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By: Jason Evans Groth

The Born Digital Curation strategic initiative at NC State University Libraries has been developed under the principle that, in order both to treat born digital assets as an important resource in our collection and to exploit the promise of said digital assets, we must treat born digital objects forensically. That is, because “evidence” about digital objects is inherently part of the object, we should use tools that extract that evidence expertly, carefully, and thoroughly, in order for us to offer future researchers the most complete investigative environment we can. Digital forensics techniques have long been used to investigate crimes, and the tools that have been developed for those investigations offer libraries and archives a very powerful resource to enhance the discovery and use of  born digital collections.

For example, a digital image often has metadata – data about the image – embedded within it. Depending on the camera that took the image, time, date, geographical location, and even digital evidence of the potential photographer (which can be discovered with embedded usernames or can be linked to other files’ date and time stamp on a hard drive, for example) can be “hidden” inside the ones and zeros that create what we see as a digital representation of a photograph. These bits of “evidence” are most often created without the photographer ever having to think about them, automatically, by the camera’s operating system. On the other hand, while it is not rare to see traditional film prints which have been processed with a time and date stamp on them, that certainly was not a standard. Geographical location, photographer, and other context was up to the person who handled the prints; if they do not arrive as part of a collection – or even if they do – the description of such images can be, at best, contextualized based on human-written clues and, at worst, are interesting – but random – decontextualized parts of collections.

This photograph of Alan Alda is dated as 1970-1979 in the Rare and Unique Digital Collections of NCSU, but the digital screenshot of the photograph has the exact time and date of creation.

This comparison/contrast is not intended to pit digital and analog objects against one another, but rather to point out that work within the digital realm, while riddled with challenges that are not necessarily part of the analog world, does allow for a degree of automation of information that, if harnessed and used correctly, can make the discovery, retrieval, and use of objects potentially easier. After all, what good is an archive if the stuff can’t be used?

Our born digital workstation has been outfitted with the tools to make this desire a reality. In order to accomplish effective management of born digital objects the Special Collections Research Center relies on an array of software tools that, depending on the needs presented by the curated object, are used in various combinations to produce usable packages of information that we can make more easily available to researchers and other patrons interested in the collections. The primary tool in our current workflow is BitCurator, which was developed primarily by our colleagues at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (SILS) in partnership with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and is funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In addition to the powerful tools contained within the software, there is a community of practitioners growing up and around the use of the software and born digital curation in general, which adds a whole new level of usefulness and empowerment to those of us tasked with tackling the challenge of born digital curation. Look for more on our workflow and specific born digital tools as we continue to update you on our born digital curation progress!

By: Jodi Berkowitz

This post is contributed by Darby Reiners, Project Archivist, Animal Rights and Animal Welfare Collections.

While archivists spend a great deal of time cataloging and rehousing collections that consist primarily of paper documents, occasionally we have the opportunity to handle three dimensional objects. For instance, while working on the Animal Welfare Institute Records, we discovered an entire carton filled with t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a mask related to different Animal Rights causes. Three dimensional objects like these shirts can provide a different perspective on researching organizations such as the Animal Welfare Institute. The shirts show another way that animal rights groups have tried to disseminate information about causes such as “Save the Whales, Boycott Japanese and Russian Goods” or “Save the Elephants, Keep them all on Appendix I.” These articles of clothing also provide insights into the communities in which this information was being distributed and strategies employed by those working for these causes. For example, one of the shirts for the “Save the Whales” cause is a children’s shirt while the “Save the Elephants” shirt states the organization’s agenda in English, French, and Spanish. These shirts show the Animal Welfare Institute’s attempts to spread their information across age groups and linguistic barriers. Just think of what else can be learned from delving into the Animal Welfare Institute’s records and these interesting artifacts, as well as our other collections on animal rights and animal welfare!

By: Brian Dietz

We’ve recently added just over a dozen new digitized films related to university history to our Rare and Unique Digital Collections.

College Days NC State 1950
College Days NC State, 1950
   
4H Dress Review Nuclear Reactor
4H Dress Review Nuclear Reactor
   
Noise Lab Peace Corps
Noise Lab Peace Corps

To discover all of the SCRC’s digitized films, visit the Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections.

