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Progress continues on the optical media project here in the Preservation Department. All discs in the University Lecture Series collection have been ripped and are now in the process of being permanently stored. If permissions allow, certain lectures will also be uploaded to the Special Collections’ YouTube channel.
Technically speaking, most of the time so far has been spent navigating the Ripstation, a combination hardware/software system designed to rip large number of optical discs. The collection includes more than 1000 discs, primarily formatted as CD-DA, DVD Video, or data discs. Each of these formats requires a slightly different approach to preservation, typically in the form of what software is used.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The Ripstation at ISU Special Collections.

The majority of the discs recorded before 2010 were formatted as Compact Disc-Digital Audio (CD-DA). Because this is also the format most commercial CDs use, Ripstation’s proprietary software (also called Ripstation) was best-suited, as it is optimized for this sort of collection. Discs were ripped into two different formats for both preservation and access purposes. For preservation, the BWF 96khz/24bit format was selected for its lossless, uncompressed quality and its ability to embed desired metadata within the wrapper’s header, thus greatly reducing the chance of intellectual separation between content and metadata. For access, the .MP3 format was selected, because it is widely accepted and supported as an accessible audio format. In addition, of the available output formats, .MP3 can be most easily transcoded into an .MP4 file to upload to Special Collections’ YouTube access channel, with little risk for losing any data.

This transcoding for the access copies is handled by Adobe Media Encoder, as is uploading directly into the Lecture Series playlist. To match the access copies from the magnetic media, part of the Lecture Series collection that has already been uploaded, the desired output is an .MP4 with audio wrapped inside with a logo (YouTube only accepts video files). After upload, we apply closed captions to all files for accessibility.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

An overview of the settings used in Media Encoder.

For the DVD-Video carriers in the collection, the desired output (perhaps somewhat obviously) differs from the CD-DA carriers. After some experimentation with variants on a data validation workflow, our conclusion was that the optimal output for Special Collections’ purposes was an .ISO disc image, which can be mounted easily as an access copy for researchers.

As the project progressed, some discs we encountered were neither CD-DA nor DVD, but simply data discs onto which .MP3 or other media files had been “dragged and dropped.” These were ripped with the DataGrabber software, and their original file format was maintained.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

A selection of the optical discs held in the Lecture Series Collection.

What metadata Ripstation uses and where it draws them from varies by the software used, which itself varies by the format of optical disc being ripped. Ripstation’s primary software is the program of the same name, which is intended for CD-DA-formatted discs, typically commercial ones. For automatic metadata population, an internet connection is required, so Ripstation can scour private and open-source databases for the artist, album, track titles, and other relevant metadata per disc. Acquiring metadata this way would not be helpful to the project because of the singular and noncommercial nature of the content. Due to this constraint, as well as networking limitations, this particular Ripstation was left offline.

So from where could the software draw its metadata? Ripstation has accounted for this possibility in the design of the User Data feature. Typically, the names of ripped files could be an assigned structure of metadata that would look something like %D_%A_%Y . Each letter corresponds to an established metadata category, so files named according to this structure will look like “[AlbumName]_[AlbumArtistName]_[AlbumDate]”. This system also allows for user-input metadata, in the form of a .TXT file in the program folder. The User Data system, which allows up to 10 user-defined metadata categories (%0 – %9) and can be used with all Ripstation software, is what we used for this project.

Each disc file was named according to its AV number and container number, according to the information available in the masterlist. For later discs with no container number available, that value was substituted with the date of recording. Batches were named with the reference number of the collection, the container number of the first disc, the container number of the last disc, and (if CD-DA or DVD) the disc type.

Now that all 1000 discs have been ripped, the next phase is twofold: 1. Documenting the project (of which this blog post is a part) and 2. For the lectures without permissions restrictions, encoding and uploading to the Special Collection’s YouTube Channel. This process has already begun, with over 5000 minutes of audio made publicly available so far.

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The 150th anniversary of Iowa State University is just around the corner, and to celebrate, Special Collections and University Archives are putting together a brand new exhibit. Titled “We Are ISU: Snapshots of Student Life”, the exhibit will focus on photographs, scrapbooks, journals, t-shirts, and more from past students. There are several collections included within this exhibit, so if you see something that interests you, you can ask the staff in the Special Collections reading room to see other boxes from that collection number to discover what other cool pieces of ISU history may be in there.

The staff at the preservation lab has been busy getting the exhibit ready for  opening day. Boxes from different collections line the book trucks in the lab, waiting to be put on display. A few of the objects have needed minor repair work, like mending tears, removing tape, surface cleaning and attaching hinges for display. This is all done to make sure that the exhibited items are stable enough to be put on display or to be digitized. Each item has been mounted on a custom-fit display stand made from museum-quality mat board. The artifacts will then be installed into the glass exhibit cases in the SCUA Reading Room.

