I suppose if this blog really was up and running, we’d be obliged to post announcements each day about the University of Washington Libraries closure, wax eloquently about epic Pacific Northwest snowstorms past, and have facts at the ready about this unprecedented (is it?) three-day (and counting) campus-wide suspension of operations.
As it is, I feel as if I’ve been trying to figure out the exact location pictured in this nifty image from the Special Collections Division for several days now. It looks to me like the intersection of Queen Anne Avenue and Roy Street, but I may be wrong.
What is going on in this photograph? Is the (No. 2) electric streetcar stranded in the snow or is it in the process of transporting passengers down the hill (which, if so, is more than can be said about our present Metro service, 92 years later). It’s hard to say, but it looks as if the latter may be true since there is what appears to be another streetcar running further up the hill (but then again it also could just be stuck).
But, to be fair, if the quality of our public transportation cannot be said to have improved substantially in many ways over the intervening years, then neither can it be said of our cataloging practices.
There are machine-generated records for many of the smaller manuscript holdings in the Pacific Northwest Collection. In terms of discovery, this is a good thing, but often these records are so brief or generic that they also can be misleading. We are trying to rectify this situation, slowly (too slowly, we admit), but surely. Here is a case in point:
Recently it came to our attention that the collection formerly called the James Jerome Hill papers (Accession no. 4756) was not the personal papers of the famous railroad tycoon and developer. The majority of his family papers are now at the Minnesota Historical Society and, interestingly enough, are also in the process of being recataloged. Instead, our holdings consisted of the manuscript of a speech Hill gave on the opening day of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, with an additional interesting piece of correspondence explaining how the manuscript came to be at the University of Washington. It turns out that Hill intended to donate the manuscript to the University to be “preserved among the archives” on the same day he gave the speech, but his lawyer neglected to do so until some six years after the event.
Digging around the Special Collections materials on the UW Digital Collections site also yielded other discoveries: the text of the manuscript speech already had been digitized (minus the letter, which, hopefully, we can now get added). We also subsequently found that there were two copies of the published edition of the speech among the book collection, somewhat sketchily cataloged since they had been bound together with other speeches by Hill. These materials have now been a bit more tidily cataloged here and here, hopefully, making them a little easier to find.
What was even more cool, however, was stumbling across the digital image (above) of a photograph of Hill delivering the speech with the actual manuscript in hand. This is a version of the digital image that was further touched up in Photoshop by Edna for the purposes of this blog.
The University of Victoria Special Collections recently announced the completion of the initial phase of a project to digitize original dispatches between the British Colonial Office and the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. From the UVic press release:
Faculty and staff at the University of Victoria have launched a website making transcriptions and digitized version of the 1858 Vancouver Island and British Columbia colonial correspondence available on line for the first time. This is the first phase of a project to provide online access to over 7,000 dispatches dating from 1846 to 1871. The transcriptions were produced by Emeritus Professor James in the 1980s from difficult-to-read archival documents of all the Vancouver Island and British Columbia Colonial Despatches. They have now been transformed from outdated Waterloo Script text files into xml and a web interface has been created in eXist, an xml database. The entire corpus is searchable, although only 1858 has digital images, an introduction, biographies and vetted notes.
You can find out more about this new site, Colonial Despatches, and search it here.
A colleague up in the Monographic Services Division was doing a periodic cleaning out of the departmental online OCLC save file and exhumed a mysterious catalog record for the Eric A. Hegg photographs that appeared to have been sitting in limbo in this file for some time.
A quick review indicated that the record in the save file contained revisions to an earlier version of a catalog record that is supposed to point to an important collection of early photographs of Alaska (can’t seem to escape Alaska these days). Updating the record is a simple enough task, although at times it feels strange for me to be doing this without ever having seen the collection. But there are just too many other things going on for me to dwell upon it.
A little later in the day, however, I stumbled across the image above while searching for something else on the UW Digital Collections site, which made me feel a bit more wistful. Due to the fragility of the original materials, we no longer have the direct access to the albums that Ms. Fairbanks enjoyed back in the day, but we can console ourselves with the thought that we now have access to selected digitized images from this same collection any time, anywhere online.
In an effort to stay one step ahead of Mahrya (who is already making good progress with cleaning up the minimal level records), I decided to pull an individual scrapbook or small collection to create a record that might serve as an (obviously destined-to-be-shining) example of full level cataloging of scrapbooks.
I settled on the first item from the list (which filed that way because of the quotation marks around the creator’s first name, “Cec” Smith), the Cecil Smith scrapbooks because: a) it was small; b) the subject matter (popular music) interested me; and c) we had found a couple of cool photographs on the UW Digital Collections site while I was trying to explain the “creator” concept in the context of scrapbooks.
Since then I have compiled a few vital statistics on Smith, who seems a most interesting character (he’s the one in the center of the picture above). The scrapbook mainly chronicles his career as a dance band leader (the band itself seems to have gone by several names) during the late 1920s/early 1930s in Seattle. Smith supported himself as a law school student at the University of Washington through his work as a musician. The scrapbook ends around 1937 (though there are a couple of items inserted at the back that date from the following year), following Smith’s passing of the bar exam. He seems to have continued to play music at social functions even after he began to practice law, but the trail ends there. I was able to determine from Ancestry.com that he died in Bellevue in 1988; presumably he spent his entire career as a lawyer in the Seattle area. But did he continue on as a musician at all?
More digging awaits as I try to assemble these and other facts into something more lucid.
We are about to embark on the unknown. Next week we will launch a project to begin to create catalog records for the Pacific Northwest Collection’s scrapbook collection. The momentum for this project really began when local hero, Mark Carlson, was able to convert the data from the html table listing the (mainly uncataloged) scrapbooks on the current Special Collections Web site into MARC format.
Next week, new iSchool volunteer for Special Collections, Mahrya Carncross, will begin to take these very basic (and sometimes problematic records) and start the painstaking (but fun?) process of turning all of them (approximately 170) into acceptable minimal level records to be loaded into WorldCat. As time allows, we hope that she also will be able to fully catalog selected scrapbooks as well. (I’ll try to explain the distinction some other time to all of you non-catalogers out there). Which means you shouldn’t be running into stuff like this:
040 WAU ǂc WAU
24510Salmon scrapbook, ǂf 1914.
300 1 ǂf volume
5202 Clippings and menus about salmon.
506 Open to all users.
540 Some restrictions may exist on duplication, quotation, or publication. Contact the repository for details.
9451 ǂl scsbf ǂt 7 ǂs – ǂy In process record; contact repository for up-to-date information
I know I’m intrigued! We hope to be able to share some of our sure-to-be-exciting discoveries in the scrapbook collection in the coming months.
P.S. The image above does not come from the Pacific Northwest Collection (and it could depict an Atlantic salmon for all I know). Just a shout out to our friends back East. It is a digital image of a cigarette card in the George Arents Collection, New York Public Library from the always useful and easy-to-search NYPL Digital Gallery. Full info here.