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Proceedings from the 2022 Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium, October 12-13, 2022
Nancy Adams, editor
October 2023. 84 pp. (electronic only)
CLIR pub 189
This publication contains the keynote address and selected presentations from the 2022 Digitizing Hidden Collections (DHC) Symposium, a capstone event for the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. This program was funded by the Mellon Foundation and issued calls for new applicants between 2015 and 2020. The two-day symposium brought together over 135 participants, with presenters from 23 grant-funded projects, both past and current. Their contributions addressed the symposium’s theme: “We digitized it—what’s next? Learning from and making use of digitized hidden collections.”
Learning from and Making Use of Digitized Hidden Collections: Proceedings from the 2022 Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium, October 12–13, 2022 is published by the Council on Library and Information Resources and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The 2022 Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium included an opening keynote, 45-minute panels and demonstrations, groups of 15-minute papers, a poster session, and a closing panel discussion involving presenters representing three funded projects. In addition, teams representing three projects submitted short videos to mark the occasion.
The Proceedings document with selected papers is available for download above. Individual papers as well as additional resources and links for all Symposium content are available in the list below. This list is in alphabetical order by title within different categories.
Grounded in the emerging field of critical archival studies, this talk will look toward the radical politics of independent, minoritized, identity-based community archives to envision new liberatory possibilities for memory work.
Based on participant observation and interviews with users at community archives sites, the talk will explore how communities activate digital collections to build solidarities across and within communities, trouble linear progress narratives, and disrupt cycles of oppression. Caswell will introduce a new concept, corollary records, to describe the activation of archives that document a precedented moment in time, that is, a time in which the same or similar oppressions that are currently occurring have also previously occurred.
She will then argue that at their most useful, records can be activated in corollary moments in the present, so that community members can learn activist tactics and strategies and get inspiration to keep going. “We have been here before, we have survived this before, we have resisted before,” corollary records assert, “here’s how.” She will then give concrete examples of archives catalyzing liberatory uses of corollary records through artists and activist residency programs, advocacy efforts, and community-led mutual aid projects. Caswell will explore the temporal, representational, and material aspects of liberatory memory work, ultimately arguing that archival disruptions in time and space should be neither about the past nor the future, but about the liberatory affects and effects of memory work in the present
Authors: Lois Black,* Lehigh University; Dot Porter,* University of Pennsylvania
Description: In 2016, CLIR funded a Hidden Collections grant which would eventually digitize and make available 475 codex manuscripts and many hundreds of fragments from 15 institutions in and around Philadelphia. That project, Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, colloquially known as BiblioPhilly, has been a resounding success, succeeding in bringing attention to the incredible premodern manuscript collections of the City of Brotherly Love and also inspiring other digitization projects, including the current CLIR-funded Peripheral Manuscripts Project.
In their talk, BiblioPhilly PI Lois Black and co-PI Dot Porter will discuss the afterlife of BiblioPhilly focusing on student work that has been generated by the availability of the digitized manuscripts. Manuscripts included in BiblioPhilly inspired the work of a new population of student researchers at Lehigh University from a myriad of disciplines. Data contained in astronomical manuscripts sparked the curiosity of a physics major and led to his overcoming linguistic and paleographical hurdles. Musical notes represented in a medieval choir book led an engineering student to research life in monasteries and musical performance of the period.
Authors: Elizabeth Call,* Rochester Institute of Technology; Joan Naturale,* Rochester Institute of Technology; Ella Van Holtum, Rochester Institute of Technology
Description: In 2017 through the generous funding of CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Collections grant program the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Archives digitized videotapes held in the Deaf Studies, Culture, and History Archives (DSA). These rare videotapes document the ASL literature movement in Rochester from 1970 to 2011 and represent the largest collection of ASL literature to be made broadly accessible. The once “hidden” work of a pioneering and under-represented group is now public, broadening access to the cultural heritage of this diverse group little known outside of the Deaf community and enriching interdisciplinary studies in linguistics, poetry, performing arts, and cinema.
The DSA was established to ensure that the cultural heritage and lives of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and connected Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and hard of hearing communities are preserved. The DSA collects materials that will increase knowledge of the history and culture of NTID and connected Deaf community members, and strengthen identity formation and pride. NTID, one of nine colleges within RIT, played a leading role in the history of the ASL poetry movement in the United States, hosting national conferences on ASL Literature attended by Deaf and hearing scholars, students, interpreters, and the public.
The videotapes capture performances by Deaf poets such as Robert Panara, Clayton Valli, Debbie Rennie, Peter Cook, Ella Mae Lentz, and others performing and analyzing ASL literature works at national conferences, in the classroom, and on stage. Each poet has a unique sign language expressive style, which range from Panara’s transliteration of traditional English works and Shakespeare into contact sign with ASL features, to the avant-garde ASL and spoken English hybrid work of the Deaf and hearing ‘Flying Words’ duo Cook and Lerner, to Valli’s (the Deaf “Robert Frost”) original poetry created solely in ASL that uses body language, rhythm, movement and spatial expression.
Recent studies have shown that adding closed captions and transcripts to videos increase search traffic, page views, search rank, and engagement for all audiences. More than 80% of hearing students as well as Deaf students use captions and transcripts as study aids, enabling them to stay focused, and learn at their own pace which result in higher GPAs, increased comprehension, and retention of content. Making this type of video content truly accessible creates additional expenses. In the case of the videotapes in question, with their unique subject matter and mix of voicing and signing, the difficulties and labor required are compounded.
