Category Archives: Exhibits

Degrees of Discovery: The History of Science at Florida State

FSU_HPUA_2016003_B7_F2_005The Florida State University Heritage Museum exhibit Degrees of Discovery examines the history of science at Florida State, tracking the school’s development from early educational institution to twenty-first century research facility. Since the late nineteenth century, science has served as a fundamental aspect of education at Florida State University and its predecessors. After World War II, a surplus of wartime laboratory equipment and veterans allowed FSU to meet the increasing demand for science education across the country. Early programs focusing on physical sciences laid the groundwork for the development of advanced courses in a variety of fields, including meteorology, oceanography, chemistry, and physics. The creation of innovative research facilities offered new avenues for interdisciplinary collaboration and continues to encourage scientists from around the world to take advantage of the advanced technologies offered on and around the Tallahassee campus.

The process of creating this exhibit included extensive research into both the history of the University and scientific trends throughout the past century. Though Heritage Protocol & University Archives contains a wide array of scientific photographs from the 1950s and 60s, locating a variety of primary source material to tell a cohesive narrative was a challenge. In addition, as a literature student, my scientific knowledge was sorely lacking. In order to contextualize FSU’s developments, I interviewed faculty and current students involved in the sciences to gain a wider understanding of practice and principle. Research also involved reading transcripts of oral histories, scanning negatives from laboratory photo sessions, tracking the development of honor societies, and comparing a century’s worth of course catalogs to determine how science education changed over time.

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Another challenge of working with such a broad subject was that relevant items were spread throughout the collections of both HPUA and Special Collections. A newsletter published by the 1973 Speleological Society was tucked away in the Archives, for example, while a postcard donated by two alumni offered an early look at the Science Hall. Perhaps one of the most interesting finds was a set of hand-crafted lab equipment from the 1960s; as part of a chemistry class, students were responsible for creating their own glass stirring rods and tube connectors. During this time period, glassblowers on campus would even create unique, made-to-order equipment for scientists who needed a particular shape or style of instrument.

The practical side of installing the exhibit, however, limited some of our object selections. Because we cannot regulate the natural light from the large, albeit beautiful, stained glass windows in the Heritage Museum, older photographs were digitally reproduced and mounted to avoid damaging the original items. Adhering images to foam board for support and cutting them down to size was more difficult than I anticipated – straight lines and I clearly don’t get along – but with the help of the Archives Assistant, the resulting photos offered an impressive visual timeline of the school’s scientific evolution. Curating this exhibit was an incredible learning process about creative design, museum principles, and even some scientific facts. Degrees of Discovery offers visitors a glimpse into the ever-changing world of science while reminding us that the basis of discovery – curiosity, inquiry, and creativity – will always be a part of human nature.

Degrees of Discovery: The History of Science at Florida State will be on display in the Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall beginning in mid-April. The museum is open Monday-Thursday, 11AM to 4PM. An online exhibit with additional content will follow.

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.

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.

Mittan: A Retrospective

Mittan: A Retrospective is the photographic exhibit currently on display in the Special Collections and Archives gallery space in Strozier Library. The works of J. Barry Mittan candidly capture the student experience at Florida State University in the 1960s and 1970s. As a student and photographer for numerous campus publications, including the Tally-Ho yearbook and Florida Flambeau newspaper, Mittan often photographed students at official university-sponsored events and spontaneous student gatherings alike. Through his documentation of sporting events, Greek life, protests, concerts, study sessions, socials, and so on, he was able to construct a comprehensive view of FSU student life in which individuals banded together to share a common voice in an age of social change. Mittan’s unique perspective as a student informed his photographic purpose to see the individuals among the crowd.

For my first project as the Special Collections & Archives Graduate Assistant, I was tasked with designing and installing the Mittan exhibit. Faced with a daunting job of going through twenty-something boxes of unprocessed photographic materials, I was thrown head first into this new position. But having a background in art history and previous experience processing archival collections, I was up for the work. After an initial assessment, I determined that there was some order already established as slides, negatives, and prints were generally arranged by time period and subject. Because of this order, it was pretty easy determining what boxes would be useful for the exhibit knowing that we wanted to focus on Mittan’s work from when he was a student.

The most time consuming, yet entertaining, part of the design process was physically pulling negative strips out of sleeves and examining them through a magnifying glass over a light table. Although I’ve never worked with photography before, I eventually adapted to looking at the thousand or so tiny negative images. Having a pretty good eye for composition, my skills were tested when I digitally scanned the negative strips to determine the clarity and balance of the image. Having scanned about a hundred and fifty images, I eventually narrowed my choices down to thirty black and white images and twenty color images for the final exhibit.

