Meet Our Contributors – Mary Sieminski and Janet Hurlbert, Lycoming County Women’s History Collection

Welcome to this special Women’s History Month edition of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature! “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, and what they believe partnership with PA Digital brings to their work. This month, we are pleased to hear from Mary Sieminski and Janet Hurlbert of the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection. Check out some of the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection, contributed through Lycoming College, in PA Digital and the DPLA!

Anastasia Chiu (AC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Lycoming College and the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection?

Janet Hurlbert (Janet): I was the administrator for the project as Associate Dean and director of library services for Snowden Library/Lycoming College until my retirement. I am now an advisor for the collection.

Mary Sieminski (Mary):   I am the project manager — a position I’ve had for ten years now, from the beginning of the project. I do much of the actual work on the database, prepare items for digitization, create metadata, etc. We have had wonderful technical assistants and student assistants who have helped through the years.

AC: Can you tell me about the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection? Overall, what do you feel makes the collection significant or unique? What role or mission does the collection address?

Janet: The overall mission of the project is to provide source material relating to the history of women in Lycoming County with documents that highlight women in volunteer and reform organizations, education, the arts, the workplace and in their private lives. The time period covered is mainly 1870-1970.

What makes the collection special is its collaborative nature; it brings together four cultural heritage institutions in Williamsport: Snowden Library/Lycoming College, the Lycoming County Historical Society, the James V. Brown Library, and the Madigan Library/Pennsylvania College of Technology. Materials from several significant organizations such as the Williamsport YWCA are included as well, so it truly does represent women’s history for our rather small and rural community.

AC: How did the collection get started? How was it built?

Janet: The collection began because of good fortune — you could say that the stars were aligned just right! Mary, a “semi-retired” retired librarian, accepted a temporary appointment at Snowden Library during a maternity leave — in fact we had several maternity leaves all within a year. One of her special assignments was to investigate the possibility of outside funding so that we could digitize our college archives. We quickly saw that this was considered an institutional responsibility. I had been interested in more grant projects in general for the library as a contributing member of our college community. Mary and I shared an interest in women’s history and there was a need right in our own hometown to tell women’s stories.

Williamsport excelled at men’s history because of its lumbering and manufacturing heritage, but huge local history books seldom mentioned women. Lycoming College had been coeducational since the 19th century, and the Historical Society and public library had many books, papers, and images tucked away waiting to be discovered by a broader audience.

Utilizing Access Pennsylvania meant that we did not have to own our own server, and we received a PEW grant, which meant that we could digitize more book-type documents for significantly less. At that time, LSTA Grants were given for planning. Mary and I knew little about digitization and outsourcing and didn’t know where to start with material selection and prioritization. The opportunity to receive funds to hire consultants to help plan and organize the project was perfect. A subject specialist identified priorities and we determined outsourcing capabilities.

The second LSTA grant paid to actually do the work. We were set! A third LSTA Grant (after one unsuccessful attempt) allowed us to include documents from three essential community organizations — the Williamsport YWCA, the Williamsport Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association, and the Home for the Friendless. Private donations enabled us to add other smaller collections such as the scrapbooks from the Williamsport Music Club.

Mary:   As Janet said, she and I shared a passion for this history. It did not take long to realize what a rich resource we had uncovered. Some of the archives were in danger of being lost — the YWCA archives were in shambles, stored in closets and shelves all over the building, the Nursing School archives were in a building that was in danger of being razed, and the Home for the Friendless archives were stored in their basement. Each organization ultimately donated its archives to the Lycoming County Historical Society. Our most recent addition, being digitized right now, is a scrapbook form the 1920s and 1930s from a women’s prison in Lycoming County — the Industrial Home for Women at Muncy. One of our greatest achievements is preserving these archives and making them accessible.

AC: What role, if any, did your local community play in the development and growth of the Collection?

Janet: As we mentioned earlier, the steering committee is community based. We also have an advisory council composed of key individuals including representation from local school systems that meets about once a year to discuss directions for managing the collection and what should be included.

Mary: Our community has a great interest in its history and in preservation of historic homes, so it has been easy to find allies in our search for materials. Tour guides for Williamsport’s Millionaires’ Row tell us that they use our material to enrich their tours with stories of real people who lived in the large Victorian homes.

AC: Do you offer any programs or workshops for researchers and community members?

Janet: The collection has a curriculum guide designed for middle and high school levels. A faculty member from the education department at Lycoming College who designed it has conducted workshops for teachers. We have given numerous presentations and “how to” sessions about the collection for local historians and genealogists.

