Recollections from a Lab Aide

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab student aide, Francesca Maisano ’21.

As the spring semester ends, and graduation nears, I would like to share some thoughts on my experience working at the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL). I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working as a student lab aide at the DAL for what will be two school years at the end of this semester. While in this position, I have worked alongside wonderful people and used a variety of software and equipment, all of which I had never used before. I also learned valuable archival, technological, and interpersonal skills, even during the pandemic, something that has impacted three-quarters of my time as a lab aide. There has still been plenty of work to be done, such as scanning and the captioning of COVID-related videos, even if some of this work is done remotely. My personal favorite piece of equipment was the Cobra book scanner that is used to scan items such as rare books, magazines, yearbooks and scrapbooks. While I greatly enjoyed scanning these archival materials with the Cobra, sometimes scanning was slightly terrifying, since many of these materials are old and quite fragile!

Through the work I have done and the archival materials I have worked with, like old Mary Washington scrapbooks and photographs, I feel so much closer to Mary Washington and its history and community. It was always fun scanning archival materials for fellow students, as well as for professors and classes, and seeing the varied topics people at this school were researching and learning about and the projects they were doing!  

This was also a very rewarding job, knowing that my work was helping not only the UMW Archives but also those who have disabilities, ensuring that our archival materials are accessible for everyone. I captioned videos and made PDFs full-text searchable. My major video-captioning project last year was captioning thirteen James Farmer lectures (and I captioned a few more this year as well). These videos are so powerful, and I am so glad that others will be able to watch and learn from James Farmer’s incredible, impactful stories on his time in the Civil Rights Movement. You can read about how I captioned those videos and more of my thoughts here.

A screen capture of the captioning process in Adobe Premiere software. A small box displaying the video is in the top right corner, and the bottom includes the caption text and timings.

A screenshot of what Adobe Premiere Pro looks like when I am editing the captions of one of James Farmer’s lectures. This was one of the videos I captioned earlier this semester.

While I’ll be graduating this spring, I know that I’ll cherish my time working in the DAL and use the skills and knowledge I have gained in graduate school and my future career. To all current students at Mary Washington, if you have an opportunity and desire to work at the Digital Archiving Lab, do so. You won’t regret it!   

May 7, 2021

My Life as a Digital Archiving Lab Intern

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab intern, Chase Monroe ’21.

Over the course of this Spring, I have had the opportunity of being an intern in the Digital Archiving Lab under the supervision of the Digital Resources Librarian, Angie Kemp. My major project during my internship involved migrating the UMW publications (The Battlefield, The Aubade, Alumni Magazines, and more) from Eagle Explorer into our Digital Collections in Preservica. Throughout this project, I learned the basics of digital collections project management, including the creation and transformation of metadata.

Moving to Preservica provides virus protection for the publications, keeps the PDFs searchable, and provides workflows and options for file types that may become obsolete over time. Our Digital Collections has many historic resources like The Centennial Image CollectionThe James L. Farmer Collection, and the UMW Blueprints and Architectural Drawings, so the addition of the publications allows a one stop shop for searching.

While Eagle Explorer allows users to search full-text publications, the publications and data describing them (metadata) are actually hosted in the Internet Archive (IA) using their own metadata elements. The metadata in our Digital Collections is in the Dublin Core schema (Figure 1). Metadata can be arranged in other schemas and is important as it standardizes the data elements that go into our Digital Collections. Additionally, having a uniform standard allows searching for the same date or subject across all collections to be simple and easy, and allows for the sharing of data across platforms.

A screenshot of a gray box with bolded metadata categories containing descriptive information about a photograph.

Figure 1. A cropped screenshot of metadata of the “James Farmer teaching civil rights class” photograph in the James L. Farmer Collection that has some of the Dublin Core elements (in bold).

