All posts by Krystal Thomas

About Krystal Thomas

Digital Archivist at Florida State University

Giving an Omeka Site a New Home

Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter's Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017, http://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/222.
Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017, http://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/222.

Special Collections & Archives maintains an Omeka instance mostly to be used with the Museum Objects classes that use our physical exhibit space periodically and also need to include a digital exhibit with their work. Our hope is that someday the FSU Digital Library will be able to handle the digital exhibit needs for these classes. However, for the moment, Omeka is our tool for this need.

We were approached a few months ago by a professor looking for a new home for his Omeka site that classes had used to collect information and share his student’s work from Religion classes at FSU. As these collections fit in well with the collecting areas of Special Collections & Archives, particularly as we expand our collections of local religion institutional records, this Omeka site was a good candidate for migration to the Special Collections Omeka instance.

Happily, Omeka provides a plug-in that allows for the migration of materials between Omeka instances to be a fairly painless process. The site has been migrated (mostly) successfully. A few lingering problems with video files is being working on by the professor and some Library IT staff. In the meantime, enjoy this new addition to the FSU Special Collections & Archives Omeka lineup, Religion @ Florida State University.

DLC in Review

It has been a busy year for the Digital Library Center! I wanted to take a moment to bask in our success.

We completed 7 planned digital projects which included:

We also started a long-term digitization project with Le Moniteur, a periodical from our Napoleonic collections.

DLC staff member digitizes a textile fragment.
DLC staff member digitizes a textile fragment.

Collaborative digitization projects were also started with the department of Art History, for which half of the John House Stereograph Collection is now available online, and with the department of Anthropology where we hope to have materials to share online soon!

 

All in all, we added 6,026 objects to the digital library this year which encompasses thousands and thousands of digitized book pages, letters, photographs and 3-D objects.

It has been a busy and rewarding year as we keep growing how many projects we can take on each year. We’re already working on new projects for next year so stay tuned for what comes next!

You’re a What? Digital Archivist Edition

Archives Month is when we shout from the rooftops about archives; what are they, what do they have and why you should care. Here at FSU Special Collections & Archives, we participate in #AskAnArchivist day and put together other activities as we are able each year. However, we deal with the most obvious question people could ask 365 days a year…what does an archivist do?

For me, that question is usually a double head scratcher because not only am I an archivist, I am a digital archivist. In my daily work, that is really broken down into three main areas of work: digital project management, digital library management and born-digital material management and preservation. All of which are still probably Greek to you so let me explain.

Digital Project Management

A screenshot of how we organize and track a project
A screenshot of how we organize and track a project

No one told me when I went to get my MSI that I should have probably worked on becoming a certified Project Manager too. Instead, I’ve had to learn by making lots of mistakes as digital projects come through the Digital Library Center. Unfortunately, we have not come up with a magic way to digitize materials and get them into the FSU Digital Library so a lot of planning and then work goes into any set of materials you may find online. I enjoy this part of my work (it’s the organizer in me) but it wasn’t exactly what I thought I was signing up for when I became a digital archivist.

Digital Library Management

Screenshot of the FSU Digital Library
The FSU Digital Library has grown fast since we moved into our new platform in February 2013.

The FSU Digital Library grows in leaps and bounds each year and a team of us work on making sure it grows within our standards and in a way that keeps it useful and relevant for our users. Once a digital project is started, a lot of my work goes into figuring out a user’s needs when interacting with said material. What collection does it belong in? How does it need to be searched? What display would best suit the materials?

Born-Digital Material Management and Preservation

Screenshot of a possible born-digital processing workflow
A look at the digital processing workflow we’re working on to start working on born digital collections we already have in-house

This is the part of the job I am still growing into and learning more about all the time. It’s the part of archives a lot of us don’t know what to think about yet. But, take this fact and stew on it: The Word document you created today is a let less stable than the letter someone wrote 100 years ago. We know how to preserve and protect the paper. The Word document? We’re still figuring that out. As FSU Libraries moves into deciding how we’ll process, provide access and preserve digital records (including web content), I’ll be sure to share more about that aspect of my work on the blog!

So, at the end of the day, I usually tell people that a digital archivist is someone who gets to live in the best of both worlds; I get to handle and work with the cool old “stuff” but also work with all the cool 21st century gadgets which help archives to make these items more accessible while also dealing with any other 21st century document problems the archives wants to throw at me. Bring it on!

