The University Archives and its Focus on Fixity

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) has designated today as Electronic Records Day and we’d like to use this occasion to provide updates about our efforts to preserve and provide access to born-digital archival records within the University Archives. I wrote about born-digital records in a previous blog post, but as a reminder, challenges unique to born-digital records include bit rot, technological obsolescence, and file authenticity.

Because the last challenge, authenticity, is such a vital piece of the archival puzzle, the Princeton University Archives recently revised its instructions for donors who transfer or donate archival materials containing digital records. You can find those procedures freely available on our website, so rather than repeat them here, it’s more useful to explain why we made the change. Our new policies better reflect a core property that helps archivists demonstrate the authenticity of digital records: fixity.

Archivists understand fixity to be verifiable evidence that a digital file has remained the same over time or across a series of events. Any number of things could impact a file’s fixity, from the purely mundane to the absolute sinister; a person opens a file to delete a punctuation mark or a virus attacks a server to corrupt every sixth block of data on a disk. To generate fixity information at the University Archives, we rely on cryptographic hash values, known in other circles as checksums. Computer programs produce these unique alphanumeric characters by using a variety of hash algorithms, with Message Digest (specifically MD5) and Secure Hash Algorithm (specifically SHA-1 and SHA-256) being the most widely used in archives and libraries.

Examples of MD5 cryptographic hash values

Examples of MD5 cryptographic hash values

With these cryptographic hash values created for each file, Mudd archivists are able to compile a manifest—yes, similar to a ship’s or flight manifest—and later verify if all the files that made it on board the ship (or disk or server or flash drive) are the same as those currently aboard; no additions, no subtractions, and no alterations.

After a transfer is complete, we can quickly verify fixity on each file using our newly installed Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED). Running a highly customized Ubuntu Linux operating system tailored to meet the needs of archivists and librarians handling born-digital records, this machine is capable of verifying checksums as well as reading most contemporary varieties of solid-state, magnetic, and optical media. I’ll share more about FRED in a future post.

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED)

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED)

While it’s no secret that cryptographic hash algorithms occasionally “collide”—which is to say, a program might assign the same hash value to more than one file—and that well-known attacks have occurred on different algorithms, such instances are extremely rare and an archival repository can safeguard against collision by using more than one algorithm, which Mudd most certainly does. Nonetheless, the focus on fixity is one of many ways the University Archives is working to secure tomorrow’s digital history today, by providing future users with authentic digital records. Happy Electronic Records Day!

The Year Princeton University Delayed the Start of Classes until October 10

 

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Senior Council Record Book, 1917, Student Council Records, Manuscript Collection AC253, Box 2.

The motion was passed that the following resolutions of the Council be printed in the Princetonian issue of October 16th:

(1) That all undergraduates shall not enter any moving picture theatre in Princeton.

(2) That all undergraduates shall stay within the University limits, avoiding Witherspoon street and other congested districts unless there is an urgent need to the contrary.

(3) That all undergraduates eat only at the Clubs or the University Dining Halls.

(4) That all undergraduates refrain from leaving town and thereby exposing themselves and the rest of the student body to unnecessary danger.

On October 14, 1916, Princeton University president John Grier Hibben asked the Senior Council to adopt the resolution quoted above. He had already taken the unprecedented step of delaying the start of classes from the usual mid-September until October 10. The faculty had decided, in light of the shortened academic year, to reduce the length of the usual breaks students would otherwise have received.

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1917 Senior Council. Photo from 1918 Bric-a-Brac.

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1957 Epidemics at Princeton

The most characteristic sound around the Princeton campus last week was not the familiar and rhythmic tolling of Nassau Hall’s bell, nor even the sleep-shattering bedlam of the steam-shovels on the new U-Store site. The sound around campus was everywhere: if you went to the heights of Blair Tower, behold, it was there, and even C Floor of the Libe, normally a haven for silence seekers, echoed and re-echoed the irritating noise. Everywhere you went, people were coughing. … The cough was almost always a good, lusty, chesty type which sort of set one apart as the bearer of a badge of courage and defiance—no infirmary was going to get his hands on him. No sir!

