From Our Students

As I am wrapping up my internship with Virginia Tech Special Collections, I felt it would be a good time to reflect upon the role of digitization within the institution. Whereas last week I looked at the digitization throughput initiatives and compared that with Virginia Tech's Special Collections, this week I consider the overall role of digitization in Virginia Tech's Special Collections in comparison with other archives' digitization programs. The Council on Library and Information Resources recently posted an interesting blog entry concerning their Hidden Collections Program. Essentially, the goal of this program was to fund initiatives by institutions that aimed to make hidden collections – i.e. those that were in backlog, uncatalogued and unprocessed, and thus inaccessible – more visible. Their previous focus was on the cataloging process, but they have recently shifted their focus to “envisioning new ways to promote innovative , efficient, and deeply collaborative approaches to creating access to otherwise hidden collections of scholarly value.” They place new emphasis on digitization efforts, but not at the expense of cataloging, as the two go hand in hand. It's not an either/or scenario; rather than an emphasis on digitization supplanting the necessity of cataloging, digitizing collections [...]
Sat, May 03, 2014
Public History Interns
This week, in addition to scanning material from the collections, I also compared the digitization throughput from Virginia Tech Special Collections to the initiatives of other Special Collections. Ricky Erway's “Rapid Capture: Faster Throughput in Digitization of Special Collections” presents a series of vignettes on the digitization processes of various Special Collections institutions. In evaluating the successes of the projects at these institutions, several themes appear. It seems as though each institution has asked itself what is the goal of their digitization efforts. If the goal is preservation, like at Indiana University's Archives of Traditional Music, then higher quality digital copies become necessary. At Indiana University's Special Collections, digitization of outdated media like audio cassettes necessitates a higher quality of preservation. If the goal of digitization, however, is access rather than preservation, then scanning the material at a lower quality allows one to move through material faster, as many of the examples in Erway's study attest. This point, especially, made me wonder about Virginia Tech's policy of scanning in collections as high quality tif files. Certainly, in so doing Special Collections follows the digitization guidelines and archival standards for rendering collections in a digital format. However, Special [...]
Wed, Apr 23, 2014
Public History Interns
Moving forward with the exhibit planning, I turned my attention to the Storyboard section of the exhibit. For this, the idea was to create something that people could interact with and participate in. The concept of the Storyboard is simple: we'll have a cork (or foam)-board wall with stack of index cards for people to write/draw on and tack up to the wall. What we're asking for the index cards is very open-ended, but centered around the ‘Blacksburg' theme. People can write/draw their favorite memory in Blacksburg, or some of their favorite places/things about Blacksburg. Or, if they're new to the area, they can post about something they're looking forward to doing in Blacksburg. The point of this mini-project is for people to have a chance to do something hands-on in the exhibit. But it's also a chance to let people tell us how they see Blacksburg in their own parameters. It's a way to gain insight into the relationship between place and identity, and reveal the different connections that link diverse times of people. Beyond getting to participate and create their own index card, I imagine people will enjoy reading/viewing what other people have posted as well. To get [...]
Tue, Apr 22, 2014
Public History Interns
Although the Civil War letters and diaries that I have been scanning form part of a larger project, up until this past week, I yet to talk with Dr. Quigley, the head of this Mapping the Fourth Project. My point of contact had solely been my internship supervisor in Special Collections. In addition to my usual weekly scanning duties, I arranged last Monday to meet with Dr. Quigley to discuss the project. Prior to our meeting, I had only a general idea of what the project was, mostly based on conversations I had had with classmates who were researching for the Mapping the Fourth project. After meeting with Dr. Quigley, however, I feel that I have a much better understanding of the wider project into which my work in Special Collections feeds. Further, I think that the meeting was also useful because it helped open a chain of communication between myself and the other groups working on this same project. Essentially, Dr. Quigley and his graduate assistants have been compiling and collecting references to the Fourth of July during the late antebellum and Civil War era to better understand how Americans viewed and celebrated this national [...]
Wed, Apr 16, 2014
Public History Interns
This past week I have continued working in Special Collections to digitize the materials identified by Dr. Quigley and his graduate assistants as relevant to the Mapping the Fourth project. This week I was responsible for scanning letters and diary entries that relayed information on how people during the Civil War era celebrated and thought about the Fourth of July. While I have previously discussed in my last few blog entries the process of digitization and its related issues and considerations, I haven't yet talked about the actual material that I am scanning for Special Collections. The letters and diary entries that I have been working with are really interesting. Since it takes some time for the image to scan, I have the opportunity to read the diary entries and letter content while I am waiting. One of the related collections that I have been digitizing in full for Special Collections is the diary of William J. Pittenger. He was a Union soldier who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Civil War. (For more on Pittenger and his diary, see the finding aid here and also the scanned diary on Virginia Tech's Image Base). Reading [...]
