Collections


Sitting down in front of a computer and scanning pages one by one for hours at a time might not sound appealing, but I find it so interesting to be able to work on a project that allows these special materials to be viewed safely by many people. Recently, I have been working on a scanning project of materials from Hortense Butler Heywood. Heywood was an Iowa native who studied entomology and supported the women’s suffrage movement. A lot of the items I have seen from Heywood’s collection are personal letters, and quite a few of these letters that have small sketches on them. It’s a pretty cool aspect, because even though I will never meet Heywood, I can still see her personality come to life on paper.

It’s also fascinating to make connections with the authors of these historical items. Earlier this semester, I worked on a Pammel Court project, which happened to be where my grandparents lived while my grandpa was going to school at Iowa State. With this project, I found out that Heywood was a teacher for a couple years in Peterson, Iowa, which is where my dad grew up. Finding these little connections makes my work feel so much more personal and makes what can be mind-numbing work more enjoyable.

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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You never know what you are going to get. As an artist myself I can appreciate art books and books with unique characteristics but let me tell you that when they enter the lab we usually groan. These books are often neat and unique and creative but more often than not they just don’t hold up well. Take for instance the most recent one to enter the lab – and funny, check out the title.

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This book looked fine on the outside but when we opened it we realized the cover of this book had separated itself from the text block. A fairly easy fix by our technician and she also constructed a box for it to give it some protection since this item will be in our general collection and may get used a fair amount.

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Curious if you see items like this in your repair work and how you feel about them.

 

Hello to all!

This will be my last blog for the Preservation Department, not just for 2016, but going forward. Earlier this year, my department (Digital Initiatives,) broke away from the Preservation Department and teamed up with Digital Repository to become a new department, DSI (Digital Scholarship Initiatives.) So… Good-bye old…hello new!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog space and how I’ve utilized it during the years that I have been writing for it. Except for one, maybe two posts, they have all been about designing webpages and the challenges I have faced in creating them. I have to say I have learned as much about that process writing down my experiences as I have in creating the actual pages. Someone doesn’t really understand their position until they have to explain it to someone else. I haven’t always been good explaining my job to others, but the act of expressing those challenges on paper has allowed me to also teach myself, and in effect, become more confident of my skills. Sounds weird, but true.

In looking back over my blog posts over the years, I am struck at how constant is change. At one point in my blog writing, I noticed that as soon as I finished writing a blog about Dreamweaver webpage development, I was immediately thrown into developing and transferring our webpages to Drupal. From this constant change process, I have learned that I feel a lot more comfortable designing webpages…even when my comfort level is no longer safe. I mean to say that I have lived in such a constant upheaval environment in regards to designing web pages and the software that we use, over the last few years, that when I am no longer under constant stress of transferring to a new “something”, I feel empty and like: “what do I do know?” But do not worry gentle reader; my new supervisor has taken care of that.  Which is great for me. Instead of treading water, now I feel more in my element than ever before. (When things are flying at me a hundred miles per hour is the only way I feel I am functioning. And besides…times travel so much faster when hands are busy having fun!)

It amazes me that in a span of nine months, what started out as one little site called Digital Collections, way back in the early-mid 2000’s, and was a constant for many years, has morphed and bloomed into a larger site with Digital Collections just one of the sites underneath the umbrella called Digital Initiatives; the last half of the year has found me creating supplemental sites to compliment this new site. Every specialty will have it’s new home (Yearbooks, Online Exhibits, etc.)

But that’s just the future as envisioned in November 2016. Who knows what more changes are in store. All I know for sure is that one must buckle in and get set for a fun-filled bumpy ride into the future. I know I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you have learned as much from reading my blog posts as I have from writing them. It’s been real. Thanks for tagging along with my adventures.

 

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.

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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.

Pushing the small letters on noisy plastic keys for hours upon hours is without a doubt mind-numbing work. However, transcription is much more than that! It is the process of transferring the content of a document into a more-accessible format for readers. Whether it’s text, images, illustrations, or even bold or italicized lettering, transcription captures as much detail from original documents as possible with careful observation and focused attention to produce a wholly text-based rendition of the document. You might be wondering what the point of re-typing an 1884 Iowa State University Bomb yearbook is. After all, the book has already been digitized for online access. The difference between digitizing documents and transcribing them is that certain impaired readers, such as those with eyesight difficulties, have the option to hear the transcribed content through audio applications and text recognition. Documents that are difficult to read because the ink has faded, a page has torn, or handwriting is impossible to decipher are transcribed so that their content will not be lost.

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Work in progress

 

When I was asked to be a part of transcribing the second ever Iowa State Bomb yearbook, I didn’t expect to appreciate the process so much. My eyes did get sore day after day from peering at thousands of words on a bright computer screen, but my attentiveness was sharp. The language was hard to transfer at times because writing in the late 19th century is far different from how we write today. I did get a good chuckle in every couple of pages from the illustrations included in the Bomb. I felt good about working so hard to preserve a collection of fundamental Iowa State history so that others could enjoy it too.

