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'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.

Israeli pulp fiction collection distinguishes ASU Libraries

Israeli pulp fiction collection distinguishes ASU Libraries
Bright, lively illustrations splash across the covers of small, aged booklets that comprise the IsraPulp collection at Arizona State University. The collection is the sole compilation of Israeli pulp fiction in the United States and contains a wide variety of works. Many of these booklets, known as chapbooks and about the size of a DVD case, are several decades old and representative of popular magazine style publications printed on rough, delicate chip paper.

Playboy collection arouses interest at UWO

Playboy collection arouses interest at UWO
Despite any embarrassment I might feel, the fact is that Playboy -- the monthly men's periodical started in 1953 by Hugh Hefner -- can offer some fascinating insight into our changing times and culture.

"You have to remember it's not just centrefolds and pictures," says Marnie Harrington, a librarian with UWO's Faculty of Information and Media Studies who worked with the collection after it was donated to the Weldon Library by a private donor about three years ago.

The collection is stored in a "research consultation room" on Weldon's second floor.

Librarians vs. Archivists

Librarians vs. Archivists
Next week, city council’s finance committee is to consider the naming of the new archives and library materials building, the one Mayor Jim Watson had proposed to name for Charlotte Whitton and he now proposes to name for James Bartleman.

I understand that part of the reason for choosing Bartleman, aside from all his positive attributes, is that the building is both a library and an archives building, and the library fans and the archives fans each want their own champion’s name on the building. The librarians are damned if they’ll accept an archivist’s name and the archivists are damned if they’ll accept a librarian.

Herewith, a salvo just launched from the library side, which wants the building to be named for Claude Aubry, Ottawa’s first bilingual chief librarian.

Books for Sale at Library of Michigan

Early in its history the Library of Michigan collected books within broad categories of topics and circulated them in wooden traveling boxes across the state, especially in areas where there were no libraries. The books in the collection were categorized under the Dewey Decimal System. In 1987 when the Library of Michigan converted to the Library of Congress system, the original Dewey books were never rolled into the new system. In essence, they became a shrine to the Dewey system and were seldom touched.

Donald Todaro, who has overseen the auction as assistant director of the state library, said in the last several decades the collection saw little or no use, even though the books occupied nearly half of the fourth floor of the Library of Michigan.

When former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration was looking for ways to save money it determined the library was an easy target. Ultimately, the library was hit with more than $1 million in cuts. It was able to maintain its Michigan and Genealogy collections while pretty much everything else was determined to be expendable, including staff: The library once had more than 130 employees, but that dropped to 32.

From the Lansing City Pulse, Library of Michigan wraps up its sale of 75,000 out-of-circulation volumes. The rare books however have mostly been culled from the collection.

Checking Out

Piece in the NYT by Shannon O’Neill. She is an archivist and reference librarian at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.

AS a librarian and archivist, I am often asked if I believe that, one day, libraries will disappear. While the present situation for many libraries is difficult — budget cuts, closings and furloughs — I think that libraries will persist.

One of my duties as an archivist is to document history. Given this, I cannot help but preserve the library artifacts that I find.

Full piece here. (Contains slide show of library items)

UK Display of Defaced Dustjackets by Playwright Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell

As crimes go it was not the most heinous of offences, but Islington council's principal law clerk, Sidney Porrett, made it his mission to nab the perpetrators.

"I had to catch these two monkeys," he said. "They were a couple of darlings, make no mistake."

The darlings in question were the playwright Joe Orton and his boyfriend – later murderer – Kenneth Halliwell, and the crimes were taking library books and returning them with comedy collages on the dustjackets.

After a fruitless investigation that involved undercover librarians, Porrett eventually caught the pair in an elaborate sting operation and they went to jail for six months each.

From Friday, the story of their crimes will be retold by the council, which is putting on display 40 of the 72 dustjackets that the pair defaced.

Islington's local history manager, Mark Aston, said it was the first time the jackets – "they're of international interest I'd say" – had gone on show in this number in the same place, and they shined a light on two fascinating lives and characters. More on Orton's short but dramatic life here.

Piece from Guardian UK.