Panelists will discuss the project from their individual vantage points and roles – a curator and member of the Deaf community, an archivist, and a department administrator. Discussion will center around what goes into making cultural heritage truly accessible; creating best practices that also allow for adoption of sustainable work flow models; and the tension that exists between following best practices and striving to create sustainable work flows and the reality of the labor intensiveness of it all.
Authors: Hilary Schroeder,* Asheville Art Museum; Lydia See, Asheville Art Museum; Whitney Richardson, Asheville Art Museum; Corey Loftus, Asheville Art Museum
Description: In 2017, the Asheville Art Museum received 405 documents from the family of Theodore Dreier, a cofounder of Black Mountain College (BMC). Consisting of course catalogs, community bulletins, event programs, letters, essays, and other printed matter personally collected by Dreier while at and following his departure from the college, the scope of materials relates to individuals and events represented within and beyond the Museum’s Collection of BMC artworks. In 2019, the Museum began an intensive period of engagement with the documents after years of registrarial limbo, made possible by support from CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Collections grant. This process included reorganization of materials, cataloging and digitization, and critical investigation into the documents’ presence within an art museum collection. Processing this collection has been undertaken by curatorial staff, graduate fellows, and interns and has generated compelling examples of how documents enhance exhibitions and object interpretation. This paper explores several projects from the past several years that are precedent for future pursuits. Engagement with the Dreier documents resulted in both physical exhibitions and the development of digital exhibitions and web-based content soon to be available on the CLIR-supported BMC Interconnective Timeline. The documents foster greater interdisciplinarity within exhibitions and programming, bringing audiences into conversations that delve into diversity, design, intersections of media, and ideological impacts that extend the Black Mountain College legacy to the present. These explorations underscore the value of these materials to scholars and visitors and set in motion their continued use as interpretive tools in myriad settings physically and digitally.
Authors: Jesse Johnston,* Archives Research and Consulting Group; Ricardo Punzalan* University of Michigan School of Information
Description: In 2021, CLIR announced Amplifying Unheard Voices, a significant revision of the DHC program. Among the goals of the program revision were to diversify the applicant pool, to expand support for less-frequent-grant-seeking organizations, and to shift support toward the digitization of collections that increase the presence of underrepresented stories within the digital historical record. We will outline our work, concurrent with the program’s first year of implementation, to assess the program’s revision and implementation, which included interviews with applicants at various stages in the process, grantees, program staff, and a topical and content analysis of the aggregate of applications received. We will discuss the degree to which DHC:AUV reached its goals, outline observations for various areas of the program from applicant support to application review to program equity, and offer insights for applicants to similar grant programs.
Authors: Abby Stambach,* College of the Holy Cross; Corinne Tabolt, College of the Holy Cross, Lisa Villa,* College of the Holy Cross
Description: “Digitizing the Deaf Catholic Archives: A project to open and provide access to a collection of print and (audio)visual materials, which document the history, culture and religious education of Deaf Catholics in the United States and beyond” was awarded a CLIR Digitizing Hidden Collections grant in April 2022. We propose a 45-minute DIY session for members of the Deaf Catholic Archives team, each using 10- to 15-minute segments, to introduce this hidden collection and describe prioritized areas of consideration as the project gets underway. These areas include the development of workflows to address such complex issues as content selection, privacy concerns, and permissions, while mindfully incorporating the nuances of Deaf culture in all processes.
A priority of our project design is configuring workflows to identify and obtain permissions in order to make materials publically available after digitization. The collection includes over 200 newsletters, with copyright holders varying from international organizations to individual church parishes. Another priority is to identify and manage personally identifiable information contained in items selected for digitization, including birthdays, emails, and mailing addresses. Since this collection documents how Deaf Catholics practice their faith, personal stories are found throughout and those privacy concerns must be addressed as well. Workflows will be developed to review materials before being made public in our digital repository. A takedown policy will be established to address any privacy concerns after the project is completed.
Throughout this project, we strive to be mindful and inclusive of the Deaf community as we work with materials outside our knowledge base. In particular, we seek the community’s input for description and metadata and how to address offensive or outdated terminology, especially as part of the collection’s web presence.
Our presentation will address several topic areas listed in the call for proposals, including using digitized collections to amplify unheard voices; exploring the meanings of “hidden” and “accessible” across collecting contexts and populations served; addressing complex rights and ethical issues related to digitized collections; and building and maintaining equitable, authentic partnerships for digitization.
Author: Lisa Crane,* The Claremont Colleges Library
Description: This presentation fits right into the symposium’s theme, “We digitized it – what’s next?,” as it will focus on what the collaborators and participants learned from the Digitizing Southern California Water Resources project and how we are making use of the digitized hidden collections.
The Digitizing Southern California Water Resources project (2016), also known as the #CLIRWater project, was a three-year collaborative digitization and preservation project. The project aimed to digitize and democratize Southern California’s water history to page new avenues for research. Archival collections from seven partner institutions are now available in a central online location, the Western Water Archives. These collections originate from a variety of sources, such as federal, state, and local governments; water companies; local agencies; engineers; and other individuals involved in water resources development in the Southern California region.
Lisa Crane, project director, will share lessons learned from the #CLIRWater project including logistics and challenges; explore learning outcomes experienced by students and staff working on the project; and highlight teaching opportunities as she “charts the course” for the Western Water Archives over the course of the grant period and into the future.