The last tasks were just hard labor: printing, framing, and installing. I severely underestimated the stress of installing an exhibit seeing as this was my first experience. Using a large format professional printer was definitely a skill I acquired with a serious learning curve. I regret the loss of paper and ink that was sacrificed as we printed test strip after test strip trying to configure the color, size, and saturation of the first batch of prints. And I will never again underestimate the brutality of the small metal brackets holding the backboard of the frame as thirty sets of them pinched and bruised my fingers over the course of an afternoon.

After what seemed like a mad dash to the finish line, the exhibit actually opened fairly smoothly and nearly on time. Every day I’m proud of my hard work as I walk to Special Collections in the back of the library and am greeted by a poster that advertises the accomplishments and legacy of J. Barry Mittan. It makes me realize that what we do as college students has the potential to make a difference for the years to come. As a student in a time of social, cultural, and political change, Mittan captured the power of the individual to enact change. A sentiment college students still strongly hold on to today.

Mittan: A Retrospective, the photographic exhibit showcasing the work of J. Barry Mittan, is open in Strozier Library’s first floor exhibit space. The exhibit will be on display until mid-January and is open to the public Monday through Thursday, 10am to 6pm, and Friday, 10am to 5:30pm. An accompanying online exhibit is also available here which includes more images and descriptions not available in person.

New Exhibit: War Stories

The political causes and effects of war are well-documented by scholars and politicians, but the details of life during wartime are the provenance of the fighters on the ground, in the air, and at sea. Throughout recorded time, soldiers have shared their stories, told with humor, pathos, hope, and pride. In honor of Veterans Day, library staff have assembled a new exhibit, “War Stories,” featuring veterans’ experiences in their own words from across 2,000 years of human history.

Continue reading New Exhibit: War Stories

The Days of Our Lives: FSU Archives Edition

What do archivists do all day, anyway?  Look at old photos?  Dust yearbooks? Take papers from one file folder and put them in another?

Those are all true to some extent, but university archivists play more roles in their community than one might think.  Take a look at some of the extraordinary events during an average week in FSU Special Collections and Archives:

Thursday, October 15:

Students from the ART5928 workshop “Creating Experiences” visit the Claude Pepper Museum.  Their project this semester involves creating a public event that could be held in in a museum space.  The students have designed a Claude Pepper Pajama Party event and social media campaign, and today they’re walking through their ideas with Pepper Library Manager Rob Rubero.

Rob Rubero with ART5928 Students. (c) Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.
Rob Rubero with ART5928 students in the Claude Pepper Museum. (c) 2015 Justyn D. Thomas Photography. Used with permission.

FSU Special Collections has always considered local history one of its collecting strengths. In an effort to deepen community connections and learn more about the Tallahassee music industry, Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick attend a public appearance by influential songwriter and producer George Clinton.  Aside from smiles and photo opportunities, our archivists enjoy many conversations with Clinton’s family and associates about his work and his legacy.

Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.
Rory Grennan and Katie McCormick enjoy photo opportunities with songwriter and producer George Clinton.

Friday, October 16:

Today, the Special Collections Research Center reading room has the privilege of hosting the members of the Florida State University History Club.  A dozen history undergraduates attend an informational presentation by Manuscript Archivist Rory Grennan and Rare Books Librarian Kat Hoarn.  Presentations and instructional sessions for students, faculty, and the public are a core part of the Special Collections mission, and occur frequently at the beginning of the school year.  History Club members are excited to see 4000 years of human history laid out in documents from our collections including cuneiform tablets, a page from a Bible printed by Gutenberg, and artist books from the 21st century.

Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines a rare book with the FSU History Club.
Rory Grennan looks on as Kat Hoarn closely examines an illustration by Theodore de Bry with members of the FSU History Club.

Monday, October 19:

Monday morning, archivists Sandra Varry and Krystal Thomas visit the University Registrar’s office to consult on the preservation of student transcripts on microfilm.  The filmed student records see heavy use, and unfortunately enough of the film has been worn down that some records are losing information.  The group discusses modern strategies such as digitization to preserve these essential historical records that document a century of higher education.

