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By: Brian Dietz

It’s Image Discovery Week, and from freeze-dried fruit pellets to desserts made with flaked sweet potatoes, our Rare and Unique Digital Collections have some interesting and entertaining images related to food science just waiting to be discovered!

Freeze-dried fruits Processing cucumbers
Freeze-dried fruits Processing cucumbers
Flaked sweet potatoes Assembling equipment
Flaked sweet potatoes Assembling equipment
Food experiment Seafood Lab
Food experiment Seafood Lab

These resources, and lots more related to food science, 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: Gwynn Thayer

This week, in conjunction with the Design Library, the Special Collections Research Center is promoting Image Discovery Week. We will be showcasing various image-related resources available to library users.

There are many digitized resources available to Special Collections users which we will feature throughout the week, including digitized materials relating to architecture, landscape architecture, and design.

However, not all of our resources are digitized. To begin exploring our many collections relating to architecture, landscape architecture, and design, start by browsing here. To learn more about what is in a particular collection, look at the finding aid to determine its contents. For example, there are several different series listed in the finding aid for the Frank Harmon Papers, which include, in part, project files, drawings, and photographs. The finding aid will also include a description of the “scope and content” of the collection as well as other information of interest, such as a biographical note.

Our collections can be viewed in person at the Special Collections Research Center, located in the East Wing of D. H. Hill Library.  If you would like to see an item in the Frank Harmon Papers, or another collection, please contact Special Collections via or click here in order to set up an appointment.

By: Cathy Dorin-Black

A series of lively posters has recently been added to the Friends of the College Records within the University Archives. This series contains posters organized by season, ranging from 1962 to 1994, almost the entire duration of the organization. The posters promoted on-campus appearances by various performers including orchestras, ensembles, dance troupes, singers, and more.

A poster for the Royal Marines Tattoo, also promoting the 007 Aston Martin in a mock battle

The Friends of the College Concert Series began in 1959 as a means to increase the university’s visibility in the community and succeeded in bringing cultural events to campus for many years. Amidst financial problems, the FOC became defunct around 1994.

The posters advertised prestigious orchestras and philharmonics from all over the world including: the Leningrad Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Hungaria, and the Czech Philharmonic, as well as ones closer to home such as the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. Some of the singers include Leontyne Price, Norman Luboff, Marilyn Horne, and Bobby McFerrin. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and Pianist Van Cliburn are also represented. Some more unusual performances include the Peking Acrobats and National Band of New Zealand with Maori Dancers.

Stylistically, many of the posters depict simple head shots or group photographs of the performers. Others are more abstract, with design flourishes as the central element or creative lettering. Many reflect graphic design trends of the day, from the 60s to the 90s.

A poster for the Norman Luboff Choir from 1979

Graphic design, typography, and university history are some of the topics that could be explored in this series. Please consult the online guide for more information. Other sources include a remembrance about the Friends of the College cultural events by former College Union President Clyda Weeks Lutz and a blog post on Red & White for Life, the NC State Alumni Association blog. To request to view any posters, please use our webform.

By: Gwynn Thayer

Dr. Deb Littlejohn’s GD 203 class will again be studying selected rare books in the Special Collections Research Center, in addition to some unique books in the Design Library. The Special Collections Research Center is looking forward to welcoming the students as they work on their assignment during the coming weeks.

Students will be posting their work to the new public WordPress blog by Oct 2nd:

The assignment is as follows:

The title of your Post will be the title of the book. Half of your report should be about your personal experience with this publication (and is therefore subjective); the other half should be the result of research to answer questions about the history and importance of the publication (objective facts from history).

In the first (subjective) half of your essay, think and write about experiences such as:

  • What is my first visual impression of the artifact?
  • What is the physical nature of the artifact? Size, weight, binding, paper, etc.
  • How do I sense the artifact? Look, touch, smell, hear (don’t taste!)
  • What about the physical nature of the book interests me?
  • What is interesting about its design? Typography, images, cover, layout, printing techniques, binding, etc.

In the second (objective) half of your essay, research and answer some of these questions (all questions will not be pertinent to each publication, so choose which questions to address wisely):

  1. ALL of you must answer this question: Why is this artifact in the collection? Why is it important or special enough, to collect?
  2. What is this book valued for? (may be more than one thing) subject matter, author, design, age, writing, illustrations, printing, previous owners, where produced
  3. Is this artifact mentioned in books about the history of books and printing?
  4. How does this artifact fit in with history? Printing history, art/design history, history of a discipline, etc.
  5. Is this artifact an example of something special? A beginning, an end, an important innovation, etc.?
  6. Is this book part of the development of something?
  7. If there are important individuals involved in the making of this book – who are they?
  8. Is this artifact connected with any other artifact in the collection? In a series, by the same author? by the same designer? about the same subject? etc. Does this add to its importance?

By: Sarah Breen

Post contributed by Sarah Breen, Library Associate.

Cal Poly Amphitheater Concept Sketch

Marvin J. Malecha, dean of North Carolina State University’s College of Design and professor of architecture, has contributed to the profession through wide-ranging endeavors as a practicing architect, educator, administrator, researcher, and member and leader of professional organizations. In 2011, Dean Malecha shared a sample of sketches with the public through an exhibition held by NCSU Libraries. Prior to joining the University as dean of the College of Design, Malecha was dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he was active in teaching and research.

North Carolina State University Mace

The Special Collections Research Center in NCSU Libraries holds a collection of Malecha’s papers containing drawings, concept sketches, prototypes, correspondence, speeches, articles and papers, publications, personal notes, meeting minutes and conference notes, presentation materials and photographic materials related to his work over the last five decades. Malecha has contributed more than just leadership to the university–he has also designed images for various departments, the University Mace, and has led the design effort for the Chancellor’s Residence on NCSU’s Centennial Campus.

Angels in the Architecture

To read more about the Marvin J. Malecha Papers, take a look at the guide to the collection found here.

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.