Ark. Archivist Finds Missing Moon Rock

Last week, an archivist in Arkansas was sifting though boxes of papers from President Bill Clinton's gubernatorial years when he came across a surprise — a piece of the moon. The moon rock had been missing for about 30 years, and it was just one of about 180 moon rocks that are currently at-large. Melissa Block talks with retired senior special agent for NASA Joseph Gutheinz about the other missing rocks.

Listen to story on NPR

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Boswell's Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson

Review essay published in American Archivist

In 1763 James Boswell, a young Scot of twenty-two, met Samuel Johnson, then fifty-three and the most famous literary figure in London. From then until Johnson's death in 1784, Boswell was a frequent companion of the great man and, as he proved in his biography published in 1791, Johnson's documenter as well. After reading a couple of sentences of such description of this relationship, one could easily dismiss this as a minor literary event. Yet, Boswell's Life of Johnson was a pioneering biography, and, astonishingly, the book has stayed in print and been read by generations over the past two centuries. James Boswell's scholarship, methodology, and his own papers constitute an interesting story for archivists and other records professionals. Adam Sisman's study provides insights into how journals were conceived and created, glimpses into earlier perceptions of archives, the connection of archives to individual reputation, and a miscellany of other aspects of the formation of documents that demonstrate why archivists need to read outside their own professional literature.

Read full book review

Mark Twain House Employee Embezzled One Million Over Eight Years

An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author's historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America's other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered. Report from LA Times Jacket Copy.

Longtime (and now former) staffer Donna Gregory regularly raided the organization's coffers for eight years; she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, Reuters reports.

According to court documents, Gregory submitted false information over the Internet to the Mark Twain House payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010. The misinformation allowed additional pay to which she was not entitled to be deposited into her bank account, classified as payroll advances.

She then adjusted the ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items. She also falsified the Mark Twain House's bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said. Gregory used the Mark Twain House's check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor's signatures on those checks, authorities said.

Keeping Scrapbooks Out of the Scrap Heap

From the New York Times: Next year is the centennial of America's great folk legend, Woody Guthrie, and fortunately for all of us, and thanks to a grant from the IMLS, we will be able to view some of the artifacts he collected over the years.

Woody Guthrie saved paperwork documenting his peripatetic life, from utility bills for New York apartments to fliers protesting shanty demolitions in Seattle and lyrics for folk songs performed at a Los Angeles radio station. He and his family put some of the artifacts in scrapbooks, but that did not fend off damage over the years.

A scrapbook page with a letter from Woody Guthrie to his sister. Grants are helping preserve deteriorating scrapbooks.

The glues and album bindings weakened and failed. The page edges turned brittle and crumbled. Newspaper clippings yellowed and tore.

The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, which the family helps run at a tiny office in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has long had to keep researchers away from the more fragile scrapbooks. “Anytime anyone looked through, I knew we would lose a portion of it,” said Tiffany Colannino, the collection’s archivist.

Internet Archive Digital Librarian Seeks One of Every Book Written

"Tucked away in a small warehouse on a dead-end street, an Internet pioneer is building a bunker to protect an endangered species: the printed word...So far, (Brewster) Kahle has gathered about 500,000 books. He thinks the warehouse itself is large enough to hold about 1 million titles..." Read more from the Associated Press via the <a href=http://globegazette.com/news/national/internet-archivist-seeks-of-every-book-written/article_39bfcc14-944a-595d-9281-d73f770e74a7.html>Globe Gazette</a>.

On Mistakenly Shredding a Prized Collection

Carla Tracy, director of the Thomas Tredway Library at Augustana College in Illinois writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Shortly after I began my career as a librarian, the Web made its appearance to the general public. Even with the broad scope afforded me through my educational background, I didn't believe the Web would amount to much. I could not imagine that this unimpressive resource would shake the very concept of the library as it had been known for hundreds of years.

The shaking hasn't stopped yet. College librarians are faced with the challenge of expanding digital media and study space while reducing print media. That reduction includes withdrawing books from the shelves, which, in effect, means selling, recycling, giving away, storing off-site (for those who can afford it), discarding, or shredding texts. Suddenly college librarians, among the world's greatest lovers of books, are viewed in certain corners as book destroyers.

If a library is a growing organism, then I've felt the growing pains keenly on our campus these last few months. In leading our library staff through an effort to remove certain books used only once in the past 25 years, if at all, I stand at the head of a series of events that inadvertently sent part of a reprint collection, written in classical Chinese, to the recycling center.