By: Brian Dietz

This week is Agriculture Awareness Week, and to help celebrate it, the Libraries is curating a small exhibit that marks the 100th anniversary of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. The federal Smith-Lever Act in 1914 funded life-changing educational programs at NC State and other land-grant universities across the country. Even earlier, the seeds for Extension were sown by a “see-for-yourself” demonstration movement for farmers and rural families in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Early pioneers included Seaman Knapp, A.B. Graham, Booker T. Washington, and North Carolina’s own Jane S. McKimmon.

These educators’ ideals transformed the way land-grant universities saw their roles. Cooperative Extension placed professional educators in local communities with the mission of improving lives. Today, North Carolina Cooperative Extension has programs in all 100 counties and on the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. These programs draw on research-based knowledge from NC State and NC A&T — the state’s two land-grant universities — to help North Carolinians to move forward and prosper.

Corn

To help farmers better produce food, feed, and fiber, Extension has taught improved agricultural techniques, introduced better varieties, improved soil conditions, and promoted mechanization. Shown here is John Johnson and 68.5 bushels of corn produced on one acre of his Scotland Neck farm in 1939.

Boll weevil

Extension has also promoted pest management and the cure and prevention of plant diseases. For example, in the 1920s a focus was boll weevil eradication. The insect threatened major damage to the cotton crop in North Carolina and throughout the South.

Farm Forestry

In 1917 Extension began promoting forestry and timber management as potential revenue sources for North Carolina farms with extensive tree stands. Shown here are workers preparing pulpwood, circa 1930.

Farm Forestry

Before the 1930s, most North Carolina farms lacked access to electricity. During the New Deal, Extension became a partner in rural electrification, and it promoted the labor saving benefits of electric power. New appliances allowed some farmers to expand into other commodities.

Farm Forestry

Extension has also focused on soil conservation. Methods for combating erosion have been growing vetch (shown here at a Pineville farm in 1937) and terracing fields.

Farm Forestry

Cooperative Extension has a long history of youth programs. Boys corn clubs and girls tomato and canning clubs began in 1909 and 1911, respectively. These programs were the beginnings of 4-H in the state. Shown here are youth clubs, circa 1920.

Farm Forestry

Extension has offered programs for women since the mothers of girls’ canning club members asked for their own clubs in the early 1910s. These programs were originally called “Home Demonstration.” The women’s clubs also raised gardens and canned produce, and they held curb markets as a way for women to earn their own money, as seen in this photo.

Farm Forestry

During World War II, 4-H youth contributed to the war effort. By raising food in the Feed a Fighter drive, North Carolina 4-Hers were honored by naming two warships, including the U.S.S. Tyrrell, launched from Wilmington in 1944.

Farm Forestry

Home Demonstration also formed groups for sewing (as seen in this photo from the 1940s), making mattresses, and even upholstering furniture. Today the program is called Family and Consumer Sciences, and it has expanded well beyond its original activities.

The exhibit will be on display in the circulation lobby of D. H. Hill Library until April 4, 2014. The Special Collections Research Center holds many items documenting the history of extension in North Carolina. To discover images similar to those on display in the exhibit, visit the Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections.

By: Gwynn Thayer

This week, the Special Collections Research Center will be holding a special event at the College of Design.

In conjunction with the AIA Triangle and NCSU School of Architecture Joint Lecture Series on Situated Modernisms & Global Practice, the NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is holding a “show and tell” event at the College of Design that will showcase some of its unique materials. The Friday Forum will be held on March 28 from 12:00 – 1:30 in the Belk Rotunda at Brooks Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

This event will complement the lecture on Monday, March 24, at 6:00 pm in Burns Auditorium in Kamphoefner Hall, featuring Roger Clark, FAIA, and Margret Kentgens-Craig. The Friday Forum with Special Collections on March 28 will give faculty, students, and others interested in modernist architecture and the history of the College of Design (previously the School of Design) an opportunity to view materials from Special Collections, including original works by Matthew Nowicki, George Matsumoto, G. Milton Small, and other luminaries who were associated with the College. Items that document the history of the College will also be on display, including materials that reflect the tenure and influence of the School’s first dean, Henry Kamphoefner.

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

This silo is representative of the Drawings and Plans Series, with plans, elevations, and cross-sections

Researchers can now access a great collection of drawings of agricultural and rural structures. Rural electrification, architecture, agricultural innovation, and even animal welfare are just a few of the themes that could be explored through these documents. Other possible topics for study include the history of women and children, as well as leisure studies. These drawings were created by the Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering and disseminated through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. They have recently been inventoried by Special Collections and added to the department’s records.