Thu, Apr 10, 2014
Public History Interns
Lori and I began discussing the possibility of having a “Kids' Corner” at the exhibit. She mentioned having some child-sized easels with paints or markers for kids to use, and possibly some blocks. I began thinking about what we could set up that would be targeted at kids and still somehow tie into the exhibit's theme, and came up with the idea of a Blacksburg-themed puzzle. The puzzle pieces would be the shapes of the different Blacksburg neighborhoods, so kids could essentially ‘build' or ‘piece together' their town. Lori loved the idea, as did Katherine and Josh at the town's GIS office, so they created a large 2×2 map with color coded neighborhood distinctions that someone could trace to construct a custom puzzle. Unfortunately, I've had trouble finding anyone that's willing to make one or two of these in the short time-frame we need it for. We've asked around to people we could think of, including at Tech's workshop in the Art & Architecture School. This is probably a great example of some of the challenges public historians face. Even when they have an idea for something in an exhibit, actually executing it often requires collaborating with people that have [...]
Wed, Apr 09, 2014
Public History Interns
After our initial discussion with the town's ArcGIS people, Katherine and Jason (her intern) about what we had in mind for the exhibit, they set to work trying to build it for us and called us back when they had something for us to see. We met with them for about an hour and they walked us through the interactive map they'd created for us to use. Katherine created a couple log-ins for us, so we'll just have to make sure the volunteers at the House keep the monitors and/or iPads logged in while the exhibit is open to visitors. Essentially, people can come and put in virtual pushpins on the google-map looking interface (which can zoom and scroll around the town limits) and then identify what that place means to them. Once each person submits their pushpin choices, it will automatically save to the town's Cloud, so we won't have to worry about having a server big enough to house all the map edits. We were discussing how we might compile and analyze the data toward the end of the exhibit, as there wasn't an immediate way to distinguish who was placing what pins. I suggested, however, that people [...]
Tue, Apr 08, 2014
Public History Interns
Along with scanning Civil War diary pages that related to Fourth of July celebrations, this past week also gave me the opportunity to reflect on collaboration and the multiple parties involved in digitization projects like the one on which I have been working. Since I had previously worked as a graduate assistant in Virginia Tech Special Collections, my supervisor gave me a sheet of collections, identified by the history graduate assistants working on the Mapping the Fourth project, at the beginning of my shift so that I could go into the archives and pull the related collections. As the one digitizing the collection material relating to the Fourth of July, I am only one among a number of people working on this project. As such, clear communication becomes crucial. The list of collections that I had to hunt down from the archives had been compiled by others. Luckily, most of the collections had been identified by the manuscript number, and the desired box and folder number had been indicated. This allowed me to fairly quickly find exactly what I needed to digitize and left little confusion in exactly what material I ought to scan. Only a few [...]
Wed, Apr 02, 2014
Public History Interns
This past week I continued digitizing Civil War diaries that had content related to celebrating the Fourth of July. As I discussed more at length last week, Special Collections had me scanning the whole diaries, rather than simply a select portion. As I scanned the diaries using the overhead scanner, it occurred to me just what a large undertaking it was for an archive like Special Collections to begin digitizing its collections, especially if the archive is just beginning the process. Initially, nothing will have been scanned, so archives like Special Collections need to develop some sort of plan for beginning the process and identifying initial collections and material to digitize. Regarding the manuscript collections, it seems that Virginia Tech's Special Collections partly determines what to digitize based on patron requests. I think this makes a lot of sense for an institution that is beginning to create an online presence with their archival holdings; it makes available first material that individuals actually want to use. This also allows researchers and patrons to access material with which they might not otherwise be able to engage if they are not able to visit Special Collections in person. Using the [...]
Thu, Mar 20, 2014
Public History Interns
Last week Lori and I mainly talked about narrowing the maps we wanted to use for the exhibit so that we could move forward with other planning. Keeping in mind that we didn't want to overwhelm the visitor with tons of different maps, we decided on three main maps to showcase. First, a map of Blacksburg with each of the neighborhoods color coded, so people could figure out which neighborhood they lived in. Second, a map showing the growth of the town limits over time, since its founding to present. And finally, a map that shows the town's building construction history over time. These last two maps should help illustrate Blacksburg's overall growth in terms of both land and population. The third map will be especially useful in showing the impact of Virginia Tech and its student population on the town's growth, as more and more housing has been constructed to accommodate the students and faculty. These maps should be a good tie-in with the ArcGIS-based networking activity we have planned for the exhibit, and will hopefully help teach people something about Blacksburg's history that they didn't know about before. This week, we'll be finalizing these map [...]
