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By: Gwynn Thayer

Professor Russell Flinchum’s two Design classes recently worked with the Special Collections Research Center to study the materials in the Martha Scotford Research and Study Collection on Graphic Design. This collection was featured in a previous blog posted in Spring 2014.

The students in Flinchum’s two Design courses examined a few highlights from the collection, including materials created by Alex Steinweiss during the 1940s and 1950s. Hired by Columbia Records in 1939, Steinweiss was a record album designer who replaced featureless paper covers with poster-like images designed for display.

Another popular item was a series of colorful publications from Mohawk Paper Mills and the Pushpin Group that surveyed historic design styles, including Jugendstil, Paris Deco, Streamline, De Stijl, and Bauhaus.

These items, as well as other original materials relating to architecture, landscape architecture, and design will be featured on March 27, 2015, at our biannual Special Collections “Show and Tell” at the Belk Rotunda at the College of Design from 11 am to 1 pm. Stay tuned for more details about this upcoming event!

By: Rose Buchanan

Davis designed this poster and others for the Virginia/North Carolina Power Company's Safety Series.

When asked about design education, Professor Meredith J. Davis is not one to mince words. As she once said in an interview for ID magazine, “One of the things missing in most foundation [design] programs is the development of an attitude of inquiry. We give students these lifeless exercises as though they were real problem-solving activities… We fail to link these abstractions to reality because the real world is messy and ugly and doesn’t fit the formal considerations we’re interested in.”

Yet, Davis has not let the messiness of the world stand in her way of improving design education, and her efforts are well documented in the NCSU Special Collections Research Center’s recently processed collection, the Meredith Davis Papers, 1975-2014. Davis taught for over a decade at Virginia Commonwealth University before coming to NC State in 1989. She has been here ever since, serving for ten years as the chair of the Department of Graphic Design (now the Department of Graphic Design and Industrial Design), and four years as head of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Design program.

In fact, Davis was one of the early advocates of Ph.D. programs in design. As she stated in another interview for ID magazine, “One of the characteristics that distinguish a profession from a trade is a segment of practice devoted exclusively to research. Design is now developing such practices, and there are students for whom this kind of work is very appealing.”  In her former roles as the president of the American Center for Design and the founding president of the Graphic Design Education Association, Davis led national efforts to promote more Ph.D. programs in design.

Meredith Davis designed "In Bondage and Freedom," an exhibition catalog, for the Valentine Museum in Richmond, VA.

Apart from higher education, Davis is also interested in the ways in which design can be used in educational reform efforts in K-12 schools, and the relationship between design and cognition. The Meredith Davis Papers contain examples of Davis’s published research on these topics, as well as presentation materials from the more than 140 lectures she has delivered nationally and internationally during her career. The collection also features the two interviews cited here and samples of Davis’s design work from the 1980s when she was principal in the graphic design firm, Communication Design. Many of Davis’s designs, including the safety brochure series for the Virginia/North Carolina Company (see above), have won awards on the national and international levels. The Meredith Davis Papers contain a number of these awards as well.

For all of her hard work, however, Davis does not appear to be stopping any time soon. She is contributing chapters to several graphic design textbooks that will be released in 2015, and she is currently under contract for a new book of her own that will be released in 2016. For now, though, researchers interested in her work and career can view the online finding aid for the Meredith Davis Papers here, or contact the Special Collections Research Center staff for more information.

By: Laura Abraham

This Valentine’s Day, we at NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center would like to share an important day for one of N. C. State’s most cherished couples. On February 28, 1981, the Wolfpack’s mascots officially became Mr. and Mrs. Wuf during halftime of a basketball game with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacon presided over the ceremonies in Reynolds Coliseum.

An in-depth article written on the wedding, as well as what led to the mascots’ marriage, can be found on our blog here.

These photographs, and lots more related to sports, are available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history.

By: Jason Evans Groth

One of the most significant benefits of working in the digital domain is the power to search quickly and accurately. Open a physical copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and then open a digital copy on a machine with a search engine. Now, imagine how long it would take to count the amount of times the word Scout appears in the text using your physical copy, and compare that to a quick ctrl- or cmd-f, typing the word “Scout” in the search box, and watching the search engine parse the results. Even if a number is not presented, pressing return and counting would take several hours less time than going page by page and marking up your book, counting by hand. This is not a value judgment regarding physical versus digital, but a point of fact – quantitative and focused research can be done significantly faster in the digital domain. Now, imagine applying that power to research in an archive, searching for “rhino” across, say, the Mitchell Bush Papers and immediately retrieving accurate and usable results. In addition to saving an enormous amount of time for the researcher who may already be in the reading room, remote users could analyze results before ever setting foot in the library, and would have a better of idea of exactly what to look for when it came time for the meat of their work.