More than 1100 drawings range in date from the 1920s to the 1990s. They include plans, elevations, details, and depictions, mostly of agricultural structures for cows, pigs, and chickens, but also for rabbits, sheep, and turkeys. They were used for feeding, breeding, and shelter. Some are structures built specifically for North Carolina county fairs. There are also plans for privately-owned farms and plants throughout North Carolina, usually for particular structures or landscaping elements. Farm equipment is also represented, such as feeders, spreaders, harvesters, and hay driers. Interestingly, designs for non-agricultural buildings and objects are also found in the collection. These include local community houses, 4-H camps, playgrounds, athletic fields, roadside stands and markets, cabins, vacation houses, and recreational equipment. They provide a rich historical archive of agricultural and recreational structures of North Carolina during this time period.

Some drawings reflect transitions in agriculture during the twentieth century. Those of a 1940 mule barn reflect old practices still in effect at the end of the Great Depression. From the 1940s, electric brooders and dehydrators show the impact of rural electrification. From 1976, a bulk curing barn for tobacco reveals the spread of new production techniques that resulted from research at colleges and universities (in this case, procedures developed at NC State). Also of note are drawings for curbside markets, used by rural women in home demonstration clubs to sell produce and earn their own money, and plans for a Swansboro, North Carolina, 4-H camp, originally a segregated facility for African American youth.

Many drawings were created through the Cooperative Farm Building Plan Exchange. Through this program, each land-grant university submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which then disseminated them to other land-grant institutions across the country. Farmers obtained plans from their local Cooperative Extension agents, free of charge, for construction on their farms. Therefore, this collection may document structures not just in North Carolina but throughout the entire United States. Some plans may have also been modified for the specific needs of individual North Carolina farms.

The drawings in this collection can be viewed at the Special Collections Reading Room of the D. H. Hill Library. Interested persons can select drawings from the inventory and then request them through our webform. The records of the Biological & Agricultural Engineering Department have not yet been fully digitized, but some texts and video are available on Special Collections’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections website. The Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering has existed since 1940, although courses in agricultural engineering date back to the founding of the university. A history of it exists on the department’s website.

By: Jennifer Baker

On February 8, 1911, the A&M College (later known as NCSU) basketball team played its first game against Wake Forest. Known as the Red Terrors until 1947, when all athletics teams at NCSU adopted the name “Wolfpack,” the men’s basketball team has been a member of multiple conferences and the winner of numerous championships, including the 1974 and 1983  NCAA men’s basketball championships. Since the early 1950s, much of the history of this team has been captured on film.

Two years ago the Special Collections Research Center realized that this rich history, located within a University Archives audiovisual collection that had swelled to over 300 cartons of audiovisual materials, should be made more accessible for the university community and other fans. While half of this collection was processed, the other half remained unprocessed. Identifying and locating the men’s basketball audiovisual materials would be difficult without a detailed inventory. Step 1 was to get a handle on the extent of the collection. Each carton (both processed and unprocessed) was ordered from an off-site shelving facility and inventoried for title, year, and format. We discovered 35mm still image film, 8mm, 16mm, VHS, Betacam, Betamax, U-matic, reel to reel audio tapes, cassette tapes, LPs, CDs, and DVDs, just to name the most popular formats. The content of these materials varied as well – recruitment films, educational films, sound recordings, coaches’ films, speeches, Chancellor inductions, and the list goes on.

1961-1962

Step 2 involved removing men’s basketball materials from the detailed inventory to create its own separate subseries. The Men’s Basketball Audiovisual Materials collection, dated from 1953 – 1994, consists primarily of coaches’ films taken from the bleachers/sidelines. These films were primarily used by coaches for training purposes. There are a smattering of other types films in this collection as well, including copies of some broadcast videos. Some of the coaches’ films have been digitized and can be found online on our Rare and Unique Digital Collections website. Having the men’s basketball materials available for researchers to locate is an exciting step in our audiovisual collections processing plan!

Stay tuned as we process other unique audiovisual collections – next is women’s basketball!

For questions about this or any of our collections, please contact the Special Collections Research Center.

By: Sarah Breen

For anyone with an interest in design — type and lettering, branding and commercial art, printing, or graphic design — there is a wonderful new resource for you. The improved finding aid to the Martha Scotford Research and Study Collection on Graphic Design was released earlier this year. It can be found online here.

