Wicked Local Arlington reported June 28, 2018 that they were going to have a Throwback Thursday feature this summer. And where were they finding their Throwbacks? The Robbins Library collections on Digital Commonwealth. They were particularly taken with the photos from the Arlington Town Life series commissioned by the Robbins Library in Arlington from Norman Hurst. The series contains everyday moments of life in Arlington, like the children with basketball photo on the left.
All of May’s contributors are return customers. The Boston Public Library has added significant holdings of prints and drawings. The Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society has contributed more nautical charts while the Wilbraham Public Library has digitized more photographs. Special mention has to be made of the Lawrence Public Library, which has added fourteen collections ranging from 1 to 68 items.
Most striking are the photographs of the aftermath of the “Great Cyclone” of 1890. Eight people died and 65 were injured. The tornado did $60,000 worth of damage. ($1.5 million in today’s money) The house on the left is just one of many that did not survive the storm.
On a happier note, Lawrence Public Library also digitized a collection of sheet music. It almost doesn’t matter how tuneful the songs are when the covers are this colorful. (See below.)
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the third of these reports today.
Jacob Loberti is our third student correspondent. A sophomore at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, Jacob is majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business.
An Undergrad on a Mission: Attending the Digital Commonwealth Annual Conference to Survey for an Independent Study
On Tuesday, April 10th I attended the 12th annual Digital Commonwealth conference at The College of the Holy Cross. I differ slightly from the regular attendee as I come bearing a different lens, that of a budding computer scientist. I decided to attend the Digital Commonwealth conference as a result of my independent study at Wheaton College. My independent study is a so-called Special Interest Group (SIG) project designed to be an interdisciplinary course of study amongst my other classes this semester. My two other group members and I have titled our SIG this semester, “3D Modeling to Virtual Viewing: Digitizing Wheaton’s African Collection”. In this project, we used a technique called photogrammetry to create virtual models to preserve Wheaton’s Permanent Collection. We found this conference to be quite relevant to what we had been working on since the beginning of the semester. When we first arrived at the Digital Commonwealth conference, we were presented with a delicious continental breakfast (we would later be served a warm lunch) to tide us over until the welcome remarks.
One notable session was certainly the keynote address, where Professor Joseph Nugent gave a presentation of his latest project, Joycestick, a “gamefiction” of Ulysses by James Joyce. I found this presentation fascinating and actually quite relevant to my group’s SIG project – except obviously done on a much larger scale with some great resources along with some graduate students at Boston College. Another session I found interesting was the networking session where my group partner and I got to speak directly with Professor Nugent. We showed him our SIG project and how far we had come since the beginning of the semester. He seemed rather impressed. What I soon found out about Professor Nugent was that he was a truly genuine person; he was more than happy to share some of his successes and failures with us, along with some tips that we could use for success as we continued and wrapped up our semester-long project. Our talk with Professor Nugent was probably the highlight of my day.
All in all there was a lot going on April 10th, but I’d say there was definitely a common theme in the air of the 12th annual Digital Commonwealth conference. This theme was one of Evolution as the greatest archivists in Massachusetts gather to discuss and master the art of preserving their historical pieces beyond the realm of the physical, and to keep doing so for many years to come.
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the second of these reports today.
Our second report comes from Daniel Chivvis, a graduate student at the Simmons School of Library & Information Science. His focus is on Information Technology.
A Glance at the 12th Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference
As a graduate student at the Simmons School of Library & Information Science, my main area of focus has been Information Technology. Consequently, I was thrilled to find out that the Digital Commonwealth Conference is held every year right here in Worcester, MA; a city that I not only reside and work in, but also love dearly. Upon arriving at the conference, I browsed through the network of vendors, met a plethora of new people, and collected a stack of business cards (of
which I have yet to fully sort through). All the while, and this would be the first common theme of the day, I helped myself to as many cups of coffee as possible. Low quality jokes aside, out of all the sessions I attended, there was never a dull moment. I was impressed by every speaker. It is quite evident that the folks at the Digital Commonwealth are not only a tight-knit group of passionate professionals, but they are also welcoming to those completely new to the industry.
Let me begin with a brief homage to Professor Joseph Nugent’s Keynote Address: “Joycestick – Engaging Ulysses In a Virtual Reality Game.” As a James Joyce fan and general advocate of virtual reality technology, I was pleased to learn how an eclectic group of students at Boston College had managed to create something so beautiful and entertaining. Now, that is not to say that the exclusive purpose of Joycestick is to entertain. Rather, it serves a more important role: to educate in a way that is accessible to a wider audience. Accessibility, as a common theme repeated throughout the day, was highlighted as an attribute of visual reality technologies by Professor Nugent on several occasions. I could not agree more; virtual reality offers a unique window into the world of literature (or any other content) that has, up until the present moment, been limited to a privileged group of people. I hope Joycestick and similar projects continue to enter our pedagogical discourse, for what this group of developers is accomplishing is truly inspiring.
During the first breakout session, I attended Professor Carolina Ruiz’s “Concepts in Data Mining.” Here I learned the basics of data mining and how it can be used as a versatile tool by information professionals. This session was perhaps the most impressive: Professor Ruiz articulated complex topics in a way that was accessible to those even completely unfamiliar with the topic. My only criticism is that the session ended earlier than it should have; Professor Ruiz had much more to say. I also found Eben English’s Luncheon Keynote Address: “Digital Commonwealth Repository System Update: Year in Review & Future Directions” useful in many ways. As someone new to the Digital Commonwealth, the address summarized the organization’s purpose and future aspirations. Looking at usage statistics—such as through Google Analytics—English presented invaluable data that was not only fascinating, but sometimes humorous. I look forward to hearing what he has to report next year.
Upon reflecting on the conference, I am reminded of its diverse group of speakers and friendly members. I have since been inspired to inquire about our own digital collections at the Worcester Public Library (where I play the role of both patron and employee). There is no doubt that I intend on remaining involved with the Digital Commonwealth. I plan on attending all future conferences and keeping up with the latest news. The general consensus among the people I met was that the conference continues to improve every year. For this and other reasons, I cannot wait to see what is in store next year.
The Digital Commonwealth awarded three students free attendance to the annual conference this year. All three have written blog posts about their experience. We are happy to present the first of these reports today.
Ashley Miller is currently finishing up coursework in Simmons College’s dual-degree History and Archives Management Master’s program. She has used the Digital Commonwealth for research on her own projects.
Outreach and Accessibility in the Digital World
They are two of the most basic archival functions, yet the increasing content and ever-changing nature of the digital world is forcing information professionals to approach outreach and accessibility in new and unique ways. This year’s Digital Commonwealth conference presented a number of examples of how librarians are adapting and utilizing digital platforms to perform outreach and make their collections more accessible.
With more and more libraries, museums, and archives creating active digital presences, the field is generating new ways of engaging with patrons. Social media is one of the most useful forms of outreach, but there are even more ways we can engage with patrons on the digital front. Increasingly, libraries are crowdsourcing their collections to allow patrons to provide information valuable for cataloging. This not only allows collections to become accessible at a much faster rate, but allows patrons to participate in a unique manner on their own time. Furthermore, there are a variety of apps, tools, and websites available to display digital exhibits such as HistoryPin, Story Map, Omeka, and Soundate. These allow our collections to be viewed in a new light, providing patrons with differing ways of exploring archival materials.
There are aggregate possibilities with digitization. As Professor Joseph Nugent demonstrated with “Joycestick,” we can make difficult to understand concepts more accessible through digital means. Moreover, virtual reality is said to be an empathy machine, allowing users to have an on-demand experience that they otherwise would not have. If virtual reality can make accessible challenging texts like Ulysses, imagine the possibilities archival holdings can have. Public libraries have already begun to adopt virtual reality technology, providing access to their patrons.
Libraries must be adaptive and innovative. We cannot be content simply posting our collections on social media, but we should strive for digital accessibility across the board. Libraries have always adapted to changing technologies, and the Digital Commonwealth conference demonstrated the continued effort to do so.
