Reformatting


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.

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Hi, I’m Jake Thompson and I have been working as a student assistant in the Scholarly Publishing Services unit since earlier this summer. My work mostly consists of uploading historic or back issues of student publications into the Iowa State University Digital Repository. Currently, we are working in collaboration with Special Collections to upload some of the earlier volumes of the historic student publication, The Iowa Homemaker.  Once completed, The Iowa Homemaker will be accessible to anyone around the world  on the Digital Repository’s website.

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Digitized page from the magazine

The Iowa Homemaker was founded by the Home Economics Club in 1921.  It was the first magazine on Iowa State campus written by women for women.  The Iowa Homemaker covers a wide range of issues from “Canning Early Fruits and Vegetables” to “Can a Homemaker be a Citizen?”  It contains the excited energy of women trying to find their place in early twentieth century Iowa, and it offers a unique perspective on the history of Iowa State.  Familiar names like Beyer, Buchanan, and Cessna author article after article.  In 1926 the publication celebrated the grand opening of Mackay Hall, the new home of the College of Home Economics.  In 1943, nationwide tension is captured in the magazine’s numerous calls to aid in the war effort.  While this was a publication for homemakers in name, over time it began outgrowing that title and instead reflected women’s increasing interests outside of the home.

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethel Cessna Morgan, Iowa State College Class of 1904

Ethyl Cessna Morgan was one of many women authors who wrote for the Iowa Homemaker magazine. One of her articles was about modernization of marriage. Ethyl taught at the Department of Economics. Among her achievements was being elected the President of the Ames League of Women Voters.

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.

 

 

CindyAfter spending 45 years on the ISU campus, first as an undergraduate and then as a library employee, Cindy Wahl retired June 1, 2015.  After earning a BA in Craft Design in 1974 and a BA in Art Education in 1975, Cindy started student teaching and realized that teaching might not be the career path for her.  So, in the fall of 1976, she went to the Home Economics placement office (the Art department was in Home Economics) to look at available jobs.  Carolyn Erwin was working in the placement office at the time and asked her what kind of job she wanted.  She replied, “any job that would allow her to move away from home (Anamosa).”  Carolyn said that the library was a good place to work and that she should go to the ISU placement office, which she did that day.  This was back in the day when applicants for merit positions had to take tests.  Cindy took the tests, went home, and received a phone call for a job interview at the library.  She moved into an apartment on Welch Avenue and started as a Clerk I in the Serials Department of the Library on October 18, 1976.  Within 18 months, she was promoted to a Library Assistant I and then to a Library Assistant III.  She worked at the serials Kardex and in Serials Acquisitions.  For a few months she did some basic Serials Cataloging which gave her a better understanding of records which she benefitted from in each position she held in the library.  She supervised the Kardex staff, and continued working in Serials Acquisitions when she was reclassified to a Library Assistant IV.  She spent the next 15 years in the Preservation Department working on vended services including preservation facsimiles, microfilm, digitization, mass deacidification, custom-fit boxes, and library binding, learning a lot about preservation and getting to know a plethora of vendor reps.

Cindy has been a life-long Cyclone fan since her father was a graduate of the ISU Veterinary College and her mom worked for Colonel Pride at the Memorial Union.  Her first memory of Ames was coming with her family when her dad had meetings one summer.  The family went to the Lincoln Way Café in Dog Town and shocked the waitress when 3 young Wahl children, ages 7, 4, and 3, all ordered liver and onions for lunch! Yum!

For Cindy the best part of working at the library has been the people she met and has gotten to know.  Last summer, she even had a library work friend from the 1970’s come to visit.  Over all those years, she has met and worked with so many and she enjoys keeping in touch with them.  The biggest change she witnessed were records in paper form and typewriters shifting to computers and digital records.

Now that she is retired and home from a trip to Chicago to attend her nephew’s wedding, she has stacks of books to read, including the complete library of Agatha Christie; “I need to get busy before the books become brittle.”  (The things you worry about after working in Preservation).  She has started reading one of the books from her stacks.  Her plan is to read a book and pass it on.  She also hopes to do some traveling with her sister and she has a long list of blanket weaving projects for each of her nephews and nieces; “I have more yarn than I have books.”

Thank you Cindy for all of the contributions you have made to the library over 39 years!

Written by Suzette Schmidt.

The Iowa State University Library’s Preservation Services unit is responsible for gathering, organizing, and preparing three newspaper publications to be shipped out of the Library to a microfilming company in order to be filmed and permanently added to our collection.  This allows people to research these publications starting from 1890 (in the case of the Iowa State Daily) to the present.  The biggest problem we have had in completing this task is making sure we had a copy of each issue published.  We solved this problem and no longer need to worry about having the copies we need.

Newspapers

  • Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman is a weekly publication of Iowa Farm Bureau providing important information regarding agriculture from all parts of the state.   We had been using the copy which we receive on subscription, but were finding that often issues were missing.  We would then need to borrow the publisher’s copy.  To avoid this problem, the publisher now sends us a copy to use only for microfilming.
  • Toons is a free weekly publication of Cartoons and Puzzles that is enjoyed by many from Iowa State, Ames, and the surrounding communities.  Once again, we were having problems with the papers disappearing from our shelves.  Toons is placed around campus and the community with one of these locations at the building next to the library.  One of our staff members picks up a copy each week which we use as the copy for microfilming.
  • Iowa State Daily is the daily student newspaper of Iowa State University providing information to students, faculty, staff, and community members about events and other subjects of interest in regards to this academic institution.   The library obtains 2 copies of the Daily.  One copy is mailed to us and a second copy is picked up by a staff member in Special Collections.  Having 2 copies available allows us to pick the cleanest copy to send to our vendor for filming.