#AskAnArchivist Day 2016 is Almost Here!

#AskAnArchivist Day 2016

On October 5, 2016, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives and FSU Special Collections & Archives will be there! This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists here at FSU to ask about our work, our collections or really anything archival.

As professional experts who do the exciting work of protecting and sharing important historical materials here at FSU, we have many stories to share about the work we do every day in preserving fascinating documents, photographs, audio and visual materials, and artifacts. Increasingly, our work extends beyond the physical and includes digital materials such as the work done with the FSU Digital Library. #AskAnArchivist Day will give you a chance to connect with those of us in FSU Libraries who are tackling the challenges of preserving our digital heritage for the future.So, ask us anything and everything.

No question is too silly . . .

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?

. . . and no question is too practical!

  • What should I do to be sure that my emails won’t get lost?
  • I’ve got loads of digital images on my phone. How should I store them so I can access them later on?
  • How do you decide which items to keep and which to weed out from a collection?
  • As a teacher, how can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?

So, how does it work?

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question to @FSULibrary between 10am and 3pm on October 5th and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists here at FSU and around the country who will be standing by to respond directly to you. So if we’re not sure at FSU how to answer, we bet we can find someone who can! We also may not know every answer right away, but we’ll do some digging and get back to you ASAP. Even if you don’t have a question right away, we hope you’ll search Twitter for #AskAnArchivist and follow along as questions and answers are shared to get a better idea not just of what we do here at FSU Special Collections & Archives but what archivists are doing around the world.

See you in the Twitterverse on October 5th!

What is the most viewed object in the Digital Library?

We get asked this question a lot from people. Most are simply curious. However, to the staff of the FSU Digital Library (FSUDL), this is actually an important question. Understanding what our most viewed objects are can help us decide what materials to digitize and make public next for our users as well as understand where current research interests lie within the FSU community.

However, it’s not quite as simple as looking at Google analytics or the basic collection usages statistics that our digital library platform gives us. We’ve only had some of our statistic reporting tools in place for a short amount of time so what Google says is our most viewed collection doesn’t necessarily match what the Digital Library itself tells us. For example, Google says that our Yearbook collection is the most viewed collection in the Digital Library; our Digital Library tells us it’s the Heritage Protocol & University Archives collection, the Yearbook’s parent collection, that is most viewed. This shows the different granularity upon which the two systems collect information; one is looking at the entirety of the Digital Library; the other is looking only at a certain level at any given time. That difference is why we need both systems tracking together to get us the information we need to make decisions about projects moving forward in the FSUDL. It’s also helping us to continue to refine how we collect usage information from the FSUDL.

Page from the 1952 Tally Ho
Page from the 1952 Tally Ho

While the Digital Library platform might not be the best fit for tracking what collection is most viewed, it is the platform which can tell me the answer to the question that prompted this blog post: what is the most viewed object in the Digital Library? Right now, this still is not an easy question to answer (takes a bit of work to get it out of the DL system) but I can say that the Tally-Ho of 1952 (the FSU student yearbook) has been viewed 990 times since we started tracking at object level at the beginning of this year.

In second place is Paul Dirac’s dissertation with 755 views and rounding out the top 3 is a Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey clown college (because who doesn’t love clowns?) In fact, this item is also in our top ten of exit pages meaning this object is often what people are looking for so they leave the FSUDL after finding it.

We’ll continually be working on tracking usage in the Digital Library to make sure the materials we share in the digital environment are the most useful and interesting to all our users. What do you think we should digitize next?

Visualizing an Invisible Machine

IMG_5554
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.

What’s Past is Pixels, a new exhibit at Strozier Library

As a digital archivist, when I’m working with exhibits, they are usually of the digital variety. However, when we wanted to make a splash for the launch of DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository which combines the digital library with the research repository, we knew we needed to do something a bit bold, a bit crazy and very impressive.

What's Past is Pixels

What’s Past is Pixels: Developing the FSU Digital Library is an exhibit opening today about our work on the digital library. Perhaps our introduction to the exhibit says it best:

For over 10 years Florida State University Libraries has hosted a digital library in some form or another. In that time technology has evolved, changing how we can interact with physical objects in a digital space. The FSU Digital Library continues to evolve as well.

