Combo Category

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Contributing in code

University of Iowa Libraries at GitHub.com

University of Iowa Libraries at GitHub.com

For librarians, particularly those in academic settings, an important part of the job is contributing to the development of the profession; traditionally, this has included tasks such as giving presentations at conferences and publishing articles in scholarly journals. But thanks to the evolving nature of our work and to innovations on the part of our developers, the University of Iowa Libraries has become active in a new area of professional development: sharing code for re-use and adaptation by other institutions.

When George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media launched Scripto, an NEH-funded open-source tool for transcription crowdsourcing projects, we were eager to adopt it for DIY History to replace our existing makeshift and labor-intensive system. Once it was installed, we became even more eager to make extensive changes to Scripto. While the tool was designed to treat transcription as an add-in activity for digital exhibits, we needed it front and center for DIY History.

DRP’s developers, Shawn Averkamp (now at New York Public Library) and Matthew Butler, solved this problem by adding new features to Scripto and creating a simple-to-use theme that focuses exclusively on the act of transcription. Other enhancements included a progress system for tracking completion status, as well as various scripts for migrating mass quantities of objects and metadata from our digital library to DIY History and back again. As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones looking for these functionalities. In the open source spirit of sharing work for the good of the community, Shawn and Matthew made their enhancements and related code available online, where it’s been reused by a number of other institutions [see below].

As we prepare to launch a redesigned and streamlined DIY History soon, we’re grateful for the open source tools that have allowed us to make progress on our own project, and thrilled to have contributed to the development of crowdsourcing sites at other libraries and museums.

“DIY History and similar projects are about community” says Matthew Butler, the Libraries’ Multimedia Consultant. “They succeed because of the collaborative efforts of transcribers, developers, librarians, and curators to make the content and tools as accessible as possible.”

DIY History | University of Iowa Libraries

DIY History | University of Iowa Libraries

The Civil War in Letters | The Newberry Library

The Civil War in Letters | The Newberry Library

Making History | Library of Virginia

Making History | Library of Virginia

Jones' Icones Online | University of Oxford

Jones’ Icones Online | University of Oxford

Virtual Volunteering | Carnamah Historical Society & Museum

Virtual Volunteering | Carnamah Historical Society & Museum

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DIY History celebrates 50,000th transcription!

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As DIY History, the University of Iowa’s transcription crowdsourcing site, has inched toward its 50,000th submission, we’ve been looking forward to reaching such an amazing milestone — hence the queued-up cake gif.

But as it turned out, we weren’t quite prepared for how it went down today. On the heels of some high-profile attention from BuzzFeed and NBC News in October, DIY History just hit the big time with a Tumblr post from Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant fame, which was reblogged by John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars and many other things. Once a portion of their millions of devoted followers visited our site, the 50K achievement was immediately unlocked — along with a fair amount of panic among library staff about insufficient server bandwith and a dearth of untranscribed pages (plus Colleen wept with joy)(although low threshold)(we love you Colleen!).

We are humbled and gratified by the dedication of all our volunteer transcribers — those of you who have just joined us, and those who have been with us from the beginning. Since the Libraries put its first batch of Civil War diaries up in the spring of 2011, you have fought a brave battle against inaccessibility and illegibility, rescuing the first-hand accounts of soldiers, cooks, students, railroad barons, farmers, artists, suffragists, and so many others. In lieu of the celebratory cake we wish we could give you, here is a comprehensive list of the Libraries’ hundreds of historic handwritten cake recipes. An unthinkingly time-consuming task pre-crowdsourcing, the compilation of such a list now happens almost instantly, thanks to the magic of fully-searchable transcribed text. Happy baking, and don’t forget to stock up on lard.

While you’re busy with that, we’ll be powering up our scanners to get new content on the site as quickly as possible, so please stop back soon and often. The next 50,000 pages starts now!

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Four Million Downloads!

Items in Iowa Research Online have been downloaded more than four million times! This means that scholarship created by University of Iowa faculty, researchers and students is being read around the world. We crossed the three million mark in late January 2014; it is so very exciting to have had such an increase in just over nine months that we are dancing in our cubicles.

ancers at a party at Esther Walls' apartment, New York, N.Y., 1960s

Our theses and dissertation make up over half the use, which is great evidence of the fantastic scholarship done by our graduates. The journals Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and Medieval Feminist Forum each have had two-three hundred thousand downloads. Congratulations to the editors of these journals for producing such quality publications.

Walt Whitman Quarterly Review

If you would like your scholarship in Iowa Research Online, please contact your subject specialist for more information.