Mary: I have taken on the role as being a “voice” for the collection and have presented to many local women’s groups and historical societies. I love to talk about what one reporter called “my nineteenth century friends.” One spin off from the collection has been a monthly newspaper column titled “Williamsport Women.” Through the online collection, Janet and I discovered so many individual women and groups of women that have had an impact on our community, we wanted to spread their stories even further than the digital collection. The series has received very enthusiastic support from its followers. Even after three years, Janet and I can seldom go anyplace, including the grocery store, without someone telling us how much he or she enjoys the column.

AC: What goals or purpose do you hope contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA can achieve for the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection?

Janet: We have always wanted to present the story of Williamsport Women to as many researchers, students, amateur historians, and genealogists as possible. A digital audience is perfect for that purpose.

Mary: What PA Digital and DPLA can do is help us spread the word and make access easier to potential users all over the globe. Having our local collection a part of a state and national database with such a wide audience is “a dream come true” for us.

AC: Thank you very much, Janet and Mary! Readers, don’t forget to check out the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection through their website, PA Digital, and the DPLA!

Meet Our Contributors – Tristan Dahn, College of Physicians

Image, Tristan DahnWelcome to the third installment of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature. “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, as well as their insight from experience as contributors to the DPLA. This month, we are pleased to hear from Tristan Dahn, Digital Projects Librarian at the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Check out some of the Historical Medical Library’s collections in the DPLA!

Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role with the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s digital collections?

Tristan Dahn, College of Physicians: Hi Anastasia! Thanks for asking me to participate in this Q&A. Getting our content up on the DPLA has been one of my more exciting accomplishments from the last year.

I came to work at the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and as a librarian, in a slightly roundabout way. I studied Music at Bard College from 2001-2005, and spent close to a decade after living in Philadelphia as part of its performance/art scene. It was during this time that I also discovered a real love of literature, which led to my working at both an independent bookstore and a small publishing company. Through this, and through volunteer work I performed at Books Through Bars, an all-volunteer run not for profit based in West Philadelphia that provides educational and reading materials to incarcerated people, I came to understand better the importance of textual information in constructing one’s worldview and sense of self. This, and the desire to find a more stable career path, led me to pursue a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I did my Master’s work at McGill University in Montreal, and it was through my coursework there, and through an internship at .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill, that I came to learn to work with data, and to love working with data, and it was this skill set that brought me to my current position at the Historical Medical Library.

The Mutter Museum, part of the College of Physicians with the Historical Medical Library, was one of my favorite cultural institutions in Philadelphia while I was living there, so when I saw the posting for the position of Digital Projects Librarian, I was excited to apply, and even more excited to get the job! It has been a fantastic opportunity. The Historical Medical Library has a unique and fascinating collection, and it is a great privilege to be working with these materials, especially so early in my career as a librarian/archivist. My role involves managing digitization and metadata for digital objects, maintaining and customizing our digital library and ArchivesSpace instance, creating digital exhibitions out of our digital content, some simple graphic design, working with the data in our museum and library catalogs to help in the transition to our new linked data catalog we are affectionately calling the “Digital Spine,” as well as a number of small non-digital tasks related to the collaborative nature of our small staff.

AC: Do you have a favorite item or collection that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)

TD: My favorite collection at the moment is a collection of photographs from “Old Blockley,” which was the nickname for the Philadelphia General Hospital when it was part of the Philadelphia Almshouse starting in 1731. Largely late 19th Century, the photographs depict daily life, the building and its grounds, patients and pathologies, and many of the doctors and nurses who were on staff at the time. The result is a vibrant portrait of a place, which at the time, was central to the health care of the elderly and indigent. Since many of these photographs are unique to our collection or have not been previously digitized, being able to share them widely via the DPLA is quite exciting.

Image of exterior view of PGH, facing east across the Schuylkill River. From Blockley Almshouse collection of Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
“Exterior view of PGH, facing east across the Schuylkill River.” From Blockley Almshouse collection.

 

 

AC: How did you and your colleagues decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?

TD: You reached out to us! For which we are very grateful. As a relatively small special collections library that is part of a relatively small institution, our collection has, in the past, been somewhat overlooked. We currently have the largest professional library staff in quite a while, and are working actively to revitalize the collection and promote its use. Hosting images on the DPLA provides us with an opportunity to share some of our unique resources with the curious while also drawing in people who may want to do more rigorous research with our collections in our reading room.

AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for your collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?