Author: Caitlin Goodman,* Swarthmore College (formerly Free Library of Philadelphia)
Description: In 2017, the Free Library of Philadelphia was part of a consortial DHC project for Islamicate manuscripts. None of the Library’s materials were meaningfully described or discoverable in the OPAC. The grant was transformative, increasing awareness of and use by subject experts. But the Free Library is a public library, and its priority is Philadelphians. Philadelphia has a lot of Muslims, the majority of whom are Black and native to the city.
“It’s digitized, what’s next” became the community-led In the Path of Islam. We wanted to build relationships with people who mostly felt indifferent about the Library and with library branches around the city who mostly felt indifferent about the Rare Book Department. Reflecting, the project included a lot of what we expected (hard trust-building, dancing for dollars) and a lot which we didn’t (COVID, tense meetings). In the Path of Islam is a successor project to Manuscripts of the Muslim World: a team effort, funded by grants. But In the Path of Islam was both more rewarding and incalculably more challenging that the CLIR grant that laid its foundation.
Now, I’m ruminating on touchy questions. If a user community is underrepresented in an institution, the institution can’t Field of Dreams its way to engagement. But what about when that same institution, cash-strapped and short-staffed, doesn’t care about building it in the first place? What do we mean by “underrepresented community” when no community is a monolith? And how can we keep our institutions out of our way?
Authors: Annabel Pinkney,* Science History Institute; Michelle DiMeo,* Science History Institute
Description: Through our CLIR Digitizing Hidden Collections grant Science and Survival: Digitizing the Papers of Georg and Max Bredig (awarded 2020), the Science History Institute is bringing an important archive to multiple digital audiences. The Bredig Papers are an intimate family collection that cover Georg Bredig’s scientific training under the founders of physical chemistry, followed swiftly by his forced retirement and the demise of his career and very way of life under the Third Reich. Today, local communities across the US are curious about their heritage and the challenges faced by their immigrant parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Scientific networks were often used to negotiate escape routes for those fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, making the Bredig collection of interest to both scholarly and public audiences.
Yet while processing and digitizing collections is often sufficient for scholarly audiences, our Google Analytics and end-user interviews taught us that public audiences need more. Additional resources must be invested in transcribing archaic handwriting, translating foreign languages into English, and interpreting the large body of historical content into a digestible narrative story. This paper explores how we gathered data about our target audiences and what strategic decisions we made upon analyzing them. We will discuss hiring a professional translator, building a custom UI for viewing transcriptions and translations, as well as creating online magazine articles, public programming, and collaborations with both local and European community groups. We seek to answer the question “we digitized it – what’s next?” by showing that such projects shouldn’t end with digitization.
Authors: Brenda Flora,* Amistad Research Center; Phillip Cunningham, Amistad Research Center; Laura Thomson, Amistad Research Center; Christopher Harter,* Amistad Research Center
Description: The primary goal of Amistad Research Center’s 2018 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections Project, “Fly on the Wall: Black Natchez by Ed Pincus and David Neuman, Film Digitization for Access,” was to provide access to a collection of outtake footage from the documentary Black Natchez and its uncompleted sequel. The collection is made up of 87 hours of film related to voter registration and civil rights organizing in Natchez, Mississippi in 1965 and 1967. The Ed Pincus Film Collection digital exhibition launched in the Louisiana Digital Library in December 2021, but Amistad’s work with the collection has not ended. This panel presentation will allow Amistad’s archivists to discuss their work with the collection, focusing on its ongoing preservation and how the collection has been accessed and used by the public since its digitization.
Work with the Pincus collection has been a cross-departmental effort. Brenda Flora, curator of Moving Images and Recorded Sound, and Phillip Cunningham, head of References Services, along with Director of Archives Division Laura Thomson, will talk about the team effort to ensure the digital longevity and accessibility of the collection. The challenges faced during the course of the project have helped the interdepartmental team to form a new approach to digital asset management within the institution and to strengthen its digital preservation infrastructure across collections.
Archivists will also share some of the more exciting outcomes of the project, including ways that the digital accessibility of the films has opened the collection to researchers and audiences, facilitating new connections to members of the Natchez community and providing the basis for a new documentary incorporating the outtake footage to tell a story that was previously unheard.
Speakers: Kathleen Richman,* LLMC; Richard Amelung,* Saint Louis University School of Law; Joyce Savio Herleth,* Saint Louis University School of Law
Description: The CLIR grant project entitled Early State Records for 26 US States and Territories West of the Appalachians: a Digital Record from European Contact to Early Statehood Based on the Library of Congress’ Microfilm Collection epitomizes the significance of content once “hidden” and now enhanced. We cannot claim to have had a crystal ball to predict the relevance of this content during the past few years, whether it’s the make-up of the US Supreme Court, with the corresponding emphasis on originalism; the Black Lives Matter movement and the heightened consciousness of Black history; the constitutional debates and what will be taught as lessons from the past at all levels of education; and/or the support for Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities and their history and civil rights. Current events and emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion make this archival treasure trove vital to researchers and society as a whole.
