Category Archives: Manuscript Collections

Farmer Legacy 2020

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These past weeks, the UMW community celebrated two civil rights “Big Four” leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.and Dr. James Farmer.

100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Farmer

100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Farmer in Chandler Ballroom

2020 marks the centennial of James Farmer’s birth and UMW is honoring his legacy and actions during  Farmer Legacy 2020 , a  year-long commitment to “promoting inclusive excellence and community and civic engagement in the classroom, on campus and in the community …”

Dr. Farmer joined the faculty at Mary Washington College as Commonwealth Professor of History (later Distinguished Professor of History) in 1985 and left his impact on the campus as he continued to share his work as a civil rights activist and educator.

Farmer speaking in the 1980s.

Dr. Farmer speaking in the 1980s.

To raise awareness and learn more about James Farmer, Simpson Library staff have created several exhibits, currently on display in the lobby and in the Convergence Gallery, with biographical timelines of Farmer’s impactful life and books to checkout on the Civil Rights Movement. An additional exhibit,  James Farmer’s Libraries, highlighting his personal collections of books and music, will open next month.

Exhibit, James Farmer: In His Own Words.

Exhibit: James Farmer: In His Own Words, 1920-1999 in the Convergence Gallery

Special Collections & University Archives houses Dr. Farmer’s records from the last years of his life. The complete finding aid to his papers and audiovisual materials can be viewed here. Our digital collections also provide a selection of images and audiovisual materials, including the James Farmer Reflections series, thirteen of Dr. Farmer’s lectures given when he was Professor of History. These primary resources are accessible within the online James L. Farmer Collection.

As we kick-off the University’s many Farmer-related events this year, Special Collections and University Archives is honored to support the year’s remembrance and calls to action by continuing to preserve our Farmer collections and make accessible Farmer’s words and ideas to inspire a new generation’s work for social justice and inclusion.

January 27, 2020

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

The Puzzle in the Archives

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Written by Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant

I have recently been processing the papers of Professor Dennis G. DaLuiso of the UMW Theatre & Dance Department. He taught classes and directed plays from 1971 to 1977, and gave to UMW Special Collections and University Archives papers pertaining specifically to the plays he directed, including Li’l Abner, Guys and Dolls, and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, among others. We have scripts, sometimes with directorial notations, programs, and photographs from many productions.

Four cast members sitting at a table with three casr members looking on from the right.

Some of the collection’s photographs are unidentified.

One of the interesting things, though, about archival collections is that often times there are items in the collections that have no or very little information about them. For example, there is an entire folder in the DaLuiso Papers that contains only a series of photographs. They are brilliant black and white shots taken during some of the DaLuiso-directed plays, but there is little identifying information to go with them. Some have the names of the actors scribbled on the backs of the photographs, but mostly I have no idea what plays these photographs portray.

Three actors stand in front with the sign "Available Jones" overhead. The woman in the center has a veil on and the man on the far right appears to be marrying the couple.

Sometimes the clues are spelled out for you.

One of the first puzzle pieces I was able to slot into place, was a photograph of a set which had a sign for ‘Available Jones’. A quick Google search told me that Available Jones was a character from the play Li’l Abner. Another photograph, showing actors standing around outdoors, can probably be identified as being a scene from The Great American Cliché, since the program from that play (put on for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976) said that it took place at the UMW Amphitheater.

The Great American Cliché performed outside.

The Great American Cliché performed outside.

The next step in putting the pieces together is asking for help from people ‘in the know’. First, our Digital Archiving Lab student aides digitized the photographs and jotted down all known information in a spreadsheet. Then we sent out emails to both a current Department of Theatre & Dance professor and the original photographer. The former could not identify anything himself; however, he did offer to ask Professor DaLuiso on our behalf. The photographer also told me he is looking into the identifications, so I am eager to hear back from him once he has finished his study.

Like other puzzles, identifying the people and plays portrayed in these photographs can be done more easily with many people involved in the process. Once we post the digitized photographs online in our digital repository, researchers, as well as other interested individuals, will be able to view them. With all these people working together, hopefully we will be able to solve this mystery.

April 11, 2019

In Process: The James L. Farmer Collection

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Most Mary Washington students, faculty, and alumni know about James Farmer’s legacy, both to American history and to our institution. One of the Big Four leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, he organized the Freedom Ride in 1961 to ensure desegregation of interstate transportation, co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and was a committed activist, leader, and teacher. His teaching career ended here at UMW, where he served as Distinguished Professor of History and American Studies from 1985 until his retirement in 1998.

Presidential Medal of Freedom. 1998. The James L. Farmer Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

James Farmer, a native Texan, donated his papers to the University of Texas at Austin, where they reside in the repository at the Briscoe Center for American History. However, portions of his papers remained at UMW and now live in our Special Collections. These materials primarily consist of items pertaining to his various professional interests and engagements in the last few decades of his life. Previous staff members and student aides have done some preliminary work with sorting and arrangement, and past students have done a lot of great work with pieces of his collection, but now his entire collection is being fully processed and described with the goal of making this whole valuable archival collection discoverable and available to the research community and greater public.

Processing the collection takes time and involves certain measures. We need to make sure we respect the integrity of the items and any original order that may have been established by the creator, but we also need to ensure the materials last as long as possible and can be reasonably used by researchers. These measures may include organizing the materials into series based on material type and/or subject, and taking practical preservation steps such as housing papers in acid-free archival folders and protecting photographs with mylar sleeves. Ultimately, we want to make sure these materials stay safe to help tell James Farmer’s important story for as long as they can, and we want to make sure that you can discover all the parts of the story available to you here.

Possibly the most interesting treasures in this collection are the audiovisual materials collected from Farmer’s time in Fredericksburg. They make up about a third of the collection. Among other items of interest, these document some of his lectures and various television and radio appearances over the course of his life. Fortunately, these materials have been digitized (alas, VCRs and reel-to-reel players are not too common any more). However, another not-so-glamorous part of processing involves sifting through the recordings to determine the relevant copyrights and ownership. It’s important to ensure that everything is credited properly and attributed to the correct source. Once that’s sorted, we can take steps to preserve the digital files (that’s for a post about our exciting digital asset management system another day!) and make these accessible along with the papers.

Stay tuned for updates! We’re working hard on completing the processing and hope to have the collection available soon.

August 18, 2017