“She may be gone, but she will live on in our hearts” – Laura Stillwagon
Allison Rogers is not dead, but she has left Digital Collections (Digi) to find a position more in line with her field of Computer Science in the corporate world. So, she really has in a way moved on, just professionally speaking. While her brief immersion into digitization and archiving seems a bit left field, her time at Digi provided an opportunity to explore work that marries information and computer science with the humanities. Even though on the application side, she learned little within the realm of STEM at Digital Collections, she did learn about how truly professional women conduct themselves in positions of leadership.
Her introduction to the job and the position was through a friend. She thought metadata sounded interesting, being data about data, something she is familiar with. When she started here, she worked on scanning letters, invoices and manuscripts for a collection on the American Revolution. She then moved on to newspapers where she spent most of her time. In 2019, she digitized 27,293 pages of newspapers put on microfilm. Now with Capgemini, she is an IT consultant.
Working at Digi gave her the opportunity to see her field from another perspective, but more than that she observed the characteristics and actions of women in professional positions of leadership. Even though Digi doesn’t involve the field of STEM, she believes that the women that work in the office showed her characteristics of women with integrity, leadership and skill, unencumbered by needless competition and the desire to impress. Only women run the office of Digi and they are 100% themselves, seeking to push digitization and the library forward with their skills and improve the professionalism of the part-time student workers and other staff who work for them.
Allison said that she wants to work in the large field of Library and Information Science in the future, but she may have said this just appease those who are in archiving, librarianship and digital humanities.
If you are at home, like most of us these COVID-19 days, and looking for something to do, try a search in the South Carolina Historical Newspapers (SCHN) to see how past generations coped with similar situations. Better yet, focus the search on your city or county and you should find a few articles that might put some of what we are going through into perspective and help us realize that we will get through this. The SCHN repository contains small South Carolina newspapers dating from about 1815 to around the 1950s. I searched for “pandemic” and “influenza” and ordered them by date, starting in 1911.
At the beginning there was not much. A 1907 article from The Ledger (Gaffney City, S.C.), discusses the history of pandemics and notes the Justinian Pandemic in the 6th century and the Black Death in the fourteenth century.
Fast forward to the twentieth century and there is an article in The Horry Herald (Conway, S.C.) from 1911 talking about the Asiatic Cholera which sounded scary and was also rampant in Italy and knocking on New York City’s door. Federal and State agencies worked hard to ensure that it did not spread.
As 1918 arrives, there are a lot more hits. The Spanish Influenza was widespread and after retreating during the summer, returned hard in October. The Library of Congress’s Research Guide can help you find articles on this topic from papers across the country, but many of the articles in the SCHN are only available through our local repository. Some articles are duplicated in different papers and it begins to sound eerily like the present day. For instance, there were rules to not congregate. There were city ordinances to wear masks. Colleges, schools, theaters, and restaurants closed. Sundays were extremely quiet with no one attending church. Newspaper delivery relied on substitutes who did not know the routes; an issue we don’t have now that everything is online. There were many articles from health organizations explaining what is going on and what to do. The Bamberg Herald on October 17, 1918 published an article, which shows up in a few papers, that gives “Uncle Sam’s Advices” stating that coughing and sneezing spreads the disease from person to person.
By 1920 the local SC newspapers are turning to other news, but the Abbeville News and Banner published a report from a doctor about Pellagra, a vitamin deficiency, and how it was mostly stamped out in South Carolina. The report made sure to note that the after-affects are much worse than the flu.
In the early 2000’s, if you search through the USC student newspaper, The Gamecock, you find about 20 relevant results on articles about the SARS epidemic, or Bird Flu, that started in China. There is a small article in 2003 about travel bans because of the epidemic. In 2005 and 2006, two articles really touch on some of the similarities that we are living through now. The
I find comfort in firsthand accounts of history, like newspaper articles, for they
show that people have dealt with similar issues before, and the stories they tell in the end are quite fascinating. What stories will we be telling? How will life change once this is over? One thing they didn’t have helping them get through the Spanish Influenza is the Internet. We are certainly very fortunate to have that to keep us somewhat sane and connected to not only our friends and family, but our neighbors around the world.
