News from Archives Special Collections

-Written by Steven Szegedi

Happy National Archives Month!

This year has proven an especially exciting one for Dominican University’s Archives and Special Collections. For an outside observer our activities may seem particularly quiescent – the website for the Archives has not been regularly updated, no brochures have been circulated in the past year, and there are no new finding aids available online. Yet this serenity masks the development of our programs and collecting activities which will, I expect, emerge within a flurry of activity come 2012.

While the school has supported a rare book and manuscript collection almost from the beginning, and an on campus archives since 1971, it was only in 2010 that the two entities were officially united into a single unit within the Rebecca Crown Library. Inventories of most every collection have been assembled. Innumerable records from the history of Rosary College and Dominican University have been discovered and collected. Our rare books are inventoried and in the process of being cataloged for online discovery. We’ve even discovered several books with fore-edge painting!

Gaps in our yearbook collection have been filled, and we an annual presence at our reunions. Faculty, staff and alumni have proven most helpful in identifying unknown people and events in our 20,000 item physical photographic print collection. Within the past year we have received several notable donations from alumni and their families. As our visibility on campus grows, we continue to receive new transfers and donations of materials almost daily. In addition to the new archival and museum studies certificate the Graduate School of Library and Information Science is offering, as well as a recent write-up in Dominican Magazine, we’ve also received notice by writers outside of Dominican. At least three separate
newspapers reported on our Noah Hart Papers. Perhaps most rewarding of all was our discovery of a rare photograph featuring Charles Kallal for a local blogger.

By 2012 we also hope to print our first ever catalog for Special Collections. This one will focus on the Mae Kennedy Kane Irish book Collection donated to us in 2010. There are some true treasures to be found among the Irish books, and we hope that the bibliography will encourage use of the materials while we continue to work to catalogue them. We also plan to produce a limited edition run of some 1970s posters designed by Patti Ellen Ricci, graduate of 1957, advertising Rosary College and its programs. Unfortunately she passed away last year; we hope to honor her memory with these posters for what is her 55th reunion year. These posters will be sold during reunion to benefit the Archives, which is now home to her graphic design collection encompassing her professional work for various Catholic institutions in the Chicagoland area as well as all her work in the 1970s for Rosary College.

You’ve likely seen our Civil War era letters from Noah Hart, and the Wilson A. Bentley Snowflake Collection. Soon we hope to add a few new digital collections as well in the coming months: images and transcripts from our Medieval manuscript collection; an exhibit of our letters to Justin Winsor in 1879 (the year of the American Library Associations’ incorporation) from an assortment of library luminaries such as Melvil Dewey, Samuel Green, and Charles Ammi Cutter;
and, an exhibit of our sheet music. For my next blog post I will feature our autograph letter by Saint Francis de Sales, just one of the hidden treasures in our collections.

Our special collections are open to all, not only during National Archives Month. Please contact me to schedule a visit, I’d be more than happy to give you a tour.

Day of Digital Archives: The Challenge of Choices

This post is part of the Day of Digital Archives Project and is cross-posted here.

Like a lot of places, the library at Dominican University has a mix of systems we regularly use, and it’s often a challenge to determine what we want to use going forward.

For instance, we have our digital collections of images in a ContentDM repository, and are starting an insititonal repository for scholarly works in DSpace. These systems are great for what they do, but as we create more hybrid digital collections in the future, we will need to use additional systems for display and access. Where do we go from here?

An example of the Civil War Sheet Music Collection

I will use the example of a Civil War sheet music collection to discuss how we are looking at this challenge. This collection was digitized ten years ago as part of a grant. The original system for display and access was a simple series of static HTML pages and links to image files all in a directory. At one point it was on the library’s website, but as the library transitioned to a content management system and personnel changed over the years, the site and its files ended up in a folder on a server that was no longer online. I knew the files were there, since I’d taken a look at everything on the server, but didn’t know a whole lot else about it. One day a few months ago, however, someone asked me if I’d ever seen the files: since no one had seen anything of the collection for awhile, they wondered if the files had been lost. I showed them where the files were, but now came the next problem–how to make them available to the public again?

We could, of course, just transfer everything to the new library website

Current look to the collection of static HTML

as it was. But as you might imagine, web design and practices from 2001 look pretty dated in 2011. It seemed like a good chance to examine our digital collections practices. Our first thought was to install Omeka and use that. The problem with that idea is that our campus doesn’t have any Linux servers, which Omeka requires to run. The solution in that case would be to outsource that particular server need–our campus IT department, quite understandably, would rather not run servers they don’t have the expertise to fix when they break. We have held off on this, because another option was suggested–the whole campus was switching content management systems again, to a mix of Drupal and Sharepoint. Why not try using Drupal? I personally really liked that idea, as the more tightly integrated our digital collections were with other campus systems, the easier it would be for the rest of the campus community to find and use these collections.

But, as is hardly surprising, we find that this project is hard to find the time and resources to complete, so at this point we are in the same boat–though at least the files have been moved to be with the rest of the digital collection files. We hope to have something in place soon to experiment with, but until then we are researching our options. We like having lots of choices when it comes to what system to use, but it’s all too easy to suffer from analysis paralysis.

Caritas Veritas Proceedings

We’ve begun to publish the proceedings from this year’s Caritas Veritas Symposium.  See them here.  We’ll post
them as we receive them from the presenters.  Read the papers and  see the slides of the sessions you weren’t able to attend.  Most of the documents will be available open access, meaning we’re sharing them, without any barriers, with the world.  Sharing our motto and mission in this way is itself an example of how truth and love lead to the creation of a more just and humane world.

October is National Information Literacy Awareness Month

October is one of my favorite months – a month to harvest, a month to dress up in Halloween costumes, and a month to celebrate the National Information Literacy Awareness Month. You may wonder what that is – information literacy? Why not try playing this game developed by the librarians at the University of South Carolina, Greensboro. I am sure by the end of the game you may feel a little bit more familiar with information literacy.

President Obama proclaimed in 2009 that October is the National Information Literacy Awareness Month. Librarians from all over the country are celebrating. The librarians from the Crown Library would like to share some information literacy tips with you:

  • Google is definitely searchable but please pay attention to where the information comes from; .gov – a government agency; .edu – an educational institution; .org – a non-profit organization; .com – a company. Also consider the currency, authority, reliability, and point of view of the information posted on the Web.
  • Tons of scholarly journals and newspapers are kept in the library’s databases. Visit us often at www.dom.edu/library .
  • Always cite your sources. No matter where it comes from, please be ethical and give credit to where it is due. Don’t want to bother checking the citation manuals, check out Zotero at www.zotero.org and let the free program do all the magic for you.

 

-Ning Zou, Instruction Coordinator