I started the metadata transformation process by reviewing the descriptive metadata in the Internet Archive to see if there was anything we wanted to remove, keep, or edit for Preservica. However, our Digital Collections requires Dublin Core schema which is not used by the Internet Archive. So, I mapped out the Internet Archive elements and metadata to the appropriate Dublin Core corresponding element and assessed the metadata going into Preservica. For instance, the “Call number” element in IA corresponds to the ”Relation” element in Dublin Core. Next, I made a new project folder in Oxygen XML Editor, containing the batch of XML records for the publication that would be transformed into a new set for Preservica. Then, I created a Dublin Core template in Oxygen XML Editor (Figure 2) to visualize Dublin Core schema for the XSL Stylesheet.

Screenshot of an XML file opened in Oxygen XML Editor software. Metadata elements, which are in angle brackets, and their associated content are listed.

Figure 2. A cropped screenshot of the Battlefield Dublin Core Template in Oxygen XML Editor.

After my Dublin Core template was complete, I created the XSL Stylesheet in Oxygen (Figure 3) using the Dublin Core template as a guide. The XSL [eXtensible Stylesheet Language] Stylesheet allows you to change the format of a batch of XML records all at once into Dublin Core or other schemas! Angie provided me the stylesheet template, and I made edits depending on the specific needs of the individual publication.

Screenshot of an XSL transformation file opened in the Oxygen XML software program, displaying the Dublin Core elements in angle brackets and the transformation directions for creating the content for each element.

Figure 3. This cropped screenshot of the Battlefield XSL sheet in Oxygen XML Editor shows the description that will appear in all new metadata files and the subject element that will pull from the IA XML files.

Once I checked the XSL sheet for any errors, I began the transformation process by right clicking on the original IA XML folder in the “project” tab and selecting “configure transformation” in Oxygen. I finished all the technical input, including programming Oxygen to recognize the XSL file I created, and the software produced a new output folder of my final metadata. For the Battlefield, 100 IA XML files transformed into Dublin Core XML files (Figure 4). You can view the transformed publications (Figure 5) in our Digital Collections here!

Screenshot of an XML file opened in Oxygen XML Editor software. Metadata elements, which are in angle brackets, and their associated content are listed.

Figure 4. An example of a resulting output XML file in Oxygen XML Editor from the batch transformation process.

The project was a team effort; Carolyn Parsons, Sarah Appleby, Angie Kemp, and I assessed what data was necessary to keep for the publications. After the final decisions, I moved forward on my own, and Angie reviewed the files after I finished each publication. I communicated with Angie daily, whether I was asking questions, or getting help on creating an XSL file.

Finally, I would like to thank Sarah and Carolyn for their valued input on the publication migration project and for their kindness. I enjoyed working with them in team meetings. I am so thankful for this opportunity to work for the Digital Archiving Lab, and with Angie, who I have known since I was a freshman.  She is a wonderful mentor and working with her furthered my passion for working with metadata. I am proud to announce that I applied for the online Masters of Information Science program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, starting Fall 2021.

Screenshot of a digital collection web page, with a gray box containing bolded metadata categories and descriptive information about the collection. Thumbnails of 12 publication covers with titles and dates are listed below the gray metadata box. Facets allowing refinement by decade display in a gray box to the left of the thumbnails.

A screenshot of the Student Handbook publication within our Digital Collections.

April 15, 2021

New Student Scholarship Collection in Eagle Scholar

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Eagle Scholar, the University of Mary Washington’s institutional repository, contains over 5,000 items highlighting campus research, scholarship, and creativity. In January, library staff published a new collection in the repository with over 60 student research projects representing 16 different departments across the University. These projects were originally presented in UMW’s Research & Creativity Symposium, which was held online for the first time in April 2020 due to the pandemic. As students submitted their projects for the online event, they were also given the option to have their research included in Eagle Scholar for long-term storage and access.

Screenshot of the Research & Creativity Symposium home webpage in the Eagle Scholar repository.

Over 60 student research projects were added to Eagle Scholar in the new Research & Creativity Symposium collection.

Eagle Scholar’s Research & Creativity Symposium collection contains a variety of project formats and media types, including but not limited to: archived web pages, embedded YouTube videos, mp4 video files, posters, and mp3 audio files. Each project has its own page in the collection, with information such as author(s), abstract, recommended citation, and options to download or stream the presentation, depending on the media type. Students can use the unique URL assigned to their project to share their research with friends, family, future employers and graduate schools.

