Category Archives: Student Aide Posts

Recollections from a Lab Aide

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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

“Quarantime”: Completing an Internship Remotely

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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

Marching Band Drum Returns Home to University Archives

Published Post author

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

Over the summer the University of Mary Washington received a unique transfer from the Music Department to University Archives. James Baker, founder of the College-Community Symphony Orchestra and former Music Department Chair, and his family generously returned a piece of UMW’s history by donating the bass drum from the Mary Washington College (MWC) “All-Girl Marching Band.”

"All-Girl Marching Band" Bass Drum in Special Collections

All-Girl Marching Band’s bass drum

Spanning from 1940 to 1958, the Marching Band was considered a “decided novelty” in the days before almost every high school had a marching band (Alvey 1974, 205).

"All-Girl Marching Band" members marching down the street in Fredericksburg at the annual Dog Mart.

The “All-Girl Marching Band “ in Fredericksburg at the annual Dog Mart, 1955

The founder of the “All-Girl Band” was Ronald W. Faulkner, who came to the college in the fall of 1937. Faulkner was a native of Greely, Colorado, a graduate of Julliard School of Music, and a flutist for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (Alvey 1974, 204).

Professor Ronald W. Faulkner Battlefield, 1947

Professor Ronald W. Faulkner Battlefield, 1947

When he came to MWC, Faulkner was given the specific task of organizing the instrumental instruction program. In this position, Faulkner was successful in establishing a program. In fact he established a concert orchestra, dance orchestra, and the marching band (Alvey 1974, 203-204). 

When the MWC “All-Girl Band” made its first appearance in 1940, everyone across campus was talking about it. The band “made a colorful appearance,” in their white skirts, blue jackets, white boots and the helmet headdress (Alvey 1974, 205). At the band’s first appearance a “rather prim lady on the faculty complained about the shortness of the skirts.” In response to this comment Mr. Faulkner famously remarked, “I’m glad she doesn’t have to wear one” (Alvey 1974, 206).

The entire marching band posing in their uniforms with the American flag and the Virginia State flag.

The “All-Girl Marching Band” posing in their new blue and white uniforms for the 1955 Battlefield.

The “All-Girl Band” had appearances outside of campus. During the years of World War II, the band played in many parades and rallies throughout Virginia. However, they primarily played in Richmond, Washington D.C., and Fredericksburg. For a number of years the band led Thalhimer’s Toy Parade. This parade occurred after Thanksgiving and marked the beginning of the holiday season (Alvey 1974, 208). The Thalhimer Toy Parade was one of many parades that the “All-Girl Band” performed in. Unfortunately for the “All-Girl Band” they were no longer unique by 1958. This lead to the marching band being discontinued, and the College putting more focus into the concert band (Alvey 1974, 408).

Two band members pose with the band’s instruments and trophies.

Band members posing with the bass drum, other instruments, and trophies.

Once the band was dismantled, the bass drum was stored in Pollard Hall until the 1980s when the building went through a major renovation. During this time, the College had a number of things scheduled to be replaced and updated, most notably the instruments. One of the items was the “All-Girl Band” bass drum. Luckily for Special Collections and the University Archives, President Anderson gave the drum to Dr. Baker who safely kept it through these years.

The thing that makes this drum unique is the signatures. The signatures on the drum include Al Hodge (Captain Video), Bert Parks, Hopalong Cassidy, Johnathan Long, Aldo Ray, Van Johnson, and Bing Cosby. It has been difficult to determine when and where the band got the signatures; however, the Battlefield, the University’s yearbook, has been a useful resource.

From looking at the Battlefield each year from 1940 until 1958 an estimated date range has been determined for when the drum got its signatures. The first signatures to appear on the drum were of Bing Crosby and Van Johnson, an American actor. These signatures are visible in the 1956 Battlefield 

The band posing for the 1956 Battlefield. In this image the bass drum is featured with Bing Crosby’s and Van Johnson’s signatures.

The band posing for the 1956 Battlefield. In this image, the bass drum is featured with Bing Crosby’s and Van Johnson’s signatures.

