March Update

Stats for March 2014

  • Materials cataloged/awaiting cataloging: 2,855/461
  • Catalog records revised: 3,858
  • Page images digitized: 2,344
  • Still images digitized: 537
  • Library catalog visitors/page views: 11,544/58,273
  • Library catalog searches: 23,967
  • Digital collection visitors/page views: 3,263/9,114

Project Snapshot

Centennial Exhibit: March saw the passing of a couple large milestones for the project – namely the completion of the Westhampton College flipbook and the aggregation of the last bit of hometown data for the last 100 years worth of graduates. We’ll start work on mapping all of that geographic data in April. We had a couple of meetings with the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology and the Digital Scholarship Lab to explore some opportunities for collaboration, and the DSL has been georeferencing several of our historic maps for use in the exhibit. The interface group has been working away on adjusting the design for the site – Andy Morton has brought some really good ideas and work to the project.

UR Scholarship: In March, 91 more theses and undergraduate papers were uploaded into the UR Scholarship Repository, and 29 more – 838 pages worth – were digitized and prepared for uploading. During the month, 115 honors papers were downloaded 759 times, and 222 master’s theses were downloaded 2,234 times.

Richmond Dispatch: We’ve been working for some time on a complete overhaul of our Daily Dispatch collection, our first big project that was released back in 2007. The Dispatch collection contains the complete run of Richmond’s “newspaper of record” from November 1860 through December 1865. At nearly 24 million words, completely encoded in XML, it is a deep collection that has contributed widely, to projects ranging from scholarly research to family history and genealogy. While it’s a great project it could use an extreme makeover, and it’s in the process of getting one. We’ve completely rebuilt the guts of the system using standardized TEI data and an XML database, have implemented a new page viewing mechanism for high-resolution images, and have worked with University Communications to plan an updated, more functional user interface. While the programming work needed to finish this project off is sidelined due to other priorities, we will be picking it up again very soon.

Centennial Project – Fannie Graves Crenshaw

Just as her colleague May Keller holds a prominent place in University of Richmond memory, Fannie (also spelled Fanny) Graves Crenshaw is a celebrated faculty member who appears in stories throughout campus history. As a member of the University of Richmond Trustees’ Honor Roll of Distinguished Faculty, Administrators and Staff, Crenshaw is one of the longest serving faculty members that the University has seen, with a tenure beginning in 1914 and retirement in 1955. Crenshaw was hired as Athletic Director at Westhampton College when the doors first opened and remained in that position (with a slight title change to the more modern “Director of Physical Education”) throughout her career.

Born January 17, 1890, Fannie Crenshaw was a bit of a Renaissance woman for her time. With her hometown being right here in Richmond, Virginia, Crenshaw traveled North for her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College as well as graduate work at Columbia University. It seems that Crenshaw must have enjoyed her time at Bryn Mawr, because she is frequently seen in photographs wearing her college sweater. Though her specialty was in Physical Education, Crenshaw also taught Math and History at St. Catherine’s upon her return to Richmond and start at Westhampton College. Furthermore, during her summer breaks from the college, Crenshaw traveled back north to continue working at summer camps.

During her first years at Westhampton College, Crenshaw not only taught all of the Physical Education classes but also coached all of the women’s sports teams. She was an enthusiastic proponent of Field Hockey and, under her direction, Westhampton College became of the first schools in Virginia to adopt the game as a sport. Crenshaw continued to coach varsity sports all the way up until her retirement. In fact, students seemed to adore her so much that she continued to be a subject of campus news stories well after her retirement.

(This information was adapted from Faces on the Wall by Woodford B. Hackley)


3D Printing Primer, part 1

Wondering about 3D printing?  The CTLT has answers for you, and several printers!  You can follow their blog, Thinking in 3D for insights into 3D printing at UR and for tutorials.

When people think about 3D printing, they tend to think in terms of finished objects but have a hard time fathoming how you get from a digital file to an actual thing.  So, how, exactly, does a 3D printer work?  There are many different ways, but here are three models to consider:

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM is the additive technology many consumer-grade 3D printers are built around.  You can think of it as the “smart hot-glue gun” model of rapid prototyping.  Plastic (or other material) filament is heated, melted, and extruded through a nozzle and laid down in layers to create an object.  Stepper motors drive the nozzle on vertical and horizontal axes and a build plate is lowered on the Z-axis as the layers of extruded filament are built up.  Objects printed using this method are not solid but, rather, made up of “shells” that define a surface.  Often there is a honeycomb structure which makes up the interior of FDM objects.  Makerbots and Rep Rap printers utilize FDM.  There are limitations on the number and size of overhangs this process can accommodate, but it is possible to print models with overhangs by using a support structure akin to scaffolding that is printed on the outside of an object.  There tends to be a fair amount of post-processing with FDM to get satisfying models.