Illustrations of the meanings of hidden and accessible to be covered by the panel of bibliographic experts and legal professionals include:
Authors: Jacqueline Dearborn, Biodiversity Heritage Library; Colleen Funkhouser,* Biodiversity Heritage Library; Katie Mika,* Harvard University; Sonoe Nakasone,* Smithsonian Institution; Bianca Crowley, Biodiversity Heritage Library; Martin Kalfatovic, Biodiversity Heritage Library; Riccardo Ferrante,* Smithsonian Institution
Description: The 2015 CLIR-sponsored Biodiversity Heritage Library Field Notes Project proved that digitization could liberate scientific field notes from the confines of their physical materiality and open up a new body of knowledge to global audiences for the first time. Despite the project’s success in achieving its original digitization objectives, it also revealed that further collection curation will be needed. To truly unlock and make accessible the media and data present in the BHL Field Notes Collection, the materials will need to undergo further transformation. Emerging pathways to make the data and media contained in scientific field notes actionable and ready for computational use include:
Conversion of digitized outputs into structured data formats is now of imminent import and will contribute to the understanding of the destructive effects of climate change on our planet’s most vulnerable biodiversity. This panel will bring together experts who are piloting or have identified use cases that harness the data present in scientific field notes and could be used to aid global conservation and species monitoring efforts.
Authors: Erin Chung,* Virginia Tech; Eva Deisa,* Virginia Tech; Katrina Enriquez,* Virginia Tech; Nathan Hall,* Virginia Tech; Jillian Sy,* Virginia Tech
Description: The Virginia Tech Insect Collection (VTEC), founded in 1888, is the oldest and largest entomological collection in Virginia and a historical collection representing Appalachia’s insect biodiversity. Its more than half-million specimens represent the rich diversity of the eastern United States. VTEC is an exceptional repository of pollinators, endangered and native species, once common but now disappearing due to habitat loss. VTEC was underfunded and hidden from view since discontinuation of state support in 1992. Revitalization began in 2015 with a National Science Foundation grant to fund conservation infrastructure and stabilization through storage upgrades and preliminary digitization for approximately 3 percent of its holdings. Since VTEC is too large to digitize within the scope of a single Hidden Collections grant, our project focuses on comprehensive digitization of ecologically and economically critical native pollinators and endangered and threatened species native to Appalachia. This two-year project digitizes, describes, and provides access to 15,000 pinned insect specimens through high resolution photos and 400 high resolution 3D models.
The specialized technical skills necessary for the 3D modeling in this project come from students in the Creative Technologies program in the Virginia Tech School of Visual Arts. This program trains students in 3D modeling as it is taught in video game design. Graduate students were solicited through a stipend (paid by the grant) and full tuition (paid by the library and the School of Visual Arts) for a graduate degree to qualified applicants. Undergraduate students were also hired as wage employees for production. Students are engaged in technology processes throughout the project and learn complex curatorial tasks, digitization protocols, catalog structure, technical metadata, and documentation. Participation provided the students with a professional portfolio to help them in their search for future employment.
This project also presented the University Libraries’ digital library development, digital imaging, and preservation teams with new technical challenges that are unique across the spectrum of academic libraries. In the absence of firmly established best practices for managing 3D data across disciplines, we developed a technical plan adopted from established reference models such as OAIS, and based on research stemming from the IMLS funded 2018 LIB3DVR project. Entomo-3D presents a real-world test of our findings
In navigating the challenges of the past few years, the students who contributed to the project helped increase capacity at Virginia Tech for future large scale 3D projects and have also developed a unique and marketable set of skills and experiences.
Authors: DeLisa Minor Harris,* Fisk University; Brandon Owens,* Fisk University; Matthew Norwood* Fisk University
Description: Over the last year, Fisk University’s John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library have been working toward building what promises to be an essential and comprehensive digital archive with the intended focus of providing the community with full online access to the Fiskiana Collection. This collection contains the earliest documentation of Nashville, Tennessee’s oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU). This paper will explore the development of one of America’s first archives for African and African American history and culture, beginning in 1929 with bibliophile Arturo Schomburg and librarian Louis Shores. Through their visionary work, the Fiskiana Collection developed to capture the vital legacy of Fisk University. Now, over 150 years later, the work begins to grasp the publications of this significant collection through digitization and metadata creation. This undertaking is no small feat for a small academic library that serves a population of 1,000 students. This project has provided us with an opportunity to be visionaries, developing models that look toward future digitization projects while simultaneously incorporating standards of practice that support our organization’s resources and capabilities. We recognize the uniqueness of the selected materials to be digitized and the importance of describing and communicating the importance of HBCU publications. The immediate necessity is to support a network of institutions whose sole purpose for decades was to build and support African American life, culture, and history. As a small private HBCU, how do we address file storage issues, technical delays, copyright, and university and community engagement?
Authors: Amanda Cacich,* Mount Mary University; Marshall Lee, Mount Mary University, Dan Vinson, Mount Mary University
Description: Similar to a “verbal article,” we are proposing a presentation wherein we discuss the brief history of what it took to apply for the Hidden Collections grant at our institution, what transpired between receiving the great news and the grant start date, and then how things progressed for us from that point forward. We would also look live at our Omeka site and discuss the technical know-how required to get us to where we are today. We would also aim to answer a question we often ask ourselves: “With 10,000 items available, how can we communicate the strengths and unique character of our collection using a fraction of those items?” After the presentation, we envision a “think-pair-share” section so the audience can formulate questions, gather with partners to potentially generate more, and then share with the group. Our aim is to inspire other institutions that may have costume or similar collections that they aren’t sure how to approach.
Authors: Josh Hadro, IIIF Consortium; Glen Robson,* IIIF Consortium
Description: The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) standards are a set of a community-driven technologies developed by world-leading research, national and state libraries, archives, museums, companies, and repositories. This 45-minute session will cover the high-level basics of how IIIF works in order to explain what IIIF manifests are and how they can be used to port digital objects from one viewer to another and connect materials across institutional boundaries. We’ll cover how to find IIIF manifests, how to open manifests in major viewers like Mirador and the Universal Viewer, and other ways to use and reuse IIIF manifests. No prior IIIF experience required.
