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By: Jason Evans Groth

Students and staff in the Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering, in the 1970s, potentially creating media for modern digital archivists to curate.

When the NCSU Libraries’ Born Digital initiative began back in August of 2013, helpful colleagues from institutions seasoned in such work mentioned over and over that, no matter how solidly planned out the workflow for digital collections might be, it is inevitable that an object or group of objects will present themselves as the kinds of roadblocks that keep institutions from instituting born digital programs in the first place. These roadblocks come in many forms: Disks that are unreadable by local equipment, giant hard drives that take forever to image, file systems that are not understood by the CPU, etc., etc. This is not a surprise – the Demystifying Born Digital Reports, created by OCLC, list multiple tools and pointers for the digital archivist to carefully consider while they are crafting their projects. However, the multitude of ideas presented in these reports may lead the digital archivist to believe that they need to pick one tool or suggestion over another and limit themselves to those decisions, especially since the word “flexible” never appears in the reports. At NCSU Libraries we have discovered that familiarizing ourselves with a range of softwares, documenting their strengths and weaknesses, and creating a flexible workflow that relies on many free tools rather than limiting ourselves to one set and one set only has helped us make sense of how to deal with our born digital materials proactively to get as close as we can to robust access of the materials.

Just down the road from NCSU Libraries, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a group of people who believe the same thing are working hard to prepare a suite of tools that answers the needs of the digital archivist. The BitCurator project, “a joint effort led by the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (SILS) and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) to develop a system for collecting professionals that incorporates the functionality of many digital forensics tools,” recognizes that many of the existing options to begin born digital programs are “not very approachable to library/archives professionals in terms of interface and documentation.” At NCSU Libraries, documentation is imperative for both understandability and repeatability of the born digital curation process. The folks at BitCurator feel the same way, and are striving to provide a suite of tools, packaged easily as a virtual machine or a standalone system (whatever works better for a given institution), that not only comes as a singular piece with multiple tools but also comes with easy to follow documentation.

Recently, the team hosted a “BitCurator clinic” in Chapel Hill, an event which brought together digital archivists from NC State, UNC, and Duke University to explore BitCurator together, to talk amongst ourselves about our challenges with born digital materials, and most importantly, to share how we felt BitCurator was working for us and how it could improve. This kind of collaboration is a necessity to keep tools in scope for librarians and archivists to ensure their proper and effective usage. Flexibility was on everyone’s mind at the clinic, considering that groups brought everything from floppy disks to external hard drives from real collections to work on in front of the developers. And the developers were quick to remind us that BitCurator is built to be flexible, encompassing many disparate tools in both GUI and command line forms (you can read all about it on their wiki). Even with all of this built in flexibility, one may need to dip outside of the BitCurator environment depending on the roadblock they encounter with a particular collection – and that’s OK! Flexibility (which is absolutely necessary and even encouraged if it is all documented and leads to pre-determined requirements) and collaboration (particularly the willingness to ask questions of colleagues and to report problems with tools, for example) are two of the most important tenets of getting a digital curation program off the ground.

By: Laura Abraham

NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center is happy to announce that the University Student Center Records are now processed and available for research. The collection contains files and other items related to the general administrative and departmental transactions of the Student Center, as well as materials from the production and promotion of its events, services, and activities.

One of the most interesting parts of the of the collection is the scrapbooks, made yearly between 1953 to 1964 to commemorate the events and activities related to and occurring at the Student Center, and are filled with newspaper clippings, programs from events, and promotional materials such as posters and flyers. However, as is the case with most scrapbooks their age, the adhesive has wasted away, so many of the items glued or taped to the pages have become loose. During the processing of the scrapbooks, an attempt was made to replicate the original layout of each page so they could be photographed before the loose items were filed separately.

The records range from 1941 to 2008 and reflect the history of the University Student Center, as well as how it functions today. The Student Center is a student organization established to give students and other community members a centralized location on campus which provides essential facilities, programs, and services. It was established with the purpose of enriching students’ lives by teaching them social and recreational skills, and to provide them with the opportunity of extracurricular activity without having to leave campus.