Fri, Mar 07, 2014
Public History Interns
Today was my last official meeting with Dr. Purcell for the Journal of East Tennessee. For the past few days I had looked over the .pdf file he sent me of the Journal contents. Basically, our meeting today was to discuss the last stages of production before it was sent to the layout artist. Also, he wanted to keep me up to speed with what the page-proofs would look like when they were produced in January or February. Because I was an author for the volume, Dr. Purcell informed me that he would send me the page proofs for my research note in mid-January, with corrections that needed to be made. The same step is followed by the other authors. Once the corrected page proofs are sent back to Dr. Purcell, he and a couple other reviewers go through a second page-proof editing process, followed by a third. Generally, the contents of the Journal are finalized by the third set of page proofs. Then the Journal is ready to be sent to the printer in Michigan. While technically my internship ends this semester, Dr. Purcell offered to send me the whole contents of the Journal to review in late winter. I [...]
Tue, Dec 18, 2012
Alison Vick
This week Dr. Purcell and I had our second to last meeting concerning the JETH. This was a meeting to tie up all the loose ends (of which there were few) of the Journal. We have a good idea of what the cover of the Journal will look like. Through email, Dr. Purcell has kept me up to speed with the length and layout of the journal. Generally, we meet once a week to discuss progress with the Journal, but throughout the week we exchange a few emails with Journal updates. The aim of our meeting last Monday was to get a solid, final copy of my research note to him, and ready for publication. This was a useful meeting because I received first-hand feedback from the editor of the journal. Also though, Dr. Purcell is very good about respecting the author's opinion and desires for the article. We collaborated on the final product, and ended up with a research note that relates to the a few of the other notes and articles in the Journal. As further proof of how much Dr. Purcell wants the input of his intern for the Journal, he asked me to read over his introduction to [...]
Thu, Dec 13, 2012
Alison Vick
For the past week, work on the JETH has been a mix of tying ends up on various projects and finishing my own research note. In particular, I devoted the end of last week to writing a polished copy of my research note. There were a few awkward things to deal with in the article, logistically. Because the research note concerns the print order of a couple of documents, produced the same year, it has been a struggle to try and find which came first. In the end, Dr. Purcell and I agreed that there needed to be some way to rewrite the section discussing dates in such a way that it was not necessary to decide which came first. Overall, Dr. Purcell is happy with the article and is doing some last minute tweaking and adding suggestions before he returns it to me for any final revisions. Happily, we are right where he wants us to be in terms of the Journal project. The authors have sent revised drafts of their essay, based on the edits he and I suggested. We have selected photos, and are in the process of laying out the design. In addition, the technical pieces of [...]
Tue, Dec 04, 2012
Alison Vick
The past week, as well as this week, has been devoted to revising my article on O.P. Temple. Because so little has been written on him, finding dates and minute details of his works and publications is a challenge. Specifically, I am trying to find out the publication dates for the two versions of his “Address.” It appears that the address for the public was printed in response to the original version of the speech he gave, but the publication dates are misleading, and or not present on the original text. Determing the correct order in which the two texts were published has been one of my immediate goals for the article. Aside from researching minor facts, I am re-reading the original draft of my article and revising it for this Friday. Which parts need to be emphasized? Also, because the article is about the specific document in special collections, I am gaging how muchof the original text to include in the article. It is a challenge to include so much of the text when I am not used to incorportating numerous large block quotes in my papers. In other JETH news, we are still working to find the perfect [...]
Tue, Nov 27, 2012
Alison Vick
This past week has been consumed by writing the journal article on O.P. Temple. Basically, the article revolves around a specific document accrued by the staff at Special Collections. It is a speech delivered by Temple in 1869, and is one of twelve copies of this specific document available in the country. For this reasons, and others, this document is very special to the archives at Virginia Tech. Stylistically, the article revolves around examination of the lengthy block quotes given in the essay. The project has been quite interesting because it has required some “digging” for background research. Works written on Temple are scarce, and those that are available are obtained through Inter-Library Loan. Also, it's required I research background information on the Civil War battles in East Tennessee, as well as Reconstruction in the Upper South. In particular, the Battle of Fort Sanders is relevant to this article because it occured in the Knoxville area, and Temple's address was delivered in Knoxville. I have been fortunate enough to get feedback on my drafts from Dr. Purcell as I procede with the article. This week is also important in terms of the cover design. Yesterday, I received an email with three [...]