                                        –Princeton Alumni Weekly, November 1, 1957

 

This week’s FluFest is one of the ways the University works to keep students in good health for their studies, but keeping Princetonians healthy has sometimes proven to be a significant challenge. The Bric-a-Brac for 1958 reported on hundreds of students “plagued by a rash of…sickness” (118) “bedded down at home or in the campus infirmary,” including in the Student Center, which “was converted into an emergency annex.” It doesn’t sound like students had as much fun that year, with many social events canceled by Dean of the College Jeremiah S. Finch. One morose senior complained,  “I mean it, it’s tragic—this [epidemic] … is ruining my senior year! Now I’ve got nothing at all to do but work on my thesis.” (Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 25, 1957)

Infirmary Admissions graphic

Data taken from Report of the Committee on Health and Athletics for October 17, 1958 (found in the Board of Trustees Records).

There were typically about 100 infirmary admissions per month, but this jumped to over 600 in October 1957. The primary reason was a new kind of influenza sweeping across the globe. Nobody is certain where the new strain of “Asiatic Flu” (H2N2) originated, but the first reports of people falling ill from it came in Hong Kong in April 1957, with huge numbers of people succumbing to it wherever it was found. Concerned about the implications for the United States, government officials requested samples of the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control urged America’s six manufacturers of vaccines to get to work on a vaccine for it as soon as possible. By September, the vaccine was ready, but there was not enough supply to meet demand. Once school started, the virus began spreading dramatically. About 3-6 weeks after school began (the incubation period of the illness), absenteeism reached its highest levels. The Prince noted that at one point, 71% of Philadelphia’s students, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, were out with the flu. Indeed, this particular flu seemed to infect the young more than the old. A 1959 study later estimated that approximately 60% of America’s students had, at some point, been absent due to the flu in 1957.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 6-12

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of October 6-12:

Toni Morrison is named a Nobel Laureate, an undergrad gets international attention for a physics paper, and more.

October 6, 1938—Princeton University is selected as one of the world’s libraries holding the Westinghouse Time Capsule Book of Record. The Westinghouse Time Capsule is scheduled to be opened in the year 5939. Those who would like to read the book can find it at Firestone Library.

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Some of the contents of the Westinghouse Time Capsule before being packed in Bloomfield, New Jersey, 1938. Photo from the G. Edward Pendray Papers (MC105), Box 53.

October 7, 1993—English professor Toni Morrison is the first African-American to be chosen as the Nobel Laureate in literature.

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Toni Morrison celebrates her Nobel Prize win, 1993. Photo from Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 192, Folder 64.

October 9, 1976—The New York Times reports that anti-nuclear activist and Princeton Tiger mascot John Aristotle Phillips ’78 has designed a workable atom bomb using unclassified information for his independent physics project, with the goal of drawing attention to America’s weaknesses to terrorist threats. This will bring Phillips significant notoriety, and result in his own paper being classified by the U.S. government (and it will therefore not be available in the Princeton archives). France and Pakistan will both offer to buy Phillips’s paper, but Phillips will refuse to sell.

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John Aristotle Phillips ’78 (center) during an appearance on the game show “To Tell the Truth.” Photo by Peter Michaelis for the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

October 10, 1920—The reorganized University band debuts as 20 students in black sweaters and white flannels play at halftime of the Maryland football game.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

 

Vietnam War Exhibition Reveals Policy-making in Washington and in Princeton

Written by Rossy Mendez

The Vietnam War was one of America’s longest and most controversial wars.  Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies: The Vietnam War Abroad and at Princeton is a new exhibition at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library that highlights the major events of the war such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tet Offensive, and the invasion of Cambodia, and focuses on how these events affected government policy and American society at large. More than a mere narrative of events, the exhibition reveals the perspectives of the individuals involved in the war including policy makers, soldiers, and every day citizens.

