Category Archives: Digital Projects

Reports from a Student Aide, Spring 2022

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This post was authored by Jamie Van Doren ’23, Special Collections and University Archives student aide.

As we round out the Spring 2022 semester, I’m happy to get the chance to reflect on my time as a student aide in the Digital Archiving Lab thus far. I started in February, and I’ve gotten to do interesting work that I’ve found both exciting and fulfilling. I’ve helped to scan and photograph documents for one of the school’s Historic Preservation classes, scanned documents from the Michael Mello files for our HIST298 class (which I’ve taken—and survived!), and learned how to reshelve and work with books in the Rare Books Room over in Special Collections. The project that I’ve spent the most time on, though, has been helping to edit transcriptions of our collection of Black Alumni Oral Histories, which will be up on Special Collections and University Archives’ Digital Collections site sometime soon.

Screenshot of Special Collections and University Archives Digital Collections landing page

You can check out all of the library’s uploaded alumni oral history interviews by clicking on the Alumni Oral History Collection on the Digital Collections homepage.

While the transcription process is tedious at times, this project has above all been a deeply rewarding experience for me. It feels like a meeting of all of my interests as a history major, a gender studies major, and a student aide hoping to become a librarian later on. It was my job to listen to student-conducted interviews with Black alumni, and edit the corresponding transcriptions for accuracy. The process is simple, but time consuming; one hour of interview most often took me three to four hours to transcribe and check through. This gave me a generous amount of time to absorb and consider the words of our alumni as I worked, and I really did enjoy every second of it.

Listening to and documenting the stories of these alumni has connected me with Mary Washington in a way that I don’t think I have been before. I’ve seen myself, my friends, and a greater image of Mary Washington itself in the recounting of our Black alumni. It has been a reminder for me that the people who have attended, and who currently attend, this school, are what give it such a deep and vibrant history. I know that I have shared dormitories, walked campus walk, and studied in the same library as so many amazing people. Even if we weren’t here at the same time, we have shared so many of the same experiences.

Each of us have our own stories here at Mary Washington, and I’ve been honored to hear and help share those of students before me. Hearing from our Black alumni is particularly valuable as our school grapples with its history (and present day) as a predominantly white institution. Many of the interviews discussed students’ experiences with racism/discrimination on our campus, in Fredericksburg, and in their lives as a whole. These interviews are a vital and important piece of our school’s quest to honor the experiences and stories of minorities on campus (check out the mural dedicated to the life of Mary Washington’s first Black graduate, Venus Jones, in Jepson Science Center or through the accompanying website for another example).

Screenshot of an oral history landing page on the Venus Jones mural companion site

Take a look at oral histories about Dr. Venus Jones’ life through digital collections and on the mural’s companion site.

These oral histories are an insightful and meaningful resource that all of our students, faculty, and staff will benefit from hearing. Not only are they great for those interested in the history and atmosphere of Mary Washington; they’re also just a joy to listen to as a whole. I got to hear so many funny, relatable, and helpful stories about our alumni’s experiences in school and in their lives and careers after their time at Mary Washington. The lives of our Black alumni are powerful, complex, and vibrant. It is so important that we continue to make space to hear their stories and get to know their lives and experiences as we work together to help the University of Mary Washington thrive.

April 28, 2022

Commencement Programs Collection Opens

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It seems appropriate to unfold one of our newest digital collections, Commencement Programs, in a year when nine separate UMW graduation ceremonies were held over four days! Graduation marks the final rite of passage for seniors who have worked tirelessly to achieve their academic dreams, and the commencement program is part of that special event, documenting the activities and graduates.

The earliest commencement program in the University Archives collection is a small publication dating from 1912. First Commencement Program for the State Normal School

It notes the ceremony took place in the Auditorium (Monroe Hall) and lists the “Presentation of the Athletic Trophy” as part of the event. The speaker was the Honorable J.D. Eggleston, Jr.

Photograph of Joseph D. Eggleston, Jr.

Joseph D. Eggleston, Jr. speaker at UMW’s (then the State Normal School) first commencement. Image: Virginia Tech Special Collections.