Description: While deep zoom and cross-platform viewer compatibility are the elements of IIIF compatibility with which most users are familiar, there are many more intriguing and advanced use cases that are easily accessible to those who know how to find and work with IIIF manifests. This 45-minute session will cover more advanced use cases, including storytelling and exhibition applications, collaborative transcription, the use of map and geospatial tools, and more.
Authors: Mary Elings, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Adrienne Serra,* Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Description: In 2021, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley launched a large-scale digitization project to preserve and provide online access to more than 127,000 pages of California Land Case Files dating from ca. 1852 to 1892. These records tell an important story about the distribution of land and social and legal justice in California following statehood in 1850, when all Spanish and Mexican land grants holders were required to prove their land claims in court. A lengthy process of litigation followed, which resulted in many early Californians losing their land. The Land Case Files are heavily used by current land owners, genealogists, historians, and environmentalists to understand the land, its uses, and ownership over time.
The digitization project, Land, Wealth and Power: Private Land Claim Cases in California 1852 to 1892 (Mary Elings, principal investigator) was awarded a 2019 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives: Amplifying Unheard Voices grant. We launched the project amid pandemic restrictions and limited on-site work hours. The materials had to be carefully inspected for special handling and digital capture conditions, and many of the materials required conservation to ensure they could be safely digitized. When complete, this project will significantly improve researcher access to the collection online. With over 90 percent of the documents handwritten, the Bancroft is also exploring community engagement strategies to transcribe and translate the records to extract the full text of these documents to unlock even greater research potential, particularly in areas of digital scholarship.
Authors: Karen Cariani, WGBH Educational Foundation; Michael Kamins,* New Mexico PBS; David Saiz,* New Mexico PBS; Torin Andersen,* KMUW; Miranda Villesvik,* WGBH Educational Foundation; Casey Davis Kaufman,* WGBH Educational Foundation
Description: The American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and GBH, has created innovative partnerships with a variety of public media organizations and archives on CLIR grants to digitize, preserve, and make accessible via the AAPB tens of thousands of hours of historic and endangered programming created for public television and radio. From national series such as the PBS NewsHour and its predecessors and local stations such as KVZK in Pago Pago, American Samoa, KUT in Austin, KERA in Dallas, and the WRVR collection at the Riverside Church in the City of New York, to statewide consortia in New Mexico and Kansas, the AAPB team and its collaborators have developed strategies and distributed workflows for large-scale audiovisual digitization projects, preservation, access, and engagement – learning lots along the way.
Panelists representing the AAPB and some of the projects mentioned will share insights on funding and budgets; building and maintaining equitable partnerships; organizing statewide digitization projects; working with vendors; adapting projects during a pandemic; getting buy-in from rural, often under resourced station partners; countering dominant narratives and amplifying unheard voices through online exhibitions of digitized collections; collaborative quality control; copyright review for online access; and community-centered engagement via crowdsourcing transcription and Wikipedia Edit-a-thons. The panelists will also share insights on the need for more funding to support public media preservation.
Authors: Dan Erdman,* Media Burn Archive; Sara Chapman, Media Burn Archive; Adam Hart,* Media Burn Archive; Cecilia Smith,* University of Chicago Library
Description: In the late 1960s, the first portable video cameras came on the market. For the next decade, artists, activists, and community groups found unprecedented freedom to create works of media art and journalism with this new technology. The era marked an explosion of footage produced by groups who traditionally had not had access to the tools of video or television production, including BIPOC, women, people with low income, rural communities, and the disabled.
But now, the very technology that enabled this flourishing of voices may potentially silence them. Obsolescence, lack of playback equipment, and deterioration of now half-century-old videotape threatens to render these images permanently inaccessible, as though they had never existed. Thus, community-based videotape from the 1960s and 1970s currently languishes in a sort of media history limbo, stuck in a self-reinforcing spiral: nobody can see the footage, so nobody knows about the footage, so nobody advocates for its preservation, so nobody can see the footage….
With the Resurrecting the 1970s Guerrilla Television Movement project, a group of media art centers and archives – led by Media Burn Archive and the University of Chicago – seeks to change that. This bold project will digitize thousands of tapes from this era and then stream these works on the Guerrilla Television Network, a new web portal dedicated exclusively to this material. The presentation will focus on the challenges specific to preserving and creating access to this footage and the ways in which media scholarship will change in this project’s wake.
Authors: Skye Lacerte,* Washington University; Andrea Degener,* Washington University
Description: The Revealing Visual Culture project created digital images and high-level metadata for 150,000 modern periodical illustration tear sheets contained in the Walt Reed Illustration Archive at Washington University Libraries. The collection is a wealth of data: the tear sheets illuminate stylistic trends of commercial illustration over five decades, images that depict cultural norms and stereotypes, a wide breadth of artists both famous and unknown, pages of both fiction and nonfiction text from multiple genres of periodicals, and advertisements for both common and obscure products.
Digitization began in January 2016 and continued through 2018. As the files were produced, administrative metadata was added to the collection and it was published in its entirety as a public collection in Artstor/JSTOR Forum. Work has been ongoing to enhance the descriptive metadata of over 150,000 individual assets. Because a full-time position was not created for this project, this work has been done by numerous student workers and staff. The collection is so large that it sustained work-from-home projects for a number of staff for months during the pandemic. However, as of today, only 30,000 records contain fully descriptive data. Enhancing the metadata for the assets is crucial for research and discovery. In this presentation, the project’s principal investigator and visual materials archivist will discuss the challenges and successes of the project, as well as the innovative systems created to enhance image records and increase accessibility.