What do the South of the Border’s Sombrero Tower and the massive antenna array that used to sit atop the World Trade Center in NYC, have in common? Weird question, yes…but in fact they were both constructed by Kline Iron & Steel Company right here in Columbia, South Carolina. These are just two of the very diverse projects created by Kline over it’s 80 year history.
Kline Iron & Steel Company (1923-2003) earned a reputation for supplying high quality steel products as well as being a company that fostered great loyalty and respect between employees and owners. Many who worked at Kline likened it to being part of a family, which contributed to its unusually low turn-over rate of employees. The fascinating story of the development of this long-time, iconic Columbia company is brought to life through the Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections featuring over thirty oral history interviews compiled by UofSC’s Department of Oral History.
This collection is just one part of an exciting project we have been working on here at Digital Collections. We have been migrating various oral history collections into our Cdigital collections repository (hosted by OCLC’s CONTENTdm) from the Department of Oral History. They have a robust offering of oral histories that provide first-hand accounts and insights on life in South Carolina. Most of these interviews are available as both audio recordings and interview transcripts. Additionally, the Department of Oral History has created wonderfully rich online exhibits for many of these collections that feature photographs, print materials, manuscripts, timelines and more. Of course, we link directly to those exhibits from our landing pages.
By adding these oral histories to our digital collections repository they become discoverable along with the many other digital collections that are represented there. So, a user’s search will potentially return photographs, print materials, maps, and manuscripts along with oral histories all from a single database. Also, these collections will eventually be harvested into the South Carolina Digital Library and will be discoverable statewide along with items originating at over 60 institutions across South Carolina.
We are excited to be making the Kline Iron & Steel Company oral histories and the many other oral history collections more broadly available. We believe patrons will find them interesting and rich resources for South Carolina History. Go to the Dept. of Oral History to check out the many collections they already have available online and keep an eye on Digital Collections’ database as we continue to add those collections as well.
Although the project regularly continues to expand as the Center for Digital Humanities discovers new, exciting possibilities for showcasing the wonders within Piranesi’s works, the current goal is to create an interactive, virtual exhibit of 29 volumes of Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi’s etchings. Piranesi was an eighteenth-century artist famous for his etchings of Rome and his fictitious prisons (or Carceri d’invenzione). His work is breathtakingly beautiful and astonishingly detailed. Although I had little exposure to visual art before I started working in Digital Collections, I have since become a huge fan of Piranesi’s work. My favorite part of my job is opening a new volume and exploring the etchings inside for the first time as I scan each of the pages. You never know what you’ll find!
My work consists of scanning the etchings volume by volume to create TIFF copies of the images. I then convert these files to JPEGs and subsequently use Photoshop to create cropped copies of the images for the Center for Digital Humanities to use. The biggest surprise I have encountered so far is how difficult and tedious the scanning process can be. The volumes I work with are bound so that there are big gaps between pages, and the heavy ink can cause the etchings to warp. My job is to get as perfect of a scan as possible. Usually this means invoking techniques such as positioning foam or fabric underneath the pages, using weights to prop up the spine, pulling pages tight with a ruler, and adjusting the pressure of the scanning beds against the book, all while exercising great caution not to damage the books or pages themselves.
Occasionally, when I encounter very difficult pages, I have to take over ten scans to get a usable image. It is tedious and highly detailed work, and it took me several weeks to become fully comfortable scanning independently. Nevertheless, I love my job, and I am very excited to get to be a part of the Piranesi project. I hope that those who view the Piranesi exhibit after its completion find his work as captivating and interesting as I do. To learn more about the project click here. To view our work to date, visit the Piranesi project website.
Mark Catesby’s 1731 book “Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas” is the first published work to document the natural history of the southern and tropical regions. The illustrations and accompanying text detail life in these regions like no other naturalist had done before. You can see his influence in the work of others like James John Audubon. To learn more about these works and about Mark Catesby, you can check out the Catesby Centre. As the graduate student working on this project, I am scanning and working on the metadata for these volumes and prints.
