Archives

Archival "discoveries" that aren't

If something is where it's supposed to be, can you still call it a "discovery"? Suzanne Fischer, in the Atlantic, says "no."

It's an interesting discussion about cataloging archival material and the work that is, by necessity, still on the shoulders of researchers, spurred by the recent reporting of the "discovery" of a medical report filed by Charles Leale, the first doctor on the scene when Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot at the Ford Theater.

In the case of the recent press on the Leale report, the report had not yet been catalogued, cutting off discovery for ordinary researchers searching with finding aids and online catalogues. It's very possible, of course, with the volume of material that archives hold, for a particular professional to not know exactly what the repository holds. This is because archivists catalogue not at "item level," a description of every piece of paper, which would take millennia, but at "collection level," a description of the shape of the collection, who owned it, and what kinds of things it contains. With the volume of materials, some collections may be undescribed or even described wrongly.

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In the Digital Era, Publication Isn’t Preservation

From The Verge,
"As the publication world is dragged, kicking and screaming, into the digital world, a lot of complex issues come up. One of the most important, especially for librarians and archivists (not to mention students of history looking to the future), is the question of preservation...The problem, says Barbara Galletly reporting for Digital Book World, is that the foundation for such a transition has not been properly laid, digital preservation is a largely chaotic, random affair right now, and the metadata itself is unstable."

In National Archives thefts, a radio detective gets his man

In National Archives thefts, a radio detective gets his man
Goldin exposed what authorities have called “one of the most egregious instances of theft” from the National Archives, where the government preserves billions of historic documents, photographs and recordings. On Thursday, that investigation is scheduled to culminate in the sentencing in Greenbelt’s federal court of a longtime Archives official who has admitted to stealing nearly 1,000 recordings, many of them rare.

In dusty library, a link to heroic past

In dusty library, a link to heroic past
An engraving inside a medical text depicting the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, at Brown University's library, in Providence. The engraved print, unearthed in a rare collection of books that once belonged to a student in the 1700s, was by the American Revolution icon Paul Revere, and is only the fifth copy known to exist.

Conservatives defend cuts to Archives Canada

Conservatives defend cuts to Archives Canada
Responding to criticism that budget cuts are undermining the ability of Library and Archives Canada to preserve Canada's documentary heritage, a spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said Thursday that efforts to digitize the collection will give Canadian taxpayers greater access while saving them money.

In National Archives thefts, a radio detective gets his man

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NEWTOWN, Conn. — J. David Goldin, an eccentric 69-year-old with a handlebar mustache and an obsession with radio, was trolling eBay one evening in September 2010, looking for old radios and recordings, when he spotted an item that piqued his interest: the master copy of a broadcast radio interview with baseball legend Babe Ruth as he hunted for quail and pheasants on a crisp morning in 1937. For a moment, Goldin contemplated bidding.

Archive Team Targets Digital Dark Ages

Archive Team Targets Digital Dark Ages
Archive Team is a loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage. Since 2009 this variant force of nature has caught wind of shutdowns, shutoffs, mergers, and plain old deletions - and done our best to save the history before it's lost forever. Along the way, we've gotten attention, resistance, press and discussion, but most importantly, we've gotten the message out: IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.

'The written word endures' at archives

'The written word endures' at archives
Photos of sod shanties. Newspaper clippings. Naturalization papers. Court testimony. A letter to President Ulysses S. Grant. Actual government red tape.

Volunteers who are digitizing Nebraska's homestead records at the National Archives are encountering more than a treasure trove of historical and genealogical information.

"You never know what you'll find," said Jackie Budell, an archives specialist who supervises the volunteers. "That's what we call 'psychic pay.' "

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Picking Literary Stocks

Jonathan Franzen: SELL
Toni Morrison: HOLD
Philip Roth: BUY

Article mentions the Ransom Center at the University of Texas has started guessing which authors will have lasting historical import and then buying up their papers.

Details here

On Facebook, Librarian Brings Two Students from the Early 1900s To Life

Facebook user “joe1915” writes wall posts that would be familiar to any college student these days: He stresses about tests, roots for his university’s football team, and shows off photos from campus dances.

But Joe McDonald isn’t an average smartphone-toting student. He died in 1971 — 33 years before Facebook arrived on the Web.

Donnelyn Curtis, the director of research collections and services at the University of Nevada at Reno, created Facebook profiles for Mr. McDonald and his wife, Leola Lewis, to give students a glimpse of university life during the couple’s college days. Ms. Lewis graduated in 1913, and Mr. McDonald earned his degree in mechanical engineering two years later.

With approval from Mr. McDonald’s granddaughter, Peggy McDonald, Ms. Curtis said she’s using archival material for a history project designed to appeal to a wider audience than the typical patrons of special collections.

“We’re just trying to help history come alive a little bit for students,” she said. At first, only extended family members bothered to “friend” with the pair’s profiles, but as the audience grew, Ms. Curtis said she had to find a humorous voice that would appeal to contemporary students who use Facebook every day.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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