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Historically mustachioed

In celebration of Movember and of Digital Research & Publishing’s sometimes very hirsute new department head, we’re reprising a few of last year’s Great Mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library:

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Find your own favorites! Probably here: digital.lib.uiowa.edu/dentistry

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Tom Keegan named Head of Digital Research & Publishing

The University of Iowa Libraries has hired Tom Keegan as Head of Digital Research & Publishing. A Rhetoric faculty member and co-director of the IDEAL (Iowa Digital Engagement & Learning) initiative, Keegan has a partial appointment with the Libraries until January, when he will assume full-time duties leading DRP.

In this position Keegan will build on the Libraries’ work leveraging digital collections, resources, and expertise to support faculty and student Tom Keeganscholars. Founded in 2006, Digital Research & Publishing coordinates and maintains the Iowa Digital Library, a million-object database of digitized special collections and archival materials, plus digital content from campus and community partners such as the UI Museum of Art, the Office of the State Archaeologist, and the Writing University. DRP also offers hosting and management of the University’s scholarly output via its institutional repository, Iowa Research Online, and journal publishing services for the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and other titles. Additional projects include DIY History, a participatory archives initiative, and University of Iowa Press Digital Editions, a collaboration between the Libraries and the Press to provide free online access to select UIP books.

Before joining the Libraries, Keegan taught at the University beginning in 2003, most recently as a lecturer for the Department of Rhetoric. His teaching and research address the use of digital humanities and publicly engaged pedagogies across a variety of curriculums. With Matt Gilchrist, he co-directs IDEAL, which encourages assignment innovation and fosters expanded access to TILE learning spaces. One such assignment, Archives Alive!, incorporates DIY History to engage undergraduate students with digital scholarship practices in learning research, writing, and presentation skills. Keegan received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Iowa, and his undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Bioethics from the University of Virginia.

The new position in the Libraries allows Keegan to remain connected to the innovative teaching and curriculum projects he’s developed in partnership with the Rhetoric Department, Tippie College of Business, the UI Honors Program, the College of Education, the UI Graduate School, ITS and SITA, the Studio, the Center for Teaching, the English Department, Hancher, the Iowa City Downtown District, Public Space One, and a variety of other people and units within the UI and Iowa City communities. He is also continuing his humanities scholarship by collaborating with Libraries’ staff to develop a digital project based on spatial rhetoric in the works of James Joyce.

“I’m thrilled to be working with such innovative and talented people,” says Keegan. “Digital Research & Publishing plays a crucial role in bringing together a variety of audiences for research and learning in the 21st century.”

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The Treasure in the Old Will: Iowa Women’s Archives Inherits Valuable Nancy Drew Collection

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There were no missing documents, phony relatives, or suspicious fires — just a straightforward bequest from Peggy Wirt, whose mother, the late Mildred Wirt Benson, was the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. But the collection that was recently left to the Iowa Women’s Archives calls to mind another mystery trope – the hidden treasure: the gift of 150 books, written and signed by Benson, was appraised at $115,000. According to IWA Curator Kären Mason, however, the true value of the donation lies in further documenting an important figure in American popular culture.

The first student to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa, Mildred Wirt Benson wrote the original Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, in 1930 under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She completed nearly two dozen more titles in what has become one of the most successful children’s book series ever. Benson published numerous other children’s novels, both as a ghostwriter and under her own name, before turning to a career in journalism. The Peggy Wirt bequest will be added to the IWA’s Mildred Wirt Benson collection, used frequently by scholars and fans alike, that was donated by the author in 1992 and subsequent years until her death in 2002.

Two additional sets of new acquisitions complement the book donation. Purchased at auction from the estate of Peggy Wirt are a vintage typewriter of Benson’s, along with several photo albums. The latter include the original snapshot of an image that has become iconic to fans of the author: a college-age Benson, circa 1925, making a daring swan dive into the Iowa River near the current site of the UI’s student union.

The other recent donation comes from UI Journalism Professor Emerita Carolyn Stewart Dyer, who gave the IWA her collection of foreign-language Nancy Drew novels. The covers of these French, Japanese, and Swedish translations depict a Nancy both familiar and strange – renamed Kitty or Alice, holding a gun, her trademark titian hair changed to brown or blonde.

