Category Archives: Student Views

A Stereoscopic Multi-Dimensional Experience

The Digital Library Center partnered with the Department of Art History to host a UROP student this semester, Chase Van Tilburg. Here is a bit about him and his work over the last two semesters.

My name is Chase Van Tilburg, I am working towards my Bachelor’s of Arts in Art History and my Masters of Arts in Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies. I currently work for University Housing as a Resident Assistant. In Fall 2016 I was granted the life changing opportunity to be a part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Through UROP I was introduced to the John House Stereograph Collection.

Going into this project, I was both excited and nervous. I truly did not know what to expect. I began with little knowledge of digital archival work and of what a Digital Archivist was. While working with the John House Stereograph Collection, I really looked deep into the images when identifying them. With each card I wrote metadata for, it felt as if I was a part of the image. Documenting each card forced me to dig deep into the historical and visual context of each image and do detailed research into each card to properly identify the locations, monuments, and architecture.

Panorama de Paris, 1890-1900

Working with this collection I realised that it is not enough to just look at the cards on the computer. The experience of physically handling each card and viewing them stereoscopically is an extraordinary and vital experience, one in which I want to make available to everyone. To do this I am taking this collection beyond the 2D digital image and am taking these cards into the 3D realm by scanning each card into a 3D model with the help of the FSU Morphometrics Lab. This project helped me to discover a passion for Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Frederick C. Jackson Collection online

The Institute on World War II and the Human Experience has partnered with the Digital Library Center to bring selections of its holdings to DigiNole. Some of the recent additions are from the Frederick C. Jackson collection. We welcome guest contributor Emily Woessner, the student who is processing the Jackson collection and completed the description for the digital items.

Frederick C. Jackson was a 21 year old infantry soldier from Connecticut when he was shipped to Anzio with the 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division during World War II. I myself am 21 years old, but instead of fighting in the Battle of Anzio I am processing Jackson’s collection here at the archives of the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University. After researching the battle and connecting the dots, I am reminded and beyond grateful for the service and sacrifice of these brave men.

Beginning on January 22, 1944 the Battle of Anzio would be a four month long ordeal between British and American Allies against the Germans in Italy. The main goal of this campaign was to break through the Gustav Line just south of Cassino, Italy. Another potential aim was to take Rome. The Allied campaign was led by British General Holder Alexander, American Lieutenant General Mark Clark with the help of American Major Generals John P. Lucas and Lucian Truscott.

The Battle of Anzio, unfortunately, turned into a poorly executed campaign that saw too few Allied troops assigned to such a major task. The Allies had roughly 75,000 troops compared to the German’s 100,000+. After four months of fighting, gridlock, and a command change the Allies were eventually able to capture Rome, but ultimately unable to break the Gustav Line. The Battle of Anzio saw the death of 7,000 and wounding/missing of 36,000 Allied soldiers. The Germans sustained losses of 5,000, wounding/missing of 36,000, and the capture of 4,500 soldiers. Although the campaign was widely criticized afterwards for its poor handling and communication, Churchill defended it saying it accomplished the goal of keep German troops occupied and away from Northwestern Europe where the invasion of Normandy was to take place several months later.

Undated Letter to Dad from Frederick C. Jackson presumably after his injuries in 1944.

Frederick C. Jackson was not left unscathed by the battle, however he did survive. On March 23, 1944 he was hit by shrapnel causing damage to both of his arms and the loss of his right eye. He was subsequently evacuated and returned to the U.S.

We are fortunate enough today though that the letters between Frederick and his parents along with a few other personal belongings have found their way to our Institute. The new digital collection includes those letters as well as a diary from 1944. We are given a chance to revive this young man’s story and reflect on all he and his fellow soldiers did for this country and the world. I recommend anyone taking the time to glimpse into the past so that they may better understand and appreciate the present.

Emily is a third year international affairs major with minors in German, museum studies, and art history. Since August 2016, she has worked as an assistant archivist at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at FSU and will continue to do so until she graduates in spring 2018. This summer she looks to expand her archiving experience as she embarks on an internship at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

Introduction to Instruction

As the caretakers of Special Collections, staff work diligently to preserve the integrity of materials for future researchers. This includes reducing materials’ exposure to light and preventing fluctuations in temperature and humidity within carefully controlled environments. Interaction with collections usually occurs in the Reading Room to ensure these conditions can be regulated. Sometimes, though, materials leave the Special Collections vault in order to venture into the wider world. Class instruction sessions are a way to bring collections directly into the hands of students who might otherwise never know of their existence.