Authors: Gabriella Williams,* University of Miami; Jacqueline Wachholz,* Duke University; Leah Tams,* Duke University; Scott Williams, Digital Public Library of America; Adriana J. Millares, HistoryMiami Museum
Description: The creation and launch of a subject-based portal, Cleared for Takeoff: Explore Commercial Aviation, which features Pan American World Airways materials digitized from collections at the University of Miami, HistoryMiami Museum, and Duke University, alongside commercial aviation resources from the Digital Public Library of America’s (DPLA) partner network, provides an important tool for researchers. The portal aims to enable students, teachers, scholars, and other researchers to easily discover and build connections across aviation collections nationwide. It includes an interactive Pan Am timeline exhibition, as well as a primary source set (PSS) and classroom lesson plan for instructors. The records, advertisements, and artifacts which were digitized and the primary sources that were carefully curated demonstrate the profound and ubiquitous impact Pan Am had on the world and its substantial influence on globalization and modernization. Issues such as feminism and gender roles, diversity and racism, colonialism and environmentalism are among some of the overarching themes that have been fleshed out through this project. In 2018, these four institutions were awarded a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from CLIR to gain exposure to these important collections and contextualize them alongside other important commercial aviation records from other institutions nationwide. The grant partners will discuss the challenges of creating such an innovative research tool, lessons learned, and explore potential avenues for future sustainability of the project.
Authors: Leah Worthington,* College of Charleston; Tyler Mobley,* College of Charleston; Meaghan Cash,* College of Charleston; Brenna Reilley,* College of Charleston
Description: Despite Charleston, South Carolina being one of the most important early Jewish American cities, few of the 8-10 million tourists who visit Charleston each year see this history reflected in historical tourism and at public history sites. Even most scholars of Charleston omit the history of Jews. Only recently have scholars taken on the mantle of narrating the Jewish experience in the American South. Our panel will discuss how digitizing thousands of archival items and using inclusive descriptive metadata 1) amplifies the largely unknown history of Jewish Charleston and 2) highlights the connections between Jewish Charleston and broader historical narratives, including race relations in Charleston, Southern women’s identity, and white Southern identity during and after the American Civil War. In this way, the project connects the city’s hidden, underrepresented, and dominate voices to each other. We will also discuss the project’s public and scholarly outreach taking form as a digital public history exhibit and lectures. By not only digitizing and creating metadata but including plans for interpretation (an exhibit and lectures), these hidden collections will garner interest from scholars, student researchers, local community members, and the public, including tourists. Our panelists are project team members with a wide range of roles in the project and experience levels. The project’s metadata and research assistant, Meaghan Cash, is an early career librarian who will speak about writing inclusive descriptive metadata and how to use metadata to optimize discoverability; with newly gained skills like collection uploading in ResourceSpace, writing MODS metadata, and assisting a scholar with research, she will also speak to how this work is preparing her for future positions in the field. Our technical director, Tyler Mobley, is instrumental in planning the websites where collections and exhibits are displayed; he can also speak to how he has built these interconnected websites with sustainable, long-term preservation as a central goal. He will also speak to how the metadata and digital collections produced by this project will start in the Lowcountry Digital Library, but then also be harvested into state (South Carolina Digital library) and national (Digital Public Library of America) digital libraries. Leah Worthington, the digital projects manager, facilitates the partnerships, trainings, and daily project operations required for a project with interdisciplinary deliverables; she will speak to how she has harnessed digital library and digital history tools to share collections and interpret them for the public and prepare graduate students and early career librarians for future careers—from MODS metadata and collection uploading training to image research, copyright assessment, and exhibition layout training. Brenna Reilley, a Public History graduate assistant, will be able to speak to how the skills she has learned as a student—image research, drafting exhibit layout, using Omeka, and creating social media connect—are preparing her for a future career in her field. The panel is designed to include people who can speak to all aspects of how the project used digitization, robust metadata, and sustainable, duplicatable processes to unveiled hidden collections.
Thoughtfully planning for and executing successful digitization initiatives can take years. But when centered on digitizing hidden collections, projects often hold the potential to illuminate the present in unpredictable ways. How can we keep digitization operations going for the long term while leaving room to be flexible and–when necessary–to regroup in order to adapt to changing circumstances and needs? In what ways can our digitization strategies and digitized collections deepen public engagement with contemporary issues? How can we keep our digital collections growing while still supporting efforts to raise awareness about the value of using cultural materials to understand current events? Panelists will offer their perspectives on questions like these, followed by a moderated discussion and audience Q&A.
The closing panel comprises three presentations:
Authors: Mikaela Selley, Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program; Nicolas Kanellos, Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program; Carolina Villarroel,* Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Program
Description: This presentation will discuss the Recovering the US Literary Heritage program (Recovery) and its history of preserving, digitizing, and making accessible Latino newspapers published in the United States. Its new program, The Border in Print: Digitizing Periodicals in the US-Mexico Border Region, funded by CLIR in 2021, will make available a “hidden collection” of some 200 newspapers published from the mid-nineteenth century to 1956 along both sides of the border. The panel will go into detail on the methods and protocols involved in the digitization efforts and creation of a public-facing, open access, platform that will become available in 2023. From Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, and the northern Mexican states of Coahuila, Sonora, and Tamaulipas, most of the periodicals have never been accessible to scholars and most comprise the only extant copies. Presenters will share Recovery’s experience in collecting and preserving these periodicals, including local, national and international partnerships. They will discuss the program experience in implementing a post-custodial model. Finally, presenters will touch upon the program’s approach to what constitutes the “border” region and the issues associated with the preservation and dissemination of serial editions in languages other than English.