Eggleston was the Superintendent of Schools for Virginia at the time. He had been in the position from 1906-1912 and was an advocate in establishing the three normal schools for women – Harrisonburg in 1909, Fredericksburg in 1911, and Radford in 1912. His motto was, “Education should be the chief business of the state.”

Programs from the 1920s and early 1930s are sparse in our holdings. But after 1933, University Archives has every undergraduate commencement program, except for the 1936 issue.

100 years ago this single page document was the Commencement Program.

100 years ago this single page document was the Commencement Program.

Through the years the programs documented the University’s name changes, faculty and student awards, conferring of honorary degrees, and the first graduate programs.

James Farmer smiles and shakes President Anderson's hand upon receiving his honorary degree at the 1997 Commencement.

James Farmer received his honorary degree from President Anderson at the 1997 Commencement.

Initially an individual commencement program for the Master-level graduates was not published, as the students were small in number. But by 2003, individual programs were published for the graduate-level ceremony which often took place on a separate day. As you search through the collection, you will see there are still some years though where the two ceremonies are combined.

The 1983 program was the first to include graduates from the first Master’s program – the .Master of Liberal Studies (MALS).

The 1983 program was the first to include graduates from the first Master’s program – the .Master of Liberal Studies (MALS).

Enjoy browsing the Commencement Programs and check back soon to see more additions to our digital collections!

August 1, 2021

Celebrating Pride in the Archives: LGBTQ+ Alumni Oral Histories 

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Special Collections and University Archives is excited to announce our newest digital collection: The Alumni Oral History Collection! This collection aims to document and preserve the unique perspectives of Mary Washington alumni in their own words, and—with the permission of the interview participants—share them with the world!  

Large rock painted with a rainbow and the text "UMW does not discriminate."

UMW’s Spirit Rock displays a message of support for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The first interviews in the collection are the stories from the LGBTQ Alumni Affinity Group. These interviews were initially conducted by Professor Erin Devlin’s HIST 441: Oral History class in Spring 2019. Professor Devlin worked with Alumni Relations Executive Director Mark Thaden (’02) to identify oral history narrators through the affinity group. Thaden himself even agreed to participate!  

Students carried out, recorded, and transcribed the interviews with the alumni, and obtained permission from those participants who volunteered to have their interviews archived and shared. The interviews were transferred to Special Collections and University Archives where the transcripts were edited for clarity and style and then uploaded to Preservica, our digital preservation and access platform.  

Screenshot of the landing page for the Alumni Oral Histories digital collection.

Access all interviews and transcripts through our online Digital Collections page. Browse the whole collection, filter by subject, or enter a search term. All transcripts are full-text searchable.

The stories that make up the collection are as varied and interesting as the alumni who told them. Twenty-four interviews—over fifteen hours of interview content—cover the history of LGBTQ alumni at Mary Washington from the late 1960s to just a few years ago. Narrators provide wonderful glimpses of student life, friendships, and fun; there’s more than one awed perspective on seeing the campus for the first time, and a very Mary Washington meet-cute told from both sides. There are great stories of drag shows, road trips, parties, sports, activism, and inspiring individuals they remember from their days as students. 

The oral histories also feature some raw moments of struggle, grief, and uncertainty. Some alumni recount devastating national events, like 9/11 and the horrific 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd, and describe the impacts felt on campus. Others tell of complex family relationships, or the loss of friends. The narrators look back on their multitude of experiences with honesty, and it’s a privilege to listen. 

A large group of students assembled on Ball Circle. The students wear different colored t-shirts and appear to form a rainbow.

Students display a rainbow of solidarity during a campus Day of Silence event. Battlefield, 2013, p.4.

We are very happy to launch this collection in time to celebrate Pride Month! UMW Special Collections and University Archives supports all members of the LGBTQ+ community every day. We recognize that archives are not neutral, and we are actively working to make sure that when we help tell the story of Mary Washington, it includes all the important voices that deserve to be heard.  

