Archives Porn?

Gaylord Brothers Archival 2009 catalog
Gaylord Brothers Archival 2009 catalog

I was finding myself mesmerized by the cover of the 2009 Gaylord Archival catalog earlier this morning (the digital thumbnail does not do it justice).

If  “food porn” can have its own Flickr group, etc., etc., why not archives?

That picture just makes me want to go out and encapsulate something.


Recently Cataloged

Warren Peterson's daughters holding Christmas Seals poster next to a live seal during Christimas Seals campaign, November 12, 1957
Warren Peterson's daughters holding Christmas Seals poster next to a live seal during Christimas Seals campaign, November 12, 1957

In keeping with the seasonal theme, herewith the first in a series of brief posts about photograph collections which I have cataloged recently (mainly thanks to my snowy exile working at home, which allowed me to focus on getting to grips with a developing “frontlog” of “ready to catalog” EAD finding aids for photograph collections).

The American Lung Association of Washington photograph collection (PH COLL 670) is a set of mainly publicity photographs separated from a related archival collection, American Lung Association of Washington records (Manuscript collection 5271).  Here’s what I came up with, after some minimal edits, for the scope and content note field in the catalog record:

The American Lung Association of Washington photograph collection primarily contains portraits of the organization’s early leaders and those members involved in public outreach and health services, as well as photographs taken in sanatoriums throughout Washington State. The collection also documents activities, projects, and outreach campaigns of various county anti-tuberculosis organizations (particularly those in King and Pierce Counties) and includes images of Christmas Seals and Christmas Seals campaigns. Other items of note include film strips relating to tuberculosis education and a collection of lantern slides illustrating research on nutrition and children done by Dr. William Emerson.

Hopefully, it’s true.  Among those items from the collection that have been digitized is the example above, which has to do with Christmas seals (get it?).

Question: Will this blog be of any use in helping us find the answer to such unanswered questions as:

  1. Who was Warren Peterson?
  2. Since the original image is credited to Richards (studio?) of Tacoma, can we surmise that the picture may have been taken at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium?

Of course a follow up question would be, if we were able obtain that sort of information, would we have the time to go back and update the record?

Image credit: American Lung Association of Washington Photograph Collection, PH Coll 670, Order no. SOC0815

Snow Days

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.

Queen Anne Ave. N. after a snowstorm, winter 1916
Queen Anne Ave. N. after a snowstorm, winter 1916

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.

And it’s still snowing…

Image credit: University of Washington Special Collections Diviison, Seattle Photograph Collection, Negative no. UW22262


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:

James J. Hill reading a speech on the opening day of the A.Y.P.E.
James J. Hill reading a speech on the opening day of the A.Y.P.E.

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.

Image credit:  James J. Hill reading his address on the opening day of the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, Frank H. Nowell Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Photographs. PH Coll 727, Neg. no. UW3012

New Digital Resource Documents Colonial Period in British Columbia

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.

Coincidence of the Day

Harry C. Bauer and Lulu Fairbanks examining the Eric A. Hegg photograph albums, n.d.
Harry C. Bauer and Lulu Fairbanks examining the Eric A. Hegg photograph albums, n.d.

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.

Image credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division, Photographs of Harry C. Bauer, PH Coll 599, Order no. POR232