Digital-Collections


Hortense Butler Heywood papers and microscope slides, early 1900’s

Hortense Butler Heywood was an entomologist who was also a prolific illustrator. A lot of her work focused on the study of dragonflies. The collection of her papers at Iowa State University Archives includes several dozen microscope slides with samples of dragonfly parts. Below are images of some slides and their extreme-zoom closeups. The slides are in fragile condition and would be tricky to view in the reading room on the light box. Digitizing them made a lot of sense. So we did it! And we loved every minute of it. A link to the complete Heywood digital collection can be found on the bottom of the  Women in Science and Engineering webpage:

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how did we do it exactly?  My first idea was to use the camera attached to the microscope to generate an image. But, sadly, the picture was too blurry and indistinct. Plan B was to use a light box and our nice Nikon D4 SLR camera on the copy stand. The massive resolution of the image files made it possible to zoom in and see the details of the specimens. Without magnification the samples looked like tiny specs of debris. With magnification they were intriguing and presented a direct link to Ms. Heywood’s illustration work.

Organizing the slides

Making sure the slides are organized and ready to go before reformatting starts.

The photo setup

Positioning the slide so that only a minimum amount of cropping is necessary.

Digital imaging

Shooting raw files, at 600 dpi.

Mindy McCoy is editing in Photoshop

The only alteration to the raw files was to crop the images  and to save them as TIFFs.

Lawrence H. Skromme farming goods catalogs

Another digital  adventure, which promises to be ongoing for a while, is working with a comprehensive collection of ephemera related to farm machinery and equipment. The cards, pamphlets and catalogs  date from mid-1800s to early 1900s. This collection is frequently requested in the reading room by students and professors involved in courses on mechanical engineering, agricultural sciences and history of farming.

Archivists from ISU’s Special Collections have already written some blog posts about the Skromme collection: Ephemera in the Archives and Agricultural Machinery Product Literature.

Party in the front. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Business in the back. Butcher & Gibbs Plow Co., Imperial Plows advertisement card, date unknown.

Many of the catalogs have been used extensively in the field (literally in the field), folded and stuck into pockets, left in barns and tractors – you get the idea… And keep in mind that the paper they were printed on was never meant to last (ephemera!). Direct physical handling of this stuff basically kills it. So, this large collection was a wonderful candidate for digitization. And what fun it has been to review! See for yourselves…

Powerful lady of multi-tasking. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake advertisement card, not dated.

This image of a patriotically-clad woman riding a roaring tiger, while also managing to plow, has been very inspiring to me.

Project Management:

Clearly, these objects need to be available online so a large number of people can see them. Working on several concurrent digitization projects requires collaboration, concise and clear communication and tight organization across department lines.  Adopting a project management software tool has really enhanced our efforts.

We use Meister Task to track progress of items as they pass through the Selection-Conservation-Digitization-Metadata pipeline. The software is easy to use and visually pleasing. I will even venture to say that using the interface is somewhat intuitive.

Repairs:

What about numerous conservation repairs that are needed to stabilize the super-fragile and damaged ephemera for digitization? My strategy has been to expedite without cutting corners. Using remoistenable (pre-coated) tissue has helped save time. One benefit is the quick drying time. Another benefit is the ability to use 5 gsm or 3.5 gsm tengucho tissue with ease and expediency. The tissues are pre-coated with a mix of diluted wheat starch paste and 4M methyl cellulose, per handout from the 2009 LCCDG/ACDG session. Most of the paper that needs to be mended in this project is lightweight and fragile, so the thinner tissues are a good fit.

Applying remoistenable tissue mends. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889

For  many of the pamphlets, the covers have become detached from the textblocks. Since they will be digitized on the OpticBook book-edge scanner, which also functions as a flatbed scanner, it would not make sense to reattach the pages. The materials are archival and are meant  for study purposes, not for display, so I consider toning fills to be unnecessary.

Not attaching covers to textblocks; not toning fills. Aultman, Miller & Co., Swedish Buckeye Catalog, 1899.