 All images courtesy of UMW Special Collections and University Archives.

June 24, 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

March 18, 2021

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

“Quarantime”: Completing an Internship Remotely

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Intern, Cat Kinde ’21

“Quarantime,” as my family has taken to calling this shocking haze of life we find ourselves in, has definitely changed our lives in numerous and complicated ways.  One aspect of my life that was especially impacted was the way I completed  my internship.

This semester, I was an intern for the Special Collections and University Archives at Simpson Library supervised by Carolyn Parsons. Throughout this time, I learned and experienced in some small way what it means to work in a University Archives. One of the favorite parts of my internship was learning how to accession objects in the collection. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to create records for an archive if you are not actually in the archive!

When I got the email on March 11 stating that students were being sent home for three weeks, in the midst of many phone calls, reassurances, and speed packing, I remember worrying about many things, including the fate of my internship. Luckily, over the course of a rather lengthy email chain, Carolyn and Professor Harris, my faculty advisor, helped me devise a plan to continue my internship from a distance.

In March B.C.E (Before Coronavirus Era), Carolyn and I were working on a new exhibit for the archives. I had already assisted her with an earlier exhibit on James Farmer’s Libraries, and this next exhibit was to focus on women’s suffrage activities at Mary Washington. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. However, to our surprise my research showed there was actually very little suffrage activity on campus at the State Normal School (now UMW), so we decided to expand the exhibit to focus on national, state, and local levels.

Woman Suffrage Procession Program Cover showing a trumpeter on a white horse with the US Capitol in the background, 1913

Woman Suffrage Procession Program Cover, 1913 Library of Congress

Of course, none of that technically mattered if the building where the exhibit was supposed to be would be closed due to the global health crisis. Once again, Carolyn along with the equally amazing Digital Resources Librarian, Angie Kemp, came to the rescue, and we determined that the exhibit could be completed virtually through Timeline JS.

Student working on her online exhibit at home with white pet dog.

Working from home has a bonus perk – help from an extremely fluffy co-worker (not exactly helpful, but he is quite fluffy).

The switch from creating a physical to a virtual exhibit has been extremely interesting. The research behind the exhibit has been more or less the same, but the dynamics of what I needed to complete the exhibit has been quite different. I still worked on gaining permission to use photos and writing captions for them, but instead of using Photoshop to make sure the photos maintained a high quality when printed, I worked on cropping and arranging them directly into the exhibit space. The labels I wrote were also much more concise than they were before; otherwise the text would overtake the screen. Additionally, the majority of my work could be done in my pajamas. (Not that I couldn’t wear my pajamas at the library-it just would have been weird).

Student working at her kitchen table.

Although the couch, pajamas, and dog are all extremely appealing, I did try to create a semblance of a workspace at the kitchen table.

Either way, after many weeks of fast-paced learning, I am happy to announce the virtual exhibit is officially complete. You can view my exhibit here: “A Vote is a Counted Voice”: Celebrating the Centennial of a Woman’s Right to Vote, It was definitely a very different experience than the one I had been expecting when I started working on this exhibit, but I think it ended up being just as informative and interesting as the original, only in a different format.

Stay safe, stay sane, and I hope to see you all in the fall!

April 30, 2020

Photograph Digitization Project

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Claire Jackson. 

My very first day of work at the Digital Archiving Lab in the fall of 2019 was packed with a ton of new information. I wasn’t yet familiar with the University’s archives or even how they digitize and make them accessible through their databases. On my first day, I toured the first floor of the library, where Special Collections stores additional photographs, each one depicting a snapshot of Mary Washington’s history. These photographs were taken over the years by official Mary Washington photographers and since printed and organized into folders according to date and subject matter. They range from the trees on campus walk to Commencement celebrations. Each one of these photos held its own meaning to an institution that I had joined just a month prior.

A photograph of the Fitness Center on a sunny day, taken from campus walk near Jepson Hall.

Photographs from the early 2000s show many changes to campus, such as the addition of the Fitness Center in 2004. Photograph by Lou Cordero.