Screenshot of an individual project's webpage, with descriptive information about the project, an option to view usage data, and an option to play the presentation video.

Each research project has its own webpage with descriptive information, usage statistics, and options to download or stream the project. The example shown here is “The Geometry of Surfaces and its Applications Using Mathematica” by K. Corbett.

Since January 2021, projects in the Research & Creativity Symposium collection have been accessed almost 500 times, across 23 different countries (as of March 16, 2021). The top referrer to this collection is Google Scholar, and usage continues to grow daily as users around the world locate these projects while conducting their own research. Furthermore, many project pages display their individual access statistics, so authors can see how their projects are used.

Screenshot of an interactive map of the world, showing purple and blue circles over different regions and countries. The circles include numbers with download counts from those regions.

Eagle Scholar provides statistics on how frequently and where research projects are accessed across the world. As of March 2021, this collection has been accessed the most from the United States.

As we move closer to April, library staff are looking forward to adding more projects to this collection from our next Research & Creativity Day. In the meantime, we hope you will take a moment to explore all of the fantastic student research that is currently available in Eagle Scholar. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact scholcom@umw.edu.

March 18, 2021

WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021

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Written by Ryan A. MacMichael ’98, guest author and curator of the current exhibit, WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021

In November 1939, a new administrative building–George Washington Hall–was built and featured “a large, soundproof major studio with equipment for sound effects, and a control room with monitoring equipment, two turntables, and facilities for recording and transmitting programs.” Initially, there was a direct wire that connected the studio with Fredericksburg’s 1260 AM WFVA, which broadcast the college’s programs. The shows were created by the burgeoning radio program at the college and what would eventually become “The Mike Club.” In fact, at the time, Mary Washington was “the only college in the state having a radio studio.”1 The pioneering group of women behind the original radio broadcasts took a four-day field trip to New York City in 1940 to witness radio broadcasts as well as shows at Rockefeller Center. (The trip cost them $30).

It was a few more years before the college’s own station was officially born. A month after the end of World War II, WMWC registered with the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System as “Station WMWC” on October 11, 1945. The station aired “daily dramas, campus news, the concert hour, and the hit tune parade” on 600 AM.2

Students, Betty Sparks and Janet Ryder, stand at a microphone and turntable set-up in the WMWC Studio inside of George Washington Hall. One of the women is wearing headphones.
Betty Sparks and Janet Ryder at the WMWC studio in George Washington Hall, Battlefield, 1948.

Over the next several decades, the radio station aired original programming of interest to the campus and community. In the mid-1950s, the studio moved out of George Washington Hall and into a newly designed, well-appointed new studio in duPont Hall. Campus programming continued to air as well as twice-a-month broadcasts in cooperation with WFVA.

Ten female students sit in the WMWC studio with a microphone mixing board, turntable, and reel-to-reel tape deck. One woman is sitting.
The Mike Club, Battlefield, 1957 Left to right: C. Wohlnick, S. Zabner, S. Epps, I. Phillips, J. Lautenslager, R. Craft, D. Sensabaugh, S. Kates, R. Gaines. Seated: L. Eadie.

As the 1970s approached, however, interest in the studio waned, with fewer Mike Club members as the years went on. In the 1969-70 academic year, the station quietly disappeared for nearly ten years during a “decade of uneasiness.”3 During those intervening years, though, a movement was underway to bring the station back bigger and better than ever. As early as 1973, polls circulated that showed a strong support for the return to airwaves for WMWC. On November 19, 1978, the current incarnation of the station was reborn in Lee Hall on 540 AM, “[transmitting] radio waves directly into the dorms, academic buildings, ACL [Lee Hall], Mercer Hall, and Seacobeck during the proposed times of 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 12:00.”4 By this point, the college had been co-ed for eight years and, thus, so was the newly re-formed WMWC with a large staff of DJs that included current Associate Vice President & Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker.