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One of the many book trucks in the preservation lab holding mounted photos for the exhibit.

Conservation Technician Jim Wilcox was able to help me with going through a few of the artifacts for this blog post. One of his favorite items in the exhibit is the Lorris Ann Foster scrapbook, from RS 21/7/147. Lorris created the scrapbook in 2002 and soon after it was donated to Special Collections and University Archives. The scrapbook is full of relics from Foster’s days as an ISU student in the 1940’s, and includes dance cards, photographs, letters, flyers, and even an official University Rule book!  While flipping through the rule book, we came across some of  rules for female students living on campus. The first rule that stood out to me was the female housing quiet hours:

“Quiet hours begin at 7:30 pm and are to continue until 6:30 am.”

The rules continue, listing the curfews the women were to follow, and what days those curfews were extended. Another rule that stood out to me, was this:

“When a woman is leaving Ames at any time she must secure an out-of-town permit from the residence director. Letters of approval for out-of-town trips and all automobile trips should be sent by parents.”

Can you imagine not being able to leave Ames to go shopping without approval from the residence director!?

 

While talking with Jim, I learned some interesting facts about Iowa State University history that I had no idea about. For example, in 1929 Fan Chi Kung, an international student from China, died in a rollover car accident while teaching a fellow student how to drive. Because his family was not able to afford to ship his body back home, he was buried in the University Cemetery. Special Collections holds his photo albums from his time here on campus.

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Photo of Fan Chi Kung sitting at his desk in his room. RS 21/7/49

This photo is from Fan Chi Kung’s photo album, and has the caption “In my room” on the back. According to an information card, many Chinese students rented rooms from a home on Welch Avenue, but it is not clear whether Fan Chi Kung had rented this room there as well. The exhibit captures numerous snapshots of student life from the last 150 years, so you never know what cool things you might discover as you go through the exhibit.

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Special Collections and University Archives Reading room while the former exhibit, the Farmers’ Protest, is removed and the new exhibit, We Are ISU, is installed.

The exhibit opens on March 13th in the Reading Room on the 4th floor of Parks Library, Rm. 403. There will be an online exhibit as well, for people who cannot see it in person. If you are interested in learning more about the earliest student life here on campus, come to the lecture:

What: Student Life at Iowa State: 1869-90
Who: Dr. Douglas Biggs, Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Kearney
When: Wednesday, March 13th @ 7 pm
Where: Memorial Union, the Sun Room.

To check out the exhibit, visit the reading room from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday-Friday!

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ with ‘burnt-in’ opening title

When you’re going to digitally preserve a film (or a film series or an entire film collection), the important first step is to gather information on your film. Is your film 16mm, 35mm, 8mm, or 9.5mm, etc.? Is it color or black-and-white? Do you have the original negative, or only a print? Is the magnetic soundtrack available? If you only have an optical soundtrack, is it a negative or the positive? The list goes on – and the information can get pretty granular – but to keep this post simple, I’ll focus on the basics for a single film with an exciting title: The Champion.

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ A-Roll (16mm Reversal)

The Champion was filmed in 1971 by Jim Doran, a student in the Department of Speech and Telecommunicative Arts at ISU. It features wrestling prodigy Dan Gable, whose wrestling career at ISU produced an impressive 117-1 record. He was also a two-time national champion and a gold medalist in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. So clearly, The Champion is a significant record for preservation in ISU Special Collections and University Archives.

We found for the picture elements, trims, an edited work print, A-B Rolls, and combined prints. With all the different versions held, how do we pick the best one for preservation?

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Frame still of ‘The Champion’ B-Roll(16MM reversal)

With 16mm reversal film, filmmakers developed the A-B roll negative cutting system. After finalizing the final cut using a workprint they would then cut the master materials into two individual rolls, the ‘A’ roll and the ‘B’ roll. The A-B roll alternates between shots and opaque leader, completely in-sync. This pattern was called ‘checker boarding’. You can (and should) verify that all elements are in-sync by running each film through a gang synchronizer to ensure that the same number of frames are on each element. When you have A-B (and possibly C-D) rolls of 16mm film in your collection, treat them as your master negatives.

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1/4″ final mix sound track under a magnetic viewer with 60 hertz pilot tone

With the soundtrack, you might see optical tracks titled ‘A wind’ and ‘B wind’, a 16mm magtrack (the magnetic track), or a ¼” final mix master magtrack.  I chose to digitize the ¼” final mix master magtrack. There are a variety of reasons to choose the magtrack over the optical track whenever possible, but the most important reason is fidelity. Optical tracks are vulnerable to scratches, dust, and dirt that sound like pops and clicks when they’re transferred. Optical tracks have also been mixed with the Academy Curve in mind, so they contain attenuation of 18 decibels at 8Khz. Not to mention the poor signal to noise ratio, as a result, they don’t have the highest possible sound quality. The ¼” final mix, if it’s available, will be your highest quality soundtrack. The only issue you have to be aware of is sync(pilot tone). Keeping your sound perfectly in-sync with the picture is more difficult than you might think! (But that’s another post.)

