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What’s so special about Special Collections?

Patrons of modern libraries likewise expect the instant gratification of online viewing rather than having to pull print copies off the shelves, let alone jumping through the hoops necessary to obtain more restricted content. Having a pre-Carnegie access model in the age of Google Books is increasingly alienating to potential users.

From What’s so special about Special Collections? — Medium

Some public libraries home to rare and valuable treasures

When it comes to where one might find rare works of art or valuable historical artifacts, most people think of museums or perhaps the Boston Public Library, particularly after the high-profile “loss” earlier this year of valuable prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt that were ultimately found 80 feet from where they should have been filed.

Many would be surprised to find, housed amid the book and DVD collections in many local public libraries, historical treasures ranging from the rare and valuable to the curious, such as Woburn’s swatch of the wool coat Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated.

For the most part, local libraries are not in the business of actively collecting historical artifacts, but rather have amassed a hodgepodge of donated items of historical value and interest, said Jake Sadow, statewide digitization project archivist with the Boston Public Library.

From Some public libraries home to rare and valuable treasures - The Boston Globe

Restoring the Long-Lost Sounds of Native American California

In November, researchers at UC Berkeley will begin a three-year project to restore and translate thousands of century-old audio recordings of Native California Indians. The collection was created by cultural anthropologists in the first half of the 20th century and is now considered the largest audio repository of California Indian culture in the world.

Nearly a third of the 2,713 recordings come from Ishi, the storied last member of the Yahi tribe who lived the last years of his life inside the University of California’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Ishi died in 1916 from tuberculosis. He was 54 years old.

From Restoring the Long-Lost Sounds of Native American California | The California Report | KQED News

Girl in the Moon: Rare books gifs - John Dee, volvelles, apples and things

Culture Themes is a twitter account that organises monthly themed days on Twitter, primarily for museums. This month it was museum gifs - #musgif - and I put together a couple for the RCPmuseum account from some of the star objects from the RCP's forthcoming John Dee exhibition.

To make the first three gifs, I set up the department camera on the department tripod and took a series of photos, stop-motion animation style. Then I layered up the individual images in Photoshop (other editing software is available), cropped them, resized them and saved them as gifs. To make the last, I took a pre-existing photograph and played about with it in Photoshop.
It was quicker and easier that I thought it would be, and I'm delighted with how well the gifs show off the materialty of the books.

From Girl in the Moon: Rare books gifs - John Dee, volvelles, apples and things

Northwestern University archivists aim to resurrect outdated technology

"Certainly digital archiving is becoming the new normal, but it's not replacing paper," Feeney said. "It's coming in as an addition to the paper. There may be a change around the corner, but right now we've continued receiving more and more electronic files but we're continuing to receive the traditional material in the same or greater quantities."

While Northwestern archivists said their program could be the first in the nation to tap into the junk drawers of the public for mobile devices, Dennis Meissner, president of the Society of American Archivists, said that the problem of turning on and deciphering outdated technology is not a new one. Technologies such as microfilm, magnetic media and wax media are just some of the devices that archivists have had to tackle.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-donate-old-electronics-cables-met-20151...

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The man who digitizes newspapers

Tryniski's site, which he created in his living room in upstate New York, has grown into one of the largest historic newspaper databases in the world, with 22 million newspaper pages. By contrast, the Library of Congress' historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has 5 million newspaper pages on its site while costing taxpayers about $3 per page. In January, visitors to Fultonhistory.com accessed just over 6 million pages while Chronicling America pulled fewer than 3 million views.

From The man who digitizes newspapers

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From Steamer Trunk to Rare Books Collection

Perusing the Frauenzimmerspiegel raises many questions about gender roles assigned to men and women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It also speaks to the public and private place of women in a patriarchal society at that time and how more enlightened thinking slowly began to redefine these roles into civic models.

From From Steamer Trunk to Rare Books Collection | Unique at Penn

Museum Specimens Find New Life Online

For centuries, scientists who wanted to study a particular type specimen had to visit the museum where it is kept or have the specimen sent to them. Either way, the potential for damage was high: fragile body parts would sometimes fall off during inspection or transport, causing irreparable damage.

Each type specimen is “like the Mona Lisa,” said Katja Seltmann, a biologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York who specializes in biodiversity informatics. “If an antenna or a leg breaks, all of a sudden, a really large part of information about that organism is gone.”

From Museum Specimens Find New Life Online - The New York Times

Flooding Threatens the NYT Picture Archives

From the New York Times:

A pipe burst in the Times’s morgue which occupies the sub-subbasement of the former New York Herald Tribune building on 41st Street. Morgue manager Jeff Roth is quoted as saying "this was the stuff of nightmares. It’s always been a worry."

Roth stated that most likely 90% of the photos could be salvageable. But it raised the question of how in the digital age — and in the prohibitive Midtown Manhattan real estate market — can some of the company’s most precious physical assets and intellectual property be safely and reasonably stored?

Week in Review photos protected the card catalog.

Here's the popular NYT Photo Archive tumblr account, the Lively Morgue.