Since 1978, WMWC has persisted and remains as the last student-run organization still bearing a reference to the University’s former name of Mary Washington College. During those 40+ years, the station has moved from AM to “cable FM” to “radiating/leaky cable FM” and, after the move from the “attic” of Lee Hall to Woodard, it has settled as an Internet streaming station. During the ensuing years, programming has included live performances in the station, in-studio interviews with artists as wide ranging as the Indigo Girls and the Pietasters, and of course, plenty of the entertaining banter you can only get from students broadcasting for the first time on college radio.

Musicians the Indigo Girls stand in the CD library of WMWC with six Mary Washington students and one visitor.
The Indigo Girls visit WMWC on October 21, 1997.

I was a DJ at WMWC during the AM-to-cable FM days of the mid 1990s, sometimes spending up to six hours a week at the station spinning music. I had a stint as General Manager in 1997 and count my time at the station as one of the highlights of my years at Mary Washington. I also created the first web site for the radio station, launching it in 1996. No in-depth history of the station had ever been written, so it was then that it became my mission to learn more about the station’s origins and start to preserve as much of its history as possible.

WMWC station in the attic of Lee Hall. Visible is a table with a mixing board, cart machine, tape deck, CD player, and speakers hanging from the ceiling.
WMWC station, Lee Hall, October 1995

This month, working with current station staff, including WMWC’s president James Pryor ‘22 and Vice President Lu Sheikhnureldin ‘22  as well as Simpson Library’s Tammy Hefner, Convergence Gallery Supervisor and Marketing/Outreach Assistant and Carolyn Parsons, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, we’ve launched an exhibit at Simpson Library titled, WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021. The exhibit highlights the history of the oft-overlooked campus radio station and features physical artifacts from the station, including mixers used during the 1980s and ’90s, zines published in the early 1990s, a concert poster, and other equipment dating back to the station’s re-birth in 1978.

Display case at Simpson Library with a label that says "WMWC: 1939-2021." Included in the display are a yearbook, a zine, a large mixing board, a microphone, the Instant Replay cart replacement system, and a poster from a WMWC-sponsored concert of The Connells and The Goodguys from 1989.
The WMWC exhibit at Simpson Library, February 2021

It’s something of a miracle that so many artifacts have remained with the station, even after its move into the area it now inhabits in Woodard. This is a testament to the respect for the station’s history that its members have had, preserving the physical artifacts even though they serve no practical purpose in 2021.

The exhibit at Simpson Library runs through the first week of March. In addition, the station’s web archive has been relaunched at wmwc.org and features photos, a deeper history, and an audio archive of station IDs, interviews, and more. WMWC’s own web site is at wmwc.umw.edu, where you can still tune into the station to hear original programming and prerecorded shows.

Notes

  1. Bullet, October 25, 1940
  2. Battlefield, 1946
  3. Bullet, November 15, 1977
  4. WMWC A Reality! (1978, September 12). Bullet, p. 3

February 19, 2021

100 Years Ago

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Welcome back to the start of another semester in These Unprecedented Times.  

Many of us are anxious, depressed, confused, angry, hurt, stressed, lonely, or all the above. We are all very tired. But amid so much pressing and constant uncertainty, sometimes hopeful conversations emerge. Folks talk about how to help, how to change, and how to move forward to something better. 

In the University Archives, we spend a lot of time looking back. Scholars, historians, and other researchers who use our collections tend to look at our place in a historical context. When I started thinking about this blog, I did the same; I looked back at our history. I wanted to take a look back at the way we moved forward once before.

An aerial view of campus as it appeared in 1928. Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls are visible, as are the construction sites for Lee and Chandler Halls. The letters "FSTC" appear in large letters on the lawn below Virginia Hall.
An aerial view of the early campus (Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls), with Lee Hall and Chandler Hall construction sites visible.

100 years ago, our country and the world found themselves emerging from the dual tragedies of a crippling World War and a different global pandemic. Our community likely had to grapple with a new normal then, and had to determine how they would adapt to the change. While we here in 2021 think about what our future might look like, we can also take a moment to turn back and consider what we looked like emerging into the twenties of last century. 

It’s remarkable to see the differences, and yet still notice how some things stay so familiar. 