CraftClass
Dr. Craft’s Travel in the Ancient World class studying translations of ancient texts.

Recently I led an instruction session with the Manuscript Archivist for the course Travel in the Ancient World. The class was held in the Special Collections instruction room where students observed several types of ancient texts, including cuneiform tablets, papyrus fragments, and Greek and Latin ostraka. For many students, this was their first experience with Special Collections materials; as some of the oldest items in the library, the ancient texts arguably offered one of the more dramatic introductions to our holdings. The 2,000 year old papyrus fragments, for instance, were previously used as mummy cartonnage – layers of linen or papyrus covered in plaster as part of Ancient Egyptian funerary masks. Seeing these objects up close allowed students the chance to create tangible, meaningful connections to otherwise distant ideas.

When collaborating with professors about class visits, it’s often helpful to communicate in advance so Special Collections can provide the best supporting materials for the course. In this case, a course on travel meant we wanted to highlight letters and other mobile documents. Preparing for the session involved studying translations of the materials to cultivate a selection that would match this need while also representing the collection as a whole. Class sessions offer the Special Collections instructors just as much opportunity to learn about the collection as the students – and perhaps even more so. In an effort to prepare for any questions that arise, we study the stories and context of our materials as diligently as possible. That way, if a student wants to know how our cuneiform tablets compare to the Flood Tablet, or why some ostraka were written in Latin instead of Greek, we can provide the answer.

So while teaching assistants teach and research assistants research, graduate assistants get the best of both worlds. We not only learn more about our collections every day, but we then get to teach others about the incredible histories behind our objects, hopefully inspiring students to visit us again after class lets out.

Meet Gloria Jahoda

Coming from a strictly public library background, at first the world of Special Collections felt just as foreign and mysterious to me as I’m sure it does to many people. Luckily, as a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives, I’m in exactly the right position to learn more about it every day. While it might seem obvious why some books are special — they’re often very old, or very scarce, or both — archives are a bit more elusive. As the Manuscript Archivist explained to me, archives provide contextual primary source documents to help researchers understand the environment surrounding a person or event.

img_20170223_105153.jpgMy first project as a graduate assistant involved the Gloria Jahoda Collection – or rather, collections. An author whose husband taught at Florida State University, Gloria Jahoda initially donated a portion of her personal notes and manuscripts to FSU Libraries forty years ago. Some donors might offer more material to the archives after the first gift; this can happen quickly or many years later. These new items are assessed to see if they fit within the scope of the initial donation and, in many cases, added to the same collection. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t happen. When I started working with her manuscripts, Jahoda’s work was spread across seven collections, all donated at different times. I was first tasked with looking over the materials to find a major theme that might unite them into a single collection. I divided the work into new series – like smaller chapters in a single book, series help organize a collection by grouping items together based on their original purpose. I then rearranged the materials, removed duplicate publications, relabeled folders, and copied unstable materials (like old newspaper articles) onto paper that wouldn’t discolor or deteriorate. As this was happening, I learned a lot about who Gloria Jahoda was.

She was born in Chicago and was very proud of the fact that her first poem was published at the age of four. She liked to write on overlooked areas of Florida, including Tallahassee, which she described as being “200 miles from anywhere else.” She photographed her cats. She enjoyed classical music, especially by the English composer Frederick Delius. Her book The Road to Samarkand chronicled Delius’s life, including his time spent managing an orange plantation in Florida. She was an elected registrar of the Creek Nation. She spoke about ecology and conservation. Gloria Jahoda was bold, witty, and passionate.

img_20170223_091507-1

What’s left behind after her death in 1980 are her books and, now, the Gloria Jahoda Papers. Visitors to Special Collections can track the development of Jahoda’s works, learn about her personal interests, and laugh at the jokes in her letters. Jahoda’s books document an interesting time in Florida’s development, and I’m proud to say I contributed to preserving her work for future research.

To learn more about the Gloria Jahoda Papers, the finding aid can be found here.

Banned Books Week 2016

Banned Books Week 2016 is here! This year from September 25th to Ocimg_5315tober 1st, we celebrate open access to information and the freedom to read. FSU Special Collections & Archives is host to several frequently challenged and banned classics available for use in our Reading Room, including:

  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence (1928)
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (1953)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965)
  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (1903)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway (1940)img_5313
  • Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (1936)
  • The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer (1948)
  • Howl, by Allen Ginsberg (1956)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)
  • Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs (1959)

For more information on banned books, check out the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week website.

