Toni Morrison’s Born-Digital Material

By Elena Colon-Marrero and Allison Hughes

On October 14, 2014, Princeton University announced it had acquired the papers of author, emeritus faculty member, and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. The papers, which are currently being processed, consist of approximately 200 linear feet of material, including manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, working files, teaching material, and just over 150 floppy disks. The disks come in 2 varieties, 3.5” and 5.25”, pictured below:

5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks

5.25” and 3.5” disks

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John Forbes Nash’s Princeton University Academic File Available Online

A lot of interest has been focused on John Forbes Nash *50 in the past several years. We’ve routinely seen high levels of traffic on our web page detailing our archival resources available on the famous mathematician. Astute readers have noted that the restrictions on Nash’s graduate school records would no longer apply following his death last month. In response, we have digitized his academic file and it is now available online.

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The file holds few surprises for those familiar with Nash, if any. In letters supporting his application to Princeton University’s doctoral program in mathematics, Nash’s professors at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) wrote that he was “a mathematical genius” who “gives promise of being a top-flight mathematician” and “unique in my experience of students. … possibly he is the very best.” John L. Synge, head of Carnegie’s mathematics department, warned Princeton not to be dissuaded by first impressions. “He might appear inferior, since he does not write out his work in polished form, nor does he lecture impressively,” Synge acknowledged. “However, this external clumsiness is more than compensated by quickness of understanding, originality, and capacity for seeing the inner meaning of an argument, all unrivalled in my experience.” Nash’s recommenders also noted his shyness and humility, as well as willingness to cooperate with others. One letter refers to Nash as “emotionally stable.”

Nash photo commentAs with most such files, however, much of the appeal comes from what it reveals about the more mundane aspects of Nash’s life. Those who do not relate to a strong aptitude for mathematics or winning the Nobel Prize may still find they have something in common with Nash. His disappointment in his dorm room at the Graduate College or his efforts to sell a small refrigerator may resonate with their own student experiences. Nearly everyone has had insecurity about a photograph at some point, so Nash’s complaints that his graduate school application photo does not do him justice have a charming universal quality.

Our Dear Old Barracks: Life in the Butler Tract

When one thinks of Princeton, the phrases “cattle-car style barracks” and “semi-slums” are rarely the first that come to mind. But these are the words people have used to describe the Butler Apartments, which have provided housing for generations of graduate students for nearly 70 years. The apartment complex, located off Harrison Street, was originally built as temporary units to alleviate the housing shortage as a result of an influx of returning World War II veterans.

The spring semester of 1946 witnessed an unprecedented housing shortage; the university had admitted nearly 500 veterans from over 2000 applications received from veterans alone, resulting in the need of housing for hundreds of students. Other educational institutions like Yale were facing the same problem, and had decided to set up Quonset huts to house the influx of returning veterans, many of whom were married and starting families.

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A couple moving into the Butler tract, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 4082.

Towards the spring of 1946, the University, along with the Federal Housing Authority, coordinated the construction of 250 units on the Butler tract off Harrison Street to house married veterans. The project called for the revision of the township’s zoning ordinance to build a temporary complex that was to be demolished within a two- to five-year time frame. The housing authority paid for the construction of the structures and interior furnishings while the university took care of its infrastructure, including sewer and electrical connections as well as the building of roads and sidewalks. Prior to the construction of these units, the university had placed students and their spouses anywhere they could; transforming the ROTC Barracks, Brown Hall, Libbey Mansion and other university owned houses into housing for married students.

With two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, the sheet-rock barrack-style housing complex at Harrison Street was a spacious alternative to the shared facilities available in dormitory housing. An article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly called the complex “the most attractive project of its type at any college.” The rent on the units started at $40 per month, with gas, heat, and electricity included. Additionally, students could rent furniture for $6 a month and towels and bedding for $1.75 a month. Although the complex contained a good number of units, the demand was still greater than the space available; therefore, the university was forced to establish a ranking system to decide who was able to apply. Only men who served in the official U.S military branches and their spouses would be eligible to apply. This provision excluded those who served in the American Merchant Marines and in the American Field Service. Married couples who had been housed in Brown Hall would be given priority, followed by any junior faculty and tenants of upper Pyne Hall.

The first 31 units opened in November of 1946, with the remainder opening by the spring of the following year. In 1948, a new law passed transferring the ownership and authority to the University; this enabled Princeton to continue to house students in the complex. Although the space was adequate, affordable, and a far cry from living in a cramped dormitory space, the complex had several problems. In more than three dozen interviews conducted with previous Butler residents from the 1940s to spring of 2014, there are references to Butler’s paper-thin walls, drafty spaces, uneven floors and antiquated kerosene heaters. The interviews, which are part of the broader Princetoniana Committee Oral History Project, also capture the other side of Butler, which includes the feeling of community within the complex, as well as providing a place for those who could not otherwise afford to live in Princeton.