A woman sits alone in a double-occupancy dorm room, backlit by the windows behind her.
A student sits alone in her dorm room in either Willard or Virginia Hall, 1920.

A student alone in her room in 1920 strikes a recognizable pose for those of us here on the other side of 2020. We’re continuing to distance to keep each other safe, which means a lot of alone time for many of us. Depending on your situation, however, time alone might be a luxury.

About thirty students engage in unspecified physical activities on an athletic field, circa 1925.
Players gonna play! Students hit the athletic field, 1925.

Whether distancing alone or safely with family or “pods,” many of our students today stay active as a means of managing stress and finding some fun. Group sports might be a little complicated these days, but Mary Washington students have always found joy in play, whether it’s wearing a mask to work out in the Fitness Center, attending a group fitness class over Zoom, or donning a full calf-length dress for a basketball game. 

Group photo of the 1925 basketball team, dressed in matching scarves and long dresses.
The 1925 Women’s Basketball Team.

Those of us on campus in Fredericksburg might see some shades of the familiar in the photo below. Campus might have fewer Model-T Fords driving by these days, but the steps of Monroe Hall coated in snow is a sight you could see right now. However, now that we’ve adapted so well to virtual learning and working environments, the traditional snow day might be a thing of the past!

A 1920s exterior view of the Monroe Hall portico covered in snow as four women gather on the steps.
No snow days for these students either! Students stand on a snowy Monroe Hall portico.

Campus today is blanketed with snow but few students. But if you happen to be here, and you should find yourself considering picking up a sled and hitting Trench Hill between remote learning sessions and Zoom meetings, remember that your mask doubles as a face-warmer!

If you’ve been on campus recently, in addition to the recent snowfall, you may have also noticed a few changes around Virginia Hall. Mary Washington’s second-oldest residence hall is undergoing renovation to modernize the facilities for our residential students while preserving the architectural legacy of the building.  

Students in the 1920s sit grouped around tables in the library.
Students gather around tables to study in the library when it was contained in Virginia Hall, 1923.

Virginia Hall has been an adaptable building since its first phase of construction in 1914. As shown in the image above, it once housed the library. We’re looking forward to seeing the newest iteration of Virginia Hall and all it can offer to a new generation of students when it reopens in the near future.

100 years from now, I wonder what we will see. What changes are we making in our community today that will make an impact for tomorrow?

All images courtesy of The Centennial Image Collection, University of Mary Washington Special Collections and University Archives.

February 3, 2021

Celebrating our Fifth Anniversary

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Before 2020 ends, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the 5th anniversary of our Spinning Wheel blog. Named for one of Mary Washington’s oldest icons (present on the University’s first seal), it connects us to the school’s founding in 1908. But more importantly, the wheel’s forward motion symbolizes the University’s many changes through the years and beckons us to explore new, exciting ways of providing researchers with access to our collections and in meeting our preservation goals.

Thank you to each of you that have joined us on our blogging journey, as we write about the collections, UMW history, digital projects, new accessions, exhibits, services, records management, student reflections and more. This year has been difficult for everyone, and the staff in Special Collections and University Archives are grateful that our posts are an additional way we can communicate with each of you.

So whether it is to learn about our new projects, like this year’s captioning of the James Farmer Lectures series or revisit old favorites, like our post from Reunion Weekend’s History Harvest, we invite you to join us  here in 2021.

Happy Holidays!

December 18, 2020

Projects in the Digital Archiving Lab: Fall 2020

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As we near the end of the semester and residential students prepare to head home, Special Collections & University Archives staff are looking back over the past few months, grateful to the entire UMW community that made this a successful fall, despite the immense challenges and obstacles we encountered.  In the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL), we faced limited capacity in the space, remote consultations and trainings, and remote work for DAL staff – just to name a few! While our staff and students are used to creative problem-solving due to the nature of working with technology, they went above and beyond to complete a variety of projects despite the obstacles.