Catesby’s Natural History spans two huge volumes. They are about 350 pages each. What makes them truly large is that they are printed on “Elephant Folios”, or extra-large sheets of paper, which makes it a bit of a challenge to scan. Here in Digital Collections, we use several different scanners, but for this project I have been using the Qidenus, our book scanner, a lot. Between maintenance checks and calibration, it can get a little out of whack from so much use. For example, recently I discovered a slight tilt in the glass frame, while not a detectable problem with a smaller volume, it is a much bigger deal when you are working with such large volumes. But I am nothing if not dedicated to getting it right. It just requires creativity and a lot of foam pieces, of which we have plenty. Below, a time lapse condenses about 25 minutes worth of set-up into a 30-second clip so you can see all the little adjustments it takes to capture the pages perfectly.
Above: Kendall setting up the Qidenus; view is horizontal.
At this point, I have scanned two sets of volumes and a collection of loose prints, however there is still quite a bit to do before this will be completed. After the Qidenus received needed maintenance, scanning has gone by quicker, but metadata will take some time. It is going to take a very collaborative effort with experts across campus to do this collection justice. I look forward to keeping everyone in the loop as we work out the nitty-gritty of metadata for a vast Natural History collection.
This project has been an invaluable opportunity to learn more about what it takes to digitize a rare book collection. It has also been a chance to learn more about the natural history of the area. When curiosity gets the better of me, I occasionally look up the birds and other animals to compare them to Catesby’s accounts. It’s really entertaining to see how the actual animals match up to their representations. Pretty soon, you’ll probably catch me bird watching on my hikes. I have included some of my favorite images from Catesby’s work below. I especially love the “Summer Red Bird” or summer tanager.
Watch this space for more natural history and updates on the project!
James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist that was involved with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Freedom Riders, the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and community service in his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina. McCain’s deeds in the Civil Rights Era are numerous, and it’s difficult to select just a few to highlight from this collection of his personal calendars and planners. From court trials, civil engagements and encounters with the FBI, his actions are something to behold as are his records of the racial crimes he sought to end. Looking at one year of his life through his calendars, you can begin to piece together his tireless days in pursuit of equality.
Calendar Year 1961: Freedom Ride
The calendar McCain kept in 1961 contains details on notable events and figures of the Civil Rights Era (1954-1968), like the first Freedom Ride. The first ride in 1961 was led by CORE and consisted of a group of white and black activists that took an interstate bus from Washington D.C. to New Orleans to evaluate how effective the Supreme Court ruling on public bus desegregation truly was. McCain makes note of the arrests and trials of students who participated in this protest. Many of these participants were beaten despite their nonviolent protest (Pace, 1993). All the while, McCain continued recruiting and training more members to the cause from SC to New Orleans, all the way down to Florida. His unceasing efforts to keep the Movement going is astounding.
One major figure in this first Freedom Ride was James “Jim” Peck. McCain wrote at one point, “May 23rd, “Gov. of S.C. attacked Freedom Riders in state paper and especially Jim Peck. Ask[ed] Justice Dept. to investigate riders [sic.].” A white Civil Rights pacifist and a member of CORE, Peck was a non-violent activist, beginning in the 1940s with his membership with the War Resisters League (Pace, 1993). He played a large role in organizing the Freedom Ride from Washington state to Alabama, and he was amongst the few who were severely beaten when their trip ended in Birmingham (Gross, 2006). To read the full newspaper article, titled “Hollings Deplores Violence Asks Probe of ‘Riders’” by Bill Mahoney, click here [PDF will automatically download]. McCain’s notes on the SC Governor’s remarks concerning Peck and the other freedom riders serve as another account of the atmosphere at the time surrounding the efforts of those seeking racial equality using non-violent protests.
McCain himself was also impressive in his demeanor. He wrote about how the FBI paid him a visit on November 24th. They questioned him about the Trailways bus terminal accident that took place in Jackson, Mississippi on November 16th. His tone in the entry was very unconcerned. It was just another day in his life; to be added to his schedule as a simple report. This shows how courageous he was, and his passion for racial equality was more important than any fear of being hounded by authorities. McCain concluded 1961 strong, showing that he was not slowing down for this fight.
More on the way soon!
