Digital collections

100,000 public items available in the DRS!

The 100,000th publicly available file in the Digital Repository Service was deposited in July: a dissertation from the English Department titled Women Writing Racelessness: Performativity And Racial Absence In Twentieth Century Women's Writing, by Sarah Payne. This milestone was achieved through the library's and the university's commitment to supporting open access to the scholarly output of the university, as well as to the archival artifacts that document the university's history.

Many of the 100,000 public files are discoverable through Google and other search engines, as well as portals like the Digital Commonwealth and the Digital Public Library of America, which are designed to bring together digitized materials from various sources. Thanks to the openness of these materials, the DRS averages more than 2,000 unique visitors and more than 3,600 file interactions each day. Public materials stored in the DRS have been cited by regional and national news organizations, including the New York Times and WBUR, as well as in Reddit discussions and Wikipedia articles.

Here are a few digital collections for you to explore:

The DRS will continue to grow as Northeastern faculty, staff, and students continue to produce articles, images, research, and artifacts that represent the tremendous work happening at the university. Faculty and staff are welcome to sign in to the DRS and upload their own research publications, presentations, monographs, and datasets at their leisure. To get started uploading lots of materials for large projects, contact your subject librarian or the library's Repository Team: Library-Repository-Team[@]neu.edu.

A Proud Past

A Proud Past Website

Located in Snell Library, Northeastern's Archives and Special Collections department collects the University’s history, as well as the history of social movements in Boston. Their goal is to secure and make accessible important and at-risk historical records. One of the special collections that lives in the Digital Repository Service (DRS) is the Boston-Bouvé College collection. Featuring photographs and records ranging from the college’s founding in 1913 until 1981, this archive helps trace the complex history of how the Boston School of Physical Education became Boston-Bouvé College.

The collection was first made into a website in 2003. After over a decade, the site was becoming outdated and hard to maintain. With the pilot program of the DRS Project Toolkit (now known as CERES: Exhibit Toolkit), there was an opportunity to breathe new life into the old website.

The Toolkit works on a repository-based architecture. First, groups like the archives load items into the DRS. Then, they are cataloged. For this project, cataloging is still ongoing due to the large amount of digital items in the collection. Then, once a collection is in the DRS, the Toolkit can help users easily create WordPress-based website filled with exhibits. In this case, Aubrey Butts, a Public History Master’s Student, used CERES: Exhibit Toolkit to re-create the old website with a fresh face, fresh metadata, and an explorable, searchable digital archive.

At the new website, users can learn about the history of the school, its curriculum, its leaders, and student life. In addition to the curated exhibits, the archive holds 128 images and 7 documents that users can explore and interact with.

To view the new website, go to aproudpast.library.northeastern.edu.

Erasing the tape

Buzz Aldrin on the moon Yes, Rebecca, I remember it! I was a little tyke at the time, but my parents woke me up and put me in front of the TV to see Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. They knew it was historic, Armstrong knew it was historic, the TV broadcasters knew it was historic. So you would think someone at NASA would have thought to put a sticky note or "Don't erase this" in red marker on that moon landing videotape, right? But, apparently...not. So the original video of the moon landing, according to NASA, was probably taped over in the 1970s. Fast forward to the 40-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and sure enough, NASA has spent over $200,000 restoring and "enhancing" television video copies of the moon landing with the help of a Hollywood film company. On the plus side, apparently the picture quality is better than the TV. You can compare them on the NASA web site. I've been thinking about the whole cost-benefit of preservation in the context of our Archives and Special Collections department, which is preserving and digitizing NU's history and local Boston history, too, hopefully more diligently than NASA! After all, does anyone here have 200 grand to spend restoring our stuff?

Images and belonging

I was fascinated to read in this morning's Boston Globe that a new and compelling image of Phineas Gage has recently been uncovered.  Gage is the famous 19th century Vermonter who was shot through the head with a piece of iron in an industrial accident, and survived--but with his personality completely changed. He became the subject of one of the most famous medical cases in history, illustrating the functions of different parts of the human brain. The photo was identified because the owner scanned it and posted it on Flickr.  What a great example of how content on the open web takes on a life of its own, and becomes something entirely different from what we thought, something that no longer belongs to us alone. In this case, the owner of the photo (it's actually a daguerreotype) originally thought it depicted a 19th century sailor with a harpoon.  But a Flickr viewer recognized it as something else.  High resolution scanning and zooming confirmed that the man is indeed Gage   Now the daguerreotype is no longer just a curio belonging to a collector, but an cultural artifact that belongs all of us. I wonder what our viewers will uncover from the images published in the NU library's Archives and Special Collections.  Are there Phineas Gages in our digital collections, waiting for you to discover them?