Page from 1956-1957 ScrapbookThe earliest model of a student center on N C State’s (then, State College’s) campus was the King Religious Center (also called the YMCA Building), which opened in 1913. Taking note of the success of student unions on other college campuses, N C State took the initiative to create their own, starting in 1948. The first official student union was founded in 1951 and later named the Erdahl-Cloyd Student Union. In 1972, the newly built Talley Student Union replaced the Erdahl-Cloyd Union. Today, the College’s student center is actually the University Student Centers, consisting of Talley, the Witherspoon Student Center, the Price Music Center, and Thompson Hall.

In addition to providing students with social and recreational opportunities on campus, the Student Center organization has always offered a number of other services. It is the host of programs for academic and professional development, as well as being renowned as a performance venue since it was established, providing theater and music showings, film screenings, and forum discussions.

The University Student Center Records show how the Center has changed, but it still provides the services for which it was established. For more information about the collection, please consult the collection guide.

By: Todd Kosmerick

Hand-colored albumen prints by Kusakabe Kimbei, showing Tokyo gardens, ca. 1890

The Special Collection Research Center has made an exciting discovery about a photograph album in its collection.  The album contains approximately 60 hand-colored albumen prints showing landscapes and architectural scenes in Japan during the late nineteenth century.  The dimensions of the photographs are 21.5 x 28 cm (8.5 x 11 in).  The album covers are lacquer with inlaid designs.    Many photos have printed captions and numbers, but there is no indication as to who created them or the album.  We have recently been able to attribute the album to Kusakabe Kimbei.  A further description exists in the library’s online catalog.

Kusakabe Kimbei was a commercial photographer based in Yokohama, Japan, in the late nineteenth century, and he was one of the great native-born Japanese photographers of his time.  He had been an apprentice of Baron Raimund von Stillfried, an Austrian who established a photographic studio in Japan in 1871.  When Stillfried left Japan in 1885, Kusakabe bought his mentor’s stock and initiated his own studio, which existed until 1912.

Stillfried’s firm had purchased the stock of Felice (or Felix) Beato in 1877.  Beato was an Italian-born photographer who established a studio in Japan during the mid-1860s and was one of the first Westerners to bring photography to the East Asian country.  He employed Japanese artists to color his albumen prints, and he became knowledgeable of such Japanese art traditions as ukiyo-e woodblock prints.  Both Stillfried and Beato specialized in studio portraits and genre scenes.  Beato also specialized in landscape photographs.  Westerners fascinated by Eastern cultures formed the major audience for their work.  Kusakabe continued these traditions, perfecting the psychological portrait, and he seems to have catered to the same audience.

Hand-colored albumen prints by Kusakabe Kimbei, showing Choin-in Temple, ca. 1890

Hand-tinting of albumen photographic prints became a minor art form in Japan in the late nineteenth century.  Japanese artists have had long traditions of coloring through fabric stenciling and woodblock printing.  The transfer of these processes to photography resulted in works that have rivaled Western examples in skill and beauty.  Because of the time-consuming process, a master colorist could finish only 2-3 prints per day, so Japanese photography studios drew upon the skills of large staffs.

The NCSU Libraries has held this particular photograph album for several years, probably decades, but its origins had become lost until recently.  While perusing the catalog of a rare book dealer, Special Collections staff found a description for another nineteenth century Japanese album with Kusakabe photographs.  Through online research, the staff was able to match two photos in the NCSU Libraries’ album with those in known Kusakabe collections, including one at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in Washington, D.C.  Research in print publications, including Japan Photographs, 1854-1905 (1979) by Clark Worswick and The History of Japanese Photography (2003) by and Anne Tucker, et al., also confirmed Kusakabe as the creator of some of these photos.  Therefore, it is assumed that the entire NCSU Libraries’ album can be attributed to Kusakabe.  One interesting aspect of the NCSU Libraries’ album is that it does not include any of the psychological portraits for which Kusakabe is now known.  Rather, it only contains landscape and architectural scenes.