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Demonstration outside Nassau Hall, circa 1967. Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection, Box 26.

The documents and objects in the exhibition are drawn from the Public Policy Papers and the University Archives at the Mudd Manuscript Library and range from transcripts of the private conversations of presidents and policy-makers to widely-distributed magazine articles and pamphlets. At the national scale, the records demonstrate that the war affected not only those who were fighting in the jungles and swamplands of the Mekong Delta but also those living on the home front. The range of objects takes us from the Oval Office to lively protests on America’s campuses.

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President Johnson and George W. Ball in the Oval Office, undated. George W. Ball Papers, Box 200.

On the local scale, the exhibition, Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies provides insight into the reaction of the Princeton University community. Photographs and letters among other documents highlight campus events such as the SDS occupation of the IDA, the Princeton Strike, and the 1970 commencement ceremony, and reveal how the war sparked unrest but also fostered collaboration between the administration and the student body that induced change at both the institutional and national level.

Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies: The Vietnam War Abroad and at Princeton is free and open to the public in the Wiess Lounge at the Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, until June 5, 2015. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 609-258-6345 or email Mudd Library.

 

How to Search for, Find, and View Princeton University Senior Theses

The University Archives has launched an online archive of senior theses, and now there are new ways to search for, find, and view Princeton University senior theses.

Senior theses created between 1924 and 2012:

Theses created between 1924 and 2012 are in paper format or on microfiche, and can only be viewed in the Mudd Manuscript Library Reading Room.

To find and request a thesis from 1924 to 2012:

  • Go to Books+ and enter the author’s name, title (or portion of the title)
  • When search results appear, choose “Senior Thesis” under resource type (on the left side of the screen), which will limit your results only to senior theses

senior thesis resource type

  • Choose the thesis record by clicking on the title
  • Go to the “Locations and Availability” tab, then click the blue button that says “Reading Room Request”
  • You will be prompted to log in with your netid (PU students, faculty and staff) or to create an account as a non-Princeton University Patron
  • Come to the Mudd Library to view the thesis during our hours of operation and let us know that you have a request in the system

Senior theses created in 2013:

All senior theses created in 2013 are in PDF format, but they are only viewable in full text at the computers in the reference room of the Mudd Library (i.e. “Walk-in Access”). You do not need to request 2013 theses prior to visiting the library. To see the listing for 2013 theses, visit the Senior Thesis Community page. Further DataSpace search tips follow.

Senior theses created in 2014 and in the future:

All 2014 senior theses are in PDF format, and most are accessible on any computer connected to the Princeton University network. A small percentage of theses are subject to temporary restrictions (embargo) or are restricted to computers in the reference room of the Mudd Library (i.e. “Walk-in Access”).

To search for 2013, 2014 (and future) theses, visit the Senior Thesis Community page in DataSpace.

Use the search box to enter the author’s name, the title, or keywords.

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You can limit the search to a specific department by using the dropdown box labeled “In”.

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To find a thesis written by a specific author:

Use the Browse button “Author” to see an alphabetical list of authors in the system.

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Then click on a name to see an author’s thesis.

english_author_list

To find theses advised by a specific advisor:

Use the Browse button “Author” (which also includes advisors’ names) to see an alphabetical list of advisors in the system. Click on the name to see the theses advised by this person. Please note, there may be multiple forms of name for each advisor, so check under each of the name entries for that individual (e.g. Anthony Grafton, Anthony T. Grafton, Anthony Thomas Grafton).

If you have questions, please contact us at mudd@princeton.edu

This Week in Princeton History for September 29-October 5

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of September 29-October 5:

Students express their love for Great Britain, a segregationist governor draws protest, smoking is banned in class, and more.

September 29, 1762—Students put on a play entitled “The Military Glory of Great Britain” at the close of the annual Commencement ceremony in Nassau Hall. The play praises Britain for its superiority over France and Spain.

October 1, 1963—3500 people attend an hour-long rally to protest segregationist governor of Mississippi Ross Barnett’s visit to Princeton.

