest materials housed in Strozier Library, a research guide to Ancient Texts at FSU Libraries has been created by Special Collections & Archives staff.

Ancient Texts Research Guide

The Ancient Texts at FSU Libraries research guide provides links to finding aids with collections information, high-resolution photos of the objects in the digital library, and links to articles or books about the collections.

Research guides can be accessed through the tile, “Research Guides,” on the library’s main page. Special Collections & Archives currently has 11 research guides published that share information and resources on specific collections or subjects that can be accessed remotely.

While direct access to physical collections is unavailable at this time due to Covid-19, we hope to resume in-person research when it is safe to do so, and Special Collections & Archives is still available to assist you remotely with research and instruction. Please get in touch with us via email at: lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu. For a full list of our remote services, please visit our services page.

What’s the Tea?

Katie McCormick, Associate Dean
(she/her/hers)

For this post, I interviewed Kate McCormick in order to get a better understanding of the dynamics of Special Collections & Archives. Katie is one of the Associate Deans and has been with SCA for about nine years now (here’s a video of Katie discussing some of our collections on C-SPAN in 2014!). As a vital part of the library, and our leader in Special Collections & Archives, I wanted to get her opinion on how the division has progressed thus far and how they plan to continue to do so in regards to diversity and inclusion. 

How would you describe FSU SCA when you first started?

“…People didn’t feel comfortable communicating [with each other]… There was one person who really wrote for the blog, and maybe it would happen once every couple of months. When I came on board, my general sense was that we were a department and a group of people with a lot of really great ideas and some fantastic materials, who had come a long way from where things has been, but who hadn’t gotten to a place to be able to organize to change more or to really work more as a team… We were definitely valued as (mostly) the fancy crown jewel group. Really all that mattered was the stuff… it didn’t matter what we were doing with it.”

How do you feel the lapse in communication affected diversity and inclusion?

“While I don’t have any direct evidence that it excluded people or helped create an environment that was exclusive, I do know that even with our staff at the time, there were times where it contributed to hostilities, frustrations, an  environment where people didn’t feel able to speak or be comfortable in…Everybody just wanted to be comfortable with the people who were just like them that it definitely created some potentially hostile environments. Looking back, I recognize what a poor job we did, as a workplace and a community truly being inclusive, and not just in ways that are immediately visible.”

How diverse was SCA when you started? 

“In Special Collections there was minimal diversity, certainly less than we have now… [For the libraries as a whole] as you go up in classification and pay, the diversity decreases. That was certainly true when I got here and that remains true.”

How would you rank SCA’s diversity and inclusion when you first started?

“…Squarely a 5, possibly in some arenas a 4. Not nothing, but I feel like no one was really thinking of it.”

And how would you describe it now?

“Maybe we’re approaching a 7, I feel like there’s been progress, but there’s still a long way to go in my opinion.”

What are some ways we can start addressing these issues? What are some tangible ways you are planning to enact?

“For me, some of the first places [is] forming the inclusive research services task force in Special Collections, pulling together a group to look at descriptive practices and applications, and what we’re doing with creating coordinated processing workflows. Putting these issues on the table from the beginning is really important… Right now because we’re primarily in an online environment, i think we have some time to negotiate and change our practices so when we are re-open to the public and people are physically coming in to the spaces, we have new forms, new trainings, people have gone through training that gives them a better sense of identity, communication, diversity.”

After my conversation with Katie, I feel optimistic about the direction we are heading in. Knowing how open Special Collections & Archives is about taking critique and trying to put it into action brought me comfort. I’m excited to see how these concerns are addressed and how the department will be putting Dynamic Inclusivity, one of Florida State University’s core values, at the forefront of their practice. I would like to give a big thank you to Katie McCormick for taking the time to do this post with me and for having these conversations!

On This Day in the Florida Flambeau, Friday, September 2, 1983

Today in 1983, a disgruntled reader sent in this letter to the editor of the Flambeau. In it, the reader describes the outcome of a trial and the potential effects that outcome will have on the City of Tallahassee.

Florida Flambeau, September 2, 1983

It is such a beautifully written letter that I still can’t tell whether or not it’s satire. Do you think the author is being serious or sarcastic? Leave a comment below telling us what you think!

Telling Untold Stories Through the Emmett Till Archives

Detail of a newspaper clipping from the Joseph Tobias Papers, MSS 2017-002

Friday August 28th marks the 65th anniversary of the abduction and murder of Emmett Till. Till’s murder is regarded as a significant catalyst for the mid-century African-American Civil Rights Movement. Calls for justice for Till still drive national conversations about racism and oppression in the United States.

In 2015, Florida State University (FSU) Libraries Special Collections & Archives established the Emmett Till Archives in collaboration with Emmett Till scholar Davis Houck, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, and author Devery Anderson. Since then, we have continued to build robust research collections of primary and secondary sources related to the life, murder, and commemoration of Emmett Till. We invite researchers from around the world, from any age group, to explore these collections and ask questions. It is through research and exploration of original, primary resources that Till’s story can be best understood and that truth can be shared.