Front cover of photo album by Kusakabe Kimbei, ca. 1890

Back cover of photograph album by Kusakabe Kimbei, ca. 1890

A bookplate on the inside cover of the album indicates it was donated by William T. Huxter.    A William T. “Bill” Huxter was at NC State from the 1960s to the 1990s as a professor and extension specialist, first in Wood Products Extension and later in Extension Forestry.

If anyone knows more about the donation of this album, please contact the Special Collections Research Center.  Interested researchers wanting to schedule a time to access the photo album may contact the Special Collections Research Center through the online form.

By: Gwynn Thayer

The Special Collections Research Center includes the History of Computing and Simulation as one of its key collecting areas. We recently received a small collection, the Lawrence Auld Collection of Kaypro Computer Materials, 1978-1992, that documents the Kaypro home computer. The company began as “Non-Linear Systems,” a maker of electronic test equipment, and was founded by Andrew Kay in 1952. Non-linear systems designed a personal computer, the KayComp, in 1981. One year later,  the Kaypro Corporation was established, with the Kaypro II as its first computer. During the 1980s, Kaypros were in competition with IBM PCs and Apple II computers. Fun trivia fact: Arthur C. Clarke used the Kaypro II (64 Kilobytes of RAM!) to write his 1982 novel 2010: Odyssey Two.

The bumper sticker shown above, “Have you kugged your Kaypro today?,” is a play on the “Kaypro Users Group” (KUG). This collection includes various materials that document the use of Kaypros and the discussions about them which were raised by the user community. Included are issues of ProFiles: The Magazine for Kaypro Users, and another popular magazine that catered to Kaypro users, Micro Cornucopia.  Micro Cornucopia’s initial focus was on so-called “Big Board” computers, but the publication soon expanded its interests to include other board-level computers and Kaypros, becoming a more general magazine for hobbyists and enthusiasts. Perhaps most interesting in the collection are Kaypro newsletters and bulletins from the 1980s as well as various user’s guides and user discussions. Although the collection has not yet received full archival processing, a preliminary inventory is available. The collection is open to researchers here at the Special Collections Research Center.

By: Brian Dietz

Years ago, we decided, rather than using an out-of-the box solution, to roll our own for the Rare and Unique Digital Collections site. Doing this gives us greater control in creating the user experience; a greater ability to respond to bugs and feature requests, i.e., let’s add “related images” on the resource page; and a way to architect the application so that it fit the Libraries’ approach to managing digital collections. What it also means, though, is that we’re in charge of maintaining the application.

We’re currently using Blacklight and Solr for search and faceted browse, and the djatoka JPEG2000 image server delivers our images.

Recently, we went through two significant upgrades with the site. Project Blacklight released Version 5.4.0 in May 2014, and we migrated to this version in anticipation of some very significant new features to the site we’ll be working on over the summer. The latest release of Blacklight itself includes an upgraded version of Bootstrap, which helps to make websites responsive, i.e., sized appropriately for the screen size one is viewing the site on. In performing this upgrade, we also migrated the site to Rails 4.1 (a web framework), which was released in April 2014.

When performing upgrades, we release code to a staging site, where we can review the code’s effects. This is no small affair. We review the site in several web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE), as several viewing sizes (extra large desktop down to phone size), and on several different devices (Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems; all of the iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod); and several Android devices). And, since we’ve made the site available under HTTP Secure, we have to the view the site on http and https. When viewing the site on all of these devices and browsers, we test to make sure that: the site looks right, the facets work, all the buttons are placed properly and function correctly, the site navigation is functioning, the six different resource views (text, images, folders, video, etc.) are functioning properly, the image pan and zoom is working, the map and “now” features work, and audio and video play properly. These are the biggies; there are probably another dozen or so features we double-check for proper functionality.