In 1957, the following year’s Battlefield features the drum with the additional signature of Aldo Ray, an American actor. In the last year of the “All-Girl Band” (1958), the Battlefield photo features the band in one of their signature formations, a heart. As a result of the placement, it is difficult to tell what signatures are on the drum.

The band posing in their signature heart formation. Battlefield, 1958

The band posing in their signature heart formation. Battlefield, 1958

If anyone has information about the Mary Washington College’s “All-Girl Marching Band” or the bass drum, please contact us at And if you are interested in viewing the drum, stop by Special Collections and University Archives during our open hours from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Tuesday through Thursday or email us if you would like to make an appointment.

Alvey Jr., Edward. History of Mary Washington College, 1908-1972. Charlottesville, VA: University Press, 1974. 

November 3, 2019

Student Aide, Summer 2019

Published Post author

Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Terra Dickinson

For Summer 2019 I worked as the Special Collections and Digital Archiving Lab student aide helping the department with a little bit of everything throughout my time. I started the summer session by doing small tasks. I inventoried The Battlefield yearbooks as well as The Polemics, created citations of old newspaper articles, documented new accessions in ArchivesSpace, and transferred metadata and pdf files from external hard drives to computers.  

As the summer went on, I began doing projects that took more time to complete. Most included digitizing photographs, scanning Honors theses using the Cobra scanner, as well as fulfilling reference requests. For the Centennial Image Collection project, I took the physical negatives that are stored in the archives and checked that all were scanned and uploaded into the digital collection. There were a few stragglers that still needed to be scanned. Here are some cool ones I added:

MWC Smokestack

MWC Smokestack

Chandler Hall image

Chandler Hall

As for the image requests, I downloaded high resolution files via the Centennial Image Collection. Here’s a photo of Marceline “Marcy” W. Morris, the drum major from Mary Washington’s All Girls Marching Band.  Check it out! I also transcribed the oral history of her time here at Mary Washington

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

My biggest project was the transcription of the oral histories. Spoken language and actual sentences, I found were two completely different things. When transcribing, the transcript shouldn’t include crutch words such as ‘ohs or uhms’, but still it shouldn’t be a grammatically perfect document, it should portray precisely what was said. I completed two transcripts of World War II vets that used the GI bill to attend Mary Washington College and two of their wives interviews as well. The first one took the longest but the more I transcribed the easier it got, but I still got the occasional inaudible! There are many different guides and handbooks to follow from different oral history groups and the Special Collections and University Archives does not have their own handbook yet, so sometimes I had to make my best guess as to what made sense. It was very interesting to hear about how the campus used to be in the 1940s and 1950s.  Who knew that the all-girls Mary Washington College allowed World War II veterans to attend?   

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

This summer working in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab has been a great experience. It was so interesting to interact with people’s memories of Mary Washington and all that has been collected in the University Archives.  


August 1, 2019

Adventures in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab

Published Post author

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

Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, 2018-2019

Published Post author

Written by Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky ’19

I officially started as a student aide in the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL) at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester. I became interested in working in the Lab during my ARTH 317 class in Spring 2018 semester. My class focused on planning an exhibition of 1926 alumni Margaret Sutton’s artwork in the Convergence Gallery entitled Margaret Sutton: Face to Face that required working alongside UMW Galleries and the DAL. When it came time to digitize the artwork for publication, I was more than happy to volunteer for the Lab to scan and photograph all of the artwork.

A scanned image of a work of art by Margaret Sutton in the 1950's. It shows seventeen costumed figures and the medium is ink on board.

Margaret Sutton, Untitled (Seventeen costumed figures), ink on board, 1950s. Accession Number 1993.11.0181, Courtesy UMW Galleries.

While working in the DAL, I learned the multidimensionality of archival work through working with different databases and methods of digitizing various different types of materials. One of the first projects I worked on involved editing the scanned pages of the 1668 Bible from the local Masonic Lodge (Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4). Details became apparent in the scans that were almost invisible to the naked eye and lead to many interesting finds within the book. I especially enjoyed learning about the Bible’s history from the Masons, and seeing their satisfaction in the finalized project.