Some of the covers and pages that are detached are also very brittle and have numerous tears. It would take too long to mend them all and the page would still not be stable for handling because of its brittleness. Enclosing a page in a Mylar L-sleeve and calling it a day is an acceptable treatment option because the item can be scanned directly through Mylar.

Enclosing the cover in Mylar after mending significant tears; not mending numerous minor tears. C. Altman & Co., Buckeye Annual Catalog, 1889.

This is one of my favorite, most irresistible images from the Skromme Collection. The artists that worked for these companies were incredibly talented and imaginative.

A cutout advertisement made from thick card stock. Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Plow ink! who would have thought?? Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co,. Imperial Plow advertisement card, not dated.

Preserving history of use:

As I mentioned earlier, certain signs of use are evident when examining the catalogs: fold lines, dirt, water damage, ink stains. But there are other signs as well, which I think of as “signs of life”. They are traces of people who inhabited the world with these paper objects. Even though the traces of personal history are not connected to a famous individual or a specific historic event, the altered paper objects do tell a compelling story about American farm life.

Child adds some embellishments with colored pencils  in the parent’s magazine. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

The culprit’s signature on the other side of the page. Charles H. Childs & Co., Riding Cultivators Catalog, 1892.

This advertisement booklet had blank pages inside. It was used to write down recipes for baked goods and cakes. A delicious read. Instead of using a book-edge scanner, the pages of the booklet will be photographed with a digital camera on the copy stand. The booklet will be opened and supported at 90 degrees in order to safely keep the nail in place

A page with a recipe is attached to the inside of the pamphlet, using a nail. J.M. Childs & Co., Tiger Self Dump Wheel Horse Rake memorandum book, 1884.

Football is a historic tradition at Iowa State and I recently finished a project scanning football programs that range from the early 1900s to the 2010s.

I was able to use our new book edge scanner that made scanning the bound programs easy and gave us a great image. It was been an enjoyable project to see the evolution of these programs over time. From the type of paper used to make the program to the graphic design of the program, many things have changed in football programs over the last 80 years or so. There’s a lot of information shown in these programs beyond just football. While I did get to observe changes in coaching staff and players in the football programs, I also observed a lot of the growth on Iowa State’s campus. By digitizing these programs, I hope that others will be able to observe and appreciate these changes as well. Digitizing these programs is important because there may come a day where programs only exist in the digital form. If paper copies no longer exist, the physical copies we have from the past will become a rare item that will have preserved the information presented in them as well as the traditions they represent at Iowa State.

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.

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.

 

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.

aspen

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.

I’ve reached a point where I realize I need some (technology) help.

An image showing a routing form versus project management software charts

Choices….

Balancing the needs of at least eight people, 5 units, and three divisions is hard! We all need to share a workflow for building digital projects from primarily paper-based archival materials. New projects entail, at a minimum, the digital collections team: the entire Digital Initiatives staff, and at least one person from Special Collections and University Archives, Preservation, Metadata and Cataloging, and the Research and Instruction Division, currently represented on the team by the Science & Technology department. Library IT and Central IT may also play a role, depending on the project.

In order to work efficiently and at capacity, we run more than one project at a time. Additionally, I manage the queue – there are always requests for new projects waiting in the wings or projects we’ve thought of that would provide new kinds of access to some of the Library’s collections. It’s my job to assess priorities and fit these into the existing work when I can.

Everyone has their own way of working that makes the most sense for them. My flavor of managing my work is very analytical and visual heavy. I love diagrams and charts, spreadsheets, and estimations. I am soothed by massive spreadsheets and complicated business process modeling!

Our needs are varied, as are our schedules. We’ve been managing the work through team communication and a routing sheet, but we need more. Our project scopes have expanded, we’ve added new people to the digital collections team, and the various units have new procedures that need to be incorporated into our shared work. So, I am on the hunt for a comfortable project management solution. If it’s not comfortable for all of us, it won’t get used and it won’t work. I want it to be something that eases my hunger for charts and analysis, while also being streamlined enough that someone could else just see the tasks they need to get done that week. We’re testing some options and will hopefully come up with something that eases burden rather than adding to it.

Do you also have project management challenges? If so, please share!

 

 

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