But, it’s not all work. Well, it really is, but…we do end up stumbling upon interesting resources that are new to us or new again that make it feel less like work.

While it is possible to visit the site without coming across, by far our most viewed resource, it just doesn’t feel like a visit without doing so. Since beginning to track web statistics on our site with Google Analytics in October 2012, this image has been viewed over 23,000 times.

1983 NC State Men's Basketball Team

Here’s one I’d never seen before. It’s a busload of basketball players and fans in the Philippines, one of whom is playing a nose flute.

NC State basketball players and fans

Like any major university, NC State has hosted presidents and figures of state. In this latest round of testing, I re-discovered a photograph of Bill Clinton receiving students, but the real focus of this one is Hillary. An all-time favorite.

Hilary Clinton and David Fox

I’ve seen this one in results set a million times, but for some reason I never paid it much mind. On further examination–I looked at this particular resource in order to check that pagination was working–it’s a really fascinating speech, as well as topic.

Supporting farmers in a time of urbanization

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think this brief list of discoveries, in itself, is a great testament to the nature of our collections and the fact that the site supports serendipitous discovery.

These resources–and much, much more–are all available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, and audio recordings, and text documenting NC State history.

By: Todd Kosmerick

Among the recent additions to the University Archives are 15 linear feet of materials from NC State’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education. Contained in these records are photographs, videotapes, correspondence, brochures, and flyers dating from the 1950s to 2008. Details about these materials can be found in an online collection guide.

Early Distance Education, Ca. 1980. Recent additions to the University Archives include videotapes for Engineering Graphics E101, an early distance education course similar to the one depicted in this image.

Most of these materials originated with the Graphics Communications program. Included are photographs of departmental personnel and activities, as well as videotapes and programs of the Graphics Communications Distinguished Lectures and Banquets (1980s and 1990s). Of note are videotapes of Engineering Graphics E101 mini-lectures (one of NC State’s earliest distance education courses) and a rendering of one of the first 3-D models ever printed.

Also with these materials is Visual Aids for Teachers, a set of 7 filmstrips and 11 phonograph records. Dating from approximately 1950, this set was intended for use by K-12 teachers in classroom instruction. It was created by the Jam Handy Organization, which produced audio-visual materials used in training and education. Visual Aids for Teachers had been acquired by an early College of Education program

The Graphics Communications program originated within NC State’s College of Education in the 1970s. By 1979 the Dept. of Occupational Education had an engineering graphics program, and this was renamed Graphics Communications in 1980. In 1995 Graphic Communications merged with the Dept. of Math and Science Education. The new department was called Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (today it is the Dept. of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education).

There is an online guide for the Dept. of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education records held by the University Archives. The Jam Handy filmstrips and records have been moved to the University Archives Audiovisual Collection.

By: Gwynn Thayer

Media Contact:

David Hiscoe, 919-513-3425

June 17, 2014


The North Carolina State University Libraries has acquired the William Roy Wallace Architectural Papers, an important collection of architectural drawings and project files that document the work of a major North Carolina architect and his associates.

During much of the 20th century, Wallace (1889-1983) was the architect of choice for many Winston-Salem business leaders and their families as well as for business leaders in Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, and elsewhere. Known for his fine residential architecture, he also designed numerous religious, educational, and commercial buildings from the 1920s onward.

Dr. Margaret Supplee Smith, art historian and professor emerita at Wake Forest University, was instrumental in identifying the importance of the collection and facilitating the generous donation by the Wallace family. Smith notes, “With this significant acquisition, which includes architectural records documenting three generations of architects working in North Carolina–Charles Barton Keen, William Roy Wallace Sr., and William Roy Wallace Jr., in addition to Harold Macklin—NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center has ensured that the story of twentieth-century architectural practice in the Piedmont, with its rich textile, tobacco, and historic preservation legacies, will have a permanent place in the state’s architectural history.”