The Library of Babel and Special Collections

The following is a guest post by student assistant Blaise Denton.

IMG_2197
The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. (PQ7797 .B635 B5213 2000)

Here in the Florida State University Special Collections we have a very special volume, Jorge Borges “The Library of Babel.” The standalone volume in our possession is illustrated by Erik Desmazieres. The Book details life in the great and infinite Library of Babel. It is never ending, universal, broken up into hexagonal rooms and filled with an uncountable number of books. Filling each book are letters, clumped randomly to spell out nonsense. Every so often people find a book with words, real words that spell out ideas and thoughts. Because the library is infinite, there must be one book somewhere in the collection that details the past and future. There must be a book that catalogues the rest of the books. There must also be an infinite number of false narratives, false leads, and even more books that are unreadable.

Special Collection isn’t infinite. Most of the books in the collection are carefully catalogued and lodged in a place where we can find them. We know what almost all of them say. But the task of the librarian is the same, whether it is in the Library of Babel or here in Special Collections. We live in a big world, rather full of books, and more full of things. In Special Collections we find those books that “matter”, a rather subjective verb, and we keep them here, safe. They deteriorate; they get lost. We bundle them up safe with boxes and paper wrapping; we hunt them down and bring them back to their preordained place. The librarian’s tasks, in fiction and in life, are to bring order to chaos and to decide what matters.

IMG_2198
La Tour de Babel. Plate II etching by Erik Desmazieres

Many of the books in Special Collections are in languages we can’t read. Many of them are so small you need a magnifying glass to examine them, some are so big it takes two people to open them. Some are serious tomes on theology and philosophy and some are tiny children’s books. Some of them are pornographic. But they all have two things in common: they are kept in place by a complex cataloging system, and they are meaningful.

In “The Library of Babel” when someone finds a book with meaning, that book becomes incredibly valuable. People travel from all over the universe, that is to say the library, to look at it. Whether it is fiction, poetry, prophesy or biography the book becomes something invaluable. It has meaning, it proves that there is truth.

Special Collections is rather like that, if a bit less grand. People choose things as

IMG_2199
Haute Galerie Circulaire. Plate VII etching by Erik Desmazieres

meaningful enough to write about or otherwise document. Someone has combed through all the books to buy, all the books that have been donated, and selected these. These are the most valuable, the rarest, the oddest books that FSU libraries has. Come look at a book inscribed by a medieval monk. An Akkadian trader. A 60’s beat poet. Come look at “The Library of Babel” by Borges. There are books from every age and perspective here. There are so many books you could never read them all. Try reading a few, very different books and see if you, like the fictional librarian, find some meaning in order.

Summer Report

A look at what a student worker has been up to in Special Collections & Archives this summer

My name is Meg Barrett and I started working with Special Collections and Archives at the beginning of the summer. When I found out that I was going to be working on digitally archiving old pictures from the College of Nursing and the French Napoleonic newspaper Le Moniteur, I was ecstatic. I’m currently a sophomore, majoring in Art History and minoring in French, so old photographs and French newspapers are exactly the sort of things that I love.

Because I am working on two different projects, I generally spend the first half of the week in the Research Center Reading Room and the second half in the Digital Library Center (DLC). In the reading room, I go through and catalogue the volumes of Le Moniteur. On my first day, I started with papers from the year 1792, and I finished the summer with papers from the year 1800. I think it’s amazing to be able to say that I’ve gone through over 2,000 newspapers from the 18th century! In the DLC, I have boxes of photographs in file folders, and my job is to scan the pictures onto the computer, type up information about them into a metadata spreadsheet, and then upload them onto DigiNole so that people anywhere can access them. The dates of the photos range from the 1950s to today, and seeing things from pinning ceremony traditions and headshot styles transition from then to now is such an interesting thing.

School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony; April 29, 1988 http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_HPUA_2014111_B42_F4_4_004
School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony; April 29, 1988 

Working in Special Collections has been such a wonderful experience: what I’ve been doing has been interesting, the people have been so kind and helpful, and I enjoy it every day. When I found out that I got the job a few months ago, I couldn’t believe it. It’s now the end of the summer, and I will continue working on these projects, and I still can’t believe it!

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.

IMG_2034

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.

IMG_2032
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.

IMG_2037

 

 

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!