Today, the Florida State University Digital Library, under DigiNole, our new digital platform, provides online access to thousands of unique manuscripts, photographs, pamphlets, rare books, historic maps and other materials from across the FSU campus libraries and beyond. Our goal is to support active learning and engagement by providing ample opportunities for discovery and scholarship. In order to achieve this goal new resources and projects are constantly being added to the digital library.

The exhibit takes you through the process of materials being selected, digitized, and described before they find their way into DigiNole. It then explores the new uses for materials that can occur in the digital environment and what the future may hold for the development of DigiNole over time.

We’re having some Opening Day festivities today for the new exhibit. A Coffee Talk at 10am, Cake (!) from 12-1pm and then a Closing Reception from 3-4pm. Also throughout the day, there will be demonstrations of DigiNole and what you can find and do with our materials.

What’s Past is Pixels: Developing the FSU Digital Library is located in the Strozier Library Exhibit Room and is open 10am to 4pm, Monday through Friday. It will be held from February 29 until April 8, 2016.

Boil, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

So, the title is more akin to Halloween than the newly arrived holiday season but this new digital collection fits the saying.

Setting up your kitchen according to a 1622 Italian cookbook
Setting up your kitchen according to a 1622 Italian cookbook

70 herbals and cookbooks have been added to the FSU Digital Library over the last month.

Herbals, which describe the appearance of medicinal plants, tell how to gather, prepare, preserve and store them. These books contribute to the work of physicians, pharmacists and botanists by providing data about the indication and dosage of these plants. Elizabethan literature is filled with references to herbal lore, herbs and their uses, herb gardens, and manners and customs associated with herbs and their use. Thus herbals can provide a vivid background of life in times past.

An interest in cookbooks and household management is a legacy from FSU’s earliest years as a women’s college. Cookbooks are held in our Rare Book, Florida and Scottish collections. The oldest in our cookbook collection is from 1622 Venice.

These books are pulled from various collections housed in Special Collections & Archives but are presented as a single collection in the FSUDL as they often would have been used in tandem by the women of the household to feed and keep healthy their families.

Please explore the collection – maybe you’ll find a recipe for a holiday meal to remember (or the secret recipe for treating warts from the 16th century).

Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us here at Special Collections & Archives wish you and your families a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We will close at 4:30pm on Wednesday, November 25th and reopen to our normal hours on Monday, November 30th.

In case you are still working on your Thanksgiving menu, here is a menu from an 1845 cookbook in a new collection we’ve been working on bringing into our digital library. Best get cooking!

Original-TIFF-FSU_TX715H864A511845_072_webedit
From the American economical housekeeper, and family receipt book, 1845.

 

Bringing a Hidden Collection to Light

Discussing “hidden” collections is a popular pastime in archival circles. We all suffer from collections that have simply never been processed or made discoverable enough for our patrons to find them. It becomes even more difficult when archives staff doesn’t even know when collections exist and there is no discovery tool either for them to easily find them.

This is what we found a few months ago when our graduate assistants, when searching for a newspaper issue we supposedly had, found 4 boxes of newspapers no one knew we had down in our sub-basement shelving unit. There were no finding aids or catalog records; just inventories inside the boxes themselves which, as you can imagine, were not all that helpful unless you knew to go looking for the very helpfully named “map case oversize box 1.”

When this unknown cache of newspapers was found, along with a list of newspaper sources dug up from our associate dean’s desk cupboard, we decided digitizing the newspapers as well as creating finding aids and catalog records was a good idea. Not only were these newspaper collections interesting and hitherto unknown to us and our patrons, they fit some digitization goals we had for the summer; mainly, using and training more with our large format overhead camera.

Front Page of the Gadsden County Times, Quincy, Florida. November 11, 1918.
Front Page of the Gadsden County Times, Quincy, Florida. November 11, 1918.

This newly minted collection in the FSU Digital Library actually holds materials of nine different collections, some entirely composed of newspapers and some the newspapers are only a piece to the overall manuscript collection. The newspapers range in dates from the mid-1600s to the early 1920s. Geographically, they span from the British Isles to the east coast of the United States. The collection is particularly strong in antebellum and Civil War era newspapers published in the American south. Enjoy exploring the new digital collection of these previously “hidden” materials!