So…the end result of scanning the A-B roll and digitizing the 1/4 “final mix soundtrack for The Champion is here. Compare that to our older, SD telecine version here. Hope this brief introduction to A-B roll film preservation was helpful. Cheers.

In 2016 the Iowa State University Library completed a six-year project to digitize an entire run of the campus yearbook, The Bomb. Comprised of nearly 45,000 pages, the digital versions are not easily searchable due to the wide variety of fonts and graphic elements used throughout the decades. Just look at the text from one page of the 1911 Bomb. The font and layout are unique, making the automated transcription process nearly impossible.

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(“Bomb 1911”, page 9)

With that in mind, in its inaugural “Unsolved Histories” Project the Iowa State Digital Initiatives Unit has launched a crowd sourcing transcription project entitled, “Transcribed the Bomb.” It is our hope that by transcribing these yearbooks a wider audience can explore and find memories of themselves, their families and friends, favorite campus moments, and world events through the Iowa State University lens. Here is how YOU can get started:

  1. Navigate to the following website: (http://yearbook.lib.iastate.edu/) You will arrive to a page that looks like this:bomb1
  2. There are two ways to start contributing. You can either click “Sign-in” to create a profile or you contribute anonymous by just clicking “start.”
  3. If you chose to make a profile you will need to navigate back to this page and click “start.”
  4. A year of the “Bomb” will appear, after clicking “contribute now” and you will be able to begin the transcription process!!!

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5. Once you start contributing you will be asked two questions before you are able to transcribe a page. The questions include: a) Is the page black? (If the page is blank, it will be skipped and you will be taken to the next page.) b) Does this page have text? (This meaning text, images with text, tables, page numbers, etc.)

6. Then you can begin transcribing!! Here are a few tips for transcribing:

  • Transcribe exactly what you see
  • Use [Image(s)] to indicate if there is image or images
  • Hand-drawn or illustrations should be treated as text rather than images
  • Transcribe captions or image titles
  • Do not transcribe text found on clothing, pennants, sings, or other sources within the image.

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(Here is a view of the transcription Page)

7.Once completed you can review the text and then submit the page

8.Repeat the steps to transcribe more ISU moments!

If you need more help you can find an interactive tutorial, examples and printable instructions on the ISU Library Guide Page: http://instr.iastate.libguides.com/transcribe or feel free to contact us at any time at: digital@iastate.edu.

Good luck and happy transcribing!!

One of the items that was used for the current Special Collections and University Archives ISU Pammel Court exhibit (designed by the History 481x class) is this little book. For the exhibit they wanted to show both the cover and one of the interior pages displayed as one piece.

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With a quick sketch I came up with this:

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I then had to think about how to hold the book up so it didn’t slide off the display wedge.

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And then I had to figure out the dimensions….hmmmm…..

I drew out the 45 degree template and put the spine of the book along the diagonal. I went up about ¾ of the way and dropped a line down to the base. That gave me the measurements for the angled front piece, the back and the base.

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I extended the base measurement out to make the lip that holds the book.

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Then transferred all those measurements to a scrap piece of scrap board. Base, front, back, base with extension, face for book stop wedge, the piece the book will rest against, and the inner base to tape down.

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I took those measurements and laid them out on the mat board and scored the lines about ¾ of the way through on what will be the bottom side of the base and added a piece of double stick tape to hold the book stop and inner base to the larger base.

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And removed the little bit that wasn’t needed.

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Double stick tape was used to hold the lip and the bottom pieces of the book support together after the book stop had already been folded and taped down.

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This is what the final piece looked like from the side…

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and from the front with a copy of the selected page.

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About a month ago, the Preservation Lab hosted a group of students taking an upper level class in Public History. In this course the students use archival materials as primary sources for the research they are conducting, drawing from the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Spending time in the Preservation Lab gives them a behind the scenes look at what it takes to stabilize  original materials so that they can be viewed in the reading room.

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As part of a practical  introduction to preservation, I demonstrated some hands-on conservation techniques that are often used to repair archival documents. Working on a discarded photoreproduction of Marston Hall, I removed some tape with a heated spatula and mended tears using wheat starch paste and Japanese tissue.