Makerbot Replicator 2

Makerbot Replicator 2

FDM objects printed with supports

FDM objects printed with supports

Granular Materials Binding

Granular Materials Binding fuses a powder with dots of glue, also in layers and also moving the build-area downwards until an object is built up. Models made with this method have interiors of solid powder, unless you design space into your object, but overhangs are easier to accommodate as you will always have support where you need it from the loose powder outside your object.  Granular Materials Binding is faster than FDM and allows for a higher resolution.  Color information can be included in models, as color from cartridges can be delivered at the same time as the binder (i.e. glue) and unused powder is never wasted as it can always be reclaimed and color is only included in the binder.  Post-processing of models is less time-consuming, but they are heavier than models printed in plastic because they are solid.

Projet 460 professional 3D printer uses granular materials binding

Projet 460 professional 3D printer uses granular materials binding

Object printed using granular materials binding

Object printed using granular materials binding

Stereolithograpy (SLA)

SLA is also an additive process that uses light (usually a laser) to cure a liquid (resin) to create a model.  There is a $100 3D printer currently being manufactured and beta-tested, the Peachy Printer, that uses this process, and was funded by the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter.

Stereolithography method of 3D printing

Stereolithography method of 3D printing

These additive processes can accommodate manifolds, where every surface is connected to another surface.  The surfaces are mesh surfaces, in which every plane can be approximated with polygons.  3D models must be prepared for 3D printing using a software specific to your printer, which translates the digital model into a format your printer understands.  This is referred to as “slicing,” where the software slices a model and creates cross-sections which approximate curves.  This is how the printer will make shapes.  The code behind 3D models is G-code, a numerical control programming language that instructs machines how to move and delineates which paths to follow.  There are massive amounts of code that go into creating 3D printed objects.

Stanford bunny manifold, a widely-used test print for 3D printing

Stanford bunny manifold, a widely-used test print for 3D printing

Form rendered with a polygon mesh surface

Form rendered with a polygon mesh surface

But how do you make a 3D model to print?  Well, that’s another post!  Look for that in 3D Printing Primer, part 2.

Centennial Project – Dean May Lansfield Keller

As we discussed in our previous posts about the Centennial Project, one of the most interesting aspects of doing research was discovering multiple scrapbooks that chronicled the lives of typical students who attended Richmond College during the establishment of the new campus at Westhampton.  In addition to the “everyday” student, though, larger personalities began to emerge not only from the scrapbooks, but also through yearbooks, photographs, and correspondence. May Keller, the first Dean of Westhampton College, was one of these intriguing personalities.

Born in 1877, May Lansfield Keller spent the first part of her life in Baltimore, Maryland, which included her college years. She received her B.A. from Goucher College before moving to Germany and earning her Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1904. In becoming the first Dean of Westhampton College in 1914,  Keller also became the first female college dean in Virginia. In accordance with her own education, she believed strongly in both a liberal arts course of study as well as equal educational opportunities for women.  Furthermore, as both a dean and professor of English, she seemed to be very involved with her students, attending functions in North Court and even portraying Juliet in a Shakespeare festival on campus. The large part she played in the students’ time at Westhampton is evidenced by her frequent inclusion in their memories, such as a scrapbook. In fact, multiple photographic portraits of Dean May Keller are pasted into Florence Smith’s scrapbook. Keller retired in 1946, but was still seen around campus walking her dogs and passing on bits of advice to her successors.

(This information and more can be found in A Gem of a College: The History of Westhampton College 1914-1989 by Claire Millhiser Rosenbaum and Faces on the Wall by Woodford B. Hackley).

February Update

Not-so-random stats for February 2014

  • Materials cataloged/awaiting cataloging: 6,213/762
  • Catalog records revised: 3,135
  • Page images digitized: 4,682
  • Still images digitized: 888
  • Library catalog visitors/page views: 12,387/61,273
  • Library catalog searches: 25,794
  • Digital collection visitors/page views: 3,101/8,830

Project snapshot

Centennial Exhibit: The first pass metadata has been completed for most materials, although more materials were uncovered during a “last call” at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society. Nearly the whole department has been pitching in to the metadata push, and everyone is doing great work. During the visit to the Virginia Historical Society, Crista LaPrade and Angie White discovered some more materials, including several portraits of the first Westhampton College graduates – we’ve licensed their use for this project. Work on the Westhampton Class of 1915 flipbook is proceeding on schedule, and the final sources for student hometowns were tracked down. (See Angie’s recent post about the Westhampton College scrapbook for more information on that item.) In March, we’ll put the finishing touches on our test system, which will include the flipbook and hometown map interactive features, all of the digital objects, and a customized Omeka theme.

UR Scholarship: Following a productive January during which 61 theses were loaded into the repository and 24 more theses were digitized, February resulted in 62 uploads and 41 additional digitized works. Crista has been working with our great student employees to get this work accomplished, and more will be done in March – perhaps despite spring break. The Master’s Theses Collection continues to be the second most used collection in the repository (right behind Law Faculty Publications), with 1,663 document downloads in January.

Tokyo Trial: Sixty documents were uploaded to the Legal Tools Database during February – these included the various Judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and Proceedings in Chambers. Some technical difficulties prevented us from uploading the Summations and court papers, but we’ll continue that work in March. We also got back into working on the TEI Annotator, an application we’ve been developing with the assistance of some fantastic contractors. The TEI Annotator will play a substantial role in our development of a set of semantic services that will enrich and allow annotation/enhancement of text documents encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative‘s XML schema. More on this project will be coming soon.

Collegian: As our first foray into the wonderful world of crowdsourcing, we’ve worked with our vendor to incorporate a feature called User Text Correction into the Collegian collection. This enables registered users to correct some of the really poor OCR that often results from microfilm imaging. (Our collection includes microfilm images and OCR in all issues between November, 1914 and April, 2006.) User-corrected text is reindexed immediately, making all of the corrections discoverable immediately. Instant gratification. All you need to do is go to the Collegian site, register via the link in the top right hand corner, access an article and start correcting away. Please give it a try and let us know what you think.

There is much more going on than is recorded here – this post indicates progress on a very small slice of our responsibilities. We have ongoing work involving faculty and student projects, digitization for external partnerships, projects for other library departments, as well as the tasks and maintenance that comprise our everyday work. The variety of things being done is a bit astounding to me at times, and I’m glad that we’ve assembled a capable, collaborative team that helps our organization meet its goals.

Considering open data

Libraries have always been about open data, haven’t they?  Well, yes, in a way.  Aside from the notion of a free lending library, our bibliographic data is freely available and shared, if you know where to find it and if you know how to read it.  We do offer our users a lot of data that may appear to be “open,” i.e. free, but, in reality, we pay a premium to offer said data.  Publishers snatch up primary source materials and then sell it back to us, as if they’re doing us a favor.  A recent example being the Readex collection of documents related to slavery in the United States, The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922.  John E. Drabinski has written a thoughtful essay about the inherent dilemma in charging for access to documents that make up our own cultural heritage.  Even our own faculty members are unable to free their research data due to agreements with publishers and the “publish or perish” nature of tenure.

We have been promised a future of linked data, which will make up the semantic web, where point A will lead to point B in such a way that is both novel and accurate.  Serendipitous discovery will live alongside the assurance that the John Smith you are interested in is the John Smith you are following through the tangled Web.  Which is great!  I can’t wait!  But we’re not there yet.  There has been encouraging work, most notably, for librarians, with the Virtual International Authority File, which integrates a number of national library authority files for names and provides a single numeric identifier for each, a URI or Universal Resource Identifier that can then be used across the web.  You can see it at work in Wikipedia by scrolling down to the bottom of biographical entries and checking out the “Authority Control” box.  Still a ways to go (subjects, anyone?), but it’s a start.opendataSo, want to get started freeing some data?  There are lots of ways you can start small.  As library folks, we are used to thinking about ways to make our data useful and transparent.  The rest of the world is really into this now, too, but we’ve been doing it forever.  So, consider contributing your talents!

I’ve often said I wished our library catalogs worked as well as Ravelry, the free database for fiber arts.  It’s interesting that Ravelry views itself as a community rather than a database, making the data it presents personal, and thereby relevant to its users.  Libraries have struggled with how to do this.  It’s something we’d like to do, but we’re, honestly, afraid of what it means for our stated aim of objectivity.  And that’s a serious concern.    Still, Ravelry manages to combine a materials database, a pattern database, and forums along with a personalized user experience.

Are you interested in 3D printing?  There are a lot of amazing repositories for free data files you can print yourself, the highest profile database of late being that of the Smithsonian’s own 3D modeling project, Smithsonian X 3D, which allows you to download and print models of artifacts from the Smithsonian’s collection.  Thingiverse allows you to browse, organize, and customize models contributed by other users and to contribute your own models.  Other museums have made their 3D scan files available to download, including The Met, which encourages creative use of their files to make new art, or mashups.  Want to get started?  You can find open source options for all the software you need to start creating your own 3D models. (TinkerCad, OpenSCAD, SketchUp, Blender)

There are also many citizen science projects you can contribute data to as well.  Perhaps one of the longest standing, the annual Great Backyard Birdcount, just happened earlier this month.  Maybe you’d prefer culling through radio signals to help SETI in the search for extraterrestrial life?

On the local front, there is a new group in Richmond formed as part of Code for America, called Code for RVA , which is a “civic hacking brigade” that works to “improve our city through better technology.”  Their next civic hack night, where they work on civic projects and hack open data, is Tuesday March 25th at 6pm and they’ll be working on a project using real-time data to build an app that lets parents and students know exactly where their school bus is.

Know of any other open data projects?  Share them in the comments.

Centennial Project – Westhampton Scrapbook

In general, the scrapbooks that we have come across for the Centennial Project are the manifestations of individual stories, focused on unique experiences encountered while attending the coordinate colleges of Richmond and Westhampton. In contrast, the Westhampton Class of 1915 scrapbook focuses on the important events and memories of an entire group of women – the first women to graduate from Westhampton College, in fact. We believe that the scrapbook was primarily kept by Margaret Monteiro, because there are several letters and invitations addressed to her within the book. Including Monteiro, there were eleven women in the class of 1915, with their names and photographs listed in a “Class Role” at the beginning of the book.

This 1914-1915 scrapbook, located in the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, is especially unique because it is just as much a diary as it is a scrapbook. Pages are full of dated, hand-written descriptions of emotions, events and even the underclassmen. Frequently, alongside the journal-like entries, someone (Monteiro, perhaps) drew small illustrations elaborating on the written descriptions. Some are amusing sketches depicting the “Rats” while others are more elaborate, full-page drawings. Just like the other scrapbooks we have encountered, the descriptions and illustrations show that, in some aspects, college life is still quite the same even after 100 years. Sports, clubs and parties were an important part of a student’s social life and homesickness in first-year students was frequently noted by the upperclassmen. Students also seemed to be just as fond of exams in 1914 as they are today…

In addition to the fun memories, though, the scrapbook also chronicles less pleasant moments, like the arrival of mumps to campus. The inclusion of so many memories, lovely or not, make this scrapbook an incredible asset to viewing college life in 1914.

Digitizing this scrapbook was a bit trickier than the others because it didn’t open quite as flat. We used a book cradle to hold it gently underneath our camera as we photographed the pages on one side and then the other. We also used black fabric as the background behind this scrapbook for a more aesthetically pleasing look and for contrast. Since the scrapbook is actually quite large in terms of a book, we used our 80mm lens for the photography. On smaller, miscellaneous items like invitations, we used our 120 mm lens to capture more detail.

International Collaborations, and a Visit to the UN Archives

On Monday the 20th, I went to New York to visit the Archives and Records Management Section of the United Nations. I’ll write why in a moment, but first let me try to express how surprising this experience was. After meeting with several project partners at a nearby hotel restaurant to discuss and lay plans for our upcoming work, we walked a few chilly blocks to an utterly unexceptional door. We were buzzed through and confronted by a small sign, equally unremarkable and easily overlooked from outside.


This might not seem so surprising, but after having worked in a library for years, living and breathing the importance of providing information to users, I suppose I was expecting a slightly more grand or inspiring entrance…

But it was here that I and the rest of the project team, surrounded by the historic documents of the United Nations, met with the chief of the Archives Unit, Paola Casini, to discuss what I believe may be our most important contribution to both scholarship and the international community: the digitization of the United Nations War Crimes Commission documents.

For the last few years the Boatwright Memorial Library has been collaborating with the Muse Law Library to digitize the papers of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East – better known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. In its Special Collections, the Law Library holds a nearly complete collection of the papers of the tribunal, which were a gift from the family of David Nelson Sutton, a 1915 Richmond College graduate who served as Associate Counsel to the Prosecution during the trial. Sutton’s duties for the prosecution included questioning witnesses and presenting evidence related to the charges associated with the “Rape of Nanking” and Imperial Japan’s illegal narcotics trade.

Library staff and University of Richmond students have been scanning, extracting text, and using an XML format called TEI to encode data and description within the documents themselves. Our goal is to produce an openly accessible and fully searchable archive of the court-produced documents that leverages the strengths of XML-based documents for the purposes of presentation and manipulation. For example, specific XML tags are required within the files to normalize personal and organizational names throughout the collection, to link entire documents or portions of documents to others, and to georeference place names. Proper XML tagging, combined with the use of predefined thesauri, will allow faceted searching and potentially revealing presentations of the resulting data.