A photograph of Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky, sitting in front of a computer monitor with multiple scan images on the screen. A Masonic Lodge member is standing and looking at the monitor.

Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky, discusses some of the images she processed. (Photo by Suzanne Rossi)

Another major project I worked on was digitizing all of the commencement programs from the university on the Cobra high resolution scanner. Seeing the progression of the university   through the layout of the program and its multiple name changes amazed me. Even though many of the programs prior to 1935 are missing, the archives still had the first commencement program of the school dating back to 1912. I found out so much about the university’s history through working on this project, and loved seeing the progression of the small changes UMW made to the program along the way. I got to work on the entirety of the project: scanning, editing, entering the metadata, and finally uploading all of the programs.

Collage of commencement program covers from 1912, 1961, and 2011.

The first, fiftieth, and one-hundredth Commencement programs for the University of Mary Washington

Being able to see a project from start to finish was incredible, because most of my other responsibilities were continuations from past semesters, such as working with the World War I posters, or projects intended to be multiple semesters long. Looking back on my experience, I am amazed by how much I learned in such a short period of time; from handling different materials, problem solving the best way to digitize, and especially working with databases to preserve the materials.

March 1, 2019

Archival Fun

Published Post author

Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide,  Ilana Bleich ’19

As the last few weeks of 2018 approach, you may need to flip ahead to your 2019 calendar. If you were a student at Mary Washington College in 1983 or 1984, your new calendar might feature a few of your classmates. The Men of MWC calendars were first published in 1983 by juniors Kathi O’Rourke and Becky Rogers as part of an independent study in a marketing class.

Figure 1. Article in The Bullet about the 'Men of MWC' calendars. November 15, 1983. Vol. 57, No. 8.

Figure 1. Article in The Bullet about the ‘Men of MWC’ calendars. November 15, 1983. Vol. 57, No. 8.

For the assignment, which was inspired by the much flashier Men of UCLA calendar of the time, O’Rourke and Rogers sold 140 copies within the first week at $4.00 each. The calendars were so popular that O’Rourke and Rogers copyrighted them and produced another calendar for 1985. By the second year, they even hired a professional photographer. These calendars were a light-hearted and fun way to promote the image of MWC.

Working as the student aide in the archives this semester has allowed me to come across many bits and pieces that make me laugh or smile, such as the calendars—archives aren’t always so serious! I think that archives and libraries have a reputation of being strict and preserving only the elite and important, but in truth there is so much more. Archives capture life in all its forms.

For example, the school yearbook, The Battlefield, used to have a section in the back devoted to funny things the students said. It is amusing to see how the students would tease their professors just as we sometimes do, and these pages are reflective of the sense of humor at the time.

Figure 2. The Battlefield , 1921

Figure 2. The Battlefield , 1921

Photographs from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s show students laughing, relaxing, enjoying each other’s company—and even studying in a bathtub! I love seeing pictures of students at early Mary Washington. They make me feel more connected to the school and its history. In a way, it is nice to see that we have always been loud, messy, and imperfect.

Figure 3. From top left to bottom right: 1958, a student reads in a bathtub; 1942, students stuff Christmas stockings; 1962, a pillow fight; 1963, students get rid of their beanies.

Figure 3. From top left to bottom right: 1958, a student reads in a bathtub; 1942, students stuff Christmas stockings; 1962, a pillow fight; 1963, students get rid of their beanies.

Working in Special Collections and University Archives with papers and books from as far back as the late 1400s has taught me that even as times change, human nature doesn’t always change with it. There will always be students who make silly comments to their professors, and there will always be photographs that capture smiles and good times. Here’s to hoping that we bring the best of human nature with us into 2019—no matter what your calendar may look like.

If you would like to see the Men of MWC calendars in person, stop by the Special Collections and University Archives in Simpson Library.

Sources Consulted:
Crawley, William. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Durham: BW&A Books, 2008.
McDonald, Kathy. “’MWC’ For Sale.” The Bullet, November 15, 1983.

December 6, 2018