All those April showers (rain and snow alike) brought over 3,300 new items to the Digital Commonwealth. The largest donation came from the National Archives at Boston with its Watertown Arsenal Photographs collection. The photos of bright shining new armaments contrast sharply with the Franklin Historical Museum’s riveting Images of World War I Battlefields collection. (See Avant l’assaut to left.)
On balance, the Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation and Jacob Edwards Library (Southbridge) have added images of everyday life in small town Massachusetts. The Boston Public Library enhances the everyday with the artistic and, happily, the humorous. In this case, most of us might associate running and bulls with Ernest Hemingway and Pamplona. For Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the association becomes running from bulls – and there is nothing macho about it. (See La vache enragée below.)
March came in like a lion and then refused to leave like a lamb. Can we get a refund from Mother Nature? Perhaps a few extra days of fall? Digital Commonwealth never sleeps, though; witness the many additions to the collections last month.
My personal favorite proves that bad hair days are not a 21st century phenomenon. This unidentified gentleman (left) comes from the Granville Public Library’s Unidentified People and Places collection. I am sure he is happy to be unidentified. Wouldn’t you be, with this look?
The remaining collections are from some old reliable contributors and some new ones. Kudos to the newbies who added large collections and the vets who added to existing collections. I personally know some folks who will be delighted that the Medford Historical Society is adding to its Civil War photo collection.
I admit my taste runs more to the Art Nouveau cover for Beverly’s Balance (see below), a play given by the Waban Women’s Club on May 4th 1917. Which only goes to show that Digital Commonwealth always strives to provide something for everyone.
I hope to see you at the Annual Conference tomorrow in Worcester – another instance of Digital Commonwealth providing something for everyone!
This month, the Boston Public Library (BPL) added 36 items from its M.C. Escher prints and drawings collection. It also happens that this month the Museum of Fine Arts opened an exhibit of M.C. Escher prints. Great minds really do think alike.
In addition, the BPL added items to six existing collections as well as lithographs, etchings and drawings of James McNeill Whistler, a Commonwealth-born artist most famous for his mother’s portrait.
The Leicester Public Library has uploaded a collection of architectural drawings while the Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society and the Jamaica Plain Historical Society have added new items to existing collection.
It appears winter is not done with us yet, so let the wonders on Digital Commonwealth warm your day and inspire your spirit.
Written by Patricia Feeley, Interlibrary Loan Librarian, Boston Public Library
When I come upon an image that deserves A Closer Look, I am usually rewarded with a story that deserves telling as well. The giant whale on the beach of Ostende print led to a story of 18th century Europeans encountering strange and wonderful creatures. An 1895 photo of attendees at a rope pull led to a discussion of campus fashion. This photo from the Osborne Library of the American Textile Museum is just what it says it is: a frontal close-up view of two rams. The angle, looking up rather than down at the rams, adds stature to them. They almost seem to be standing at attention to review the herd.
The backstory here is really just the caption on the back. The description on Digital Commonwealth ends, “Written on reverse: ‘His Majesty’ and friend.” Assuming we are meant to read the photo left to right, His Majesty is the first ram on the left. The ram on his right is his nameless friend. I can’t help but feel sorry for his friend. What makes one ram more nameable than another? The nameless friend seems as woolly to me. His horns turn out more than His Majesty’s. His snout seems a little shorter. I really don’t see much to choose between the two. It’s an eternal diss to what seems to me to be a perfectly worthy ram.
I don’t know why the shepherd didn’t name the friend. Or why the photographer didn’t ask. I just know I am naming him “The Heir Apparent”.
Have you kept your New Year’s resolution to digitize your historical treasures? These institutions did. Anna Maria College’s The Travel Postcards of Charles Bumsack Collection includes this view of Smith College’s Observatory (left). If you explore more, you’ll also find views of the Crab, Dumbbell and Horsehead Nebulae. I kid you not.
If whimsy is not your cup of tea, the BPL has added some significant correspondence collections and Barre Historical Society has added maps. (See example below.) Wilbraham Public Library chips in some photographs of the Glendale section of town while the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) has added prints, sculptures, photos and more in its six collections.
Earlier this month Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we have six more weeks of winter. Plenty of time to visit all these great collections.