TD: Yes! The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is a member of a collaborative medical digital library called the Medical Heritage Library (MHL). Over the past couple of years, MHL has been working on a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arcadia Fund, to digitize the extant volumes of medical journals produced by state medical societies during the twentieth century. We have contributed over 750 volumes from our collection of journals, a corpus that in the end will include 117 titles, comprising over 2.5 million pages in 3,579 volumes. The volumes, which document the American medical tradition regionally and nationally, are full-text searchable, and available in a variety of formats, including plain text, which will enable opportunities for digital medical humanities projects. The project will be complete in April 2017, but the majority of volumes are already scanned and available on the Internet Archive here.

AC: Do you collaborate with other organizations to make your content available and/or to create public programming around it?

TD: Our biggest and most consistent collaboration in the digital realm is the Medical Heritage Library, described above. However, we are also a member of the Pennsylvania Area Consortium of Special Collection Libraries (PACSCL), whose members include The Library Company, Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Kislak Center, the American Philosophical Society, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many others. We have collaborated with partners from PACSCL in order to partake in symposiums and workshops, provide our materials to accompany speakers at other institutions and even helped organize a skill share day around working with ArchivesSpace, an open source solution for hosting and presenting archival finding aids. A current digitization effort we are involved in through PACSCL is Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, which is funded through a CLIR grant awarded to Lehigh University, and seeks to digitize and make available online all the Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts in PACSCL collections.

Additionally, we have had classes from UPENN attending the library this past year to learn about our materials and the value of primary source research, we have created student resource guides in conjunction with National History Day, and continue to support the Center for Public Education and Initiatives here at The College of Physicians by providing pop-up exhibits and classroom talks.

That said, we are always looking for further opportunities for collaboration, so please feel free to reach out to us!

AC: You’ve been working with us since summer 2016; how has your experience with PA Digital and the DPLA been? Do you have any feedback for us?

TD: Great! Everyone I’ve worked with at PA Digital has been gracious and willing to work with us to resolve any issue that has arisen. Though I have not yet needed to “attend,” the virtual office hours offered by your team seem like a great resource for those looking to get involved or for partners who are looking to troubleshoot issues or expand their contribution.

AC: As an experienced collaborator with us, what advice do you have for those who are considering bringing their collections to PA Digital and the DPLA?

TD: The main thing I would say is know your data! The main issues we had with exporting metadata from our digital library involved conventions around metadata as established both locally and through our digital library platform, Omeka. Understanding the conventions for specific metadata field usage, both at the DPLA and at your institution, is the first step in understanding how to map the export.

The other issue had to do with the plug-in for Omeka that enables the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Out of the box, it did not provide the correct image file and exported a few fields that, though accurate in our context, did not fit the accepted use for the DPLA. A basic knowledge of the source code for Omeka and the plug-in, as well as some PHP, made the customization rather simple.

This might sound slightly complicated, but in reality, it was a pretty quick fix, and solving the issue was empowering. I would encourage anyone looking to collaborate to be willing to get their hands a little dirty!

AC: All of this sounds like great advice from my perspective as well. Thanks very much for your time and your insight, Tristan!

 

Meet Our Contributors – Kelsey Duinkerken, Thomas Jefferson University

headshot image of Kelsey DuinkerkenHappy 2017, Pennsylvania! This month, we present a new segment of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature. “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, as well as their insight from experience as contributors to the DPLA. This month, we are pleased to hear from Kelsey Duinkerken, Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University’s Scott Memorial Library. Check out some of Thomas Jefferson University’s collections in the DPLA!


Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team:
Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role with Thomas Jefferson University’s digital collections?

Kelsey Duinkerken, Thomas Jefferson University: Of course! I have been the Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University for the last three years. With this job I have feet in both the very physical aspects of our Archives as well as the digital side, which is not only a lot of fun but gives me the opportunity to see items throughout their journey – from initial accession to description to digitization to online access, to put it simply. My involvement in our digital collections spans a number of areas. I manage all of our digitization projects, and make that material more accessible through inclusion in our institutional repository (Jefferson Digital Commons), our Instagram and Twitter accounts, our website, and, of course, the DPLA! I am also in charge of web archiving and other digital initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University.

AC: Do you have a favorite collection or two that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)

KD: I’m not sure about collection, but my favorite item would have to be the Oregon Trail journal of Harmony A. Smith. Growing up loving history (and playing Oregon Trail) it’s so neat to read about someone’s actual experience. The first half of the journal contains lecture notes from Smith’s time as a student at Jefferson Medical College, and the second half details his time on the Oregon Trail, from May 10 to July 6, 1850. He describes his experience attending a Mormon church service, visiting Salt Lake City, and celebrating the 4th of July on the trail. And for those who played the computer game, there are plenty of references to fording rivers, trading and bartering, interacting with different Indian tribes, bad weather, Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, Laramie Fort, dangerously steep hills, and broken axles! We also have a transcript available if you don’t have the time or desire to decipher the handwritten pages.