The process of digitizing these photos is what I will detail here. Over the course of the semester, two other student aides and I digitized around 655 photos. The process always started with being assigned a folder that had a label with its title and the cabinet/row it came from. Once a folder was assigned, gloves were worn to take the photo out of its sleeve and to place it on the flatbed Epson scanner in the Digital Archiving Lab. Photos were placed roughly in the middle of the scanner so that there would be room to crop off the side, as well as straighten the image later.

Next, the settings on the Epson scan software were set. Depending on the image, the scan was set for color or grayscale. All photos were scanned at 600dpi and as a TIFF file, both of which are standard for preservation. No additional advancements (i.e. color or backlight correction) were used to digitize the image, keeping it as close to the way it appears. After the settings were set, a preview scan was conducted, which allowed for a crop to be drawn. At this stage, a generous border was used around the image, as an additional crop would be done later in Photoshop. A final scan was done, and then the image was opened in Photoshop.

The first step in Photoshop was to straighten the image. The straightening tool was drawn along one side of the image. Photoshop then automatically turned the image, so the line that was drawn was straight. After this, a final crop was done, still making sure to leave a small white border around the image so that it was clear that no part of the image was cropped out. The image was then saved, compressed to 300dpi, and saved as a JPEG file. 300dpi JPEG files are easily accessible on the web for download, unlike the larger TIFF files. Both the original TIFF and compressed JPEG file were saved onto the archives’ hard drives for storage.

A screenshot of a photograph opened in Photoshop software. The screenshot depicts the straighten tool being used in Photoshop to straighten a crooked image. The image in Photoshop used for this example is of the clock installation in front of Woodard Hall.

The straighten tool in Photoshop is drawn along the top edge of the photo. Photograph by Debra Garrett.

The next step in the process was to upload the images to Omeka, which is a content management system that allows for the creation of private or public digital collections. Each image that was uploaded was done so individually with its own form. Much of the information that was added to this form came from the information supplied on the back of the photograph. Most photographs were labeled with a date, the photographer, and occasionally names of the people photographed. If a title was not supplied, an appropriate one was created by the student aide. The folder name and cabinet number of the folder where this image came from were also put into this form. This step was taken so that if later someone finds this image online and wants to examine it in person, we know where exactly to locate it.

A screenshot of the data entry form in Omeka showing the following fields and values for an example photograph. Some fields have more than one value. The fields shown in this screenshot are the following: Title, "Clock Tower Installation;" Source, "2004-2005, Cabinet 3, Drawer 1" and "Events on Campus;" Date, "2001-04-09.”

A title, the source according to the image folder, and its date were added to Omeka.

One of the most essential pieces of information we put into Omeka included subject headings related to the image. Before processing took place, a list of common subjects, including names, buildings, and campus events, was compiled. This list specified all the names and abbreviations a single item could be called. This is important, because throughout Mary Washington’s history buildings have gone by different names or even a person by their nickname. This list also allowed the aides to know what to pick out of an image that would be important for someone searching for it later. My favorite subject we came up with is “bench sitting.” It really goes to show just how specific to UMW we wanted to be when identifying photos!

A screenshot of the data entry form in Omeka showing the following fields and values for an example photograph. Some fields have more than one value. The fields shown in this screenshot are the following: Subject, "Clock Tower" and “Construction”; Description, "Close up of clock. The clock is embellished with silver details and sits in a wooden carrying crate." and “Image Text: Text on clock face reads: Mary Washington College 1908."; Creator, “Garrett, Debra.”

Subjects according to the index list and a description for this photo were put into Omeka.

Other information that was included in the Omeka form was any text in the photo or on the back, as well as the language it is in. The dimensions and original format were also identified. Once all the information was added, the image was uploaded, and the form was marked as “needs review.” Before these photos with their metadata can be uploaded to Preservica, Special Collections & University Archives staff will review the work of the aides. The process was now done and repeated for a few hundred more photos!

April 16, 2020

Captioning James Farmer’s Reflections Lectures

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Written by Francesca Maisano ’21, Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide.