Later, Sandra Varry and division staff prepare for a new exhibit opening today in the Special Collections Exhibit Room on the first floor of Strozier Library.  “Mittan: A Retrospective” celebrates the work of photographer Barry Mittan, and documents student life at FSU in the 1960s and 1970s.  The exhibit was curated by graduate assistant Britt Boler and runs through January 2016.

Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.
Exhibit title card at gallery entrance; Sandra Varry adjusts a framed print in the exhibit room.

In the afternoon, Krystal Thomas carefully reviews and uploads recently-digitized cookbooks and herbals to the FSU Digital Library.  The Digital Library features digitized versions of the highlights of our collections, as chosen by Special Collections staff and our users, and new content is added regularly by archives staff.

Tuesday, October 20:

Things They Don’t Teach You In Grad School #47:  Water and vinegar makes an effective, non-abrasive cleaner for a headstone.

Former FSU faculty member Paul Dirac was a giant in the fields of mathematics and quantum mechanics, and his papers are a frequently-consulted resource by researchers at FSU Libraries.  Since no members of the Dirac family remain in Tallahassee, it has become the unofficial duty of our library and archives staff to visit Dirac’s grave once a year and see that it is kept clean.  October 20th is the anniversary of Dirac’s death, and seems an appropriate time to visit the site.  Archivists Katie McCormick, Rory Grennan, and Krystal Thomas, accompanied by library Director of Development Susan Contente and a handful of Physics Department students, scrub the headstone and plant fresh flowers this afternoon.

Top: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the Dirac headstone. Below: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.
Before: Krystal Thomas, Katie McCormick, and Susan Contente remove grime from the headstone of Paul and Margit Dirac.
After: A clean headstone with fresh flowers planted on either side.

Wednesday, October 21:

Early this morning, archives staff notice an uncharacteristic rise in temperature in the stacks.  After confirming initial impressions with a few temperature readings, contact is quickly made with library facilities staff to take steps to correct an issue with the building’s HVAC systems.  Constant environmental monitoring is an important part of preserving our collections, as paper, film, and other substrates are vulnerable to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  There’s no point to collecting items that can’t be made to last!  You never know what someone might need next week…

Florida High

Demonstration School
Demonstration School

We are happy to announce that a new exhibit is on display in the Norwood Reading Room on the history of the Florida State University Schools, also known as Florida High.

In 1851 the Florida Legislature voted to establish two institutes of higher learning: the East and West Florida Seminary. The Legislature required the cities which would receive state funding for these seminaries to provide the infrastructure and startup money. In order to compete for the West Florida Seminary, Tallahassee built a school. Finished in 1855 and located near the present day Westcott building, the school was commonly known as the Florida Institute.

HPUA Student Assistant, Colin Behrens, works on installing exhibit
HPUA Student Assistant, Colin Behrens, works on installing exhibit

The Florida Institute was the earliest incarnation of Florida High. The Florida Institute educated both college and high school aged students. Since the Florida Institute became the West Florida Seminary in 1857, Florida High has been an integral part to the history of FSU.

In 1954 the high school department got its own building on campus, designated as the Florida State University School (FSUS or Florida High). Despite the moniker “Florida High,” FSUS was created to be a school for grade levels K-12. FSCW and FSU students in the Education program interned at Florida High until Florida High left the campus in 2001.

In an effort to make learning fun, the teachers would often assign creative projects. The students created newsletters and journals for their various clubs and classes. Florida High also had its own yearbooks: The Flahisco, which was published in the 1940’s, and the Demon’s Flame, which was published in the 50’s and 60’s.

In 2001, Florida High left the main FSU campus and moved to its own campus. Despite its change of location, Florida High maintains its close connection with FSU. Research performed by FSU faculty and graduate students largely takes place at FSUS. Research is a constant presence at FSUS, and important findings have been found in the fields of Literacy Acquisition and Mathematical Pedagogy.

Florida High jacket and pennant
Florida High jacket and pennant

The Florida High Exhibit can be viewed Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm in the Norwood Reading Room, located on the second floor of Strozier Library.

Colin Behrens is a student assistant in the Heritage Protocol & University Archives. He is currently working on a BA in Classics.

From Chaos to Order: Working with a class to create an exhibit

Posting on behalf of Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives:

The Special Collections Research Center has an ongoing collaboration with the Museum Studies program at FSU. The Museum Object course teaches students the fundamentals of museum exhibit creation and installation. In our collaboration, students from the class are given a broad topic and guidance towards collection areas and create an exhibit from our materials. At the end of the semester they install the physical exhibit, most often in our primary exhibit room, and create an online companion exhibit.

