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By: Jason Evans Groth

The Society of American Archivists’ 2014 Annual Meeting just wrapped up in Washington, DC, and the NCSU Libraries Born Digital Strategic Initiative was represented through a panel, proposed by NCSU’s born digital team Brian Dietz and Jason Evans Groth, called “Getting Things Done with Born-Digital.” Brian and Jason were joined by colleagues Gloria Gonzalez (Digital Archivist, UCLA Special Collections), Ashley Howdeshell (Associate Archivist, University Archives and Special Collections, Loyola University, Chicago), Daniel Noonan (e-Records/Digital Resources Archivist, University Archives, The Ohio State University), and Lauren Sorensen (Digital Conversion Specialist, American Archive of Public Broadcasting, Library of Congress). Despite the wide diversity of institutions and background of the six participants, one thing was clear from each of their presentations: Now is the time to begin a comprehensive digital archives program that works in the context of one’s institution, and it can be done using widely available tools and an even more valuable asset – other librarians and archivists who have, themselves, started programs, encountered and overcome obstacles, and are ready to share their knowledge and experience with everyone else.

The premise of the panel, overall, was that reports like the OCLC’s Demystifying Born Digital and others are excellent foundations on which to begin a born digital program. The problem, however, is that every institution is, by nature, unique, with its own unique context and needs. The panel explored the details and case studies of the various institutions, hoping to connect more easily through these contextual clues rather than making a big problem seem bigger by speaking vaguely about tools and equipment that already pose barriers – both in terms of vocabulary and perceived difficulty – to those who are in the beginning stages of planning a born digital program.

Prior to the session, the online scheduling tool for SAA 2014 said that over 360 people would attend. While all of the panelists understand that this is important work, the number was still a surprise. At 9:59am, a minute before the session began, the panelists were told to ignore the sounds of the hotel facilities staff opening the airwall at the back of the room – it was Standing Room Only, and, at the session’s peak, an estimated 500 attendees listened to six very different practitioners discuss their successes, failures, and excitement regarding digital archives. The session itself generated much in-person discussion as well as hundreds of tweets.

The panelists touched on such topics as utilizing a committee that includes stakeholders and IT to maintain transparency with others in one’s institution while such a program is getting put into place; being unafraid to tackle technical needs by relying on the transparency of others and one’s own ability to search for help with processes with which librarians and archivists are already familiar but maybe have never used themselves (like the command line); accepting that flexibility in both tools and workflow is not only OK but also desirable, understanding that there is not one, single, “silver bullet” tool or service that can answer all of your questions or needs; that problems and challenges, which will arise without a doubt, are actually quite educational and necessary; and even the “Top 10 Things I Don’t Let Stop Me From Getting Things Done (With Digital Archives),” which included lack of practical experience and assuming equipment is, by nature, inadequate, in addition to the Litany Against Fear from Dune.

The audience asked questions like “what can we not do in order to process digital objects more quickly,” “how do we establish good relationships with IT,” and “what about metadata.” In all cases, the panelists assured them that these answers existed – perhaps not in one, single location, and definitely in the minds of those who had moved through them already – and could be discovered through both understanding the context of the institution and the real, required needs established by the institution. In other words, the answers amount to careful planning for the future based on the understanding of an institution’s priorities and requirements for both collecting and access. Librarians and archivists are familiar with such planning already: Collection policies, donor agreements, and gathering data to predict access usage are things we are taught from the beginning of our careers, and they are exactly the kinds of skills needed to figure out requirements for born digital collections. What do we collect? What can we make accessible? How will this be used? A call for shared documentation and more open questions and answers was made, and the audience was reminded that the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) has recently implemented Digital Preservation Q&A a site which allows members of the digital preservation community to share their challenges and successes in order to facilitate both progress and community building.

In addition to the incredible attendance at this session, many – if not all – of the other digital focused sessions were at capacity or very close to it – a heartening sign that professionals are taking very seriously this seemingly overwhelming challenge. SAA 2014 made it clear that those of us who fight the good digital preservation fight are not only not alone but are in very good company.

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

Post contributed by Liz Bell

The Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee, is one of Gordon Schenck's many subjects.

What do the Grand Ole Opry, Duke Chapel, Palace of Fine Arts, and the Playboy Hotel have in common? They were all photographed by internationally known architectural photographer Gordon H. Schenck, Junior. Included in this extensive collection of Schenck’s photographs are residences, schools, malls, banks, historic structures, university campuses, churches, business campuses, and civic centers. Most of the photographs were taken across the southern United States, with a particular focus on North and South Carolina, especially the Charlotte metropolitan area. Schenck also photographed buildings in California, New York, Minnesota, Louisiana, Germany and Malawi. The majority of the photos are dated from 1960 through 2000. The collection is comprised primarily of photographic negatives; however, photographs, slides, and magazines featuring Schenck’s work are also present.

Schenck photographed nearly every Belk Department Store and Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company building, and his work appeared in magazines such as Progressive Architecture, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living. His photographs of historic buildings are also included in the Historic American Building Survey. Architectural history, photography, and the urban landscape of Charlotte and other North Carolina cities are just a few of the potential topics to be explored. For more information, please consult the collection guide or use our webform to request materials.

Aug 11 2014

Move In Week

By: Brian Dietz

The annual trek to NC State begins this week, with students arriving at and returning to their home away from home. The accommodations are probably a lot better nowadays than in 1893, when First Dormitory opened, but the experience is the same, with plenty of excitement and nerves in the mix. In the picture below, sometime in the 1950s, a family from Robeson County is helping their son with his move to NC State. It’s a familiar picture, although the car’s trunk is sparsely packed compared to what students bring to college today.

Welcome Back Students

This resource, and lots more related to student life at NC State, is 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: Gwynn Thayer

UNC-TV recently aired a brief documentary program on the Dorton Arena that includes several items from Special Collections, including an architectural model (see above image) of the Dorton Arena.

The documentary included an interview with NCSU School of Architecture’s Alumni Distinguished Professor of Architecture Dr. Wayne Place, who noted that the architects of the Dorton Arena were “pushing the envelope in ways that are almost unimaginable.”  The Dorton Arena was conceived of by the Polish modernist architect Matthew Nowicki, but completed by William Henley Dietrich after Nowicki’s untimely death in a plane crash over North Africa. The documentary includes several images of Nowicki’s drawings of the Dorton Arena as he began to conceptualize the design of the building.

William Henley Deitrick’s drawings of the Dorton Arena that represent the final design can be viewed here.

For more information about the Special Collections Research Center and architectural materials, please contact us at

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.