Sometimes less is more. Recently the Mudd Manuscript Library addressed some long-standing problems with the Raymond Blaine Fosdick Papers to improve access to his voluminous correspondence (22 archival boxes, almost 10 linear feet). Fosdick, who is best remembered for his leadership roles in the League of Nations and at the Rockefeller Foundation, donated his papers to Princeton University in 1966. At some point, a portion of the correspondence in the Fosdick Papers was cataloged at the item level, meaning that (supposedly) there was a record of the author, date, and general subject matter of every single letter in that part of the collection. Each letter was (again, supposedly) also assigned a serial number, and the correspondence was arranged in numerical order according to these serial numbers. A database was available on an older version of the Mudd Library’s website that allowed researchers to do a keyword search of the item level descriptions, and the results would tell researchers the serial number(s) of the correspondence they might be interested in so they could request the relevant folder(s) through the collection’s finding aid. In the finding aid, however, the description of the correspondence just looked like this:
With special thanks to Yankia Ned ’17 and Sophia Su ’17
Classes start today at Princeton. What better time to get to know the campus? Although we know Princetonians have a lot to do, we think they also benefit from a little fun, so we’re going to play a game next week. Please play along!
Here’s how it works:
Between September 23 and September 30, tweet a photo from around campus to us @MuddLibrary using the hashtag #Princethen. Make sure it’s your own photography—no cheating stealing stuff from the internet! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Feel free to take phone selfies if that’s your style. We will respond to all such tweets that we can with a photo of the same place from within our collections alongside your photo. Here are a handful of examples:
The simplest photos are just shots taken from around campus, like this one (on the left) by Yankia Ned ’17. We’ve responded here with a photo from ca. 1960 from the Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111). Continue reading
Princeton University’s radio station, WPRB, has for the most part been a frenetic hodgepodge where Beethoven plays alongside The Ramones and sports broadcasts back to back with national news. However, the radio station has also been the space where new bands get airplay, campus history is made, and revolutionary ideas are expressed without restraint. For 75 years, WPRB has facilitated creative and intellectual pursuits by serving as the delightful petri dish for the students that spin its turntables.
In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the exhibition “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” showcases the impact of the college radio station on the Princeton campus and the entire nation.
The Mudd Manuscript Library, a unit of Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, offers the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellowship for one graduate student each year. This fellowship provides a summer of work experience for a graduate student interested in pursuing an archival career.
The 2015 Fellow will focus primarily on technical services but will also gain experience in public services. Under the guidance of the Digital Archivist and Public Policy Papers Archivist, the Fellow will conduct a survey of digital media held within the University Archives and Public Policy Papers. The Fellow will then process select born-digital collections in accordance with the Library’s priorities and the Fellow’s interests. Additionally, the Fellow will participate in the reference rotation and conduct research for an upcoming exhibition on the Princeton Triangle Club. As time allows, the Fellow will assist with projects to enhance existing description in finding aids and curate a small exhibition on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan. Previous Fellows and their work are listed here.
The Mudd Library is a state-of-the-art repository housing the Princeton University Archives and a highly regarded collection of 20th-century public policy papers. The more than 35,000 linear feet of archival and manuscript material are widely used by local, national, and international researchers. More than 2,000 visitors use Mudd Library’s reading room each year, and its staff field some 2,000 electronic, mail, and telephone inquiries annually. A progressive processing program, the use of new technologies, and an emphasis on access and public service have ensured that Mudd Library’s collections are ever more accessible.
The ten- to twelve-week fellowship program, which may be started as early as May, provides a stipend of $775 per week. In addition, travel, registration, and hotel costs to the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in August will be reimbursed.
Requirements: Successful completion of at least twelve graduate semester hours (or the equivalent) applied toward an advanced degree in archives, library or information management, American history, American studies, or museum studies; demonstrated interest in the archival profession; and good organizational and communication skills. At least twelve undergraduate semester hours (or the equivalent) in American history is preferred. The Library highly encourages applicants from under-represented communities to apply.
To apply: Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to: email@example.com. Additionally, applicants should have two letters of recommendation sent to firstname.lastname@example.org directly from the persons making the recommendation. Applications must be received by Monday, March 9, 2015. Skype interviews will be conducted with the top candidates, and the successful candidate will be notified in late March.
Please note: University housing will not be available to the successful candidate. Interested applicants should consider their housing options carefully and may wish to consult the online campus bulletin board for more information on this topic.
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.
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.
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!
Written by Elizabeth Bennett
1914: War Breaks Out in Europe!
We are pleased to announce the availability of a large digital collection of pamphlets documenting World War I in Europe. These pamphlets were collected by the Princeton University Library starting from the outbreak of the war, as part of a larger European War Collection, and later renamed the Western European Theater Political Pamphlet Collection. They cover a broad range of topics including the economy, the press, the military, arms, territorial disputes, and others. The collection also includes speeches, sermons, bulletins, calendars, and songbooks. It is a multi-lingual collection with material in English, German, French, Italian, Russian, and other languages and reflects the views of people on all sides of the war.
Through a joint project of the University Archives, the Office of the Dean of the College, and the Office of Information Technology, senior theses for the Classes of 2013, 2014, and all future classes will be collected and made accessible to the campus community via Princeton University’s digital repository, DataSpace.
The University Archives made the transition from collecting paper theses to theses in digital format (PDFs) to broaden accessibility of senior theses within the Princeton community. The Senior Thesis Collection is the most frequently used collection at the University Archives and, as such, are consulted by Princeton students at a rate of about 1,000 per year to explore topics, gather ideas for possible faculty advisers, find sources, gain familiarity with disciplinary writing styles, develop research methodologies for their own theses, and to generally understand what makes a good thesis. The DataSpace repository also has the capability to capture and deliver multiple file formats including text, video, audio, and image files.
“The senior thesis has a long history at Princeton,” said University Archivist Dan Linke. “This is just the next chapter for this important aspect of a Princeton education.”
While most theses will be available in full-text on all Princeton-networked computers, a small number will only be available at computer terminals in the Mudd Manuscript Library, and none will be directly accessible to the general public. Senior theses submitted in 2012 and before will continue to be available in paper format at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
A direct link to the Senior Thesis Collection in DataSpace is available here: http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/handle/88435/dsp019c67wm88m.
For more information on the Senior Thesis Collection, contact email@example.com.
Princeton University Records Management has a new look (and a new online address)! The new records management website replaces the records management guidelines website created in 2007. Those who visit the original website will be redirected to the new website, which includes new records management policies and retention schedules as well as information on a wide range of records management topics. The website is the place for University employees to start when they are determining how to manage the records in their custody.
Some features of the records management website include:
- Policies and procedures
- A records management manual
- A new record retention schedule for University financial records (coming Summer 2014)
- The records retention guidelines that were introduced in 2007, which will continue to provide guidance until formal retention schedules are created in these areas
- A menu of services and training provided by Princeton University Records Management
- An integrated blog
Please browse through the website and send feedback. Our goal is to help you integrate records management into your workflow as seamlessly as possible.
The job of the Princeton University Archives is to keep in perpetuity the University records that should be kept, and the University Records Manager, Anne Marie Phillips, helps to identify them. She also helps offices determine how long non-permanent records must be kept before they can be destroyed.
With the University’s first financial records retention schedule coming online, she identified almost 300 boxes of journal vouchers and check registers from the 1950s and 1960s held within the Archives that should have been destroyed long ago.
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. 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.