AC: How did you and your colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?

KD: I first heard about PA Digital from Doreva Belfiore at a meeting of area digital managers and was intrigued about its potential to make our collections accessible to an even wider audience. Especially once we learned that an ingest would be fairly easy from bepress to the DPLA, we were sold. We’re a fairly small repository so being involved in the DPLA helps get our name out and increase our online presence with minimal work and no extra cost for us. As I’m sure most cultural heritage institutions would agree, with limited funding and staffing, this was a perfect fit.

AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for these collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?

KD: One of our more popular collections has been our medical college yearbooks. They present a rich history of how medical education has changed and evolved over the years, not to mention style and student life. They are a particularly rich resource for the graduates themselves, family members, and genealogists. In the future we are hoping to also digitize our nursing yearbooks, but they are more difficult to scan so it may be a little while.

AC: Do you recommend any resources that were particularly helpful to you at any stage of building your digital collections, or bringing your digital collections to PA Digital?

KD: If your content is housed in bepress, be sure to reach out to your representative! They are extremely helpful for getting your content ready – whether that is changing settings on the backend or giving you tips for how to make batch edits to collections. I will also give a shout-out to the members of PA Digital! They have always been quick to respond to my questions and have provided detailed feedback to make sure our collections are ready for ingest. They have made the overall process of adding collections to the DPLA smooth and simple.

AC: Is there anything that you know now about the process of bringing collections into the DPLA that you wish you had known beforehand? What would you suggest to any colleagues who might be considering contributing to PA Digital?

KD: Start small and go for it! Unless your metadata is robust and in perfect condition, you will need to spend time making it better before it can be ingested. While this might seem overwhelming at first, you don’t need to add all of your digital content to the DPLA at once. Just start with a few collections so you can understand the process and see how it works. From there you can prepare other collections for subsequent ingests. This is the model we have followed, and it’s been very successful. We’ve contributed new content in several waves, which has made the process really manageable. If you’ve been thinking about contributing content to the DPLA, just go for it. Start with one or two collections and before you know it you’ll have a huge chunk of your content in the DPLA!

AC: Thank you so much for all your thoughts, and for your time, Kelsey!

KD: Thanks, Anastasia, it was great talking with you!

Meet Our Contributors – Michael Foight, Villanova University

profile photo, Michael Foight

PA Digital is, at its core, a partnership, and we are fortunate to collaborate with many amazing individuals and institutions all over Pennsylvania. We would like to spotlight these partners in a new serial feature, Meet Our Contributors; in it, our partners will tell you about their amazing work and provide some insight and experience as contributors to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). We begin with Michael Foight, Special Collections and Digital Library Coordinator at Villanova University’s Falvey Library. Check out some of Villanova’s digital collections in the DPLA portal!

 

 

Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team (AC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Villanova’s digital collections?

Michael Foight, Villanova University (MF):  Thank you Anastasia for the opportunity to talk with you about digitization and digital libraries.  I coordinate the Special Collections and Digital Library team at Villanova University.  While I’ve been a librarian at the University since 1995 and have served in a number of positions, I have managed the digital library since it went live in 2005.    I’m very passionate about connecting researchers and the public with rare heritage materials.  Print heritage collections have long been mediated by a class catering almost exclusively to patrons with privileged access –    the full time student or faculty researcher.   High quality digital surrogates can provide 24 hour a day access to rare materials to a global community thus opening up Special Collections to new users and new uses.  Few can travel to distant locations to use physical materials, materials that at best may only be offered for use a few hours a day. But for most users and most uses, digital imaging provides a superior overall experience.  Very high resolution close up views enable textual comparison with other items, and the extent of exposure to the material is limited only by the attention of the researcher.  

Traditionally heritage professionals often limited or denied access to materials, claiming a prioritizing of preservation over access for the sake of the materials. In an environment of scarce access to rare materials, the economy of prestige grants research access to the elite and the connected,  limiting access to everyone else – the non-traditional student or adjunct faculty member who cannot get to a Special Collections or Archives which is open only 3 hours during the business day –  the international scholar  – the working public with limited time for research.  I deeply believe in the transformative nature of digitization, and the resultant curation and maintenance of this digital content.  It is one of the essential duties of a heritage professional – and must be made a part of the regular operational routine of every archive, museum and special collection.  Digitization – collaboration – the open and free access to content, open source collaboratively developed software – these are ideas that can transform the prestige economy from status being given to those who limit access to those who share the most.  To my mind, this is just what DPLA is all about.  