Authors: David Giblin,* University of Washington, Burke Museum; Steffi Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Museum of the North; Eric DeChaine, Western Washington University
Description: In Fall 2021 our three institutions began the process of digitizing (databasing, imaging, and georeferencing) vascular plant specimens collected in Far East Russia in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. These holdings represent perhaps the largest collection of such specimens outside of Russia and offer unique insights into the diversity and distribution of vascular plants in that region. Securing access to Russia by United States botanists for plant collecting purposes has often been challenging, which enhances the value of these specimens. We began this project thinking that label transcription and georeferencing (assigning latitude/longitude values on the basis of locality text) was our biggest challenge. When Russia invaded Ukraine in Winter 2022 the context of our work changed. Access to Far East Russia by United States botanists in the foreseeable future seems unlikely, increasing the importance of digitizing these specimens. We have also been forced to more fully consider how geopolitical events impact the scientific research and natural history collections. Specifically, what does it mean to liberate biodiversity information from a country that commits an act of war? Our team is fully committed to completing our project and believes more strongly in the importance of this effort.
Speakers: Joanne DeCaro,* University of California, Irvine; Alexis Rowland,* University of California, Irvine; Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez, University of California, Irvine; Keramet Reiter, University of California, Irvine; Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine; Naomi Sugie, University of California, Irvine; Gabe Rosales, University of California, Irvine; Mariela Villalba Madrid, University of California, Irvine
Description: The United States’ now half-century project of hyper incarceration has resulted in innumerable tragedies, much of which can be known only through the voices of those directly impacted. PrisonPandemic represents a unique archive of narratives produced and collected in an unprecedented era of mass death – the COVID-19 pandemic. The processes that our project has used to manage its corpus, from collection to digitization, have changed dramatically since it began in 2020. These practices are constantly responding to and being reshaped by both external factors (including developments related to the pandemic itself, surveillance practices, and correctional policy) and internal factors (finances, labor, space, technology, archive content), all which have produced new puzzles. This presentation discusses key events that have challenged the project’s operation and the strategies – transcription, redaction, cataloging, editing, and digitizing – that have allowed us to adapt and scale our core processes.
Author: Sheldon Krasowski
Description: An important component of our CLIR-funded project Amplifying Indigenous Treaty Oral Histories in Canada is a council of Elders with a mandate to define the knowledge shring protocols of the Nehiyaw (Cree); Nahkawiwin (Saulteaux); and Dene peoples. These three Indigenous Nations are represented in the Elders Council, which also includes two youth representatives. Our Elders Council includes:
Authors: Michelle Dalmau,* Indiana University Bloomington; Kara Alexander,* Indiana University Bloomington; Caitlyn Hastings, Indiana University Bloomington; Elizabeth K Hebbard, Indiana University Bloomington; Sarah Noonan,* St. Mary’s College
Description: Digitization work is easier said than done. The many steps before and after imaging are often taken for granted when project planning. Acknowledging the hidden labor surrounding digitization – handling, multiple levels of quality review, proper storage – becomes more pronounced when working with medieval manuscripts across 22 Midwest partner institutions as is the case for the Peripheral Manuscript Project funded in 2020.
Our project launched with months of active planning with partners, but these conversations still did not reveal the full scope of digitization work. Originally, the partners collectively identified 78 codices and 406 fragments and documents as falling within project parameters. After an all-partner meeting and institutional site visits, additional items were identified and others excluded. Currently, we aim to digitize 75 codices and approximately 614 fragments and documents, funding permitted. Despite best efforts to conduct condition assessments prior to digitization, differences among the partner holdings have presented difficulties. Not all codices are the same – binding, size, fragility – and the number of leaves were either initially unknown or under-recorded. While documents are more straightforward, not all are flat (e.g., scrolls) or uniform in size (e.g., papal bulls v. binding fragments). Propping materials for consistent capture with color bars, rulers, clips, and page weights entailed an equal dose of wizardry and physics. All of these variables impact digitization estimates and timelines. This presentation will provide an overview of the challenges we have faced, and describe current solutions we have sought to consistently digitize diverse medieval manuscripts.
Author: Catriona Schlosser,* CUNY Television
Description: In 2019, the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) awarded $117,146 to CUNY Television to support digitization and access to CUNY’s unique collections. This project, titled Uncovering The City University of New York’s Audiovisual Heritage, digitized close to 800 videotapes and made accessible around 400 items from a select number of CUNY campuses including Hunter College’s Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, the College of Staten Island, the School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, and the Special Collections of Bronx Community College. CUNY TV staff will continue this work with the intention of sustaining this project and making even more assets from these collections accessible.
CUNY TV has become the largest audiovisual archive within the CUNY system and has succeeded at developing and implementing efficient preservation and accessibility workflows. A number of these workflows rely on open source tools such as vrecord, QC Tools, MediaInfo, and FFmpeg, and they have become vital to processing and making accessible our audiovisual collections. This poster will explore a number of these tools and how the archive used them in Uncovering The City University of New York’s Audiovisual Heritage. The CLIR grant gave CUNY the opportunity to not only apply these open source tools and workflows to collections within the larger CUNY system but to also improve upon these workflows. I will also explore some of the challenges that arose during this project and how we adapted certain tools and workflows to achieve the project’s goals.