For those of you who do any sort of preservation reformatting or digitizing you know how time consuming the quality control process can be. Our best practice would be to check completeness and initial quality of the original, especially if we are sending them to a vendor, and then to quality control page-by-page or frame-by-frame the facsimile or digital version. Maybe over time, as we become more confident in our process or the vendor’s, we may choose to do some spot checking or sampling if we are doing a large project. This is the step that is often overlooked when planning a project and budgeting staff time. It seems like such a waste of resources, especially when there are no mistakes to be found.

Well, let me tell you a little story and provide a warning. Like many academic institutions, our dissertations were sent to UMI for microfilming dating back to the 1930s. We did not receive copies because the student was required to submit two paper copies to the library (one for general collections and the other for University Archives). In 2006, we caught up with the times and moved to electronic submission of both MA theses and PhD dissertations through ProQuest’s ETD process. At that time, ProQuest made an offer to members of the Greater Western Library Alliance to digitize older theses and dissertations at a reduced cost so full-text versions could be accessed through ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. Our administration decided to have all of our dissertations digitized. We sent nearly 2,000 print titles and ProQuest used an additional 12,000 microfilm titles from their holdings for the project. The majority of print titles were early dissertations that needed a little attention; graphs, charts, and photographs were re adhered, pages mended, and bindings were cut.

Because we did not receive digital copies, we never performed any post-production quality control, and also thought that since ProQuest was making these available for sale it would behoove them to be diligent and capture them accurately. Flash forward to the present. Our Digital Repository (DR) was established in 2012, giving us a place to provide open access to dissertations and theses. Administration purchased the digital dissertations from ProQuest and they are being added to the DR by our Metadata and Cataloging staff. Each title page is checked against the record to confirm that the PDF is what it claims to be. Well, so far our diligent MD and Cat staff have identified 15 ProQuest screw-ups.

Each dissertation usually begins with bibliographic information and a UMI statement indicating the text was filmed directly from the original and if anything is missing or of poor quality, it is because the author submitted it that way; although, missing pages would be noted. At first the Catalogers were finding minor problems such as no title page, the wrong title page, or missing front matter. Then they started finding parts of other dissertations added in, the wrong dissertation (sometimes from other institutions!), or, it gets better, portions of two different dissertations, neither of which were the correct dissertation, pieced together. So far it appears that all of the mistakes are coming from microfilm scans from the 1970s-90s, and since we do not hold microfilm copies, I cannot determine if the mistake is with the microfilm original or the scanning process. (ILL requests for two microfilm copies were not received by the time of this post). The incorrect digital versions we were sent are the same ones that ProQuest has made available.

Preservation is now scanning these mistakes in-house and adding them to our open access DR. In the near future, the OCLC MARC records for all ISU theses and dissertations will include the URL to the DR object without a URL to the ProQuest version. Researchers will be able to find complete and accurate representations in our DR for free.

I would suggest that if your institution has worked with ProQuest to convert microfilm versions, you may want to do some checking of your own. Maybe we should ask ProQuest if they would like to purchase correct digital files from us.

Quality control, quality control, quality control!

Written by Cindy Wahl and Suzette Schmidt of the Preservation Services unit.

Student employees are an important staffing component of the Preservation Services section of the Preservation Department at Iowa State University Library.  The unit has 3 staff employees, and with the volume of work being sent to and from the vendors, the students help make the workflow smooth and consistent.

1-SortingPeriodicals

Sorting and organizing periodicals.

Students are responsible for the filing of periodicals when they are received from our Serials Acquisitions department.  They sort and organize the issues prior to taking them to our Periodical Room or the General Collection for filing with the rest of the unbound issues.  While filing the periodicals, they also check the titles to see if there are now enough older issues on the shelf to pull and return them to staff in Preservation Services to have them prepared for binding.  In addition to pulling periodicals for binding while filing, we now have in place an electronic system where we can search, sort, and print out a list of periodicals that are now ready to be bound.  The student uses that list to organize and forward periodicals to staff for binding.

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Shelving issues in the Periodical Room.

There is a continual flow of work to be delivered and retrieved to other areas of the library and students are the legs for transporting these items.  With our Preservation Department being housed on two different floors and other departments spread throughout the five floors of the library, the students are valuable in moving work from floor to floor and department to department.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Preservation Services works with a variety of vendors for binding, reformatting, and mass deacidification, which all require packing and unpacking of volumes.  Students assist with this task while staff prepare the paperwork to be included with the shipments.  At times the volumes being shipped need a page-by-page review, and the students help with this process by noting any repairs, which are then handled by staff.  Upon receipt of the finished volumes, the new format is compared to the old volume by student employees to be sure the work is accurate and complete.

3-ReviewVolumes

Reviewing a thesis.

Some volumes being added to the collection need to have marking done to them prior to being forwarded for shelving.  These pass through the Preservation Services section where the student is responsible for stamping the volumes with the Iowa State University Library possession stamp, moving the bar code to the appropriate placement on the volume, and, if necessary, adhering the title and call number labels to the spine.

As work flows and tasks change within the Preservation Services unit, it is always important for us to review the assignments and use our students in the most productive manner.  They have shorter scheduled blocks of time, and their assistance is used best to help move the work through the unit and to help make the volumes available to patrons in a timely manner.

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