Category Archives: Collaborations

“Draw Back the Curtain” Now Online

DTP began working with UR Hillel and Richmond’s Jewish Family Services a few years ago to digitize materials and build a project website in support of “Draw Back the Curtain,” a student-directed documentary.  At the request of JFS, we recently linked the award-winning film to the site and it is now openly available and free to watch.

draw-back-image

From the project’s about page:

After more than 70 years of closed borders, the former Soviet Union allowed more than one million Jews to immigrate to America and Israel in the late 1980s. American activism under Operation Exodus had a large part in this change in policy and the Richmond Jewish community in the resettlement of 800 refugees.

Twenty-five years later, Jewish Family Services and the University of Richmond Hillel are creating a permanent collection of the experiences and memories of the families who immigrated and the community volunteers who welcomed them.

“Draw Back the Curtain,” a feature-length documentary film, is the culmination of three years of student driven research and interviewing of immigrants and resettlement volunteers. The larger project includes multiple museum exhibitions, and an upcoming digital archive.

This project is a great example of the library working with groups on and off campus to create something meaningful to the Richmond community and beyond.  Take some time to browse around the site, check out the exhibits, and watch the film.

MakerSpace Pop-up

This past Wednesday, a beautiful spring day brought another MakerSpace Pop-up to Tyler Haynes Commons here at the University of Richmond. Although there is no official MakerSpace on the university campus, there is a MakerSpace working group made up of interested staff and faculty. At the popup, members of the working group were showing off tools, explaining processes, and teaching skills to whomever stopped by.

MakerSpaceLegos

On display for hands on fun and experimentation were littleBits circuits, soft circuits, a drone, 3D printed prosthetics, Legos, a Raspberry Pi computer, virtual reality headsets, light-up bookmark making, book binding supplies, maker chests, and crochet!

MakerSpacelittlebits

Look for the next MakerSpace popup and stop by.

 

 

 

Yonder Comes The Devil

On November 18th while helping out at the Transcribathon of the ship’s journal from the Galvin Rare Book Room at the Boatwright Memorial library I registered to transcribe some pages myself. See the previous post in our blog by Angie White for a more detailed look at the Sail Away site.

I had never done anything like this before. These events and crowd sourcing of this type of work is becoming more and more common.

Transcribing the 19th century hand writing was not as straight forward as one would think. We were instructed to transcribe exactly what we saw in the image of the journal’s pages, not even correcting spelling. I looked through a number of pages before I decided to transcribe one of the last pages of the journal, page 250 which had just a few lines on it. I figured correctly that even a few lines would take me quite a while to transcribe.

The page I worked on is below. Click on the image for a larger view:

YonderComesTheDevil

Marion Dieterich who has more experience transcribing this journal, helped me with the transcription, and here is what I found:

Lest [yom] ones see the
Devil with his little
spade and shovel
Digging up potatoes on
the turn pike woods,

That is about as close as I could get.

The phrasing and words piqued my interest and with a little help from our friend Google, I searched the phrases “Devil with his spade and shovel” in any number of combinations adding and taking away potatoes, turnpike, and turn pike as two words

What I found was that this was an old English or Gypsy traditional song. Here it was recorded by June Tabor on her 1994 CD “Against the Streams” and i found another mention in a book from 1872 about popular Romances in the West of England. And there were others too!

Why did our journaler, Veron G. Locke who presumably wrote these words,  write down this phrase from a song in his journal in 1855? Had he just heard this song and wanted to remember the words? Was it one of his favorites? Was he the author of the song? If you find earlier references to the song, feel free to comment.

Click here for the entire Sail Away site and here for the previous post  on our Transcribathon. Contact Angie White for more information on transcribing the ship’s journal.

 

Digital Toolbox: Omeka

You know that go-to tool in your toolbox that you just can’t go without? The one you always seem to use no matter what job you start? The one you preach to your friends about? The one you seem to use in unorthodox ways? The tool which, if absent, dooms a project to failure? (That’s a stretch – there’s always a way!)

In the digital collections/humanities/content world at Boatwright, Omeka has become that tool. It’s an open source web publishing platform that is to creating content-rich cultural heritage online experiences as WordPress is to building blogs. Built using open and widely-adopted frameworks, Omeka’s flexibility, large user and developer communities, and host of add-ons make it a low-barrier joy to work with. We in the library have used it for student- and faculty-driven projects, external partnerships, and for building our own thematic sites.