NCSU Libraries’ born digital strategic initiative was established in 2013 to attempt to make this promise a reality. At this point, a year and a half after starting the initiative in earnest, we feel confident that our exploration of tools and our ideas about arranging and describing materials will lead us, sooner rather than later, to making digital collections as easy to use as the opening paragraph of this post dreams. But as we step to the brink of making literally millions of files easy to find and potentially as easy to access, the specific challenges of an ambitious born digital program really come to light. One of those challenges is making those files easily and widely discoverable.

Murray Downs, Burton Beers, Jim Rasor, and Jimmy Williams review photographs in the NCSU University Archives.

With the advent of inexpensive digital storage has come an explosion of stored (and often unmanaged) data. An 80gb hard drive used for testing born digital workflows in the SCRC – which only had 20gb of actual information on it – contains 176,000 files. Internal hard drives in new computers are often at least 250gb or more, and 5tb external hard drives cost less than $150. When the inevitable happens and we receive a hard drive with millions of files, it will be impossible for us to examine each file individually. As reported in our “Let the Bits Describe Themselves” post, we use automated tools to generate data that our own tool idea, “Archivision,” can read and then display easily to the interested party as a virtual file explorer in a web browser. What we are providing is context, as the actual workflow will look something like this: We process the disk or disk drive in question, we run tools on the drive to create a preservation package (an “image” of the drive) which goes to storage, but, at the same time, create the files that can be read by Archivision, and we tell many already-in-place systems that we’re doing this so we can immediately make these things discoverable. Thus, in the case of the Mitchell Bush Papers referenced above, as soon as we have gone through the process of safely making an accurate copy of the data, our proposed workflow will take over and automatically make the existence of those files viewable by researchers by adding an easy to follow link directly to our finding aid.

An ad for Macintosh Computers in the NCSU Technician, Vol. 71 No. 41, December 4, 1989

The goal of an archive is to make as much of its material discoverable and usable as possible, while maintaining status as a trusted repository for its donors and managing the materials responsibly for the long-term. The digital domain, in one respect, brings this goal closer to reality through the affordances granted by technology. When the material comes in already digitized we have a better chance to make that material discoverable even more quickly.

To boil down the goal of the archive even further is to say that we are here to provide access. Knowing that these digital files exist and actually being able to use them for research are two different things. But we believe that using a tool like Archivision to increase visibility of digital holdings is the first step, and we have plans – referenced explicitly in our “Access and Born Digital Collections” post – to allow researchers to use an in-house laptop filled with indexed versions of our responsibly stored disk images, so they can put themselves into the shoes of the person or institution who previously used that content. Unlike many collections in the physical realm, we are given the opportunity, through born digital, to experience objects the way the donor left them (exactly, in some cases). And unlike physical collections we can easily make available the list of files in the context of the disk as they came in, getting us one step closer to automatically, and as quickly as possible, making needed material discoverable to scholars everywhere.

By: Gwynn Thayer

On January 22, NCSU Design graduate Alexander Isley visited NCSU Libraries for an “Amazing Alumni” talk in D.H. Hill Library. Isley is the 2014 winner of the prestigious AIGA medal. During his lecture, he talked about his time at NCSU’s College of Design as well as his more recent work. Isley is known for his work designing the signage program at Hunt Library, in addition to other major projects, such as the 9/11 memorial.

Isley is in the process of donating his papers to NCSU Libraries. The finding aid to the Alexander Isley Papers is now available. Please check this link periodically for future additions to his papers.

Jan 26 2015

Cars of NC State

By: Brian Dietz

This past Friday, January 23, 2015, the Libraries hosted an event with Skip Elsheimer of AV Geeks and Jason Torchinsky, automotive journalist of Jalopnik, to screen and discuss vintage films about what it was like to own a car during the mediocre late 1970s and early 1980s. The Special Collections Research Center provided a couple dozen photographs of some of the many “Cars of NC State” for a slideshow that played before and after the program. Here are some of the slideshow highlights.