In preparation for UMW’s Centennial Celebration of James Farmer, Farmer Legacy 2020: A Centennial Celebration and Commitment to Action, the Special Collections & University Archives Department, specifically the Digital Archiving Lab, was tasked with captioning a series of filmed class lectures of James Farmer. These date from 1987, when Dr. Farmer was Commonwealth Professor in History at what was then Mary Washington College. Captioning the videos will make the videos accessible for those who have hearing impairments. Transcripts are also very important to include in audiovisual collections and had been previously created by Laura Donahue ’12, Michelle Martz ’12, Kelsey Matthews ’13, and Caitlin Murphy ’12, students in Dr. Jeffrey McClurken’s 2012 Adventures in Digital History class for their website on James Farmer’s Reflections Lectures.

The basic captioning process went as follows:

First, the videos were uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was chosen as it automatically captions videos, so the words and timings would already be there. However, you have to use Creator Studio Classic, not YouTube Studio Beta, as the latter does not do captioning. This took about 10-15 minutes, as it includes both the time for uploading and processing.

Screenshot of YouTube showing a video is being uploaded, as referenced in Step 1.

Videos can be uploaded to YouTube for automatic captioning.

Then, the automated captions were edited. YouTube automated captions can often not be particularly accurate. However, as James Farmer’s voice was so clear and he spoke relatively slowly, the captions were more accurate. Most of the editing was to add punctuation, which automated captions do not have, and check for spelling mistakes, mostly of names. For example, YouTube does not recognize that Fredericksburg is an actual name, so it would misspell it in the same way in every video (the automated captions may have been wrong, but at least they were consistent!). Another name that YouTube did not recognize was CORE, Farmer’s Civil Rights organization, which it would often misspell as “core,” all lowercase. It also did not recognize another frequently talked about organization: the Civil Rights organization, SNCC. I found it easier to edit wording and adjust timing in YouTube than in Adobe Premiere Pro, so most of the editing was done at this stage. While the times varied between videos, as some were a little shorter than others, and some videos’ captions were more correct than others, it would often take around an hour plus to complete the work.

Screenshot of YouTube in which captions of a video are being edited, as referenced in Step 2.

In YouTube, you can edit automatic captions through Creator Studio Classic.

Once the captions were done, they were downloaded then uploaded with the .mpg clip into Adobe Premiere Pro. The captions were lined up and the wording was checked to make sure nothing had happened between YouTube and Adobe Premiere. One common issue was that instead of quotation marks in the captions there would be stars. Another common issue was that text would stretch nicely across the YouTube video, but on the Adobe video the text would run off the video, the line of text being too long, and then the text would be cut off.

Both of these issues required scanning through the text and editing any mistakes in the captions and adjusting the length of the lines of the text if they were too long, adding another 5 to 20 minutes of time to fully complete the work.

Screenshot of Adobe Premiere Pro in which captions of a video are being edited, as referenced in Step 3.

In Adobe Premiere Pro, captions can be edited after they’ve been inserted into the project.

Finally, the videos were exported with the captions from Adobe Premiere Pro, which embeds the captions into the videos. This took between 3-4 minutes per video.

Screenshot of Adobe Premiere Pro depicting a video being exported as referenced in Step 4.

After uploading and editing videos in Adobe Premiere Pro, the videos can be exported into a single, open-captioned video.

Overall, captioning the videos was both an enjoyable and educational project. While editing, there were times I would listen to a sentence or two over and over again to make sure the wording was correct. James Farmer really was a fantastic orator! I also learned a great deal about the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up what I learned about the Civil Rights Movement was surface-level and never for very long. These videos allow for people to learn and understand the history, events, and people of the Civil Rights Movement from someone who was involved in and personally led the movement. Listening to Farmer made it more personal and impactful to me, as it was not just words in a textbook but a person, with his memories and emotions, talking about his experiences. It was not always pleasant to listen to, as he would talk about discrimination, violent racism, and even death, but I always left more knowledgeable on the subject and ruminating on the past, present, and future.