In any language, the character continues to serve as a feminist icon who inspires women “to persevere, to achieve, to ask questions and find answers,” according to Dyer. While coordinating the UI’s 1993 symposium on Nancy Drew, she heard from many women who grew up on the series:

Most compelling of the many elements of the stories women told us about reading Nancy Drew were the accounts of how, as girls, they saw in Nancy an alternative to conventional notions of what a woman could be. Women in many occupations told of learning from Nancy to see adventure in solving problems and the joy of self-reliance. These qualities, they said, led them to the futures they chose as lawyers, researchers, librarians, and detectives, among other roles. (1)

The Mildred Wirt Benson materials may be viewed at the Iowa Women’s Archives. Selections from the collection have been digitized and made available at the Iowa Digital Library: digital.lib.uiowa.edu/mwb

  1. “The Nancy Drew Phenomenon: Rediscovering Nancy Drew in Iowa” by Carolyn Stewart Dyer, in Rediscovering Nancy Drew, edited by Carolyn Stewart Dyer and Nancy Tillman Romalov (University of Iowa Press, 1995)

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From top: the bequest of novels from Peggy Wirt, waiting to be processed; a vintage typewriter used by Benson; Benson’s photo albums; foreign-language versions of Nancy Drew novels, donated by Carolyn Stewart Dyer. Photographs by Hannah Scates Kettler

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Iowa Women’s Archives, Rhetoric faculty and students to present on digital humanities teaching project May 7

University of Iowa faculty, students, and staff will be discussing a curriculum project that combines historic documents with digital tools and methods as part of the Irving B. Weber Days local history celebration. The one-hour presentation “Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence” will take place at 12:30 on Wednesday, May 7, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

Iowa Digital Library: Evelyn Birkby World War II scrapbook, 1942-1944. Iowa Women's Archives

Iowa Digital Library: Evelyn Birkby World War II scrapbook, 1942-1944. Iowa Women’s Archives

Iowa Women’s Archives Curator Kären Mason will provide background on the IWA and its mission to chronicle the history of Iowa women, their families, and their communities by collecting personal papers, organizational records, and oral histories. IWA artifacts on display at the event will include a World War II correspondence scrapbook, donated by author and radio personality Evelyn Birkby, upon which the Archives Alive! project was based.

Matt Gilchrist and Tom Keegan, Rhetoric faculty and co-directors of the Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) initiative, will speak about using digital humanities methods to engage undergraduates through hands-on learning and technologically innovative assignments. For Archives Alive!, they developed a four-week curriculum module that required their Rhetoric students to participate in DIY History, the UI Libraries’ transcription crowdsourcing project. After transcribing, researching, and analyzing digitized correspondence from the Birkby scrapbook, students conveyed their findings in a variety of ways; this includes three-minute video screencasts uploaded to YouTube that form a collection of open-access works of original digital scholarship based on primary sources.

Wednesday’s event will also feature presentations by Rhetoric students James Burke, Jessica Graff, and Zach Stark.

For those who can’t make it in person, “Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence” will be broadcast live on The Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 10, and archived at the Iowa City Public Library web site.

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New milestone for DIY History: 40,000 pages transcribed!

Iowa Byington Reed diaries

We’re thrilled to announce the latest milestone for DIY History, the Libraries’ transcription crowdsourcing project: 40,000 pages transcribed!

To mark the occasion, we’re featuring our most prolific diarist — Iowa Byington Reed, an Iowa City native who wrote in her diary nearly every day from 1872 to 1936 — along with one of our most industrious volunteers, David Davenport of Fresno, California. In most crowdsourcing initiatives, a small minority of “power users” does a large majority of the work, and DIY History is no exception. David, a retired history professor, explains how he first started working with the Byington diaries:

I “joined” your project with the expectation that I would do only Civil War related materials, but those had been done, and since my family has lived in Iowa since territorial days (my g-g-grandfather James Blake Gray is responsible for naming Burlington — it was called Flint Hills when he and his brother in law Thomas Stephens operated a trading post there in the very early 1830s) I decided to try the Reed material because my mother grew up on a farm near Centerville. I figured I would learn a bit about what life was like for her mother and her mother’s mother. I have not been disappointed. Iowa Reed engaged in the same rather “mundane” activities for well over 50 years, and faithfully recorded her life for almost every day during the span of her diaries…

I really don’t think we appreciate in 2014 how very different “the work” was 125 years ago — washing that took 4-5 hours every Monday morning, followed by ironing, sometimes drying the clothes in the garret (which my mother tells me was the term for the unfinished portions of the attic) accessible with a folding ladder in the ceiling of the upstairs hallway, etc. But in some ways their lives were so similar to ours — Iowa’s record of her brother Robbie’s death, or the death in 1886 of the two day old son of Ott and Fanny (or was it Charlie and Ida? — I can’t recall right now), or the sudden and completely unexpected death of Charlie in mid-October 1895 that I just saw a few minutes ago. I was transcribing her entry for November 14 1895 and she wrote “it was three weeks ago today that Charlie died” so I had to look back to find out what happened. I’m not a medical doctor but it seemed that he had a mild heart attack that was undiagnosed a couple of days earlier and then a massive heart attack while changing clothes – he was gone in an instant.