Processing this collection is something to behold. There are many other events, crimes and atrocities—many needless injuries and deaths—McCain has mentioned, and the steps he took to protest and end them. There is much more history to come as we finish up Box 1. Stay tuned!
Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas is an important resource for studying the animals and habitats living in these areas. Catesby’s works are some of the only remaining sources we have for many now rare and extinct animals. These historical records continue to be a valuable resource in discovering and protecting our biodiversity.
Over a hundred years ago, the Passenger Pigeon went from being the most numerous bird in America to complete extinction. Descriptions of these birds highlight the enormity of their numbers saying, “Throughout the 19th century, witnesses had described . . . sightings of pigeon migrations: how they took hours to pass over a single spot, darkening the firmament and rendering normal conversation inaudible” (Yeoman 2014). Catesby echoes this in saying that their numbers were so great “that in some places where they roost, which they do on one another’s backs, they often break down the limbs of Oaks with their weight, and leave their dung some inches thick under the trees they roost on” (Catesby, 1731, p.23). Sadly, these birds were hunted to extinction with the last one dying in captivity in 1914 (Yeoman, 2014).
Around the same time that the world lost the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet also became extinct. Carolina Parakeets were sighted and described by Catesby and much later by John James Audubon. While these birds were once numerous in many areas in North America, they are no longer. “What’s more, scientists don’t know what really drove these parakeets to extinction. Some thought it was habitat loss. Some thought it was hunting and trapping. Some thought disease.” (Burgio, 2018). Catesby cites that, “The orchards in autumn are visited by numerous flights of them; where they make great destruction for their kernels only”, which is a supporting argument for hunting and trapping due to damages as a means of extinction (Catseby, 1731, p.11). Interesting fact: both Martha, the last know Passenger Pigeon, and the last captive Carolina Parakeet were held by the Cincinnati Zoo.
Right click on image to see it full size.
Catesby’s descriptions can give us insight into the history of many unique animals. For example, not extinct, but categorized as endangered, is the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, which has nearly disappeared since the time of Catesby’s works. Though there have not been any conclusive sightings of the woodpecker in 73 years, the species is still categorized as critically endangered (Donahue, 2017). Birds are not the only species recorded by Catesby to have found themselves in dire straits. He also included a few sea turtles in his works that are all now categorized as vulnerable or worse. The Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill sea turtles are illustrated and described in Catesby’s Natural History. Hawksbill sea turtles in particular are critically endangered due to threats from habitat loss and illegal trade (NOAA Fisheries, n.d.). Catesby’s accounts of these creatures may hold valuable information about cultural practices and environmental causes for their decline.
While it is sad to learn about the demise of these species, it is also incredible that we have Catesby’s accounts to reference and learn about their significance. The animals mentioned above are not the only ones that Catesby identified that have become endangered, but just the few that I chose to focus on. Coming up, I plan to share more about the incredible (and sometimes rare) animals and plants captured in their environments by Catesby.
Catesby, M. (1731). The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants : particularly the forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by authors : together with their descriptions in English and French, to which, are added observations on the air, soil, and waters, with remarks upon agriculture, grain, pulse, roots, &c. : to the whole, is prefixed a new and correct map of the countries treated of. London: Printed at the expence of the author, and sold by W. Innys and R. Manby, at the West End of St. Paul’s, by Mr. Hauksbee, at the Royal Society House, and by the author, at Mr. Bacon’s in Hoxton.
The M. Hayes Mizell Papers is an important collection that Digital Collections (Digi) is currently working on. This Civil Rights collection consists of over 160 boxes which is the largest that Digi is currently digitizing. These past few months I have been scanning box 111 which is a collection of speeches by, or connected to, Mizell from the 1960’s and 70’s. As mentioned in my previous blog, Hayes Mizell was the Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The AFSC is mentioned frequently in the majority of speeches scanned, which led me to research a bit more about them and Mizell’s connection with the group in South Carolina.