Secrets from the Rare Book Vault

FullSizeRender (2)When I applied to the Special Collections & Archives graduate assistantship, I had one thing in mind: rare books. As an undergrad at FSU, I frequently visited Special Collections for class projects and assignments related to medieval manuscripts and early printed books, knowing that someday I wanted to work with rare material like these. So naturally when I received the news that I was selected for the assistantship, my first thought was of all the rare books I would get to “work with.”

The concept of “working with” rare books was always a very abstract one to me. I assumed rare book librarians got to study the materials, give lectures to visiting classes, and create exhibit displays. A very glamorous position in academia. As a young and naive soon-to-be graduate assistant I really had no idea what rare book maintenance would entail because my only previous job experience included retail, banking, and an archives internship. Now that I’m slightly older and much more experienced, I can say I have insight into “working with” rare books. The epitome of rare books. The vault books!

That’s right, I left my career as a community banker to find myself auditing yet another vault. Just like the huge quantities of money safeguarded behind lock and key, the rare books that live in the Special Collections vault are the most valuable items in the collection. And I was tasked with examining just over 1,000 of them to determine their condition and assess whether or not they needed any preservation treatment. Most of them (71%), I’m happy to report, are holding up just fine considering their age. The other couple hundred are in need of various types of enclosures that will preserve all of their fragile, decaying, or detached parts. 

This naturally led to a practicum in box making. Under the high-quality tutelage of the Uppsala University Rare Books YouTube channel, the Rare Books Librarian and I tried our hand at custom box making. This turned out to be much more difficult than the 5-minute duration of our video lesson implied. And if rare book box making was an Olympic sport, our Swedish friends at Uppsala would take home the gold. But in the end, with a lot of time spent practicing, we were able to construct several excellent enclosures to protect some of the most deteriorated books in the vault.

IMG_1816

These days my glamorous vision of rare books librarianship still includes spontaneous bouts of paging through incunables to appreciate the illustrations, hand binding, and old book smell. But the reality of the job entails a lot more dust, red rot, and wormholes. Ultimately, the basis of “working with” rare books is preservation; removing the dust, and stopping the red rot and wormholes so that librarians and patrons alike may continue to marvel at illustrations, hand binding, and old book smell for centuries to come.

Reflections from RBMS 2015

Special Collections librarians are constantly learning–both from the collections we curate and from each other.  We share our research, knowledge, and best practices through journals and the meetings of professional societies.

The Bancroft Library is the University of California Berkeley's rare book and manuscript repository
The Bancroft Library is the University of California Berkeley’s rare book and manuscript repository

In late June, I traveled to Oakland and Berkeley, California to attend the conference of one such professional society, the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, better known as RBMS.  The topic of the RBMS 2015 Conference was “Preserve the Humanities! Special Collections as Liberal Arts Laboratory.”  Session topics ranged from incorporating digital humanities, engaged collection development, community archives, and, of course, instruction with Special Collections materials.  You can find a full schedule of the RBMS 2015 Conference program here.

For myself, RBMS 2015 was inspirational.  Ethics, the politics of collection development, innovative practices, instruction, and outreach were all up for discussion during the conference.

Sather Gate, The University of California Berkeley
Sather Gate, The University of California Berkeley

Having spent the spring semester immersed in rare book instruction, most (though not all) of the sessions I chose to attend at RBMS 2015 related to instruction and public services.  I took over eighteen pages of notes over the course of 10 sessions (including three plenaries).  My favorite sessions focused on breaking down the barriers that keep students and researchers from visiting Special Collections, and raised the question of how to best provide access to Special Collections materials.  With this in mind, three especially notable sessions were:

Seminar H: Meeting Researchers Where They Are: A User-Driven Manifesto

The presenters of this seminar wrote a “manifesto,” advocating that user needs should drive all aspects of a Special Collections library–from technical services to public services, and then presented on their efforts to do so at their institutions.

Seminar K: Mess is Lore: Navigating the Unwieldy World of Social Media

Panel presenters centered their discussion around the idea of social media as a conversation with users.  Special Collections libraries can use social media to highlight their holdings, but at its best, social media is a conversation.

Papers Panel 10: Special Collections and Credit Courses: Opportunities and Challenges

In designing a for credit class on the history of the book, presenter Anne Bahde approached her class visits to Special Collections as a science teacher would approach a “lab session”–an opportunity for hands on learning.  Scheduling four Special Collections for her semester long class, she further broke down each visit thematically, allowing the students’ knowledge to build with each visit.

This is just a brief sample of some points that stuck with me, a week after I’ve returned to Florida.

For those interested in attending a future RBMS conference: RBMS 2016 is in Coral Gables, Florida.

I look forward to attending again next year!