Students begin the course with little to no knowledge of our collections and little to no experience creating exhibits. They end the course having worked through all the stages of exhibit design and installation and walk away with a new, important understanding of process and our materials.

Students work through materials to include int he exhibit.
Students work through materials to include in the exhibit.

Over the 2014 fall semester, 8 students from Amy Bowen’s Museum Object class did research on the Battle of Natural Bridge, a Civil War battle in March 1865 that FSU cadets participating in. Students were asked to find and research materials and create an exhibit that highlighted the battle itself, as well has broader themes of community, campus, veterans, and then and now.

Myself and staff from the Research Center, Digital Library Center, and Heritage Protocol worked with the students to teach them about our collections, to help them connect with the State Archives and other campus entities, to digitize and help produce the materials to be put on exhibit, and to work side by side with them during installation.

Installation Day for the exhibit
Installation Day for the exhibit
Installation Day for the exhibit
As you can see, chaotic it can be!

The magic, and immense value, of this kind of partnership is the laboratory nature of the project and the hands on engagement we can provide students. There are times when it is chaotic, when you don’t know what the end product will be, when you’re not sure there will be an end product, when communication appears to have broken down, and when the students make a last minute, last ditch effort to pull together all the parts of something totally new for them. I am always amazed by what the students see in our collections and how they chose to publicly interpret materials and events.

The Battle of Natural Bridge: Bridging Past and Present is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm in the main exhibit gallery on the first floor of Strozier Library. The online exhibit can be viewed here: http://naturalbridge150.omeka.net/

A look at the finished exhibit
From chaos, comes an ordered story
The finished exhibit
The finished exhibit

“That I May Remember” Online Exhibit

"October 27, 1917," Marion Emerett Colman Scrapbook (HP 2007-130 vol. 2).  You can find more information here
“October 27, 1917,” Marion Emerett Colman Scrapbook (HP 2007-130 vol. 2). You can find more information here

Currently on display in the Strozier Library Exhibit Room, “That I May Remember: The Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)” is an exhibit focusing on the scrapbooks made by the students of Florida State College for Women.  See our original announcement here.

Now, we are proud to present an online extension of our exhibit.  The FSCW scrapbooks are rich with history and full of personality.  However, one of the challenges in displaying a scrapbook in an exhibit is that it can only display one page of each scrapbook.  This limitation makes it difficult to get the full depth of the scrapbook.  The online portion of “That I May Remember” takes an in-depth look at six selected scrapbooks.  The online exhibit includes over ninety images from each of the decades between the 1910s and the 1940s, while also providing additional history about some of the unique traditions of FSCW.

"19-Freshmen Commission-31," from the Class of 1934 Scrapbook (HP 2007-042) Learn more about this scrapbook here
“19-Freshmen Commission-31,” from the Class of 1934 Scrapbook (HP 2007-042) Learn more about this scrapbook here

You can find the online portion of “That I May Remember” here.

And don’t forget to visit the Strozier Library Exhibit Room to see the scrapbooks in person!

Rebecca L. Bramlett is a graduate assistant in the Special Collections & Archives Division.  She is working on her Master of Library and Information Science at Florida State University.

That I May Remember: Scrapbooks from Florida State College for Women (1905-1947)

FSCW Marching Band next to Bryan Hall
FSCW Marching Band next to Bryan Hall. Photo from the Victoria J. Lewis Scrapbook (HP-2007-079)

Florida State University Special Collections & Archives Division is proud to present our Fall 2014 exhibit, “That I May Remember: Scrapbooks from Florida State College for Women (1905-1947),” which opens today in the Strozier Library Exhibit Space. This exhibit features scrapbooks from Heritage Protocol & University Archives.

The scrapbook is an expression of memories, unique to each individual. By preserving, collecting, and arranging everyday objects, the creators of scrapbooks shaped a visual narrative of their lives. “That I May Remember” explores the scrapbooks created by the students of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947). Although scrapbooks are generally created for the preservation of an individual’s memory, when taken as a whole, the FSCW scrapbook collection grants its viewers a rare insight into the history of FSCW and the women who made it was it was.  These scrapbooks tell the stories of students’ lives, school pride, friendships, and their contributions to the heritage of Florida State University.

“That I May Remember” will be open Monday-Friday from 10:00am-6:00pm in Strozier until December 1st.