Students Packing Into Car, 1982

Students Packing Into Car, 1982

Guy Mendenhall's Homemade Car, 1931

Guy Mendenhall

Car Crash at Free Expression Tunnel, 1972

Car Crash at Free Expression Tunnel, 1972

Official Pace Car, 53rd Annual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, 1969

Official Pace Car, 53rd Annual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, 1969

Kids, Cars, and Lake Waccamaw Encampment, 1930

Kids, Cars, and Lake Waccamaw Encampment, 1930

Wolfpack Women…on the way to #1 Car Bumper Sticker, 1980

Wolfpack Women…on the way to #1 Car Bumper Sticker, 1980

Engineering student measuring model of car, circa 1950s

Engineering student measuring model of car, circa 1950s

Glare Experiment, 1950s

Glare Experiment, 1950s

These photos and lots more related to the cars of NC State are available as part of the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics.

By: Todd Kosmerick

The 13 Feb. 1958 Technician reported on a visit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Raleigh on Feb. 10 of that year.  This may be the earliest date in which NC State’s student newspaper published an in-depth article about Dr. King, who was speaking at a local church’s Institute of Religion event.  Before an audience of 1700 people in Broughton High School, King discussed non-violent resistance to segregation.  The most significant part of the speech for the Technician reporter was King’s statement that “integration will never be a reality until such a time comes that all men understand and trust each other.”  Viewers can now read the full article online.

This online Technician archives has recently been made available by the NCSU Libraries as part of our mandate to preserve the history of North Carolina State University and distribute that history widely to scholars, alumni, and the public.  The Technician, the university’s student newspaper, is now available online in a format that is easy to browse and search.     Approximately4000 issues from 1920 through 1990 that are digitized and indexed in the NCSU Libraries’ online collection.  More recent issues will be added in the upcoming year.  More information can be found at the NCSU Libraries News.

By: Jennifer Baker

These days, course catalogs are found online. Not as a unit, of course. The modern course catalog is a collection of webpages that hold the same information collectively that was once printed and bound as a single volume.  There are likely two important reasons for this – the university is huge and the internet is cheap and easily accessible.

So accessible that the Special Collections Research Center  digitized most of NCSU’s course catalogs and made them available through our Rare and Unique Digital Collections website. The most frequent request is for course descriptions to use in applications for graduate school, law school, and patents.

But if you look at earlier course catalogs, the information included far exceeds course descriptions and a campus map:

The 1974-76 Graduate Bulletin includes a list of tuition and fees, and gives suggestions for financial aid.

The 1962-64 State College Record includes information about college extension classes, including correspondence courses, evening courses, short courses and conferences – all of which allowed non-degree seeking students to take classes at the university level.

The 1945-46 Catalog Issue includes a section on “Educational Opportunities for Veterans” – who qualifies and how to apply.

Educational Opportunities for Veterans

The 1920-21 Catalog lists every student enrolled in every class.

These course catalogs not only provide basic information about classes and campus, but they are also a reflection of national trends in the microcosm of a college campus. The catalog from the 1920s can list all of the enrolled students because the university was fairly small and did not have a large enrollment. The information for veterans in the 1940s catalog provides for a booming student population, consisting in large part of veterans in the aftermath of WWII and the accessibility of college through the GI Bill. Financial aid in the 1970s is suggested as tuition begins to balloon and students are no longer exclusively from families who can afford to pay tuition outright.

Course catalogs are an often overlooked primary source.  The information in these catalogs provides a unique look into the makeup of the student population and the forces that governed university policy. To view these digitized course catalogs, please visit our Rare and Unique Digital Collections page or contact the Special Collections Research Center at

By: Rose Buchanan

By Rachel Jacobson and Rose Buchanan, Library Associates at the Special Collections Research Center

As archivists, our primary goal is to make historical records accessible to researchers and the general public. Whether we are selecting a collection for long-term retention or writing a collection description, we must remember that different people will use collections in different ways and for different purposes. Part of our job is to think like a researcher: to envision how researchers might use collections, and to arrange and describe collections in ways that make sense for those audiences.

Dr. Richard Montali with a Burmese Python, circa 1982

At times, thinking like a researcher is easier said than done. For example, many of us have a background in the humanities, but are often responsible for arranging scientific collections. In such circumstances, we can find it difficult to decipher which topics or materials might spark the interest of or be important to someone from a different discipline. By conducting additional research about the donor or creator of a collection, and consulting with people knowledgeable about the topic or materials, however, we can learn to “think like a veterinarian.”

We are currently processing a zoological health collection for the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). The Richard Montali Papers is a collection that focuses on a veterinary pathologist, Dr. Richard Montali. He was an active member of many veterinary and zoological organizations, and was formerly the chief pathologist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; later, he served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Montali’s papers are of particular interest to students and faculty at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine because they contain research on infectious diseases in elephants, giant pandas, and New World primates, among others.