Here are a few of the projects we’ve been working on this semester:

  • The Curriculum Proposals Collection is a new digital collection in Preservica. This project consisted of migrating data from the University Curriculum Committee Proposal Archive, built in WordPress, to our digital collection and preservation system. This new collection includes curriculum proposals reviewed by the University Curriculum Committee from October 2012 – January 2020. In addition to being full-text searchable, researchers can browse and search by submission date, approval date, college, department, and more!
Screenshot of the Curriculum Proposals Collection in UMW Archive's digital collection database.
The Curriculum Proposals Collection preserves and provides full-text access to over 1,000 proposals submitted from October 2012 – January 2020.
  • Of course, digitization was also an important part of the semester! While many traditional in-person events moved online, the Digital Archiving Lab supported the community by scanning and photographing items for virtual learning, events, and publications. For example, in August, DAL staff digitized 20 lithographs for the UMW Galleries digital exhibition: “American Still Life: The Wildlife Lithographs of Maryrose Wampler.” These lithographs were too large for a scanner, but our DSLR camera and tripod were perfect for the job!
  • As part of our ongoing Call to Contribute initiative, staff continued to collect and process items that document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UMW community. A large aspect of processing is making sure that the content we collect will be accessible to all of our users. For example, it’s important that we caption videos, create transcripts for audio files, and ensure that text documents are fully searchable. Our student staff in the Digital Archiving Lab have worked tirelessly to caption over 20 videos, as well as embed the captions into video files and create documentation to help others with the process. (Thank you, Claire and Francesca!) We are looking forward to sharing these resources with you via our digital collections soon!
  • DAL staff continues to partner with the University of Mary Washington Herbarium, led by Dr. April Wynn, to add high-resolution specimen images and metadata to Eagle Scholar. This semester, in collaboration with Herbarium (and Library!) student employee, Chase Monroe, over 1,400 images have been added to the collection, bringing the total to over 3,500 images! Many years of hard work have gone into this project, made possible by fantastic student volunteers and employees who scanned specimens, collected data, and organized spreadsheets!
Screenshot of the eight scanned herbarium specimens in the Herbarium Collection in Eagle Scholar.
Years of hard work from students, faculty, and staff have resulted in over 3,500 specimen images and metadata added to Eagle Scholar!

Special Collections & University Archives staff are appreciative of our student and staff colleagues who made these projects, and so many more, possible this year. The Digital Archiving Lab may have looked different, but despite the challenges, we found creative ways to build collaborations and projects that we are excited to share with our community. Thank you for a successful semester in the Digital Archiving Lab!

November 20, 2020

Summer Reflections during COVID-19

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Megan Williams,’21

The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged and changed our world in unprecedented ways. It definitely also changed the plans I had for this year!

When the University closed I decided to take some time off from my work in Special Collections and University Archives to focus on my courses and apply for museum internships. This time was useful for my schoolwork, because last semester I was working on four different research projects! Additionally, it allowed me to find some unique and exciting internships. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 all the internships that I applied for were canceled leaving me without an internship for the summer. Luckily my position in Special Collections and University Archives was still open, allowing me to do some work in my field of interest.

Working over the summer was definitely an interesting experience, because I completed most of my hours from home. As most know from this whole experience working from home has its benefits and its downfalls. One of my favorite things was being able to have my Miniature Dachshund puppy, Blu, as my co-worker! While it was fun to work from home with him, I missed being able to work with items in the collection.

A daschund sleeps next to a computer.
My remote co-worker, Blu.

For the limited time when I was on-site at the Library, I worked on inventorying the student and faculty directories and accessions.

Student directories on a table.

But for most of the summer, the closest I got to items in the collection was going through editing the items in the History 298 Michael Mello Collection. Mello was an alum who advocated against the death penalty and other issues related to criminal justice. The items in this collection are primarily newspaper clippings and legal writings that Mello kept in detailed binders.

The purpose of this project is to get students in History 298 to digitize, transcribe, and describe items within the Michael Mello Collection. Since this site has been created over time by different students, the metadata is not always consistent. Having inconsistent metadata creates an issue for researchers accessing the content. Therefore my role for the summer was to go through the site’s 221 items to make sure that the proper metadata fields were filled out and that the transcripts were complete. This project was a lot of work and is definitely an ongoing one.