Our work with Omeka started some years ago with a small exhibit focused on the history of football at the University of Richmond. The launch of UR Football Comes Home was synced with the opening of the new Robins Stadium on campus.

UR Football Comes Home

UR Football Comes Home

BML’s For the Centuries site, released as a celebration of UR’s first century at its suburban campus, is one of our larger projects and made use of several plugins for the first time (for us at least), namely Neatline and Exhibit Builder.

For the Centuries

For the Centuries

The Fight for Knowledge captures content produced through an ongoing series of undergraduate courses taught by Dr. Laura Browder and Dr. Patricia Herrera. The site incorporates student multimedia projects alongside archival content.

The Fight For Knowledge

The Fight For Knowledge

The Historian’s Workshop, another ongoing project, is a collaborative faculty/student/staff project which focuses on the Congressional Papers of Watkins Moorman Abbitt, which is housed in Boatwright Library’s Special Collections. Read more about our work with Dr. Nicole Sackley and the course which launched the site on our blog here.

The Historian's Workshop

The Historian’s Workshop

Discovery, Technology and Publishing supports several Omeka sites while not maintaining responsibility for the content. Dr. Jeannine Keefer’s Urban Campus site, which features Neatline exhibits, is among these.

Urban Campus

Urban Campus

Draw Back the Curtain, a collaborative project with Richmond’s Jewish Family Services, features images digitized by Discovery, Technology and Publishing.

Draw Back the Curtain

Draw Back the Curtain

A Pilgrims Progress is the first complete catalog of Windsor McCay’s early 20th century comic of the same name. It’s content is maintained by Kirsten McKinney (GC ’15) while DTP maintains the site. Read more about McKinney and her work on our blog here.

A Pilgrim's Progress

A Pilgrim’s Progress

We’re building some skills and experience in working under Omeka’s hood, too. Focusing primarily on making theme-based customizations, we’ve identified new areas to build skills (primarily PHP coding, but also revision control – a most useful way to keep track of code changes – and to recover from the inevitable failures). Our team has also streamlined the process of launching a new site on Amazon Web Services, and is investigating the ability to bring up a site in a fully-automated fashion.

In the end, though, Omeka is just a tool, even if it is extremely flexible and easy to use. You need to have the skills, vision and resilience – not to mention the content – to make it suit your needs. Our team here has those traits, and we’ll be releasing more Omeka-based projects in the near future – keep watch on the library’s website and this blog for announcements!

Note: several staff members from Boatwright will be presenting on their Omeka projects at this week’s Virginia Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries (VLACRL) spring meeting. Titled Omeka and More: Web Publishing, Digital Collections, and Online Exhibits, Jeannine Keefer will present on her Urban Campus site, and Crista LaPrade and Angie White will discuss our recent For the Centuries project. Many thanks to all three for representing UR and BML at the meeting!

DTP in Classroom Collaborations

We (Leigh McDonald and Chris Kemp) were given the opportunity to be involved in an undergraduate class last semester: The Historian’s Workshop, taught by Dr. Nicole Sackley. The course immersed students in the worlds of archives, digital libraries, museums and public history. The students were each placed in the roles of researcher and expert while working with one of Boatwright’s largely unprocessed archival collections, the Congressional Papers of Watkins Moorman Abbitt. Each of the eleven students was assigned a box of archival materials from the collection to work with, and Lynda Kachurek (Head of Rare Books and Special Collections) instructed them on archival processing methods. The students read and examined all of the documents in “their box,” and selected representative materials to describe and display in an online exhibit.

