Le Moniteur Universel was a French newspaper founded in Paris under the title Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel by Charles-Joseph Panckoucke. It was the main French newspaper during the French Revolution and was for a long time the official journal of the French government and at times a propaganda publication, especially under the Napoleonic regime. Le Moniteur had a large circulation in France and Europe, and also in America during the French Revolution.
We’ve been steadily working on digitizing the run of Le Moniteur that we hold here in Special Collections and Archives for about a year now (how time flies!). We’ve provided access to the publication through the end of 1808 in the FSU Digital Library. Our run of these papers starts with the founding of the newspaper in May of 1789. So, we’ve loaded 20 years worth of the publication or over 7300 issues! We still have quite a long way to go but we’re happy to be providing online access to a publication that supports scholarship here at FSU through the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution as well as beyond our campus.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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: 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.
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?!
The Florida County and City Histories Collection comprises two boxes of essays written by students at the Florida State College for Women in 1922 and 1923. These essays consist of research into the history and culture of certain cities and counties across the state of Florida from Dade County, to Jacksonville, to Pensacola. The essays provide an interesting glimpse into the methods of 1920s academic writing, whereby papers were researched without the convenience of the Internet and were written by hand, absent of formatting, style guides, and citations. This collection is now digitized and available through the FSU Digital Library.
In order to digitally scan the Florida County and City Histories Collection the ties and brads that bound the essays together had to carefully and meticulously be removed so as not to damage the nearly century-old documents. This practice, the delicate removal of hardware and binding materials, is part of a process aptly called processing, in which the archivist takes steps to ensure the preservation of the archival documents.
Once the ties and hardware were removed from the essays the individual pages were ready to be digitized. In the cultural heritage field, we use a fancy word called digitization to refer to the digital photographing or scanning and online presentation of physical materials. In this case, the records were scanned on a state-of-the-art flatbed scanner (which is worth more than my car) in order to capture high quality images in a short amount of time.
In order to provide access to the images of the essays online, one of the most important steps of digitization is collecting and organizing the metadata. Metadata, in my opinion, is a scary word that refers to the abstract concept of information about information. In all reality, metadata is the set of data that describes a piece of information. In this case the piece of information is the essay and the data describing it includes details such as the language it was written in and size of the paper. After organizing the metadata into a spreadsheet it is then converted into a code, presumably by means of magic or sorcery, by the Metadata Librarian.
The last step of digitization is to gather up all the metadata code and the digital images into a queue that is uploaded onto the Digital Library’s server and arranged according to the instructions in the code. Because the magical code tells all the little bits of information how to look and how to behave, the text and images appear in a way that is ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing to the viewer.
And that’s the behind the scenes of the digitization process. Check out the Florida County and City Histories to evaluate for yourselves!
Britt Boler is currently the graduate assistant for FSU’s Special Collections & Archives division.
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).