Wallace, a native of Pennsylvania, began his career in association with Philadelphia architect Charles Barton Keen (1868-1931), a designer of country houses for the Philadelphia elite. Keen created a second major body of work among the leading industrial families in the North Carolina Piedmont, including the famed Reynolda House (1912-1918) for the Reynolds family in Winston-Salem. Wallace worked with Keen as an office boy, a draftsman, and eventually as partner. In 1923 Keen and Wallace moved to Winston-Salem to manage the construction of the R. J. Reynolds High School and Auditorium. After Keen returned to Philadelphia, Wallace oversaw the Winston-Salem office and traveled back and forth from Philadelphia to supervise the firm’s many projects. Throughout the 1920s, the two architects worked on many of the great homes in Reynolda Park and Stratford Road, including the C. A. Kent House, the Robert Hanes House, and the P. Huber Hanes, Sr., House.

In 1928 Wallace settled permanently in Winston-Salem, where he established a practice with Harold Macklin and James M. Conrad. Like Keen, Wallace and his son William Roy Wallace, Jr., who joined the practice after World War II, continued in a Beaux Arts revivalist tradition that shaped the distinguished architectural heritage of Winston-Salem and other communities.

Among the buildings attributed to the Wallace firm are the Fries Memorial Moravian Church, Highland Presbyterian Church Sunday School, the Twin City Club, many of the Davidson County schools from the mid-1930s to 1950s, and much of the early restoration work at Old Salem. In addition to designing the country estate (Brookberry Farm) of Bowman Grey, Jr., many Wallace houses are extant in Winston-Salem, including the Siewers-Shaffner House, John Stephens House, James Weeks House, and Meade Willis House.

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at the NCSU Libraries continues to assemble and archive the work of leading architects to make these unique materials available to a wide audience. The SCRC has collected the papers of key architects, including G. Milton Small Jr., George Matsumoto, and William Waldo Dodge, as well as those of past and present faculty members of NC State’s College of Design such as Henry Kamphoefner, Marvin Malecha, Matthew Nowicki, and Frank Harmon.

The NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center holds research and primary resource materials in areas that reflect and support the teaching and research needs of the students, faculty, and researchers at the university. By emphasizing established and emerging areas of excellence at NC State University and corresponding strengths within the Libraries’ overall collection, the SCRC develops collections strategically with the aim of becoming an indispensable source of information for generations of scholars.

By: Meaghan Lanier

It is our great pleasure to announce that the Max Desfor Photographs and Papers is now processed and open for research. The collection guide is available here. Max Desfor was an Associated Press photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951 in the general photography category for his coverage of the Korean War in a photo, “Flight of Refugees Across Wrecked Bridge in Korea,” taken in 1950, of Korean refugees fleeing along the twisted girders of a bombed bridge.

Flight of Refugees Across Wrecked Bridge in Korea, 1950, Associated Press

Desfor was born in New York City on November 8, 1913. He studied at Brooklyn College in New York. He started his career at the Associated Press in 1933 as a darkroom assistant. In 1938, Desfor became staff photographer at the Associated Press bureau in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1939 he joined the Associated Press staff in Washington, D.C. In 1942 he was promoted to photo editor and in 1944 he was promoted to war correspondent and assigned to photograph Admiral Nimitz’s command in the Pacific Ocean area.

This collection contains photographs taken by Max Desfor while he was employed with the Associated Press from 1940 to 1968. There are also newspaper clippings, personal correspondence, business correspondence and other files dating from 1942 to 2008, as well as numerous photographs and negatives dating from 1936 to 2008. Also included in the collection are many photographs and negatives dated from 1936 to 2008 documenting Desfor’s experiences in Korea, Japan, India and many other places, both foreign and domestic. Some are photographs Desfor took for AP jobs while others are personal. There are some famous faces included such as Mahatma Gandhi and Princess Elizabeth. The collection also contains videocassettes and CDs ranging in dates from 1985 to 2008, although most of them are undated, as well as slides from 1969 to 1972. The dates for the entire collection range from 1936 to 2008, and it totals 9.5 linear feet.