As part of this work, the University of Richmond has become a partner of the International Criminal Court’s Legal Tools Database project, contributing PDF versions of our Tokyo Trial documents to that resource. The overarching goal of the Legal Tools Database is to provide free and open access to legal information necessary for the prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. By compiling all primary legal sources related to prosecuting violations of international criminal law, developing case management applications, and providing an e-learning platform, the project will equip legal practitioners in developing nations with the tools they need to do their work. The Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals were vital in identifying the need for a permanent international court to the young United Nations, and their records are of great value to the project.

Our meetings were productive on Monday, and outlined an ambitious path forward in our respective projects. At the University of Richmond, we will complete our local digitization of Tokyo Trial documents and work with the UN Archives to identify the UNWCC materials not present in the Law Library’s collection as priorities for digitization. Other project partners will work to digitize papers from various nations’ military courts, including those of the United Kingdom, Poland and, eventually, the United States. While the rest of the team went to lunch I stayed at the archives, reviewing several reels of microfilm to verify that these will all be uploaded to the Legal Tools Database and freely available for use by researchers, students and legal professionals alike.


To wrap this up, I must say how thankful I am that our work at the library and the University of Richmond can, in some small way, contribute to an important international project like the Legal Tools Database and, ultimately, to the greater good. Our work continues, and if you are interested in participating please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Centennial – Florence Smith Scrapbook

In addition to having access to a Richmond College student’s scrapbook for our Centennial project, we were fortunate enough to be able to digitize a student’s scrapbook from the Westhampton College side of the lake as well. Donated to the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, the scrapbook once belonged to Florence Smith, a 1917 graduate of Westhampton College. Just like her fellow scrapbooker, Karl Brooke Anderson, Smith attended Richmond College when it was operated downtown as well as when it moved to the Westhampton campus, so her book contains memories from both. In contrast to Anderson’s athletics-based scrapbook, Smith predominantly included photographs of her friends, professors, events and campus landmarks.

One of the most helpful and interesting aspects of looking through Smith’s scrapbook was her high level of detail in describing her photographs. Rather than pasting down the pictures in an arbitrary fashion, she consistently identified all of the people (frequently with both first and last names) in the scenes as well as explained what was taking place. Furthermore, her pages tended to be ordered chronologically in relation to her time at the college, so it was easy to follow her story year by year. Smith’s photographs show us snapshots of what life was like on the new campus, including some things that are no longer around, like the mule drawn carriage that served as a bus to carry non-residential students from the trolley stop up a large hill to campus. She also provided us images of some of the first sophomore class daisy chains, an event that became a longstanding tradition. Most often, though, her photographs are simple glimpses into the fun and amusement she and her friends took part in during their time at Richmond College.


In order to digitize Florence Smith’s scrapbook, we used our high resolution digital camera with an 80mm lens. Since the pages of the book were relatively flat, we did not need to use exhibit strips or glass to hold them down. The primary content in Smith’s scrapbook was photographs so in order to bring attention to each individual image, we cropped out specific photographs along with their captions. However, we still retained the full page versions.


News From the World of Public Domain

The Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle are in the Public Domain…sort of.

From a December 27th NYT article by Jennifer Schuessler:

… the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, stated that elements introduced in Holmes stories published after 1923 — such as the fact that Watson played rugby for Blackheath, or had a second wife — remain under copyright in the United States. (All of the Holmes stories are already in the public domain in Britain.)

This decision says that Sherlock Holmes published material before January 1, 1923 was now in the public domain in the United States. The stories written 1923 and after which develop the characters of Holmes and Watson are still under copyright.

The Arthur Conan Doyle estate is contemplating an appeal.

Mystery writer Laurie King who writes the popular Mary Russell series based on a character who has a relationship with Sherlock Holmes is the co-editor of a new anthology of Holmes inspired stories which led to this law suit.


In other public domain news the British Library has released over 1,000,000 images that are in the public domain like the one above from page 91 of  “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.”

From the British Library flickr profile:

The British Library’s collections on Flickr Commons offer access to millions of public domain images, which we encourage you to explore and re-use. The release of these collections into the public domain represent the Library’s desire to improve knowledge of and about them, to enable novel and unexpected ways of using them, and to begin working with researchers to explore and interpret large scale digital collections.

A thank you goes out to Jeannine Keefer for originally letting us know about the British Library flickr images.

The image above is from the British Library flickr site and scanned from an 1882 book, “The Advantages of Richmond, Virginia, as a manufacturing and trading centre, with notes for the guidance of tourists on the lines of transportation running from Richmond”

For more info from the British Library blog about their images and use.