Both captioned and uncaptioned videos along with the transcripts are now available on Simpson Library’s Digital Collections platform. We would also like to give special thanks to the many colleagues at UMW and other institutions who gave wonderful advice on this process!

November 26, 2019

Adventures in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Graduate Intern and Volunteer, Colleen Hybl

While I knew that I would learn and complete many different tasks as a graduate intern and as a volunteer, I did not realize the variety of tasks and skills that I would do. For the Spring 2019 semester, I was a UMW Special Collections and University Archives intern for my Masters of Management in Library and Information Science program, where I needed to gain experience in an academic library and digital preservation setting. This meant I spent half of my time in Special Collections and the other half in the Digital Archiving Lab. Then as a Digital Archiving Lab volunteer I am working on the Alumni Oral History Project.

In Special Collections, I was tasked to examine the President William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection boxes to look for duplicate materials, paperclips, privacy information, incorrect file names, and misfiled materials. Then I put barcodes in the management system, ArchivesSpace, and put them on the boxes. I also put labels on the boxes to identify them. This project took more time than originally conceived, because I was supposed to do over 30 boxes. I managed to complete 19 boxes out of a collection of over 30 boxes, which was satisfying for I saw them in their uniform barcodes and labels.

Two photographs side-by-side depicting boxes of grey archival boxes lined up on the Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room Table. Together they show 19 boxes in the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection.

Left Photo: Boxes 1-6 of the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection. Right Photo: Boxes 7-19 of the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection.

In the Digital Archiving Lab, I did two tasks: scan photographic prints and negatives for a future digital collection and create a scanning and metadata guide. Older visual materials from UMW’s University Relations & Communications Department were transferred to the Archives to preserve and make accessible. This meant each photograph must be scanned, saved in an archival format, and have metadata. Each type of photographic material was treated in a slightly different manner for scanning purposes. I worked on the folder labelled “Belmont” as in Gari Melcher’s Belmont. This folder had many different types of material, including a surprise type of negative: a 4×3.4 inch black and white negative. This negative type looks like a standard film, but it does not follow traditional photographic film dimensions that we had previously encountered. By not having more information about this specific type of film, it can be more difficult to preserve the original item, but at least we still have the film in a digital format.

Two photographs side-by-side. The left photograph shows the front side of a 4 inch by 3.4 inch film negative and the right photograph shows the reverse side of the negative. It is possible to see that the negative is an image of Belmont.

These two images show the front and back of 4×3.4 inch black and white negatives.

Besides scanning the photographs, I created metadata for each individual item, which allows people to search for them in the digital collection. To create the metadata, I followed the principles of Dublin Core. Dublin Core is a type of metadata standard that allows flexibility to describe an object, but still has uniformity that everybody can follow. You can learn more about the Dublin Core metadata elements we used for this project here:

While learning about scanning and metadata was interesting and helped me gained skills as a librarian, my favorite task that I completed was the UMW Publications Scanning and Metadata Guide. This document was created to help future student aides and interns on scanning documents and creating metadata. The new guide has step-by-step instructions, screenshots, diagrams, and examples. I was so pleased with this guide! I also learned that my guide was used by the Historic Preservation Department for their work. This made me happy, because it meant my work was of high caliber, warranting use by other departments.

Even though my internship ended, I am still working in the Digital Archiving Lab for the summer to assist with projects that may not have a chance to be completed during the school year. I am currently working on a transcript project for the Alumni History Project. For this project, I am learning a different skill: the art of writing/editing transcripts. Transcripts are the written words of an audio file that help listeners comprehend the spoken words or are used by researchers to isolate the information they need. Depending on your institution, there are varying guidelines for writing transcripts, such as deciding how to write a pause or what to do with slang language. This meant it has been a challenge to figure out what must be included in the five transcripts I am reviewing. Because I have never done transcript work, it has taken more time than I originally thought. Currently, I am still working on the first transcript, but I am on the final time on listening to the audio to double-check my notes. I hope to learn more as I continue my volunteer work.

July 11, 2019