Some of the interviewees, who have lived in places like New York City, stated that they found the space at Butler to be adequate and that they were grateful to find such an affordable place to live.  David Baldwin *65, said, “We could lie in bed at night and carry on a conversation. Privacy was not that great but there was a lot of camaraderie and companionship.” Joyce Axelrod, wife of Michael Axelrod *66 , said that life at Butler  “was a joy” and that she “never, never felt unhappy.” Other interviews tell of the intellectual and international community that formed around Butler and the friendships and the informal networks that formed to organize everything from babysitters to study groups.

Butler, after surviving several threats of demolition, will be replaced by the Lakeside Apartments off Faculty Road that will open this month. Many people, like Christine Blumauer, who organized a reunions tour of Butler in 2014, feel a sense of nostalgia for the Butler space. Among the things that she enjoyed were “the quietness [and], the kids playing around.” The Butler oral history project was undertaken by the Princetoniana Committee as a way to preserve the stories of those that had lived at Butler. The interviews are accessible through the Princeton University Finding Aids website and include interviews with alumni and their spouses.

Below, we present a gallery of images depicting Butler through the years, inside and out.

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Archiving Email at the Princeton University Archives

Changes in leadership, especially at universities, give archivists an opportunity to transfer records into the archives. Such was the case when the current Dean of the College, Valerie Smith, accepted a position as the new president of Swarthmore College, a post she will assume in just over a month. Dan Linke, the University Archivist, and I visited her office to meet with Dean Smith and her staff to inform them of our procedures for transferring office records—paper documents, as well as born digital material such as Word documents, SharePoint sites, etc. Soon into the conversation we began to discuss the prospect of email capture, a task that we had only haphazardly done in the past through preserving Microsoft Word documents used to compose memos, PDF’s generated from email applications, and printouts included within paper collections.

Pictured here is the full email header from a message in the publicly available Enron Email Dataset.

Pictured here is the full email header from a message in the publicly available Enron Email Dataset. Click image to expand.

Two compelling reasons forced us to find a way to conduct an email transfer directly from Dean Smith’s account. First, she is a pioneer at Princeton many times over; in addition to being the first black woman to earn tenure at the University, Dean Smith later served as the first director of the University’s renowned Center for African-American Studies before becoming the first black person to serve as Dean of the College. Second, we knew that the previous methods of email transfer limited access possibilities and stripped emails of their contexts, including lost attachments, missing email header information, and inefficient search capacities.

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Behind the Scenes: Early Princeton University Trustee Minutes in High Resolution

The Princeton University Archives at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is continually working to make more materials available in a digital format for ease of use and access.

A large scale project of both photographing and scanning the Trustee Minutes of the University has been an ongoing task.

2014-11-14 14.37.11Currently, the Board of Trustees Minutes. Volumes 1-8 are view able in high resolution in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL). Volumes 12-70 are viewable in PDF format on our Finding Aid website.

Recently, we asked the Princeton University Library Digital Studios to photograph the remaining Volumes 9-11, for addition to the PUDL and the Finding Aids.

We were lucky enough to visit the Digital Studios and see the digitization of the volumes in action. Digital Studio staff members use a number of digital cameras and lighting to achieve the best quality image.

photo%202 photo%205Images are fed to a local computer and continually checked by staff as they shoot.

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The entire process can take a few months to complete, from photograph to online availability.

We are happy to be able to share the process with you and look forward to announcing the final early volumes being available online soon.

Acquiring Digital Archives in the Field at Princeton

As a digital archivist on Mudd’s Technical Services team, I spend a fair amount of my time looking at screens like the one pictured here.

results of virus scan

21st century mold

I briefly panicked when I came across this screen while processing a restricted University Archives collection last year. The information was the output of the software ClamTK, the default virus scanner for our customized Ubuntu Linux digital archives workstation that I wrote about previously. How, in a collection of nearly 7,000 files that are spread across more than 800 subfolders, was I supposed to identify, assess, and possibly remove 34 individual viruses? The theatrics of the term “threats” was, fortunately, more dramatic than the actual threats themselves: embedded links in several PDF documents that the software flagged as PUA’s, or potentially unwanted applications. I reviewed the specifics of each file, and afterwards packaged the bundle of documents for our secure storage location.

I joked with a few of my colleagues that handling digital archives might require archivists to become epidemiologists on the spot. The fortunate aspect of the above scenario was that it happened in our processing room, which means that I was able to thoroughly research the issue, weigh the considerations, and then make a decision. I could have only wished for such calm and contained circumstances two weeks ago when I went to acquire 50 gigabytes of historical materials from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

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Happy Holidays from John Foster Dulles

MC016

John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016), Box 567

John Foster Dulles, Princeton Class of 1908, devoted most of his life to public service, beginning in the late 1910s through his death in 1959. The John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016) at the Mudd Manuscript Library document his career, particularly his influence on United States foreign policy. Portions of the Dulles Papers are currently being digitized as part of a grant awarded to the Mudd Library by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). By the project’s end, the selected correspondence, diaries and journals, and speeches, statements, and press conferences series will be available online in their entirety, totaling over 146,000 pages of archival content.

Though the collection spans his lifetime, the John Foster Dulles Papers focus on Dulles’s service as the fifty-third Secretary of State under the Eisenhower administration. Dulles was formally appointed to the position on January 21, 1953. In December of that year, he made his first Christmas address to the American people, wishing them “peace on earth, good will to men.”

Pages from Christmas Greetings

John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016), Box 321

Check the blog for future posts about the progress of the John Foster Dulles digitization project. For more information about the Digitizing the Origins of the Cold War project, see some of our previous posts.

Alan Turing’s Princeton University File Available Online

With the American premiere of The Imitation Game this Friday, many will be interested in its subject, Alan Mathison Turing, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1938. With the “Turing Machine,” he laid the theoretical foundations that make it possible for the device you are using to read this blog post to exist.

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Turing’s Graduate School file is now available online, and mostly contains correspondence and paperwork related to his admission to and progress through Princeton’s Ph.D. program in mathematics in the 1930s. Turing studied under Alonzo Church, who made Princeton a leading center for research in mathematical logic, and developed “Church’s Theorem.” For those interested in Church and the history of the mathematics department in the 1930s, there is this oral history collection, which features online transcripts. Researchers interested in Turing may also want to view Church’s correspondence with him, available in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room in Firestone Library.

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

December 5, 2014 update: We have received questions regarding the death date listed on the file. Although archival records may sometimes contain errors, we do not make changes to the original documents. However, we note that Turing’s actual date of death was June 7, 1954, not June 8, 1954 as listed in Turing’s Graduate School file.

Accessing Early University History through Publications

 

Written by  Rossy Mendez

It can often be a daunting task to find University-related publications from the nineteenth century. Fortunately, a number are available in Princeton’s collections and online. You can search for these publications directly through the main library catalog or by using the finding aids site to search across the university’s special collections. You can limit your results by entering keywords such as “The College of New Jersey” and using date ranges.

Student Publications
The Princeton University Publications Collection (which dates from 1748-2012) contains a variety of publications written by students, from the informal social newsletter the Nassau Rake to the well-established Nassau Literary Magazine. The Princeton Tiger humor magazine, which started in the 1880s, is a significant part of the collection as some of its writers went on to literary careers. Lastly, this collection also contains articles and publications related to the university such as The Influence of Princeton on Higher Education in the South.

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The Tattler, Vol. 1, No. 16, February 26, 1840, Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 52.

Athletics
The university has a rich athletic tradition and the documentation of this history can be found in several collections at Mudd. The Athletic Programs Collection contains a number of programs from Princeton’s early athletic history including the famous Princeton-Yale football games near the turn of the century. The C. Bernard Shea Collection on Princeton University Athletics contains clippings and statistics of sports events starting in 1869. In addition to this collection, the Bric-a-Brac yearbooks available in Mudd’s reading room also provide insight into sports events.

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Princeton vs. Cornell football souvenir program, October 31, 1896, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 4.

Visual and Performing Arts
The arts have always played a major role in Princeton’s history. The Music Performance at Princeton Collection (1875-2007) includes programs and advertisements from musical clubs within the university as well as visiting performers. In addition, the General Princeton Theater Collection and the Triangle Club Records have a number of programs and playbills from early performances at the university, while the University Broadsheets Collection has advertisements of important events on campus.

Student Speeches
Clippings and programs of the student orations related to Princeton’s commencement ceremonies can be found in the University Commencement Records and some in the College of New Jersey Pamphlets book, which has a selection of materials from the 1800s. These records provide information about the university’s traditions and practices and are a good way to learn more about the university involvement of a particular individual.

University Registries and Catalogs
A number of registries, yearbooks and catalog publications are available in our reference room. The Nassau Herald yearbook, which was first issued in 1864, contains biographical and academic information including names, field of study and place of residence. In addition to directory information it also provides information about the graduating class (photographs are also included after 1915). The Bric a Brac, an informal yearbook publication produced by the Junior class, documents the social aspects of the university including activities of various clubs and sports teams. Class reunion books include an up to date class directory, eulogies, quotes and other pieces of writing that allow insight into the post-graduation activities of alumni.

University catalogs dating from the early 1800s contain information about statistics, fees, coursework and other policies. Some of these catalogs can be accessed in our reading and reference rooms but some can also be found online (see below). There are a number of specialized catalogs like that of the Whig Society that record club activities and alumni.

Digital Resources
In addition to the abundance of information available at Mudd, there are several of online resources that are worth mentioning. If you are a student or faculty member at Princeton you have access to digital versions of some of these publications through the databases available through the main library catalog. The Nassau Monthly, for example can be accessed through ProQuest and EBSCO databases. In addition to these, ProQuest Historical NewspapersGale News Vault and the Newspaper Archive contain a number of other 19th century publications. If you cannot access Princeton’s digital resources, there are a number of other online resources. The entire archive of the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, is freely available online and covers events, student issues and local news. The archive contains newspaper clippings that date to as early as 1875. Users can conduct keyword searches as well as limit results using various parameters.

Google Books contains a number of publications that have been digitized by Princeton and other universities. Some examples include catalogs such as the Princeton College Bulletin from 1895 and class reunion books such as the Decennial record of the class of 1874. You can also conduct general searches online to determine if the material you need has been digitized. Here are some examples of available items: an essay written for the student publication, The Tattler; an 1897 essay in Scribner’s magazine written about undergraduate life at Princeton; and a speech given by Charles Fenton Mercer at the University Chapel in 1826.

The Internet Archive has also made available several early images of Princeton’s history through the photo sharing site, Flickr. These images derive from publications and the link to the entire publication is available at the Open Library.

Whether it is using our collections at the Mudd Library or conducting research online, finding information from the 19th century need not be a difficult task. You can visit our website to find more helpful tips on using our collections or contact us via email.

Forrestal Digitization Completes Grant’s First Phase

First page of Forrestal's letter resigning as Secretary of Defense. James V. Forrestal Papers (MC051), Box 151. http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/MC051/c05118

First page of Forrestal’s letter resigning as Secretary of Defense, dated March 2, 1949. James V. Forrestal Papers (MC051), Box 151. http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/MC051/c05118

James V. Forrestal ‘15, known to members of the Princeton community as the namesake of the James Forrestal Campus, served as Secretary of the Navy and as the first Secretary of Defense. The Mudd Library is the home of the James V. Forrestal Papers, and Mudd recently digitized Forrestal’s diaries dating from 1941-1949. The diaries document Forrestal’s tenure with the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense. Some notable entries include Forrestal’s notes from the federal investigation of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack and his reflections on the role of the soon-to-be formed National Security Council the day before the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. His diaries also include the letter he wrote to Harry S. Truman resigning as Secretary of Defense in March 1949. These and other diary entries, along with over 50 boxes of Forrestal’s alphabetical correspondence, are now available to researchers online by clicking on the folder titles listed in the finding aid.

The completed digitization of sections of the Forrestal Papers marks the end of the first phase of a grant awarded to the Mudd Library by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). During the first phase of the project, portions of the Forrestal Papers, Council on Foreign Relations Records, Adlai Stevenson Papers, Allen W. Dulles Papers, and George Kennan Papers were scanned with the help of an outside vendor. Over 255,000 pages of archival material are now available online from these five collections.

Our overhead Zeutschel scanner

Our overhead Zeutschel scanner

The Mudd Library is now embarking on the second stage of the project, in which we plan to complete the digitization in-house. During this phase, we will scan over 146,000 pages from the John Foster Dulles Papers. This collection is a particularly good candidate for digitization, not only because of its importance to the study of the Cold War, but also because the collection exists in a variety of formats that will make it possible for us to experiment with different scanning techniques. Some papers will be digitized with an overhead scanner, while parts of a duplicate correspondence run will be scanned through a sheet-fed, networked photocopier. Parts of the collection were previously microfilmed, so we will also use a microfilm scanner.

By the project’s end, we will have collected enough data to generate useful statistics on the rates of production and costs of the different methods of digitization we employed. These statistics will help us determine how to direct our digitization efforts going forward and will be shared with the wider archival community in the hopes that other archives can benefit from our experience.

Future blog posts will continue to detail the project’s progress. For more information about the Digitizing the Origins of the Cold War project, see some of our previous posts.