Demystifying Mudd: In-Person Research

A lot of what happens when someone comes to Mudd Library for research is invisible to our visitors, who usually only see our lobby and reading rooms.

Our library is open to the public, so you don’t have to be affiliated with Princeton to visit. Researchers are required to register before signing in and using the library, though, so if you haven’t already completed that step, we’ll help you get started.

You’ll need an access card from Firestone Library to sign in if you’re not currently affiliated with Princeton. The card is free and you can usually get one printed in just a few minutes. Like most library cards, the access card and Princeton’s Tiger Card both have a bar code on the back we can scan to pull up your account. We can then see what you’ve requested and print call slips to retrieve the materials.

If you need help to place a request, someone on our staff will come out to assist you. We always have someone on duty to talk with visitors who want extra guidance using our systems or finding material on a given subject. Two members of our staff are on call at all times. Though Public Services staff are most frequently on call, nearly everyone who works at Mudd is sometimes, from our newest Dulles Fellow to the University Archivist.

Once you know what you want and have your requests in, we will sign you in and give you a key to a locker to put your things away. We have ten numbered lockers that correspond to our ten numbered desks.

We ask you to put away most things, but there are a few things you can bring along with you into the reading rooms:

  • Your computer (tablets count as computers)
  • A power cord (we have outlets)
  • A pencil (we can give you one if you don’t have one)

If you’re taking photographs, you can also bring something that takes pictures (like your phone) after a member of our staff has discussed our policy on digital photographs with you. Anything that takes a picture is fine so long as it is hand-held (no tripods), you can turn the flash off, and it isn’t noisy.

If you’re working with something particularly large or you’re with a group that needs to talk without disturbing the rest of our visitors, we have a separate room for you to use with a larger table. We also have another reference reading room with commonly used materials in it, like the Nassau Herald and the Princeton Alumni Weekly, so you can access those without waiting for them to be brought to you.

While you’re getting settled, one of us goes into the stacks to retrieve your materials. We page on demand rather than on a set schedule, so the staff member sitting at the front desk will alert whoever is on duty for paging that the call slips are ready. We use a special perforated paper for our call slips and leave half in the stacks where your boxes are housed while you’re working on them. This makes it easy for us to return them once you’re finished.

Boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but one of the most common sizes is what we call a “record center box,” which is the size of the “Miracle Boxes” we showed you last week. Our larger carts will still only fit six record center boxes, so that is one reason for our rule that you can only have up to six boxes at one time. The other reason we limit the number of boxes we bring at once is that sometimes more than one person is working on the same range of boxes on the same day. We want everyone to have a fair opportunity to use our resources.

If your boxes contain any materials that might be restricted, a member of our staff will review them to ensure they can be delivered to you. Sometimes we’ll need to remove a file or you won’t be able to see something due to a restriction, but our staff will work with you to see if you can find answers to your questions in open records if it turns out we can’t bring something to you.

When materials are delivered to the reading room, the staff member who is paging will ask you to sign a slip for each box. These slips have bar codes that can be scanned at the front desk to make a record that you’re using them. Using this system helps us track what collections attract more visitors and maintain more general statistics about how many items are used in our library.

While you’re here, we remain available to answer your questions. Just come out to the front desk and let us know if you need help. You might need gloves for handling photographs, a magnifying glass, a foam book cradle, or something else, and we’re happy to assist you. We’ll also come into the reading room to talk with you if you find something that seems out of place or if you just have questions about what you’re reading. We can’t always decipher everyone’s handwriting, but we’ll give it a shot if you’re stumped. When you’re ready to go, you’ll retrieve your things from your locker, return the key, and give us any order or photo forms you have filled out. We’ll sign you out and put your materials back on the shelf so they’ll be ready the next time they’re needed.

This Week in Princeton History will return on September 3. Notable events of the week of July 16-22 we’ve shared with you in the past have included the death of James Johnson, the famous fugitive slave who escaped to Princeton; students bringing a calf into the pulpit of Nassau Hall; and a 7-page spread about a professor in New York Magazine that scandalized the nation.