Cover of a promotional magazine “Inspirations for Printers” published and printed by Westvaco Pulp and Paper Company.

This collection serves as a record of the history of graphic design through its sample design works carefully collected by Martha Scotford, Professor Emeritus of Graphic Design, and its vast reference resources and books. You’ll find a rich variety of designed works including record covers, notable magazine covers, posters, exquisite print samples produced by paper and print companies including Westvaco (click here to learn about the company’s history), book jackets and works produced by notable designers and design companies.

The collection contains many type specimen books like the one seen here.

The collection also contains a strong collection of Italian design reference books. While some of these books are written in Italian, others are bilingual and all contain plenty of images to give a visual sense of the nuances of Italian design.

Visual translation of El Lissitzky's "For the Voice".

Another international component to the collection is Martha Scotford’s work on a book design project to publish and English version of a poem constructed by El Lissitzky, praised as one of the finest achievements of Russian avant-garde bookmaking. The collection documents Martha Scotford’s entire process of conceptualizing the project, working with publishers, and fine tuning the design.

The collection is open to researchers and can be requested by making an appointment with the Special Collections Research Center.

By: Jason Evans Groth

Along with the decision to start a born digital curation initiative like the one we have just begun here at the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center comes an important and complicated question: How? Unfortunately, as is the case with many such questions in libraries and archives, the answer is not only difficult but also fraught with compromise. That is, there are a number of solutions to handling the management and storage of digital materials, but because every collection and every organization that takes care of those collections is different there is not one easy, out-of-the-box, instructional-video-on-YouTube path to take, and what looks great and is attainable for one organization may be out of scope (and budget) for another. That does not mean there are no answers, however. In fact, quite the opposite – there are so many possible answers that they can be overwhelming enough to keep such a project from ever getting off of the ground. The OCLC has provided some enormously helpful starting points with a series of “Demystifying Born Digital Reports.” By their nature, these reports have been created for an entire community of practice, and thus cannot speak directly to the very specific issues confronting individual institutions like NCSU Libraries. However, they, used in concert with the knowledge we have gathered here about both our needs and the makeup of our collections, in addition to the expertise of a communicative and curious international community of librarians and archivists who recognize born digital curation to be an extremely important part of the future of libraries, have helped us craft what we like to call the “first draft” of our born digital program.

The SCRC Born Digital workstation, aka "The Kraken"

In addition to this 5.25" floppy drive, the Kraken can currently process 3.5" floppies, ZIP disks, CD/DVD/Blu-Ray disks, and many internal hard drives or external USB devices.

The cornerstone of our program is the desire to make our previously unavailable digital collections accessible to our patrons. In order to do so responsibly, we use our digital forensics workstation – what we affectionately call The Kraken, due to the amount of tentacle-like wires emerging from its core – to migrate content from its original medium to a package that contains not only the data but also metadata (the last time the file was edited, the creator of the file, file size, file type, software used to create the file, etc.) relating to the data. We do this by “imaging” objects – that is, turning the contents of a disk, hard drive, CD-ROM, etc., into one single file that is a snapshot of the original object – and then using that image as an archival object that is both something to preserve and something to make copies of to provide access. By following forensics guidelines – that is, “touching” the object as little as possible and leaving as few “digital fingerprints” as we can – we treat the items archivally. We use a write blocker to keep the Kraken from leaving any traces on the original object when we are creating images of disks. We then make an additional copy of the disk image, and run a series of tools over it to extract information from the singular image, providing a broader scope of data to the potential researcher before they even attempt to look at the data inside of the image. We then package all of that together and responsibly store the image, giving us the chance to pull digital copies when we need to without having to touch the original disk. The decisions about all of these components – the workstation, the methods used to extract data, the tools to run over the image, the digital package, and how to access that package – were not prescribed to us, and will likely change as the program continues. The most important decision was the one to start the program in the first place to protect and make available the valuable digital objects in our collections here at the SCRC. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on the progress of our exciting born digital initiative!

By: Gwynn Thayer

Last week, the snow and ice wreaked havoc on campus, but snow has covered our lovely campus in years past! Drawn from the University Archives Photograph Collection, this image of a snowball fight from the 1950s captures a moment in time in student life that was not all that different from our campus last week.

To discover more early photographs of student life and other digitized images from the Special Collections Research Center, go to: http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections