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.
We also started a long-term digitization project with Le Moniteur, a periodical from our Napoleonic collections.
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!
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
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
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
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!
Serious drama began unfolding in October 1972 in the lead up to Florida State University’s homecoming week. As reported in the Florida Flambeau, students had an unconventional choice for Homecoming Queen: Ron Shank.
Mr. Shank’s candidacy for homecoming queen stirred up plenty of controversy. Administrators balked. Rallies were held in his support. Lawyers were consulted. In response to Homecoming Committee chair Dr. Marshall Hamilton’s comments that Shank was destroying the dignity of Homecoming, an commentor wrote:
On the contrary, Dr. Hamilton, we think Ron might enhance the dignity of Homecoming. He certainly appeared dignified in the picture in yesterday’s Flambeau. Such pomp and outright elan–if you will–certainly couldn’t harm the ceremony.
One person even wrote in to express his fears of a racist conspiracy being afoot; Mr. Shank merely being used as an excuse to cancel the entire homecoming court, which had had African-American Queens the previous two years.
Conspiracy or no, that’s exactly what happened. The Homecoming Committee declined to have a Homecoming court for the year of 1972, and University President Stanley Marshall elected to not get involved.
Let’s close with some words from the man himself:
I ran for Homecoming Queen because I don’t believe in parading Women (or Men) around on a stage under the auspices of a beauty contest when physical beauty is only a minor part of a person’s true beauty and definitely not the sole criteria of one’s worth.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
In the first post in this digital preservation series, I shared some of the unique challenges digital material brings to the preservation game. In this one we will look at some of the technologies and tools digital stewards employ to protect our digital assets.
How can you tell when a computer file has been corrupted? If you try to open it funny, glitchy things might happen. How can you test whether a digital file is uncorrupted? This requires a bit more thought. Digital files are at their base-level a long string of 1’s and 0’s. This is called the file’s bitstream. Preservationists could compare one bitstream to an earlier copy of it, but this requires a lot of processing power for large files, with no guarantee that your comparison copy isn’t also corrupted.
This is where checksums can help us out. Checksums are character strings generated by a class of algorithms called hash functions or cryptographic hashes. You can try one out here: http://md5checksum.com/. Hash functions are used to encrypt lots of things. Passwords submitted to websites are hashed in your browser. Kind of like this:
Hash functions can also be applied to the bitstream of a file. Due to the nature of the various algorithms used even a single change in a one or zero will produce a drastically different checksum. If at the beginning of the preservation process a digital steward produces a checksum for the bitstream, she can now test for data integrity by rerunning the hash and comparing that output to the original checksum.
Now that we can test for unwanted changes in computer files, how can we ensure we always have a valid copy of it? A system called LOCKSS can help with this. LOCKSS stands for Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. Similar to the idea of backing up personal files, LOCKSS will duplicate the files given to it and then distribute copies of files across several servers. The idea is to spread the system out over many servers in diverse geographic areas to minimize the risk of a single disaster (natural or otherwise) compromising the entire system. These distributed copies are then regularly hashed, and the checksums compared to test the validity of the files. If a checksum comparision fails, that server can delete it’s failing copy of the file, and ask the other servers for a new one.
Digital preservation is a rapidly developing field. New challenges requiring new solutions arise every day. In the third and final post in this digital preservation series, I’ll discuss activities you can undertake to protect your personal digital heritage.
Please welcome Micah Vandegrift and Sarah Stanley from the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) here at FSU for a guest post on a project we have worked closely with them to bring to the FSU Digital Library.
One of the best things about working in what we’re calling “digital scholarship” is the chance to collaborate with scholars on unique projects. Several years ago, one such project walked in the door of our special collections research center. Jennifer Pride, a doctoral candidate in Art History, was the fortunate recipient of the late Courtauld Professor John House’s vast collection of stereoscopes, which she decided to donate to the Department of Art History. Several of our librarians and archivists met with Jennifer and decided on a course of action.
The primary goal of the project is to build an online collection of the material, allowing scholars and the public to enjoy and learn from it. Jennifer had learned the late professor’s collection strategy and organization, and had already begun scanning some images for her own research. After an initial meeting with Matthew Miguez, our metadata librarian, Jennifer completed the description of about 700 images. The physical materials were then transferred to our Digital Library Center, where Stuart Rochford, Studio Manager, processed and digitized the stereographs. These digitized versions were then loaded and made publicly available through the FSU Digital Library.
This is where the newly-formed Office of Digital Research and Scholarship comes in. One of our areas of interest is the creative reuse of digital collections. We often talk about digital scholarship as being the layer of context, visualization, or analysis that sits on top of a collection of material. Based on the uniqueness of this type of photography, and the collection’s distinct place in space and time, we decided to quickly attempt a “proof of concept” project with a few items.
The NYPL (New York Public Library) Lab’s Stereogranimator was a perfect first test. This tool was designed to take stereographs, two images, and allow you, the (re)user, to mash the images together in creative ways. We GIF-ized a few and 3D-ified some others as you can see below. Fun with history and the internet!
Another activity often done with geographic/culturally recognizable objects is finding a way to place them back in their location. HistoryPin is a tool built on Google Street View that allows the (re)user to “drop a pin,” like a historical photograph, directly where the thing existed once upon a time. So, we took stereogranimated images (not the best quality) and placed a few of them around Paris.
As proof of concepts, both of these show that the John House Stereograph collection is deeply useful and has great potential for further study. We plan to continue to work with Jennifer and other Art Historians to explore the stories and patterns that emerge from this digitally re-presented collection. What would you do with 1400 digitized 3D stereographs of Paris from the 1850’s to early 1900s?!
In this digital world we are increasingly creating, storing, and publishing material entirely in electronic forms. While this is great for the trees and other resources used in making paper, it introduces new challenges in the process of collecting and preserving materials.
The preservation needs of paper are pretty well understood. Guidelines for ideal environments (heat and humidity) and practices (handling and storage) have been in constant refinement for hundreds of years. The libraries, archives, and information science communities only began thinking about preservation for digital material comparatively recently. This first post of a three part series on digital preservation will take a look at the challenges unique to preserving digital materials, and why we must approach digital preservation differently than physical preservation.
What might be surprising to many is the relative fragility of digital assets. Estimates put the average operation life of conventional digital storage media at five years. These failures occur in more than just the physical components: magnetic media are sensitive to anything generating a magnetic field from batteries to the sun! Optical discs can suffer from manufacturing errors or material degradation making them unreadable. Additionally, once damaged, a digital resource is often completely lost. Physical material might be salvaged through conservation. Recovering digital assets after damage is much more difficult.
Complicating the practice of digital preservation is the fact that digital materials are meaningless without the correct hardware and software environments to render them. Consider a printed book. The information conveyed by a book is encoded with ink marks made on paper. So long as the rules of the encoding language (that is, the language it is written in) and the marks on the paper persist, the information in the book can be recalled. The ink won’t independently leave the paper and reorganize into different patterns and structures.
This is exactly what happens to digital information. The long strings of characters encoding digital assets is only intelligible to a narrow band of both software and specific hardware configurations. Many of us have likely encountered the situation of being unable to open an old file in a newer version of software. Software developers are constantly adding and removing features to their products, often with little attention to backwards compatibility. Merely storing the digital encoding (or bitstream) is meaningless without also storing instructions on how to rebuild it back into an understandable, rendered product.
These extra considerations compound when you consider the speed of technological advances, and the new behaviors and interactive experiences we’re building and sharing with our machines and networks. Even identifying what behaviors and functions of digital assets are important to intellectual understanding of the resource is a quagmire. Those of us thinking about digital preservation have ceded a pretty large head-start, and the race is constantly accelerating.
In the next posting of this blog series, I’ll cover some strategies currently being used by the digital preservation community. I’ll finish this series with a post what you can do yourself to safe-guard your digital works and memories.
So, the title is more akin to Halloween than the newly arrived holiday season but this new digital collection fits the saying.
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).