Dr. Richard Montali with a Tawny Frogmouth, 2004

With limited background knowledge about veterinary medicine or pathology, we faced a significant challenge in making Montali’s papers accessible to interested faculty and students. We had to ask ourselves a number of questions from the perspective of these potential researchers. Ultimately, it became clear that the most helpful way to organize the collection would be by animal or disease type and by zoological, wildlife, or veterinary organization or publication. Even this decision, which may seem simple enough, presented some problems when putting the collection guide together. For example, when we saw a name such as the tawny frogmouth, it was tempting to place documents about this animal with the amphibians. However, we discovered (with a little help from Google) that the tawny frogmouth is not actually a brown frog, but a brown nocturnal bird from Australia. Montali’s research on this creature would fit intellectually with other avian records, not with amphibian records.

Another challenging task came when we were confronted with medical slides, materials not commonly encountered in the SCRC. For archivists without a scientific background, the slides were difficult to interpret, particularly when they did not have accompanying documentation. For instance, was it possible to tell from which animal the slides simply labeled, “Ovary” or “Liver,” came? Perhaps not for an archivist just delving into veterinary records for the first time, but a veterinarian or a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) student will see these slides differently and the slides could prove to be invaluable to their research.

Therefore, from the earliest processing decision to the final arrangement and description, we had to determine the best way to organize Montali’s papers and appropriately add the slides to the finding aid. In the course of our work, we tried to think like veterinary researchers, anticipate researchers’ needs, and conduct a little of our own research in the process. The results of our efforts will appear in a new collection guide to be published on the web this month.

Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information on the Richard Montali Papers. Please also visit the SCRC’s website for more information on our zoological health collecting initiative.

By: Gwynn Thayer

The contracting firm D. J. Rose and Son Inc., based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has donated a major collection of historic architectural drawings and other documents to the North Carolina State University Libraries. Established in 1890 by builder David Jeptha Rose, D. J. Rose and Son is the oldest continuously operating general contracting firm in North Carolina.

Towering tobacco and textile mills, tall and elegant banks, classical courthouses in county seats, railroad stations large and small, electric power plants and fertilizer factories, hospitals and churches, and commercial buildings and residences in every style—for more than a century the Rose family firm constructed essential buildings of every kind throughout Eastern North Carolina and as far away as Florida and Maryland. Year by year, each generation of the firm filed away the records of their projects in nearly every town in the region.

The donors of the collection, Dillon Rose, Sr., and Dillon Rose, Jr., discovered the significance of the records after exploring NCSU Libraries’ website, North Carolina Architects and Builders at Dillon Rose Jr. saw the biography for architect William P. Rose (David Jeptha Rose’s brother) and contacted the library to ask if the D. J. Rose firm was to be included in the website. Catherine W. Bishir, Curator of Architecture at the Special Collections Research Center at NCSU Libraries, learned from him about the family collection. Rose recalls, “I didn’t realize the importance of what we had until I talked with Catherine.”

To ensure the collection’s long-term preservation and access to researchers, the Roses agreed to donate the collection to the Libraries. The NCSU Libraries secured a matching grant from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation of Greensboro, North Carolina, to enable the records—many of them more than 100 years old—to be cleaned by a conservation contractor.

The hundreds of rolls of drawings include works by some of the region’s leading architects for whom most records have been lost—Benton and Benton of Wilson, John C. Stout of Rocky Mount, Joseph Leitner of Wilmington, to name a few. Rows of boxes hold thousands of documents that tell the story of changing times and the work of many people, from local workmen asking for jobs to bills from distant suppliers of hardware and machinery. “It is a rich and amazing collection,” says Bishir. “We’ve seen just part of it, and can’t wait to see the rest of its treasures.”

Much of the collection involves railroad facilities—depots, turntables, platforms—especially those for the present Atlantic Coast Line (ACL), the lifeline of the region’s economic development. The company’s location by the railroad linked it to projects near and far, including the rail-oriented warehouses and factories where hundreds of workers sold or processed the region’s principal crops of cotton and tobacco.

As Gwyneth Thayer, Associate Head and Curator of Special Collections, who orchestrated the cleaning project, states, “Thanks to the Rose family and the Covington Foundation, historians and the interested public for years to come can learn about transportation and industrial history as well as architecture in ways that would never have been possible otherwise.”

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at the NCSU Libraries continues to assemble and archive the work of leading architects and builders 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 SCRC 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.