That’s where Discovery, Technology and Publishing came in. We digitized materials and launched an Omeka site to present them. We also presented three metadata workshops to the students, which focused on how to examine a document’s contents, effectively describe it, and upload it into Omeka. Since the students were the experts on their particular materials, there would be no one better equipped to provide in-depth descriptions of each item. Leigh and Chris randomly selected a document already digitized from those chosen by the students, worked through the Dublin Core metadata fields as examples, prepped our materials and headed into the workshops feeling prepared for anything. That randomly selected document turned out to be a much better lesson for the students and for us than we had imagined.

rats

Letter from W. E. Skelton to W. M. Abbitt

The document above is the one we chose. It seems pretty simple on the surface – a piece of correspondence between a constituent and his congressman regarding the work of the Agricultural Extension Service agents in his district – and we suggested describing it accordingly. An attached report described a rat control campaign in the Hampton Roads area and included statistics on the rat population in the U.S. Therefore, the first Library of Congress Subject Heading we suggested was, of course, “Rats”.

During the workshop, however, Professor Sackley asked the student why he chose this particular document and his response was enlightening. Because he had gained some perspective on Congressman Abbitt and his tenure from studying the documents in his box, he read the documents as a rather elegant but subtle plea for the need for African-American workers in his division, not just an informational letter about pest control. The line, “We are extremely limited in staff and cannot be ‘all things to all people,’” was the hint. Based on this, it was then possible to complete the metadata description more accurately by adding terms such as: African American agricultural extension workers and Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s Agricultural Extension Service. We would not necessarily have picked up on the full significance of the document without the student’s input, which illustrates the analytical skills the students brought to the table when selecting documents from the collection. We are sure that similar conversations could have occurred regarding many other documents in the collection.

Given the subject matter of this archival collection and the course readings, the students expected to find much on the topic of massive resistance to school integration in Virginia, but they discovered so much more. Students uncovered numerous interesting documents, including an exchange between Abbitt and then-Texas senator Lyndon Johnston, a letter from a high school senior regarding the statehood of Hawaii, and a pamphlet listing the names of supposed communists in Hollywood, California. All of these findings brought to life the people and the historical period, and gave the students a perspective on the times that would have been absent without access to the primary sources.

The work the students did last fall was impressive on many levels, but it only scratched the surface of what the Abbitt Papers contain. Abbitt was a congressman from 1948-1973, and his archival collection is made up of 285 boxes of material. Fortunately, Professor Sackley is going to teach the course once more in the fall of 2015. We in DTP are looking forward to getting back into the classroom with students once again, and learning right along with them.

See the fruits of the students’ labor at the course’s dedicated Omeka site, which is publicly available but still “in the workshop”: http://historiansworkshop.richmond.edu

Hear directly from the students at the Historian’s Workshop blog: http://blog.richmond.edu/historiansworkshop/

And read a feature news story about the course on the UR Website: http://news.richmond.edu/features/kp4/article/-/12356/the-historians-workshop-students-learn-about-archiving-and-digital-collections-in-hands-on-history-course.html

Written by Chris Kemp and Leigh McDonald

A Step Back in Time with an Eye to the Future

Posted by Dywana Saunders, Angie White and Crista LaPrade

In December, we had the opportunity to travel to Colonial Williamsburg for a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the Department of Collections. We were honored to have Ron Hurst, Chief Curator and Vice President for Collections, Conservation and Museums, as our guide through the impressive facility.

Dywana and Ron

The Wallace Collections and Conservation building is 70,000 sq ft of storage, curatorial offices, and conservation labs for Archaeological Materials, Wooden Artifacts (including furniture), Instruments and Mechanical Arts, Objects, Paintings, Paper, Textiles, and Upholstery. We had the opportunity to meet some of the curators and conservators and see the pieces they were currently working on in the labs. Each lab is specially equipped with the state of the art equipment to clean, preserve, and stabilize museum pieces. We were very impressed to see an actual eighteenth century red coat:

Redcoat

 

And watch as an exhibition building needlework rug was mended and blocked:

2014-12-18 10.01.04

The photography studio was huge. We were impressed to see a cat walk around the studio where particularly large pieces can be photographed. We also saw the special photo set ups for furniture and silver:

Photo Studio

We were also guided through the amazing storage areas located in this building. It was interesting to see rows upon rows of compact shelving. Delicate items were held steady on shelves with special weighted pads and shelves were covered with Plexiglas or fabric dust covers. Paintings, silver, and textiles could all be rolled out for curatorial examination and study. You can find out more about CW Collections and Museums online, as well as look through some of the collections.

In the afternoon, we met with the staff of the Digital History Center located in the John D. Rockefeller Library.