I really wish I was still teaching history because I can see assigning student the “task” of reading her diaries, cover to cover. Most students today could learn far more from what Iowa wrote about herself and those around her than I could ever hope to “teach” in a more conventional lecture. She has given voice to hundreds of thousands of women who lived as she did, from day to day, doing “the work” and often “so tired” she “went to bed early.”

A heartfelt thank you goes out to David and everyone else who has contributed their time and efforts in support of our mission to make historic documents more accessible. There’s still plenty more work to be done — please visit the Iowa Women’s Lives collection to transcribe Iowa Byington Reed’s diaries, or stop by the DIY History home page to select other materials, including historic cookbooks and pioneer-era documents.

Iowa Byington Reed diary, 1875

…In the evening I wrote a little and looked over my old diary and indulged in a retrospective view of the past year. I most sincerely hope that I will not know some of the sorrow this year I did last… | Iowa Byington Reed diary, January 1, 1875

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Upstairs and downstairs in historic cookbooks

Anne Bayne cookbook, circa 1700 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks

Anne Bayne cookbook, circa 1700 | Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks

While “Downton Abbey” fans tune in to season 4 in record numbers and our Special Collections department celebrates with an exhibition of period cookbooks, volunteers at the Libraries’ DIY History crowdsourcing site continue to transcribe historic recipes handwritten by real-life Mrs. Patmores.

Notes on how to “send up” a dish – a final step in some of the recipes from our Szathmary collection of manuscript cookbooks – might seem a little mysterious to the uninitiated. But “Downton Abbey” viewers have become familiar with the geography of meal preparation in historic upper-class households, with servants cooking elaborate dishes in kitchens located below stairs, then presenting them with fanfare in the dining room above.

For food historians, tracking down specific information like this in the Szathmary collection used to involve countless hours skimming thousands of hard-to-read manuscript pages. Now, thanks to the painstaking efforts of our volunteer transcribers who provide data for full text searches, it can be found in seconds.

Below we present a few of our favorite “send it up” examples, in case anyone wants to get fancy and “stik a light flower in the centre” of dinner tonight.

To frigasy rabbits (Anne Bayne cookbook, circa 1700)
…when you send it up put in 2 or 3 spoonfulls of white wine so serve it up. if you would have it a browne frigasy. You must take it out of your pan after it is boiled & fry it browne & strain in some broth. After you have powdered it put in your butter you fryed it in & grate in a little nutmeg & work up a little butter in a little flower & shake all well together. So dish it up with what pickles you please.

Gravi sase for torkie chickins pollits Ducks wild & tame & all sorts of wild fowle & hare & venson (Penelope Pemberton cookbook, 1716)
send it up in poringers: ye venson & hare must have gravis sase in ye dish: ye tong & uder nothing I had forgot to tel yu: yu must sweeten ye venson sase with powder suger to yr tast: not to sweet.

Savoury Sauce for a Rosted Goose (English cookbook, 1799)
… pour this into the body of the goose by a slit in the apron just before you send it up.

Raspberry Cream (Susan Gilbert cookbook, 1848-1887)
…put the remainder of your cream into a deep china dish and your frothed cream upon it as high as it will lie on. Stik a light flower in the centre & send it up. It is proper for a middle at supper, or corner at dinner.

View more results

Transcribe handwritten cookbooks at DIY History

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Wishing you an animated holiday

Featuring images from Helen Grundman 4-H scrapbook, 1928-1932

Animated gif featuring Helen Grundman 4-H scrapbook, 1928-1932 | Iowa Women’s Archives

LULAC Christmas party, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s

Animated gif featuring LULAC Christmas party photo, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s | Iowa Women’s Archives

LULAC Christmas party, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s

Animated gif featuring LULAC Christmas party photo, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s | Iowa Women’s Archives

The big story at the Libraries this year has been our Special Collections department’s ascendancy to social media superstardom. Here in Digital Research & Publishing, we’re happy to hook our wagon to that stardom for promoting the Libraries’ digital initiatives to the 18,000 (and counting!) followers at the UISpecColl Tumblr, and to loan our multimedia expertise to film and edit their YouTube video series. Here’s to even more public engagement success in 2014!

Digital projects featured on Tumblr: