Our NHPRC-Funded Digitization Project at Six Months

Late last year, the Mudd Manuscript Library was granted an award by the National
Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize our most-used Public Policy collections, serve them online, and create a report for the larger archival community about cost-efficient digitization practices. Excerpts from our six-month progress report is below.

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Work so far

  1. Project planning

From the time we were awarded the grant to the present, we have produced an overall project plan and timeline, a vendor RFQ and plan of work, in-house quality control procedures for vendor-supplied images, a workplan for in-house scanning, and hardware-specific instructions for in-house scanning. All activities are either on schedule or ahead of schedule. Vendor-supplied digitization is currently eight months ahead of schedule.

  1. Finding a vendor

After distributing an RFQ and collecting bids, we decided on The Crowley Company as our vendor, based on both price and our confidence that they would be able to manage the materials and the work carefully and efficiently.

  1. Managing vendor-supplied digitization

Before materials can go out to the vendor, we first create a manifest of everything we want to send by transforming the EAD-encoded finding aid into an easily-read Excel worksheet. Since we want each folder of material to have a cover sheet that explains the collection name, box number, folder number, URL, and copyright policy, we used collection manifests to make target sheets with this information. A total of 6,943 target sheets were created, printed, and inserted into the beginnings of folders by student workers before materials were sent out to the vendor.

Once materials have been imaged by the vendor, students sample ten percent of the collection to check for completeness and readability. So far, everything has passed quality control with flying colors.

Each month, Crowley sends us a report of how many images have been created that month, how many images have been created cumulatively, and average scanning rate per hour. This information is below:

Boxes Scanned

Pages Scanned

2013 March

15

17119

2013 April

32

45761

2013 May

50

49499

2013 June

65

97896

Totals

162

210275

  1. In-house imaging

Imaging of the John Foster Dulles papers started in June. So far, we have completed a pilot of scanning with the sheet-feed of the photocopier, and pilots of microfilm scanning and scanning with a Zeutschel face-up scanner are underway.

Project goals and deliverables

  1. Twelve series or subseries from six collections digitized

To date, five series or subseries have been completely digitized, and three others are in the process of being digitized.

  1. Approximately 416,000 images created and posted online

As of July 1, 2013, 210,275 images have been scanned by the vendor. Of this total, 39,834 images have been posted online. Our vendor is several months ahead of schedule for this project, and in-house scanning is on track. Since beginning in-house scanning in June, 1,838 pages have been scanned by student workers. In the next months, we will calculate the per-page costs for scanning on a Zeutschel face-up scanner and with a microfilm scanner. From there, we plan to image fifty feet of materials with the sheet feeder of the photocopier, 10.3 feet with the Zeutschel face-up scanner, and 33.4 feet with the microfilm scanner.

  1. Six EAD finding aids updated to include links for 17,508 components (folders)

Two finding aids (Council on Foreign Relations Records and Adlai Stevenson Papers) have been updated to include links to digitized content. Another (George F. Kennan Papers) is ready to be updated. This process is managed semi-automatically with a series of shell scripts. After quality control hard drives of images are sent to Princeton’s digital studios. Staff there verify and copy digital assets to permanent storage. After this, PDF and JPEG2000 files are derived from the master TIFFs, and the relationship between these objects is described in an automatically generated METS file. The digital archival object (<dao>) tag is added to the EAD-encoded finding aid for each component.

  1. Digital imaging cost of less than 80 cents per page achieved

The plan of work with our vendor calls for scanning costs well below the 80 cents per page. Our first (and likely least expensive) of three in-house scanning pilots estimates the costs of scanning with the sheet feeder of a copier to be two cents per page. We will have numbers for microfilm scanning and scanning with a face-up scanner at the time of our next report.

  1. Metrics for digital imaging of 20th century archival collections for

    1. In-house microfilm conversion

    2. Sheet feeding through a networked photocopier

    3. Vendor supplied images

The information that we have collected thus far is below. Our vendor metrics are based on the quote and plan of work with The Crowley Company. Sheet feed metrics are collected by having a student worker fill out a minimal, time-stamped form at the beginning and end of each scan, and then analyzing that information. These numbers are preliminary. Sheet-fed scans have not yet been checked for quality control — re-scans may increase the total time per page and dollars per page for this method.

Vendor

Sheet Feed

Microfilm

Zeutschel

Total pages:

270,600*

1838

Total feet:

530.95

1.68

Total time:

2:25:14

Total time (decimal):

2.42

Time per page:

0:00:04

Pages per hour:

270.75

759.33

Hours per foot:

1:26:26

Feet per hour

0.69

Cost per page:

TBD

$0.02

*This number is an estimate, based on an assumed 1200 pages per box. Our reports from Crowley show anywhere from 1050-1750 pages in a box.

Note: in addition to these three methods, we plan to add a fourth – scanning with a face-up scanner (in our case, a Zeutschel scanner table).

  1. Policies and documentation for large-scale digitization initiative created and shared with archival community

As we go forward with our project, we have been blogging not just about the content of our digitized collections, but also our methods and rationales. A blog post written in February explains how this project fits into our other digitization activities and our approach to access. In early June, we wrote about the reasons why this kind of project is so important, and how our materials will now reach researchers worldwide (and of all ages) who might otherwise never come to our reading room in Princeton, New Jersey.

A more formal report on our methods and results will be made available once more data has been gathered.

Archival Description Group Wins National Award

The University Library’s Archival Description Working Group has won another award for its efforts in finding new ways to deliver information about our collections to our users. The Society of American Archivists will present the C.F.W Coker Award to the group in August for findingaids.princeton.edu, the University Library’s interface for descriptions of Princeton archives and manuscript collections. Society of American Archivists Logo The Coker Award “recognizes finding aids, finding aid systems, innovative development in archival description, or descriptive tools that enable archivists to produce more effective finding aids. To merit consideration for the award, nominees must set national standards, represent a model for archives description, or otherwise have a substantial impact on national descriptive practice.” It is awarded to archives throughout North America; previous winners include the Archivists’ Toolkit project, the Online Archives of California, and the working group that developed Encoded Archival Description.

The Award Committee noted that the team at Princeton “created a complete user experience of the Princeton University collections that is elegant in its outward simplicity and robust in its search capabilities. . . . The site is, in short, a triumph of innovative descriptive practice.” Maureen Callahan, John Delaney, Shaun Ellis, Regine Heberlein, Dan Santamaria, Jon Stroop, and Don Thornbury serve on the Working Group. The site also builds on descriptive data created by many staff involved with aggressive processing and data conversion projects over the last seven years.

The site was publicly released last September. The group was also awarded the Mid Atlantic Regional Archives Conference’s Finding Aid Award in April. As always, our biggest reward is the use of the finding aids, and the material they describe, by our patrons, but it’s great to receive recognition for all the effort that went into developing the site.

Records of Adlai Stevenson, Ambassador to the United Nations, Now Available to View Online

In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, Adlai Stevenson spoke the most famous line of his career. The former Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate was the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations.

After a series of provocative political moves and a failed US attempt to overthrow the Cuban regime,  Nikita Khrushchev proposed the idea of placing Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt in May 1962. By October 14, American spy planes captured images showing sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles under construction in Cuba.

Tensions mounted quickly. Concurrent with other negotiations, the United States requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on October 25. There, Adlai Stevenson confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin, challenging him to admit the existence of the missiles. Ambassador Zorin refused to answer.

“Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Don’t wait for the translation! Yes or no?”

“I am not in an American courtroom, sir,” Zorin responded, “and therefore I do not wish to answer a question put to me in the manner in which a prosecutor does–”

“You are in the courtroom of world opinion right now,” Stevenson interrupted, “and you can answer yes or no. You have denied that they exist, and I want to know whether I have understood you correctly.”

“You will have your answer in due course,” Zorin replied. “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that’s your decision,” countered Stevenson. “And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room.”

The Mudd Manuscript Library holds the papers of Adlai Stevenson, and as part of our NHPRC-funded project, we have digitized records relating to his tenure as United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Here, especially in his section on Cuba, we get more of the story behind the story — notes, memoranda and letters of congratulations after this memorable speech, and records from 1963-1965, after the crisis and when the cold war was icier than ever.

Patrons can view thumbnails of a file to get a sense of what’s available

Browsing Adlai Stevenson correspondence

Scroll through to see all 164 images.

Simply click on any of the thumbnail images to see a larger view.

The entire file is also available for download in PDF form.

Clicking on this button will download a pdf of the entire file.

Clicking on this button will download a pdf of the entire file.

We hope that researchers everywhere will be able to make use of these newly-available materials. As always, please contact the Mudd Library with questions about any of our collections.

Archives for Everyone

In each of the last two springs, several staff of the Mudd Manuscript Library and other members of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections have judged at the regional qualifier of the National History Day competition held on Princeton’s campus. This is a contest for middle and high school students who, based on rigorous guidelines, synthesize and analyze information about a historic event. They then create a paper, website, documentary, exhibit or performance explaining what they have learned.

Judging National History Day is a powerful touchstone about the value of archives in the production of history. Each year, I see students adroitly avoid some of the more common traps of historical production — their projects are clear, level-headed, open-minded, and support their claims with evidence. Students who submit the best projects don’t just have a clear argument and lengthy bibliography — they let the primary sources surprise them and challenge their previous conceptions of the past. Yes, they may start with textbooks and biographies, but stronger projects evaluate primary sources. And the very best projects tend to not just look at key documents that have been artificially assembled on a website (although this is valuable too) — they look at records in context and try to make arguments about subtext and authenticity.

The best place to find records in context is usually an archives. But of course, access to archives isn’t easy for students. Working parents may not be able to take their children to the New Jersey Historical Society or National Archives or Mudd Library, as much as they might like to provide that experience. Most archives are only open during the hours when parents are working and visiting these institutions can be intimidating. From a young student’s perspective, it’s often hard to tell what the holdings are and whether the trip will be worth it.

Our NHPRC-funded project hopes to be a model toward ameliorating this barrier to access. We believe that by scanning our records and making them available within the same context that one would see them in the reading room, anyone with an internet connection can have a meaningful scholarly experience without the cost and inconvenience of traveling to Princeton, New Jersey.

We hope that children will benefit as much as anyone from this project. As Cathy Gorn, the Executive Director of National History Day, noted in her letter of support for the grant:

Having primary source materials on the Cold War available via the Internet would allow many NHD students around the country to conduct research for their projects that they ordinarily would not be able to, and the Mudd collections to be digitized are broad enough to support a variety of NHD Projects.

Of course, students don’t just wish to access historical records for National History Day — they want access for the same reasons that any other researcher does. A teenager may want to know more about when and how his family came to America. He might want to know more about the history of his town, and how certain sites came to be created. Or he may be interested in the history of ideas, policies and customs that affect his life. The collections that we plan to digitize — the John Foster Dulles papers, the Allen Dulles papers, the James Forrestal papers, the Council on Foreign Relations records, the George Kennan papers and the Adlai Stevenson papers — document how cold war activities were conducted and understood. They also present an opportunity for students to understand through diaries and correspondence the false starts, misunderstandings, and possible alternatives that constitute all historical events.

The historian John Lewis Gaddis makes the argument for access more persuasively than I could. In his letter of support for our grant, he explained the cost, inconvenience and wear on records for professional researchers trying to do research on-site.

But the most fundamental shortcoming of this old system was the disservice it did to students of history who never got to see an archive in the first place. Maybe they lived abroad. Maybe they attended American universities or colleges that could not provide research support. Maybe they were high school or even elementary students who might have gotten hooked on history for life had they had the chance to work with original materials – but they didn’t have that chance.

Now, however, almost all of them have access to a new means of access, which is of course the internet- even if they’re stuck in a place like Cotulla, Texas, where I grew up. I mention this little town because it’s where the young Lyndon B. Johnson spent a year teaching, in 1928-29, in the then segregated Mexican-American school. What he tried to do for those kids is still remembered: it gets its own chapter in the first volume of Robert Caro’s massive biography. But just think what LBJ could have done as a teacher had he had the resources that are available now. That’s why this project is important.

It has the potential, quite literally, to globalize the possibility of doing archival research. That’s no guarantee that this will produce a greater number of great books than in the past. What it will ensure, however, is a quantum leap in the opportunities students and their teachers will have to bring the excitement of working with original documents into all classrooms. That’s easily as important, I think, as writing the kind of books that might get you tenure at a place like Yale.

Princeton wins MARAC Finding Aid Award

We are very pleased to announce that the Princeton University Library’s Archival Description working group has been awarded the 2012 Frederic M. Miller Finding Aid Award by the Mid Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). The award recognizes outstanding finding aids and finding aid systems in the Mid Atlantic region. Submissions are evaluated in the areas of content, design, innovation, and adherence to descriptive standards.

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Princeton’s archival description working group includes two Mudd staff members: Maureen Callahan and Dan Santamaria, who serves as chair of the group. Former Mudd staff member Regine Heberlein is also a key member of the group, as are Don Thornbury and John Delaney from Firestone Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Jon Stroop and Shaun Ellis of the library’s digital initiatives group.

The group was awarded first prize in the 2012 competition for findingaids.princeton.edu, the redesigned finding aids interface for descriptions of Princeton’s archives and manuscripts collections. The new interface was the result of more than a year of close collaboration between Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and Digital Initiatives staff. The site contains descriptions of all of the archival and manuscript collections held at Princeton and includes a number of innovations including:

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

Images of the collection in the context of the finding aid

• Delivery of images of actual collections material directly from the finding aid interface

Contents lists that are sortable by title, date, or physical location in the collection

Enhanced topic features, listing collections related to our collecting strengths

• Better options for users to contact the library and connect with each other, including “Ask a Question” buttons for reference requests and commenting features for users wishing to request a description enhancement or share information within their own social networks

• Automated requesting of collections material from all contents lists

• Direct access to components of collections (often boxes and folders) from search results and Faceting and browsing options from search results.

In addition to the work of the team that developed the finding aids site, it should be noted the site is built on data created by dozens of library staff over the last several years. The innovations described above would not be possible without the work of these staff members in processing and describing our collections.

The award comes with a small monetary prize, which will be donated to a small historical society in New Jersey. While use of the finding aids by our patrons is our biggest reward, it’s great to receive recognition for the hard work that went into developing the site. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Redesigned Finding Aids Site Now Live

The Finding Aids site for Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has been completely overhauled and enhanced with many new features to make it easier to search through our holdings.

We officially released the site on September 4:  http://findingaids.princeton.edu

Main Page for the new finding aids site

Main Page for the new finding aids site

 

(The previous finding aid site will remain available until September 28 at the following URL: http://findingaids.princeton.edu/classic/)

There are many features and enhancements related to the new interface; a few are listed below. One of the most prominent features is the ability to view images of archival material directly from the finding aids:

“Thumbnail View” of image browsing feature in the new finding aid interface.

Selected Site Features:

• Delivery of images directly from the finding aid interface
• Greatly improved relevancy rankings from search results
• Advanced faceting and browsing options from search results
• Contents lists that are sortable by title, date, or physical location in the collection
• A more modular display of the finding aids – users will not be required to navigate several hundred page documents on the web (but can view the entire finding aid as a single page if they prefer)
• Enhanced topic features
• Better options for users to contact the library and connect with each other, including an “Ask a Question” (for reference requests) and a commenting feature for users wishing to request an enhancement to the description or discuss the content of the collection.
• Ability to place online requests to view material in our reading rooms.
• A much cleaner, and more modern, look and feel.

Several instructional videos which provide information on using the site are available online. We will be adding to the videos in the coming months. General help topics are also available, via the Special Collections Research Account Website.

A number of Department of Rare Books and Special Collections staff, including Maureen Callahan, John Delaney, Regine Heberlein, Dan Santamaria, and Don Thornbury, collaborated with Jon Stroop and Shaun Ellis of the Library’s Digital Initiatives Group in order to develop the new interface. It builds on descriptive data created by dozens of staff involved with aggressive processing and data conversion projects over the last seven years. We’re very proud of the results and think it is one of the most advanced archival access systems available anywhere.

We welcome your comments and questions through the “site feedback” link which is at the top of every page or the commenting feature available on finding aids themselves. We hope you’ll use the finding aids as much as possible in your work and we look forward to your feedback.

American Civil Liberties Union Records: First New Series Available

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Researchers can start using some newly open American Civil Liberties Union Records ahead of schedule!

Series 1: Organizational Matters is now open for research by using the following finding aid. http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/x346d492c

This series is part of an ongoing two-year project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process 2,500 linear feet of ACLU records, largely from 1970 to 2000. Each series will be made available as processing is completed, with the entire project scheduled to end on July 1, 2012. Look for Series 2: Project Files and Series 3: Subject Files to be made available in April.

Series 1: Organizational Matters documents the inner workings of the ACLU. These records take you behind the scenes as individuals at the national office, regional offices, and affiliates negotiate the ACLU’s official position on emerging civil liberties issues. Executive Director Ira Glasser’s papers shed light into the complicated management of one of the nation’s preeminent civil liberties organizations. Within the correspondence, meeting minutes, and position papers, you can see the ACLU shape strategies to try cases, combat restrictive legislation, and mobilize public opinion to support the ACLU’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. At 472 linear feet, this series holds a wealth of potential for anyone looking at a late 20th century civil liberties issue or the U.S. policy-making process.

The public is welcome to visit the Mudd Library to conduct research within these materials. For more information on the ACLU collections, search our finding aids, and you can always get help by emailing us at mudd@princeton.edu.

–Adriane Hanson