Gandhi Fasts for Peace, 1948, Associated Press

Caption accompanying photo: GANDHI FASTS FOR PEACE: Wearing a loin cloth and shawl, Mohandas K. Gandhi squats before a microphone in New Delhi, India, to deliver prayer meeting discourse during second day of his fast to force communal peace in India. The 78-year-old Indian patriot ended his 121-hour fast on Jan. 18 when he won a pledge of harmony from religious leaders of India. Date: 1/22/48 for the Associated Press

This is a unique collection for the SCRC at N.C. State and will be of interest to a variety of researchers, particularly those interested in photography in general and those interested in news photography of the mid-20th century of war zones like those in Korea and Japan. For more information about the collection, please consult the collection guide.

By: Brian Dietz

For the last four years, the NCSU Libraries has been participating in the planning and execution of a multi-institution project to digitize hundreds of thousands of archival pages. The project, “Content, Context, and Capacity,” has been a collaboration with the Triangle Research Libraries Network and the university libraries at UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina Central University.

Now, all pages from the SCRC scanned through the project–all 99,943 of them–are available online!


The last two new collections added to the Libraries Rare and Unique Digital Collections site are:

68 folders from the William Dallas Herring Collections (MC270)

88 folders from Society of Women Engineers (UA021.497)

We also recently added almost 150 digitized folders to collections that already had some digitized materials online:

Office for Equal Opportunity and Equity Records (UA005.009)

Cary Hoyt Bostian Records (UA002.001.003)

And here’s the collection in its entirety.

These resources are and will be available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, and audio recordings, and text documenting NC State history.

By: Jason Evans Groth

No matter how detailed the setup is for processing born digital collections, no matter what suite of tools one might use, and no matter how much one might discuss with colleagues about the best way to package electronic files to get into local storage, after all is said and done, the purpose of a born digital curation program in an archive is to provide the best possible access to this carefully processed and stored material. Each floppy disk, CD-ROM, flash drive, or external hard drive may present its own unique challenge when it comes to moving the data to a more stable digital environment, but since digital data is all 1s and 0s, packaging it and migrating it can be a lot less complicated than making those files searchable and usable.

When we process born digital collections, we create a series of reports that give us a lot of clues about what might be contained on the object itself. These clues include file names and paths; file types and the applications used to create them; create, access, and modified dates; file sizes; and also wordlists, personal or private information, phone numbers, and more. While these reports will be kept with the package of information we submit to local storage, they can also be used to help provide context and inform “best guesses” about what these files might mean or contain without an archivist having to look at each one of them individually. By summarizing this data and linking to it from the collection’s finding aid, those otherwise unknown and difficult to find files have a better chance to be used by patrons and researchers.

The Reading Room at D.H. Hill Library

This data summary will be especially helpful when it comes to our plans to provide a dedicated MacBook specifically for perusing and using our born digital collections in our Special Collections Reading Room at D. H. Hill Library. A patron will be able to look through the summary before requesting the files or disk image they wish to see when they arrive at the Reading Room. The librarian responsible for providing this access will either copy the files to the laptop, or mount the disk image directly to it, and then using Spotlight (built into every Mac), index those files for easier searching. In other words, while we will ask the patron to follow a traditional archival workflow in terms of requesting materials and coming to the Reading Room to view material, we will use the affordances of a digital index to make searching easier and quicker, and, for example, with mounted disk images, even allow the patron to explore and use the files in an exact replica of the hard drive that the person whose materials they are researching set up themselves.

The landscape of access differs from collection to collection. Donor agreements, sensitive information, and file types dictate how easily a born digital collection can be both presented to and used by a researcher. Using the best possible tools during processing puts the archive in a position to offer the best context to get at accessing these items which have been, prior to processing, harder to get to simply because they have been stored on disconnected media. By adding them to an environment where data integrity can be verified and where it is becoming more and more possible to use even the most obsolete of file types gives the archive a better chance to offer them to patrons and researchers.