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The Unseen Theft of America’s Literary History

This is a microcosm of the danger facing American archives. Because almost nothing is catalogued at the item-level, most of the unique material housed in these most important of repositories is particularly vulnerable to theft. When someone like Breithaupt steals a book, even a very old book, there is a catalog record that tells us it is missing—and likely some kind of duplicate copy somewhere else in the world. But when he steals a letter from Flannery O’Connor to John Crowe Ransom—unless that letter has been photocopied by another person—it basically ceases to exist. Not only do we not have the information in it, but we don’t even know that we don’t have the information in it.

From The Unseen Theft of America’s Literary History ‹ Literary Hub

Spanning Our Field Boundaries: Mindfully Managing LAM Collaborations

Spanning Our Field Boundaries: Mindfully Managing LAM Collaborations The Educopia Institute is pleased to release a new publication, Spanning Our Field Boundaries: Mindfully Managing LAM Collaborations. Authored by the "Mapping the Landscapes" project team (38 archives, library, and museums partner and supporting organizations collaborating on the IMLS-funded project), the publication adds to past LAM-wide collaboration studies by documenting both real and perceived boundaries that silently impact our ability to collaborate across the wide variety of organizations in the fields (and their myriad sub-fields), including organizational sizes and governance structures, staffing and funding levels, acronyms and vocabularies, disciplinary specialties and user communities served.

From Spanning Our Field Boundaries: Mindfully Managing LAM Collaborations | Educopia

Libraries' DIY crowdsourcing brings museum collection to life

The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History’s collection of 130,000 specimens offers more than meets the eye.

Detailed data accompanies nearly every item in the museum’s collection. Though rich in information that could yield promising avenues of research, data collected by hand can be difficult to search and analyze.

From Libraries' DIY crowdsourcing brings museum collection to life | Iowa Now

questions to ask when you learn of digitization projects

Some days you wake up and you see announcements of a new project to digitize a collection of primary source materials. Perhaps an archive that covers centuries of technological and commercial changes, perhaps a collection of newspapers that encompasses the history of African-American politics and culture, just to name a couple of purely hypothetical examples.

I don’t know any details about such agreements and neither do you, unless you happen to be one of the top-level executives at one of the holding institutions for these collections or at one of the companies doing the digitization. And because we don’t know any details, we don’t know whether such projects are great or not. But we can—and we should—ask some questions when we hear about them:

From questions to ask when you learn of digitization projects | Wynken de Worde

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How The Archive Corps Is Saving Documents Before They Disappear

“I’ve gained a reputation as someone you let know when things are going away,” Scott said. In the past, he’s helped connect people with books they’re about to throw away, then with archives that might take those books. But when he got the email about Manuals Plus, Scott says he was the last line of defense. So he drove 230 miles from his home in Hopewell Junction, New York, down to Finksburg, to find out if it was too late to help.

From How The Archive Corps Is Saving Documents Before They Disappear - The Atlantic

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Automating ArchivesSpace exports, or Better Living Through APIs

So after some work, I’ve come up with a Python script that uses the ArchivesSpace API to run through our repository, look for published resource records that have been updated since the last time the script ran, and then export EAD for those records. It will also generate PDF finding aids for those records, using a slightly modified version of the EAD to PDF converter developed by ArchivesSpace. Then it runs through all of the archival objects in ArchivesSpace to see if any of them have been updated, and if so exports EAD for the associated resource record and generates a PDF file. After that, it exports METS files for any digital object records associated with updated resources.

From Automating ArchivesSpace exports, or Better Living Through APIs | Bits & Bytes

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Archives & Access Project: AnnoTate - crowdsourcing to transcribe the Archives

AnnoTate is Tate and Zooniverse’s newly launched online transcription tool, and the public is invited to use it to help decipher the writing found in over 17,000 artists’ letters, diaries and sketchbooks. 

From Archives & Access Project: AnnoTate – crowdsourcing to transcribe the Archives | Tate

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The Future Of American History

So why is the number of history majors diminishing? "Experts blame anxieties about the job market for steering students into fields they think will translate to jobs quickly after graduation," the Columbus Dispatch story observes. "Often that's the STEM disciplines that politicians have championed — science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

From The Future Of American History : NPR History Dept. : NPR

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Stuffed Animal Husbandry: Caring for Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends @ The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is the proud home of the REAL Winnie-the-Pooh, the actual toy teddy bear that once belonged to Christopher Robin Milne, son of A. A. Milne, and the basis for the character Christopher Robin in the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

From Stuffed Animal Husbandry: Caring for Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends | The New York Public Library

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Rare book experts join forces to stop tome raiders

From Rare book experts join forces to stop tome raiders | Books | The Guardian Lawyers and librarians, booksellers and auctioneers will descend on the British Library next month for a major conference whose title – The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril – conveys the seriousness of the problem.

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How serious a loss was the burning of the Library of Alexandria to human knowledge? : AskHistorians

I know this is a pretty open-ended question, but I think what I'm really trying to get at is whether the meme of a tragic and dramatic blow to the stockpile of accumulated human knowledge is really accurate, whether it's accurate in a limited context (i.e. it sucked for Greece but didn't matter much in the long run), or whether it's a total myth and really nothing too critical or unique was lost due to duplication/transportation/etc.

From How serious a loss was the burning of the Library of Alexandria to human knowledge? REddit : AskHistorians

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