An interesting inter-disciplinary discussion happened around a group of WWII propaganda posters that were in the lab for conservation treatment. The posters were approximately 2 feet by 3 feet. They were staple-bound into a pad that was attached to a foldable easel made of cardboard.

rs16_3_57_bt_r   rs16_3_57_bt_v

The instructor and the students talked about the use of this object as a presentation tool, a 1940’s PowerPoint presentation of sorts. The speaker could take the easel-pad  along with them to give encouraging talks to the public about wartime efforts at home. As you can see from the photos above, the top poster had gotten torn and became detached from the pad.  If I were to take this object out of its historical context and to consider only its physical characteristics, I would want to take it apart, repair it and store all the components separately. The posters would go into one folder, while the easel and the staple binding would go into a different folder. Stored in this way, the posters would be safe and easy for scholars to handle  without the assistance of an archivist or a conservator.

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However, the research value of this presentation pad lies in its format, which tells the story of its use as a WWII propaganda tool. So, my approach will be to disassemble the structure, repair the components and then to reassemble the binding using thread loops in place of the damaging rusty staples. The binding will be recreated, but slightly altered  to provide more stability and longevity to the object, ensuring the preservation of both its physical self and its contextual meaning.

This class discussion brought home to me the point that historians and conservators have an important conversation to carry out. In order to adequately preserve historic collections, we need to share our distinct areas of knowledge with each other, enriching each other’s understanding of primary source materials.

And now for something completely different. Normally, I stick with the script on my portion of the blogs, but I came across this interesting tweet today:

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Maybe true, maybe not…but it got me to thinking about how far we have come and how far we have to go when it comes to technology. My dad is always complaining about how computers always mess up everything. How things were so much simpler when a good old pen and paper is all you need to write; and why can’t people today pick up the phone to call instead of texting and FaceTiming/Skyping, (he still refuses to do the latter, but he no longer owns a landline phone.) I always take a deep breath and hold out my hands, palms up, moving them back and forth much like an imaginary scale and say: “Dad: Horse, Car, Horse, Car.” When I was a kid he use to tell me how much his dad was upset when the horses got replaced by cars. His dad would say: “Why horses: so much simpler; they can go through the tightest spots, and grass is free!” I don’t think Dad has made my connection between his father’s consternation, and his own lamentations.

The same can be said with technology today, I suppose, but it’s the same concept: keep up or fall behind. As one technology or advancement passes, another takes its place. And this includes the instruments we use to get there. Instead of a pencil, straight-edge and tons of rubber cement to put a newspaper or magazine together, it’s going all online. This is how websites started, and this is how it’s still going. It’s hard to imagine when I was in college, most of these things were in their infancy. There were no smartphones. No hand-held device where you could push a button and spend your money for instant gratification. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but there does need to be a balance. Holding on to the past isn’t the right answer, but abandoning all concepts of the past isn’t the way either.

Once a year, at about this time, I go through my desk and completely clean it out, including wiping down the inside and throwing out anything that doesn’t look like it belongs; I take home things that have accumulated over the year and generally try to tidy up my area. But today! Today I came across this gem:

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This is an old-timey 100% Horse Hair Sterilized Drafting Brush. This thing and I go back. Way back. In fact, way back past even me. This very brush is the brush Dad used when he went to State and took drafting courses. So, you know it’s O-L-D! I used this brush on more than brushing eraser poo away…I used it whenever I had anything I was done rubber-cementing or crayoning, or even weaving ends. This thing was, or rather is, slick to use to clean off debris from a desk, or drafting table. I don’t know if these things are even relevant anymore in this era of everything-can-be-done-on-a-computer; but it certainly took me back to the good old days. I can remember rooms in the Design College that were filled with machines that you could insert a paper and on one side little dotted rubber cement backing came out. Then you had to carefully cut out the area you needed (on a self-healing cutting mat…I still have mine…that thing is awesome, too!) and use a rubber roller to smooth out the air pockets. I’m going to bet that graphic designers over there use the computer for their layout and designs now. In my last year of college, they were only starting to use computer programs and I took every class I could (much to the chagrin of some of my friends: “why would you need computer classes for graphic design?”) At that time, everything you wanted to do was hand coded in. There were no “mouses” and easy, click-the-button instructions to these programs. You had to tell the computer what to do by writing it all out and C:> everything.  Oh, how that brush brought back memories. But now, I’m going to pass it on. My son, Ian, is at the perfect age to use it. He’s not a traditional artist. He’s a woodcarver. The brush will come in handy for cleaning wood shavings up from his work table. He’ll get as much use from it as I did. And perhaps, one day, he’ll be able to carry on the tradition with the next generation.

Even if I know that the only

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Ian ever touched (or probably will touch) was a toy he had as toddler, I know that a third generation of sweeping eraser/rubber cement/wood shavings poo, will be carried on in that little brush. And holding onto a few small items like that…those are good things to hold onto. The past “use-to-do’s” might be done differently today, but a little brush can always be used… if nothing else, to brush away the dust of yesterday.

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