Tue, Nov 13, 2012
Alison Vick
This is one of the weeks where there is little progress on the JETH. Currently, Dr. Purcell and I are doing some last minute tweaking on articles, but primarily we are waiting for authors to get back to us with the changes to their respective articles. We're working on creating the perfect cover image. One of the images we wanted to feature on the cover turned out to have peculiar lighting images and in short, did not look right for a cover image. For my part, I have started writing the research note on O.P. Temple and the Knoxville Industrial Agency. Because my text is the only article which we have not yet read completely though, the format for the journal is essentially laid out. Dr. Purcell extended the deadline for my note until Thanksgiving Break (also the time when my first thesis chapter is due), and luckily I have that week off to read and write the note. However, I am submitting a rough draft on Friday so that he has some sense of where I am going and can offer input and suggestions. I am grateful for his critiques because this particular topic is outside my own primary [...]
Wed, Nov 07, 2012
Alison Vick
With the internship with JETH, some weeks are very busy with very specific tasks to accomplish. For example, several weeks are devoted to editing journal articles. Another week is devoted to locating images that correspond to the journal articles, and theme of the volume. However, other weeks are very much “odds and ends” weeks, where there are several small tasks to work on. This past week has been an “odds and ends” week. First on my task list was to continue researching and outline my research note on O.P. Temple and the Knoxville Industrial Agency. Happily, I came up with an outline I could work with and began the initial writing process for the research note. The goal of the research note is two-fold: to give me experience writing a concise, short article for a professional (if non-peer-edited) journal. The second purpose of the research note is to tie together the theme of the journal and the possible cover design. Another task this past week was to read the latest research note submitted to the journal. The lateness of this research notes is indicative of the rolling deadlines set by the journal. While it was late in arriving, [...]
Wed, Oct 31, 2012
Alison Vick
The past week was chaotic in terms of working on the journal because of my thesis proposal defense at the beginning of the week. However, I did finally receive two of my sources needed for the Oliver Perry Temple article, via Inter-Library Loan. I read one which was a Master's thesis from the 1970s and provided tremendous background context on Temple, and the Knoxville Industrial Agency in 1869. Working with the outline Dr. Purcell suggested, I have begun my own outline for the article. I now have a relevant working knowledge of Temple and understand how to discuss the significance of the document. In addition, Dr. Purcell and I discussed cover images and layout for the JETH today. While the cover has not been decided for sure, we discussed the possibility of deviating from the past two journal cover-styles (featuring artwork), and having a photo on the cover which corresponds to one of the articles in the issue. The next step is to see if the layout artist thinks this idea is feasible. If so, we have to evaluate our current three primary options and see which is the most appropriate with the JETH theme. However, if we use the [...]
Tue, Oct 23, 2012
Alison Vick
This week has been slower than usual for the JETH. Mostly, Dr. Purcell and I are waiting for the authors to get back to us about our edits of their articles and research notes. Until they do, we can't move forward very much. We did discuss one potential research note connecting East Tennessee to the Spanish-American War in 1898. It was a quite interesting story and will definitely be used in the Journal in the future, but we are currently trying to decide if we will put it in this issue or a subsequent one. Ultimately, the decision is based on the theme of this issue of the JETH. Last week I also got to read over a dozen book reviews which will be in this issue of the JETH. Not surprisingly, most of them were reviews on books on the Civil War. Out of the fear that some of the reviews might be scathing, Dr. Purcell and I discussed what to do with a review that severely attacks the author of the book. He showed me a few former instances of that occuring, and then how he edited the review to make it more respectful, yet not lose the reviewer's [...]
Wed, Oct 17, 2012
Alison Vick
Last week, Dr. Purcell and I discussed formatting for the journal. There was some concern amongst us about the footnotes in one of the articles submitted to this edition of the JETH. In previous editions of the journal, footnotes were limited to a two to three lines of information relevant to the text. In one of the articles this past week, the footnotes were between seven and ten lines each with irrelevant information. Dr. Purcell contacted the author about reformatting the notes, but the author maintained that he wanted the footnotes exactly as they were. This caused a little bit of headache for us as we tried to balance the style of the JETH with the demands of the author. Dr. Purcell and I came to a mutual consensus that we could modify the footnotes and show the author an example, but for style issues, we could not have over 100 meaty footnotes for a 25 page article. On another note, I am continuing to research my article on O.P. Temple and the Knoxville Industrial Association. The general outline will discuss background on Temple, Reconstruction in East Tennessee in the late 1860s, the document at Special Collections, Tennessee agrarianism, and [...]
Wed, Oct 10, 2012
Alison Vick