The Project

Best of the Archives

One of my favorite aspects of this internship, in addition to the wildly fascinating material stored in the discreet archival boxes, is how it’s unique nature allows me to work simultaneously with SCUA and Digital Projects. This affords me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of individuals as well as explore the offerings of both units.

About a week ago, I was lucky enough to receive a mini-tour of some of the archival holdings of SCUA from Adam Burkhart. Adam has worked with SCUA for several years now, and as a Special Collections Specialist, his knowledge of the collections extends well beyond the finding aids as he has processed numerous collections and designed many exhibits. I had simply asked Adam to show me some of his favorite collections or artifacts, and he did not disappoint.*

His tour progressed chronologically, and began with two of the oldest documents in IMG_4532SCUA holdings. This first (left) is an illuminated manuscript from Italy. It is stored in a plastic sleeve not simply because of it’s age, but also because it is used frequently in teaching. The second (right) is a translation IMG_4531of The History of the Peloponnesian War in German. This item stuck out to me in particular; as a student of the German language, and an MLS student who is all too aware that many early books were printed in Latin, it was terribly exciting to see (and read parts of!) a early German translation of Greek history.

Next on the tour was the Civil War collection. Although less than four cubic feet, this collection contains fascinating items, such as a signed letter from Abraham Lincoln to General Joseph Hooker (below, left) and a bill of sale for a young slave (below, right).

Marian Osgood Hooker, the first woman to climb Mount Whitney, was a physician with a penchant for photography. Born to a wealthy family, Hooker’s photographs, such as those IMG_4540 to the right, often accompanied travel books authored by her mother (although my image has fallen victim to a glare, SCUA has digitized the entire photo album and made it available online here).

Similarly, although several decades before, an unknown artist compiled a sketchbook of their IMG_4533tour through Europe. His journey began in London, with stops in Austria, Germany, and several other countries; the artist captured the beauty of the journey (left) as well as the frustration. Below, he describes wanting to view the Alps, but instead depicts the “utter failure” when his sight was completely obstructed by clouds.

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Jumping forward to the Second World War are the papers of Grattan H. McCafferty. After he was taken prisoner in 1942 and forced on the Bataan Death March, McCafferty kept near daily accounts in various journals, such as the one below, until the Japanese surrender in 1945. In order to ensure he could keep his journals and continue his detailed accounts, McCafferty often wrote in sloppy, cramped handwriting, which led Japanese generals to assume it was nonsense. Also, as his supplies would run short near the end of notebooks, McCafferty would also begin to write two lines per each line on the notebook, to save space.

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Lastly, Adam showed me a collection to leave a chill in your blood: the Carl Panzram Papers. This collection contains the papers of a career criminal, Carl Panzram. In his handwritten autobiography, which he authored while in jail with the help of the guard Henry Lesser, Panzram claims to have: murdered 21 people; raped thousands of men; and even burglarized the home of President Taft. However, he was not tried for any of these crimes. It was only after he bludgeoned a laundry foreman to death that he was sentenced and hanged for murder in 1930.

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The originals of this collection are not available for public use, and require special permission from the Head of SCUA. However, there are digital folders available online.

Although excerpts of his autobiography have been used in books and films about Panzram, it has never been reprinted in full.

And with that last item, our brief tour of SCUA was over! With such a diverse collection of scope, age, and content, it was tough to pick just a few items to write about.^

Thank you again, Adam, for your time as well as for picking such excellent items to share!

*In my excitement, I failed to photograph several items I was shown, such as a mathematical incunable, which was the first to have geometric shapes printed alongside the text, as well as a German guide to discovering and eradicating witches from the 16th century.

^Some of the items excluded, simply for concerns of length, were the Fritzenkotter Papers, the Leon William Collection (who was integral in establishing the trolley system this intern uses to commute), and the Bohmer Collection.

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The Project

Time Flies When You’re Scanning!

It seems like just yesterday I began examining the Radial Ephemera and Underground Publications collection, and just a week ago I felt lost in the maze of Love Library… suddenly, it’s seven weeks (!) later, and I feel (almost) like a bona fide Aztec.

Over the past two months, the collection has been physically reprocessed and shuffled between SCUA and Digital Projects as patrons have requested materials and scanning beds have become available. I have had the pleasure of working in two different environments and becoming acquainted with wonderful students and staff in both settings.

The digitization process has been slow, even monotonous at points, yet highly rewarding. I have been able to examine nearly every single item, number files according to a schema I helped devise, experiment with scanning settings and Photoshop tricks, and watch dozens of TED talks during the long shifts.

Recently, I have begun assembling the TIFF files into PDF’s and utilizing optimal character recognition (OCR) to make the images full text searchable. This has been a struggle, as Adobe Acrobat attempts to straighten text; yet with the often crooked documents in the collection, this can skew documents and potentially eliminate text and images. However it is a necessary part of the digitization process that will ultimately ensure the collection is usable.

This week will be my last full week of scanning documents and assembling TIFF’s. Although the collection is just about half digitized, there are other elements of this project that require attention before my internship ends in five short weeks, such as uploading the PDFs to SDSU’s database and assigning appropriate metadata.

I am eager to learn more about the digitization process firsthand, but there is something so comforting about the whir of the scanner in the morning.

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The Collection

Friday Findings

Micaela

As a future information professional, I pride myself on my ability to find information. After finding the above intriguing journal, sharing a variation of my name, I decided I would perform a quick search, write a riveting blog post about my discoveries, and dash off to the weekend.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

Barring the title, year, and volume/issue number, I had very little to go on. The journal is written entirely in Spanish, and despite living in Southern California for many years, my knowledge of the language is both rudimentary and severely limited.