HIST298 Michael Mello Collection site

While the past six months have not been what I or anyone expected for 2020, I have definitely learned a lot from this experience! I am excited to see what the rest of this year brings and hope to be back on campus full-time come January of 2021. To those reading this post – stay safe, remember to social distance, and that it’s a great day to be an Eagle!

October 16, 2020

UMW Records Management: Fall 2020 (and beyond!)

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Welcome to the most unusual semester in history, Eagles! It’s September and the students are masked up, squeaky clean, and back on campus. We’re thrilled to have that energy back, and we’ve loved being able to welcome our UMW family safely back into Simpson Library.  

My colleagues in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab have already posted about all the work we’ve done in our department to help adjust to our “new normal” for the Fall. As the third element in Special Collections and University Archives, I’d like to take the opportunity to let you know what you can expect from Records Management. No matter what, you can still count on us to do our best to provide the UMW community with the service and support needed. 

Primarily, it’s important that everyone knows that we are still here! While telework remains the preferred method for those faculty and staff who are able, I and my colleagues in the library are still hard at work adapting our systems and processes for maximum accessibility. Remote help for Records queries is only an email, phone call, or Zoom away. In addition to the assistance I’m happy to provide, the Library of Virginia offers many helpful resources for records custodians, freely available online

1980s-era man typing on a computer.

With the majority of faculty and staff making the transition to remote work since March, we’ve all had to shift to embracing more electronic workflows. This is good news for the Records Management community! While it does present unique challenges, expanding electronic infrastructure and digital documents helps all of us as we continue to move into an increasingly more digital world.  

The Library of Virginia sets the standards for us as a state institution, and they’ve implemented an electronic method for completing the Certificate of Records Destruction (RM-3). This form documents the proper destruction of public records at the end of their retention period and is the form I see the most (here’s an example). In the past, the form has required physical signatures and a hard copy getting mailed back and forth at least twice. The current process involves a fillable PDF and no envelopes in the mail! It’s designed as a simpler procedure that the multiple needed signatories can complete from anywhere. 

Four women clean their cluttered dorm room. Two are standing holding brooms, one is on hands and knees wiping the floor, and the fourth is seated reading a newspaper.

The pandemic has also created time for some UMW folks to clean their offices. Often, this includes emptying out file cabinets. Sometimes, these file cabinets contain public records that are subject to specific disposition schedules. I’ve been fielding several questions from across campus about things that may or may not need saving. The short answer is that if it’s a public record, there is probably a schedule governing its disposition and we should discuss your next steps.

Remember: a public record is any recorded information used to transact university business, regardless of format.  

If you’re a records custodian, or you think you might be, or maybe you’re not sure, or you have questions about whether what you have is a record, please feel free to consult LVA’s helpful flowchart or contact me and we can talk! 

September 17, 2020

Special Collections & University Archives: Fall 2020

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Tomorrow begins the first day of classes at Mary Washington, and it will be different from any semester in the history of the University.  The first three weeks of the semester will be conducted remotely, and then there will be a window when students are able to return to campus before continuing their education remotely again after Thanksgiving.

Students and staff are masked ready for the opening of campus.

Tomorrow also marks the first day Special Collections & University Archives will be open by appointment to UMW students, staff and faculty since March 18.  In accordance with the University’s Return to Campus plan, our department has instituted guidelines to protect the health and safety of our researchers.

Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room

On-site access will be by appointment only at archives@umw.edu. Appointments will allow for cleaning in between researchers and give staff time to pull your materials in advance. As a precautionary measure during COVID-19, collections materials will also be quarantined following use. Researchers are required to wear a face covering, maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others during their visit, and wash their hands when handling materials.  Our SC&UA reading room and Digital Archiving Lab are both small, interior spaces and access will be limited to one person at a time along with a staff member.

Social distancing 2 person capacity sign

The SC&UA staff will continue to assist you remotely, as we have been all summer, and are available for research assistance and consultations by Zoom, Teams, or email. You can also access our many digital collections remotely.

Continue to contact us remotely with your research, instruction and digital archiving needs and thank you for your patience as we adapt our services in this uncertain environment. 

August 23, 2020