Meet Mudd’s Annalise Berdini

Name/Title: Annalise Berdini, Digital Archivist

Responsibilities: As Digital Archivist, I am responsible for the ongoing management of the University Archives Digital Curation Program. This generally involves evaluating how we acquire, process, and preserve our born-digital records and crafting policy to support those actions. This involves a lot of preservation tool research and testing, communication with other archives programs to inquire about their digital curation workflows, and lots of webinars. I process born-digital collections, as well as analog ones, help manage our growing web archives collections, and assist with reference services.

Recent projects: While we currently have backed-up storage space for our born-digital records, it is not as robust as a dedicated digital preservation system. I’m working with my colleagues to select a system that will provide us with greater control over our born-digital collections in the long term. There is a fairly widespread misconception that digital records are easier to maintain and preserve than paper records — but paper records won’t be unreadable in 15 years because their software isn’t available anymore! With a digital preservation system, we will be able to carefully monitor our files to make sure the data hasn’t changed over time, migrate them to more stable formats, maintain geographically disparate copies for additional security, and encrypt sensitive data. Aside from that, I’m working on helping pare down our processing backlog, and I’m a part of a number of committees working on developing better delivery systems and policies for our digitized materials.

Worked at Mudd since: I started at Mudd in January 2018 — so I’m still pretty new! Before that, I was the first Digital Archivist at University of California, San Diego in Special Collections and Archives. I also worked at UCSD as a Manuscripts/Archives Processor, and before that, I was a project assistant and processor on the 2013-2014 PACSCL/CLIR Hidden Collections Project in Philadelphia.

Why I like my job/archives: Archives are here for people to use them, for people to be able to interact with their own history. Born-digital records are often unstable, or they are easily lost in the deluge of data that people can so quickly generate. As a result, we’re rushing to reckon with the new ways gaps can form in the record. I’m passionate about preventing these gaps from forming and about preparing for what archives will look like in the future. They won’t only be stacks full of boxes – they will be cloud storage, computer servers, and access interfaces. One of my favorite aspects of working on born-digital records is that my work constantly changes and I’m always learning how to use new tools and skill sets. No one has all of the right answers yet. It’s exciting to be a part of that process of investigation and discovery.

Favorite item/collection: This is a tough one! It’s not necessarily my favorite, but I came across some really interesting maps of land tracts that Princeton acquired from the early 1900s in the Office of Physical Planning Records. The maps depicted some campus buildings and a lot of the farmland surrounding Princeton — much of which is now also part of campus.

Demystifying Mudd: The Curatorial Pickup

By Phoebe Nobles

“This must be the unglamorous part of working at the archives,” said our donor as we hauled a giant box of empty boxes up the stairs to his office. In fact, no! The “pickup” is among the glamours of archival work.

Our team of three left the loading dock of Mudd in a rented minivan around 8:30 in the morning, toting 50 pristine “Miracle” boxes, headed for a Brooklyn brownstone where a second-floor office had stored a diplomat’s papers for the past seven years. We crossed the Goethals and the Verrazano. We sat on the BQE. It was no accident that our trip coincided with street cleaning in the neighborhood. Syncing ourselves with alternate-side parking rules was the way to get our spot.

We noticed the stoop’s steep flight of stairs. Our donor let us in and led us up another flight, apologizing for the state of the office, but it was tidy by our standards.

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Meet Mudd’s Michelle Peralta

Name: Michelle Peralta

Title: John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellow

Educational background: From San Diego State University, I have previously earned a bachelor’s degree in European humanities with a minor in classical languages, as well as a master’s degree in history. This summer, I am finishing up my very last class to complete my master of library and information science degree from San Jose State University’s School of Information.

Previous experience: Prior to this fellowship, I held an internship at the University of California San Diego’s special collections and archives, where I helped process faculty papers and created metadata for a digitized photograph collection. I also assisted with outreach efforts as a volunteer at Lambda Archives of San Diego, and served as the archivist at a local history archives for two years.

Why I like archives: I like that “discovery” can happen in various ways in archive. A researcher might find a record that supports their thesis. Someone might find an article that helps them connect with long-lost family members. Archives can even impact the way an individual or whole community thinks about their existence –they can find themselves existing in ways they hadn’t considered before – and all due to the inclusion of a single record. It’s incredible to think about.

Other interests: Outside of the archives, I enjoy baking, wandering in nature, defending the name of Slytherin house, and watching re-runs of my favorite shows. As the World Cup is this summer, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time trying to catch various matches!