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Making a custom archival box for an edition of the Bomb.

 

 

So, lately, I have been working on a new page/site for Digital Initiatives that will eventually become the start page/site for a variety of digital sites under our department. Currently, as you may remember, this is our start page: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/. I cannot reveal the new start page, because we are still in the process of creating it. However, I thought I’d focus on one component of the page/site that we have not previously used before: forms.

Now, before Drupal, forms were a pain in keister to create. But now, with a great support staff on hand, forms are super easy to build. Let me show you how.

Forms are a part of Drupal that needs to be “turned on,” in order to work. In our set-up they are turned off to avoid confusion. Also, keep in mind, that once it is turned on, it is available on all pages you create within your site. When it does get turn it on, the magic begins.

I created a Test page to show you how to create a form and how forms work.

It’s very similar to a non-form Drupal edit page, except for the tab just to the right of Edit says Webform.
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Let’s click on that.
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There are five different sections under the Webform. The first one, form component, is where you add the important parts of the form being created, such as a person’s name, email, address, connection, and comments.

Let’s create a super simple form, which includes person’s name, email, an additional textfield for funnsies, and a comment box.

First, we’ll click inside the “New component name” box, and type Name. The type is Textfield, so we’ll leave that. Now, click on the “Add” button.
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Note: this is only a partial screenshot of the page that comes up. Scroll down the age to look over the other boxes you can use to manipulate this info, including making this box a required value. A required value is a value that is needed to proceed. A red star will show up next to the label. Also, on these required fields, I place in parenthesis (required). [I have recently learned that some colorblind users cannot make the distinction between red and black, so adding this helps.] Other fields that are worth looking at: Display. Here you can set the width of the component, add a placeholder in the box (like: myname@abc.com). Also check out the label display. Under this, you can change the label to be displayed above, inline, below the box; description can be displayed above the field; disable the field completely, or make it private, so only users with access can view the results. These preferences can be found on most of the component pages. For now, nothing else is needed, so scroll all the way down and click “Save component” at the bottom.

Let’s add Email now. Label it, “Email,” and change the type to “E-mail,” then tick the “Required” box. Click “Add.”
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Oops. I made a mistake. I forgot to label email “Email (required)”. No sweat. Just click on “Edit” beside the Email label, and on the next page, change the title in the label name. Scroll down and click “Save component”.

In the next window, make sure short form is checked for email format, and that “Required” is ticked. You might want to tick “Unique,” under “Validations.” Scroll down to click on “Save component.”

Now, let’s add another textfield.

Here, I’m going to get goofy to show you different things you can do with the form. In this window, check to make sure “Required” is ticked.
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I made the Display width 75; I added a Placeholder (to be shown inside field until user starts typing); I Prefixed the textbook with craziness, and Postfixed it with more craziness. Finally, I placed the Label Display to None.

Let’s add the comment box now. Name it “More comments (required)”; choose textarea; make it “Required”; in the next window: make Validation “Required”; and make sure Resizable is ticked under Display; scroll down and click “Save component”.

Here’s what the final super simple form looks like:
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Notice that there is no red star anywhere near the “I’m glad” text field. This is something to be aware of, if you decided to hide the label. If any one of those red star areas is left blank, the user will not be able to move forward. OK? OK!

But WAIT! We’re not done yet.

Back under Webform, you can see there is a few more section to the right of Form components: Conditionals, Form validation, E-mails, Form settings. The ones to be most concerned with are E-mails, and Form settings.

Under E-Mails, add the address where you want the comments from the form to be sent to, then click “Add”. In the next page:
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Make sure all the email addresses are correct. Custom email/names should be used where you what the emails to go/or what you want the emails to be from called, when the Default email/name is incorrect; E-mail from name should be that address as well. Also check to make sure E-mail header is the right page from where the email are originating. OK. Scroll to bottom, click “Save e-mail setting.”

Let’s move over to Form setting. This page is a doozy, with many options to choose from; my advice: choose wisely, little grasshopper.
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First one, most important: I recommend you place a confirmation message in the first box; you have the option of using Full HTML, Filtered HTML, and Plain text. Also, you can add a re-direct page for the confirmation page. Keep the Total submissions at unlimited; make sure Status of this form is ticked for Open. (Closing prohibits further submissions by other users.)

2nd half of page:
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These are all self-explanatory. Notice on the bottom under Next submission order. This number should be 1 if you have just created the form; otherwise the number will be whatever number is currently submitted for the form.

One last note: To the right of the Webform tab is a Results tab. This tab shows the results from the form on the page.
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Of course, there isn’t much on here right now, but this page will list every form submitted by users, default setting is recently to oldest. Under Operations, will be additional links: View Edit Delete. You can either click on the number under #, or View under Operations corresponding to the number to see the actual submitted form.

Drupal makes it so easy to create and maintain forms. I hope they are as helpful to you as they are for us.

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