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Letter from Douglas D. Pedersen to Robert F. Goheen, Office of the President Records (AC#193), Box 425, Folder 2.

October 2, 1876—College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) President James McCosh announces that the New Testament will be studied in English (King James Version) rather than Greek.

October 4, 1960—Effective immediately, smoking is banned in Princeton’s classrooms and lecture halls. The rule does not apply to faculty offices or preceptorials, University President Robert F. Goheen ’40 explains, because “there is at least the hope that ash trays will be used.”

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Engineering Professor Philip Kissam (Class of 1919) smokes a pipe. Photo from 1960 Bric-a-Brac.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton Career and the Triangle Club

Written by Dan Linke

Today marks the 118th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth and 101 years since he entered Princeton University, the place he dubbed “the pleasantest country club in America.” That phrase, a great irritant to then University President John Grier Hibben, is found in his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which chronicles Amory Blaine’s time as an undergraduate and his fascination with eating clubs, sports, social life, and Fitzgerald’s true Princeton obsession, the Triangle Club.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portrait from the Class of 1917 Nassau Herald.

Fitzgerald is the sole author of all the song lyrics for three consecutive Triangle Club shows (Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!, 1914-1915; The Evil Eye, 1915-1916; and Safety First, 1916-1917), a prolific record unmatched in the Club’s nearly 125 year history.  When asked “what was your major?,” it is not uncommon for Club alumni to respond with “Triangle, with a minor in Chemistry” [or English, or any other subject that they ostensibly studied].  For Fitzgerald, the answer appears to be the same, as evidenced by his grade card and his failure to graduate.

Admitted on trial, as his card notes, Fitzgerald struggled with most of his classes and was placed in the fifth (the lowest) class throughout his three years.  This should encourage aspiring writers everywhere, however, given that one of the greatest 20th century American authors never received higher than a B+ (a 3, on a 1-7 scale) in his English classes, but went on to write works still read avidly almost 75 years after his death.

Images taken from Office of the Registrar Records, Box 103. Click to enlarge:

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N.B. Access to undergraduate alumni records is governed by this policy.

This Week in Princeton History for September 22-28

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

George Washington attends Commencement, Dr. Patch Adams speaks in McCosh 50, and more.

September 23, 1946—A record-breaking 2,350 people attend the University’s bicentennial Convocation in the Chapel, with a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

September 24, 1783—College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) Class of 1783 Valedictorian and future College President Ashbel Green gives an address to a Commencement audience that includes George Washington and the Continental Congress.

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Portrait of Ashbel Green by an unknown artist.

September 25, 2002—The doctor made famous by Robin Williams’ portrayal of him in the eponymous Patch Adams speaks to a packed audience in McCosh 50.

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Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams addresses the crowd in McCosh 50. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

September 26, 1929—Frick Laboratory (Chemistry) opens. After housing the Chemistry department for 81 years, it will be renamed 20 Washington Road in 2010, when the new Frick Lab is opened.  (Click to view photos of the old Frick Lab under construction and the newly completed building in 1929. An interior view is available here.)

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for September 15-21

For last week’s installment in our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its students and alumni, click here.

For the week of September 15-21:

Woodrow Wilson makes a move into politics, a new Pablo Picasso sculpture is under construction, and more.

September 15, 1910—The New Jersey Democratic Convention nominates Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson as its candidate for governor.

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Woodrow Wilson with his family, Woodrow Wilson Collection, MC168, Box 41.

September 17, 1787—The U.S. Constitution, largely written by James Madison of the Princeton Class of 1771, is signed in Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall.

September 18, 1971—Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” is under construction at the art museum.

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Pablo Picasso’s “Head of a Woman” being installed (1971), Historical Photographs Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series, AC111, Box MP81, Item #3305.

September 20, 1964—University President Robert F. Goheen formally announces the abolishment of the “Chapel Rule,” which had made chapel attendance mandatory for freshmen, during the University’s opening exercises.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.