More from Chronicle.com.

A Bookshelf the Size of the World

From the Boston Globe:

As the digitization of human culture accelerates, publishers and academics have had to begin addressing a basic question: Who will control knowledge in the future?

So far, the most likely answer to that question has been a private company: Google. Since 2004 Google Books has been scanning books and putting them online; the company says it has already scanned more than 15 million. Google estimates there are about 130 million books in the world, and by 2020, it plans to have scanned them all.

Now, however, a competitor may be emerging. Last year, Robert Darnton, a cultural historian and director of Harvard University’s library system, began to raise the prospect of creating a public digital library. This library would include the digitized collections of the country’s great research institutions, but it would also bring in other media - video, music, film - as well as the collection of Web pages maintained by the Internet Archive.

Will Bobby Kennedy's Papers Be Heading to JFK Library?

BOSTON, July 12 (UPI) -- Archivists are preparing to make public 63 boxes of Robert F. Kennedy's papers kept secret for 40 years, Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library said.

The decision to open the 63 boxes was reached March 1 after years of efforts to persuade Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, to give control of his papers to the library, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Library Director Thomas J. Putnam said archivists should finish organizing and declassifying the papers in six months to a year.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/07/12/Archivists-preparing-Robert-Kennedy-papers/UPI-580...

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But according to another story in today's New York Times, family members are having second thoughts about where the papers should be housed and are considering moving them elsewhere because they believe that the presidential library has not done enough to honor the younger brother’s legacy.

Many of the papers, dealing with Cuba, Vietnam and civil rights, are classified as secret or top secret. There are also 2,300 other boxes covering every stage of Robert Kennedy’s life, including his years as a United States senator and attorney general, most of which have already been opened for research.

J. P. Morgan Library's John Bidwell Talks about Curation & Such

Before he became the first name of a bank, J. P. Morgan was a Wall Street mogul who, a century ago, bequeathed his collection of 14,000 or so rare books to what his son would transform into the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue. Since then, the collection has grown to about 80,000 printed books, supervised since 1999 by John Bidwell, 63, the Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings. He majored in history at Columbia University, and received his master’s at Columbia’s School of Library Service and his doctorate in English from Oxford. Dr. Bidwell commutes from Princeton, N.J., where he lives with his wife, Andrea Immel, a curator at Princeton University Library.

What makes a book rare: There are plenty of books that are valuable and not rare, and plenty of books that are rare and not valuable. Example: The Morgan is celebrated for being the one institution in the world for having three Gutenberg Bibles. You might say it’s not extremely rare because there are 50 known copies in various states of completeness in the world. On the other hand, we have plenty of early books that are the only known copy in the world, some of them deservedly so.

Library rat: I’ve had no other job but to work in libraries since I was a college undergraduate. As soon as I realized it was time for me to go back to graduate school, I knew I wanted to work in rare book libraries, and that’s all I’ve done.

More from The New York Times.

Better Late Than Never: A National Librarian for Malta

Sure, it's a small country, but there are thousands of years of history in these seven small islands. And according to The Times of Malta , "Malta will soon have a national librarian who will be responsible to ensure that priceless books, documents and manuscripts are collected and maintained for posterity.

The lack of leadership had meant that Malta’s national and public libraries did not have a direction and valuable manuscripts were being allowed to rot.

Speaking during the launch of a new restoration machine, Education Minister Dolores Cristina yesterday said a call for applications would soon be issued for the post of national librarian after the awaited Malta Libraries Act was published a few weeks ago.

She added that she was currently working on the appointments to the Libraries’ Council that will work to promote libraries and facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders.

The council, which will serve for three years, will be made up of a chairman, national archivist, the head of the university’s archives studies, director of local council departments and another three members.

The law also sets up Malta Libraries as a legal entity that can enter into contracts, acquire books and manage resources.

Internet Archive Launches Physical Archive - Brewster Kahle makes case for preserving books

The Internet Archive’s latest project is launching a Physical Archive to store and preserve books and historic materials. You can read all about it on Brewster Kahle's blog http://blog.archive.org/2011/06/06/why-preserve-books-the-new-physical-archive-of-the-internet-archive/

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