Continue reading Telling Untold Stories Through the Emmett Till Archives

Contribute to the FSU Community COVID 19 Project

Masks Sign, contributed by Lorraine Mon, view this item in the digital library here

Students, faculty, and alumni! Heritage & University Archives is collecting stories and experiences from the FSU community during COVID-19.

University life during a pandemic will be studied by future scholars. During this pandemic, we have received requests surrounding the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Unfortunately, not many documents describing these experiences survive in the archive. 

To create a rich record of life in these unique times we are asking the FSU Community to contribute their thoughts, experiences, plans, and photographs to the archive.

Working from Home, contributed by Shaundra Lee, view this time in the digital library here

How did COVID-19 affect your summer? Tell us about your plans for fall. How did COVID-19 change your plans for classes? Upload photographs of your dorm rooms or your work from home set ups.

If you’d like to see examples of what people have already contributed, please see the collection on Diginole.

You can add your story to the project here.

Solar Energy: A Brief Look Back

In the early 1970’s the United States was in the midst of an energy crisis. Massive oil shortages and high prices made it clear that alternative ideas for energy production were needed and solar power was a clear front runner. The origins of the solar cell in the United States date back to inventor Charles Fritz in the 1880’s, and the first attempts at harvesting solar energy for homes, to the late 1930’s. In 1974, the State of Florida put it’s name in the ring to become the host of the National Solar Energy Research Institute.

Site proposal for the National Solar Energy Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

With potential build sites in Miami and Cape Canaveral, the latter possessing the added benefit of proximity to NASA, the Florida Solar Energy Task Force, led by Robert Nabors and endorsed by Representative Pepper, felt confident. The state made it to the final rounds of the search before the final location of Golden, Colorado was settled upon, which would open in 1977. Around this same time however (1975), the Florida Solar Energy Center was established at the University of Central Florida. The Claude Pepper Papers contain a wealth of information on Florida’s efforts in the solar energy arena from the onset of the energy crisis, to the late 1980’s.

Carbon copy of correspondence between Claude Pepper and Robert L. Nabors regarding the Cape Canaveral proposed site for the National Solar Research Institute. Claude Pepper Papers S. 301 B. 502 F. 4

Earlier this year, “Tallahassee Solar II”, a new solar energy farm, began operating in Florida’s capitol city.  Located near the Tallahassee International Airport, it provides electricity for more than 9,500 homes in the Leon County area. With the steady gains that the State of Florida continues to make in the area of solar energy expansion, it gets closer to fully realizing its nickname, “the Sunshine State.”

(C)istory Lesson

Our next submission is from Rachel Duke, our Rare Books Librarian, who has been with Special collections for two years. This project was primarily geared towards full-time faculty and staff, so I chose to highlight her contribution to see what a full-time faculty’s experience would be like looking through the catalog.

Frontispiece and Title Page, Salome, 1894. Image from https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68775953/

The item she chose was Salome, originally written in French by Oscar Wilde, then translated into English, as her object. While this book does not explicitly identify as a “Queer Text,” Wilde has become canonized in queer historical literature. In the first edition of the book, there is even a dedication to his lover, Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, who helped with the translation. While there are documented historical examples of what we would refer to today as “queerness,” (queer meaning non-straight) there is still no demarcation of his queerness anywhere in the catalog record. Although the author is not necessarily unpacking his own queer experiences in the text, “both [Salome’s] author and its legacy participate strongly in queer history” as Duke states in her submission. 

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas

Even though Wilde was in a queer relationship with Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas, and has been accepted into the Queer canon, why doesn’t his catalog record reflect that history? Well, a few factors come into play. One of the main ones is an aversion to retroactively labeling historical figures. Since we cannot confirm which modern label would fit Wilde, we can’t necessarily outright label him as gay. How would a queer researcher like me go about finding authors and artists from the past who are connected with queer history?

It is important to acknowledge LGBTQ+ erasure when discussing this topic. Since the LGBTQ+ community has historically been marginalized, documentation of queerness is hard to come by because:

  • People did not collect, and even actively erased, Queer and Trans Histories.
  • LGBTQ+ history has been passed down primarily as an oral tradition. 
  • Historically, we cannot confirm which labels people would have identified with.
  • Language and social conventions change over time.

So while we view and know someone to be queer, since it is not in official documentation we have no “proof.” On the other hand, in some cultures, gay relations were socially acceptable. For example, in the Middle Ages, there was a legislatively approved form of same-sex marriage, known as affrèrement. This example is clearly labeled as *gay* in related library-based description because it was codified that way in the historical record. By contrast, Shakespeare’s sonnets, which (arguably) use queer motifs and themes, are not labeled as “queer” or “gay.” Does queer content mean we retroactively label the AUTHOR queer? Does the implication of queerness mean we should make the text discoverable under queer search terms?

Cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco. By George Frederick Keller – The Wasp, March 31, 1882.

Personally, I see both sides. As someone who is queer, I would not want a random person trying to retroactively label me as something I don’t identify with. On the other hand, as a queer researcher, I find it vital to have access to that information. Although they might not have been seen as queer in their time period, their experiences speak to queer history. Identities and people will change, which is completely normal, but as a group that has experienced erasure of their history, it is important to acknowledge all examples of historical queerness as a proof that LGBTQ+ individuals have existed throughout time. How do we responsibly and ethically go about making historical queerness discoverable in our finding aids and catalogs?

Click Here to see some more historical figures you might not have known were LGBTQ+.

Catastrophic Health Care: A Goal Not Met

In the Summer of 1987, Representative Claude Pepper introduced House Resolution 2654. In it a request was made to establish a 12-member committee charged with providing recommendations to Congress for a comprehensive health care program for all Americans. In October of 1988, Pepper was appointed as the chairperson of the United States Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care. The committee’s findings indicated that the majority of Americans were prohibited at some level from obtaining adequate health care due to the high costs associated with medical treatment, particularly for long-term and catastrophic illness.  

Throughout his career, Pepper was uniquely devoted to the idea of comprehensive health care coverage. In 1937, during his first term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute. Throughout the remainder of his career, he was instrumental in establishing an additional thirteen National Institutes of Health. Beginning in 1946, Pepper began efforts to muster support for the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill. A proposal to institute a national health care and hospital system intended to ease the hardship that America’s health care system imposed on those least able to afford it, the bill failed to gain traction or support.

For the next thirty years, the possibility of a National Health Care system continued to remain on the forefront of Pepper’s agenda. His last legislative efforts began in 1987. After the Bipartisan Commission, Pepper and his colleagues in the House began to craft what would become the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988. The bill was designed to improve acute care benefits for the elderly and disabled, which was to be phased in from 1989 to 1993.The act was meant to expand Medicare benefits to include outpatient drugs and set a cap on out of pocket medical costs. It was the first bill to significantly expand Medicare benefits since the program’s inception. Although the bill passed easily with initial support, the House and Senate repealed it a year later in response to widespread criticism over projected government costs.

Senator Pepper died in May of 1989, not seeing his goal of a national health care system achieved. Today the work toward that goal continues, and if you are interested to learn more about the history and evolution of the path toward affordable and equitable health care coverage for all Americans, the Pepper Papers, and all of our political collections, are searchable online.

Claude Pepper speaking at the Aging Subcommittee on Health Maintenance and Long Term Care hearing. Claude Pepper Papers Photo B(1397)-01.

Updated SCA Page in Florida History Research Guide

This post was co-authored by Jennifer Fain.

Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce our new and improved page on the Florida History research guide. One of our major projects this summer in light of Covid-19 and the need for expanded online services has been to update our presence on FSU Library research guides to better connect patrons with our materials remotely.

The Florida History guide is overseen by Humanities librarian, Adam Beauchamp, who will be working on updating the rest of it in the future. Research guides can be accessed through the tile, “Research Guides,” on the library’s main page. To navigate to our updated page on the Florida History guide (pictured below), select the “Florida History in the FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives” tab via the left-hand navigation bar in the research guide.

Our new page on the Florida History research guide!
Our new page on the Florida History research guide!

What were the improvements we have made to the page? We updated an introduction to Special Collections & Archives’ holdings and spaces, as well as information on our databases and how to search them. The main addition to this page is a break-down of our resources by topical subject areas within Florida History. The first section gives introductory information on how to use the resources listed as well as other places on the page to learn more about our searchable databases. Scroll down the page to explore different subjects represented in our collections. Alternatively, there are links that directly jump to each subject. The topics we have highlighted are Early Florida, Florida Industry & Agriculture, Tallahassee History, The Civil War in Florida, and Florida Politics. 

Photograph of Saturn V Moon Rocket.
Photograph of the Saturn V Moon Rocket from the Claude Pepper Papers.

The sections explain how and where to find materials like the above photograph of the Saturn V Moon Rocket across different searchable databases like ArchivesSpace, the Library Catalog, and the Digital Library. We included links and examples of digital collections, finding aids, and Library of Congress Subject Headings as starting points for research. There are also suggestions for how to develop keyword searches at the bottom of the page. 

Be on the lookout for more blog posts as we continue to unveil updated pages and guides for the Fall semester. And, of course, make sure to check out our new page on the Florida History guide! While direct access to physical collections is unavailable at this time due to Covid-19, we hope to resume in-person research when it is safe to do so, and Special Collections & Archives is still available to assist you remotely with research and instruction. Please get in touch with us via email at: lib-specialcollections@fsu.edu. For a full list of our remote services, please visit our services page.