After combining the known elements of the journal into various search terms, yielding no results, I began thumbing through the issue, looking for clues I may have missed. I stumbled on the following:

Asociacion Latinoamericana de Mujeres
Latinamerikanska kvinnoföreningen
Association of Latinamerican Women
Box 5099- 163 05 SPÅNGA- SUECIA

Upon discovering that Spånga is located in Sweden and combining it with the journal title, I finally had a result. Despite the sparse metadata and the images that left much to be desired, I had a starting point. From here, it was a short leap to the WorldCat entry and HathiTrust catalog record. It took only moments for me to realize how incomplete these records are. HathiTrust describes the language as Swedish and defines a narrow date range, based solely on the copies they scanned, and WorldCat was simply vague.

These sites left me unsatisfied and more puzzled than when I had started. Why was a journal sponsored by the Association of Latin American Women being published in Sweden? Who founded the journal? Why is there so little metadata? And, most of all, who is Micaela?

Regretfully, the ending of this story is not a happy one.

After numerous searches, both online and through the single issue that resides in SCUA, I found Professor Olga Martín de Hammar. With the help of Google Translate, which is quite imperfect, I discovered she had been exiled to Sweden in 1976, and founded the publication MICAELA in 1978, which focused on women, exile, and life under dictatorships.

With regards to the appalling lack of metadata, it appears that there is simply a great deal of mystery surrounding this journal. Published in Spanish and Swedish, the journal may not have often made it’s way to America, instead residing in foreign archives.

Lastly, I am still uncertain who Micaela was. Although I have no evidence to support this claim, I strongly believe it was titled after Micaela Bastidas. Although born Spanish, Micaela supported the Peruvian Revolution for Independence in 1780, earning prestige both politically and militarily. However, the revolution weakened in 1781, and Micaela, alongside numerous revolutionaries, was captured, found guilty of treason, and executed in a gruesome fashion.

To conclude, I’m not sure where to start or end, except with a call for help. If you happen to have any information to contribute about any of the above topics or links, comment below or send me an email!

The Collection

Ephemera

noun

  1. Something of no lasting significance– usually used in plural.

  2. plural : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.

After reading the above definition (source), it should come as no surprise that the collection “Radical Ephemera and Underground Publications,” poses unique digitization problems, mostly stemming from the fact that these manuscripts are ephemeral in nature.

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“…The SDSC Strike Committee calls on you to shut down the campus Thursday and Friday to protest the government’s military aggression against the people at home and abroad.”

This collection, as the name states, is composed of a wide-variety of materials, the vast majority of which were printed quickly on low-quality paper. In a hurry to post the fliers and publish the newsletters, the creators of these documents often did not care if the type set was perfectly level or if the paper was loaded correctly.

The Strike Committee, who produced the flier to the right, posted these around the SDSU campus (then San Diego State College) to gather support for a strike. The type is legible, due in large part to the persistence of the ink. However, one large problem is found at the bottom of the page. Due to the slanted type, the text, believed to say, “US out of Vietnam NOW,” and the bottom of the fist/peace image, has been eliminated from the flier due to quick and haphazard reproduction.

Additionally, as is clear in this flier and the one below, these ephemera often were treated carelessly: large creases, wrinkled edges, and folded corners are more than common throughout the collection. These can leave papers with uneven sides and cause additional problems when scanning.

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Created by the Grass Roots Society, this flyer reads “May God shit on those who ripped down our commune. Be sure to vote today.”

The flier on the left is fading quickly, leaving much of the lettering and the peace sign in the bottom left corner nearly invisible.

With problems such as these, getting the best possible scan can prove really challenging. With the Strike Committee flier, crooked lettering means scans will look sloppy and slanted. With the Grass Roots Society flier, adjusting the coloring to make the lettering legible means inaccurately representing the color of the paper.

Deciding how far to edit images, such as to crop and rotate paper  or excessively adjust exposure or color, can be challenging. Having these conversations early in the scanning process will save time, and result in a digital collection to be proud of.

The Project

Setting the Scene

San Diego State University  (SDSU) is the oldest higher-education institution in San Diego. As a four-year research university nestled in sunny San Diego, SDSU is known for academic excellence.

The main library on campus, the Love IMG_4445Library, is named after a former University President, Dr. Malcolm Love.
The main feature of the library is its trademark dome, seen here from the inside, which will be my home for the next few months.

The Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses a variety of documents, including rare and unique items, such as  Comic Books, alongside archives detailing both SDSU history as well as the greater San Diego history. It is here that I have the fortune of doing the majority of my work alongside supportive and knowledgable archivists and student workers.

Although I am eager to contribute to their digital collections, it can be difficult to remain inside when the campus and weather are so beautiful!

 

The Collection

The Radical Word

The 1960’s-70’s were a time of protest around the world. Unlike previous generations, these individuals, mostly like-minded college students, were eager to change their world and had the opportunity to do so.

In America, resurgences of Feminism, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War protests, the Labor Union struggles, and a general suspicion of both government and corporations led to countless protests and struggles across the nation. Activists were spreading their messages far and wide through leaflets, fliers, essays, underground publications, and numerous other written works, and university campuses were hotbeds of activity.

San Diego State University (then San Diego State College) was no exception, as is clearly evidenced in their collection “Radical Ephemera and Underground Publications.” Although not every flier or pamphlet made or distributed on campus was preserved, this collection is rather complete and thorough, as it presents a wide variety of views and opinions.

This summer, as a Project Archivist Intern, I will have the privilege of digitizing the collection and making it accessible online. Follow this blog to receive updates on items in the collection, the overall progress, and my personal experiences!