AC: Do you have any favorite collections or items  that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)

MF:  One of the more interesting things to examine is the usage that is being made of materials.   As a way to document usage and provide transparency we maintain a Zotero database of citing references which shows a wide variety of usage – well beyond what might be predicted.  As a recent example citing a number of materials digitized by a number of institutions, let me call attention to “Meet the Donald Trump of the 1840s”  demonstrating the collaborative effect of digitization on the writing and design process – authors of even popular news can draw on a wealth of materials to illustrate and provide citations for a thesis.

Beyond the materials in Villanova University’s Special Collections, Villanova’s Digital Library acts as a digitization agent for a number of other heritage organizations through a “Digital Partnership” program, as well as providing digitization to individual “Digital Donors” and have been providing access to this kind of partner content for over 10 years.  Of course I do have some favorites – through partnership with the Historical Society of Montgomery County we are digitizing the early newspaper, “National Defender” – the newspaper of the American Party.  Filled with vitriol and bias – it is quite like the news of today.  I would call out one small item from “National Defender” – an advertisement for the visit of Dan Rice to Buck’s County.  Rice was the role model for “Uncle Sam” – highlighted in a blog article.  The digitization of materials is only a first step; newly available digital content must also be actively curated with exhibits – highlighted in social media – knowledge creation efforts and Digital Humanities initiatives.  

AC: How did you and your colleagues at Villanova decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?  

MF: We pro-actively reached out to DPLA prior to their initial public launch, however even with 30,000 items – Villanova’s Digital LIbrary was considered too small for the scope of DPLA.    With the deployment of state hubs for metadata aggregation, it was possible to join with other institutions to reach the critical mass needed for consideration.  With the forward thinking leadership – and kudos must be acknowledged to Temple University under the leadership of Joe Lucia for hosting and providing support for the Pennsylvania Hub of DPLA  – and the assistance of David Lacy – then the Technology Development Team Leader at Villanova, we were able to move forward and get the Villanova content as well as the content of our “Digital Partners” into DPLA. The goal – to provide enhanced access to these rare materials to an even wider community!  

AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for your collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?

MF:   Beyond the initiatives that I have referenced, I am eager to show off and talk about two important digitization and knowledge creation projects.  The first is related to popular culture and fiction.   In addition to actively digitizing a growing collection of Dime Novel and Popular Culture materials, we are working on a vast knowledge creation project to document the copious collections of content that were created and circulated.  The Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography is the collaborative effort to create a sustainable database of this content and to then link to extant digitized content.  This content – which may have been in wide circulation – is now rare to the point of almost extinction.   A recently digitized non-fiction work on marriage advice was only known a large number of advertisements.  Picked up almost immediately and cited, this is a great example of how digitization can work to rapidly move a text or image from anonymity to ubiquity within days.   

Demand driven digitization – based on a wide variety of needs – is a requirement for the agile Special Collections, Archive, or Museum.  The second project, “Home Before the Leaves Fall: a Great War Centennial Exposition” highlights one such need – to commemorate, memorialize,  and also to digitize materials based on the increased research needs related to an anniversary – here the important centennial anniversary of World War I.   At the website are commemorative projects, news and events, and of course newly digitized materials, which can be shared with the public with dedicated social media channels.   And shows off yet another way collaborative efforts can provide benefits for all.  Trying to showcase WWI content to a – largely unaware in the United States – public demands new forms of experimentation,  from outreach efforts using cutout paper dolls, to new forms of expression.  As a showcase for the remixing of cultural objects into new forms, I would call attention to the experimental  “Lausejagd”  video- showing off digitized content as well as providing a sing-along experience.

AC: How has your experience with PA Digital and the DPLA been? Is there anything that you know now about the process of bringing collections into the DPLA that you wish you had known beforehand?

MF:  The process is smooth and easy – the staff on this project are wonderful – so knowledgeable and passionate about providing access!  

AC: As an experienced collaborator with us, what advice do you have for those who are considering bringing their collections to PA Digital and the DPLA?

MF:  Don’t wait  – just reach out and start collaborating by contacting the staff at the PA-Hub.  You will be adding a megaphone to the reach and impact of your content and the process couldn’t be simpler.   

AC: Thanks so much for your time and your insight, Michael!