Lisa Fischer, Director, Peter Inker, Manager of 3-D Visualization, and Ted Maris-Wolf, Manager of Research and Content Development, graciously spent time sharing some of their current projects with us. They are working on some amazing projects that extend their reach far beyond the summer tourist visiting DOG Street. We were amazed by Virtual Williamsburg, 1776 which required collaboration among many people from many departments within Colonial Williamsburg to ensure accuracy of the 3-d modeling and to incorporate representative primary sources to depict a pivotal moment in time in our nation’s history. Virtual Williamsburg is a collaborative project with the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities that began in 2006. Work on this project is ongoing and truly impressive.

They also showed us Revquest, an interactive onsite game that allows visitors to Colonial Williamsburg to use their cell phone to find clues to solve a Colonial Era mystery. A new version, Revquest: Save the Revolution! is due out this spring.

And finally, they shared with us the recently unveiled site, Slavery and Remembrance. It is a truly unique and internationally collaborative endeavor being “a collaboration of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and dozens of sites and museums across the globe.”

To see the innovative work being done by our colleagues just 45 minutes or so down I64 was truly inspiring. We hope you all have the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg in person sometime soon, however if you can’t make it there, you simply have to get online and experience it virtually!

Crista Angie and Dywana

 

A New Exhibit: The 1914 Campus in 3D

Taking a look at the items and exhibits included in our centennial project, For the Centuries, visitors will discover that we uncovered and aggregated a wide range of materials for the site. While many of the digital objects on the site tell stories or have special significance all by themselves, other objects and data needed a bit of interpretation. Take graduate hometown data, for example: a spreadsheet of dates and places doesn’t say much, but if the locations are mapped and interactive as they are in our hometowns exhibit, patterns of student geographic distribution can easily be seen over time. This post is about another example of such interpretation – the conversion of a number of physical items into digital files, and the creation of something new.

The good folks at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society pointed us toward an undated topographic survey map of the campus area. Based on the building footprints present on the map, we believe that it dates to 1911, the year following Ralph Cram’s initial General Plan.

A portion of the campus area topographic map at the VBHS.

A portion of the campus area topographic map at the VBHS. While many of the footprints here represent buildings that were not constructed, North Court can be picked out on the left, and Ryland Hall is at the bottom center.

We quickly realized that this single item provided the foundation for something impressive, and that when combined with data from other materials we’d gathered from University Facilities and elsewhere, we’d be able to use it to generate a three-dimensional model of the 1914 campus, complete with the initial buildings. Three departments in Information Services, Discovery, Technology and Publishing (DTP) in Boatwright Memorial Library, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT), and the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL), had the expertise and ability to work together to pull this off.

Production of the model involved a variety of techniques and technologies. The topographic map, blueprints and photographs were imaged by DTP staff using a Phase One P65+ digital back. Students and staff in DTP and DSL then worked together to digitize the map’s topographic lines and render an elevation map file using ArcGIS. The blueprints and photographs provided the information needed to create three-dimensional models of the campus’ buildings using Sketchup. (Be sure to check out this post, by Justin Madron of the DSL, about the techniques used to accomplish this.) In the CTLT, the elevation map and building models were merged into a single 3D object using Sketchup Pro and printed on a 3D Systems ProJet 460Plus printer.

Several student employees contributed in important ways to this project. Stefan St. John (DSL) georectified the maps used for this project. Jackie Palmer (DTP) digitized the survey map’s topographic lines and campus features. Jackie and Lily Calaycay (DSL) worked together to model the campus buildings from data embedded in source documents. Selmira Avdic, Francisco Cuevas, Lisa Hozey and Umurcan Solak (CTLT) assisted with the 3D printing and tile finishing process.

The completed model, now on display on the second floor of Boatwright Library, depicts the campus as it was on opening day in 1914, and serves to demonstrate the relative scale of the buildings and topography of the grounds. Reproductions of contemporary photographs of each building are distributed around the model. Come by Boatwright to see the results of our collaboration.

The completed model is displayed on the second floor of Boatwright Memorial Library.

The completed model is displayed on the second floor of Boatwright Memorial Library.

Also visit the library’s centennial celebration site, For the Centuries, at http://centuries.richmond.edu.

Photos by Angie White and Nate Ayers.