Authors: Youn Hee Chung, Eva Deisa, Tianyu Ge, Jillian Sy, Katrina Enriquez
Description: Entomo3D is a CLIR-funded project that aims to digitize the entomology collection of Virginia Tech and create around 300 3D models accessible to the general public. In this poster, we want to discuss how our team established and refined the asynchronous pipeline. Specifically, we would like to exhibit onsite and remote collaboration, documentation, organization, and finally, publication of the digital specimens. This poster is a meta-analysis of our archiving workflow in the past three years. It reflects the iterative refinement of the cooperative process that digitizes tangible insect specimens with controlled access into photorealistic 3D models that are accessible to a wider audience. By explaining our workflow and the challenges we encountered, we hope to share the learning process in effort to provide an agency for future digitization projects in educational spaces.
Author: Elizabeth Knott,* Yale University
Description: In 2020–2021, the Yale Babylonian Collection undertook a seal digitization project supported by the CLIR. The goal of this grant was to digitize all c. 4,000 stamp and cylinder seals in the collection. Seemingly a straightforward task, the seals in fact resisted capture at every stage, raising questions about the aims and approaches of digitization. This presentation traces the challenges encountered by the project in efforts to create a standardized and easily replicable process for digitization. Approaches, equipment, and techniques will be discussed. Specific examples of seals digitized by the collection are included.
Authors: Allison Fashing, University of Idaho; Chloe Dame, University of Idaho; Jes Holler, University of Idaho; Savannah Johnson, University of Idaho; Leah Evans-Janke, University of Idaho; Jylisa Doney, University of Idaho; Marco Seiferle-Valencia, University of Idaho
Description: In 2021, the University of Idaho Library and Alfred W. Bowers Laboratory of Anthropology received a CLIR DHC grant to digitize the Crabtree Lithic Comparative Collection, a preeminent collection of lithic tools created and collected by Crabtree. Most of these tools are made of obsidian, resulting in a problematic level of shininess when attempting to take 2D photos and create 3D models using photogrammetry. Throughout the first year of our project, the grant leadership team tried numerous coating options to dull the shine of these artifacts, options with documented success in external projects but with limited success in ours, including baking powder, cornstarch, athlete’s foot spray, and talc-free baby powder. Even when a coating worked well enough to render a semi-complete 3D model in Agisoft Metashape, our team had to deal with the effects of applying these coatings, including strong odors and inhaling fine powder particles – effects that were not sufficiently mitigated by wearing N95 masks. During a Microsoft Teams chat in early spring 2021, our grant team brainstormed a new, nontoxic coating protocol using a mixture of Elmer’s White School Glue and water that can be painted on the artifacts, with each coat drying in approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The result was a matte finish without added color, which was seamless to photograph and resulted in high-quality 3D models on the first attempt. In this video, we will demonstrate and discuss our new coating protocol and show a time-lapse of the 3D model creation process.
Authors: Matthew Short, Northern Illinois University; Demian Katz, Villanova University
Description: The Albert Johannsen Project, funded in 2016, led to the digitization of more than 5,000 dime novels and story papers published by Beadle & Adams and held in the Johannsen Collection at Northern Illinois University and in Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections at Villanova University. In addition to digitization, these materials were indexed and described in the online bibliography at dimenovels.org, which leverages linked data for reuse and sharing. This project taught us the power of sharing data openly and using common identifiers, which helped us to identify and correct problems with metadata and digital surrogates, and also enabled new services, like cross-referencing editions and aggregating each partner’s digital dime novel holdings. We have used this model to go on to two NEH-funded Humanities and Humanities Reference Resources projects, the Street & Smith Project and recently-awarded Tousey Project, which has enlarged the collaboration to include additional partners at Stanford University, Bowling Green State University, and Oberlin College and Conservatory.
This short video will highlight a few of the challenges we encountered while working on the Johannsen Project and some of the services, solutions, and workflows that we developed.
Author: Kelly Haydon, CUNY-TV
Description: Established in 1965, the City University of New York (CUNY) is one of the country’s largest and most diverse university networks. Formed by 25 campuses, many with their own library and archival collections, the network contains a vibrant – but rarely seen – history caught on tape.
Uncovering CUNY’s Audiovisual Heritage is a two-year project to preserve the diversity of compelling viewpoints that emerged in New York City during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Highlights from this era include a never-before-seen recording of Shirley Chisholm speaking at Medgar Evers University and the entirety of HoMoVISIONES, the first TV series from the LGBTQ Latino perspective. Another valuable resource is the City Club of New York’s weekly televised Friday Forum, which invited political luminaries such as Al Sharpton, Ruth Messinger, Rudy Giuliani, and Betty Shabazz to speak on various policy issues facing NYC in the 1990s.
More than just a digitization project, Uncovering CUNY operates in the spirit of collaboration and resource-sharing. Managed by CUNY-TV Archives, digital files are created using the department’s magnetic media transfer facilities and preserved in the station’s digital repository, eliminating the most expensive barriers to preservation for the archives and libraries in the network. Engaging CUNY-TV’s talent and broadcast facilities, the project is presented as a short video on the processes and lessons learned. In addition, it includes collection highlights and interviews with project archivists, content creators, and technicians.
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