Projects this summer: I have already started processing a couple paper-based collections and assisting researchers with their reference questions. In the coming weeks, I’ll start processing some born-digital projects and assisting in the migration of an AV database. I am also eager to work on Mudd’s next exhibition, which will focus on the women at Princeton, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Princeton as a co-educational institution.

A Round Up of Princeton History for July 2-8 and Independence Day

The “Demystifying Mudd” series has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. We hope we can bring it to you next week. In the meantime, here is a round up of tidbits we’ve collected over the past several years to highlight events in Princeton University history for July 2-8 and some more in-depth looks at the impact of the American War for Independence on the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

In 2015, we told you about the death of Jimmy Stewart ’32, students who returned after doing a good deed to find their rooms had been ransacked, and a professor who won an Olympic medal for shooting.

In 2016, we reported on the Princeton Blues beginning the “Cannon War” with Rutgers, George Whitefield’s visit to campus, and a program to train every student for war.

1910 postcard by Christie Whiteman. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 4

In 2017, we showed you photos of the student who was the youngest person ever elected to a school board in the United States and a student who had a 20-game winning streak on Jeopardy.

If you’d like some in-depth stories appropriate to celebrate the American Independence Day, you might want to read about how Nassau Hall and the Rittenhouse Orrery were damaged in the Battle of Princeton. You might also be interested in learning more about how the cannons left behind have shaped Princeton’s traditions.

We look forward to demystifying ourselves soon. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday!

This Week in Princeton History for June 25-July 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior converts to Christianity, the centennial is celebrated, and more.

June 28, 1873—Rioge Koe, a Japanese student in the Class of 1874, gives his sword to Princeton president James McCosh. He writes a note to accompany the sword asserting that he has “surrendered a barbarous custom of ‘the East’ before the higher, nobler and more enlightened manner of the Western civilization” on the occasion of his conversion to Christianity.

We believe that this is Rioge Koe, Class of 1874, center, ca. 1873. This image is cropped from the Class of 1874’s junior year photo, found in the Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box MP03. The Princetonian described Koe as “a popular and able man.” During McCosh’s presidency, ethnic diversity increased on campus. Koe’s time at Princeton overlapped with Hikoichi Orita of the Class of 1876, who also converted to Christianity while a student here, as well as Yokichi Yamada and Girota Yamaoka, who both pursued a partial course load in the 1871-1872 academic year.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, seniors warn underclassmen not to encroach on their singing territory, the School of Science is dedicated, and more.

June 18, 1930—Charles H. Rogers, Curator of the Princeton Museum of Zoology, catches a ride with the crew of a banana ship from New Orleans to Veracruz as the only passenger. He will collect bird and insect specimens on his summer trip through Mexico.

Charles H. Rogers, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC067), Box FAC81.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a journalist notes an increase in the number of graduates who received some form of financial aid, the Board of Trustees approves admitting women to some classes “on an experimental basis,” and more.

June 11, 1933—Trinity Episcopal Church celebrates its centennial.

June 14, 1898—Writing for the Chicago Record, an unnamed journalist reports that of the 211 alumni who graduated with the Princeton University Class of 1898, 38 fully supported themselves with work and scholarships, and roughly a third of the class received some sort of scholarship. “Students who are supporting themselves are classed as ‘poor men’ as distinguished from ‘charity students.’ … The ‘poor man’ is a good fellow and usually proud, perhaps a little sensitive about his position, but he enters thoroughly into the spirit of college life.”

Visualization of data reported in the Chicago Record, June 14, 1898. Today, the University reports that 60% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, ABC features the campus in a documentary about gay activism, a train passes through advertising the benefits of living in Florida, and more.

June 7, 1977—A discussion between gay activists and Princeton students is featured in a documentary on ABC.

June 8, 1990—DeNunzio Pool is set to be dedicated, but does not open on schedule. It will open in September 1990.

June 9, 1890—“Florida on Wheels,” a special train car, demonstrates what life in Florida might have to offer to Princeton residents.

Advertisement from Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 28-June 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Ethiopian emperor tours the campus, the Nassau Lit notes that the institution has no school colors, and more.

May 28, 1870—A committee of 20 Presbyterians is in Princeton to lay the cornerstone of Reunion Hall, named in honor of the reunion of Old and New School Presbyterians.

Reunion Hall, undated. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 1.

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