“Founded in 1917, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action” (About us, n.d.). Established during World War I, the AFSC allowed objectors to serve their country without violence. “They drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities” (AFSC history, n.d.). The promotion of peaceful communities was not only a worldwide goal, but also a goal for smaller areas, such as South Carolina. “By 1966 [Mizell] had come to work for AFSC as the South Carolina field representative of what was called ‘the American Friends Service Committee–NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund School Desegregation Task Force’” (Mizell, 1973, p. 2). As their representative, he worked with people in the community, met with federal officials, and advocated for desegregation in schools. In a way, Mizell became a voice for people who could not be heard. He spoke up for lower income communities and worked hard for students and teachers who faced racial segregation as well as encouraging them to stand up for their rights and demand equal opportunities.
Mizell’s work reached far beyond the Civil Rights era and is still influencing people today. The University of South Carolina’s African American Studies Program offers the Hayes Mizell Research Award. This is awarded to students in African American Studies who utilize the Mizell Collection for scholarly research. Each of the two students chosen receives five hundred dollars to aid in their research and writing. I am making steady progress digitizing the collection. Check back in March for an update!
Mizell, M. H. (1973). Speech by Hayes Mizell Titled “The Origins of SEPEP: A Personal Recollection”, December 7, 1973 (Box 111). M. Hayes Mizell Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.
Digitizing natural history collections is quickly becoming a specialty of ours, over at the Digital Collections department at the University of South Carolina Libraries. We’ve partnered with McKissick Museum for the past few years on their nationally grant-funded digitization project entitled ‘Historic Southern Naturalists’ (HSN); many thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the grant. This digital project has been highly collaborative and has produced a useful and beautiful web portal from which to access myriad museum collections of fossils, rocks, dried botanicals, and minerals, as well as the library’s collection of early naturalist manuscripts.
Since the HSN digital collaboration yielded such great results in providing museum and library users with fantastic historical resources, we’re excited to be back at the beginning of a new natural history digital collection.
In 2019, UofSC officially established the Mark Catesby Centre, a collective of scientists, librarians, curators, rare book experts, and naturalists, with invested personnel spread across the United States and the United Kingdom. The Catesby Centre’s work revolves around researching and promoting the ever-important findings and illustrative records of Mark Catesby, a naturalist who came to study biology in the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas almost three centuries ago. Catesby’s seminal work predates that of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus by 29 years, with Catesby’s first edition of natural history findings published in 1729. Linnaeus would not release his now-famous biological classification system until 1758. The entirety of Catesby’s work in his multivolume set “The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands” was published over the course of 18 years, beginning in May of 1729 and ending in July of 1747.
Digitizing these rare and sometimes delicate natural history items requires specialty scanners and camera equipment, fully trained staff, and a great deal of time and patience. We strive to ensure that the color balance and tone distribution captured with our digitization equipment is as true to the physical, original item as possible. Calibrating and staging a single shot or scan can take up to 30 minutes, or the process could involve multiple scans of the same item in order to get the digital facsimile just right. In our department, this attention to detail often captures the iridescence and depth of the pigments used to hand color illustrations, as well as the texture of paper and the organic signs of age that rare books exhibit. Our staff, often graduates of the School of Library and Information Science here at UofSC, take great pride in producing such detailed work, as digital collections like these provide researchers with the next best thing to seeing a rare item in person; seeing it anywhere in the world at any time, online.
Last year alone, we digitized and helped to format metadata (data that describes the digitized items online) for about 12,000 items for the Historic Southern Naturalists digital collection, and we scanned a little over 2,500 pages and prints from our Catesby rare books. In creating yet another stunning natural history digital collection for students, scholars, and historians to peruse, we hope to create a diverse wealth of natural history primary resources online.
By: Chauna Carr, Kaylin Daniels, and Laura Stillwagon
James T. McCain (1905-2003) was a Civil Rights activist remembered for his selfless volunteering and organized marches. One of his main endeavors was making it possible for African Americans to register to vote during the Civil Rights era. As a very active Civil Rights leader, he was incredibly organized, making note of everything he did, down to his car mileage. His collection is housed and maintained by the South Caroliniana Library here at the University of South Carolina, and consists of yearly calendars and notebooks used as day planners to organize his Civil Rights endeavors.
McCain was a huge supporter of the War Resisters League – many of his calendars held at South Caroliniana Library are from this organization. For those who do not know, the War Resisters League has been around since 1932. They work to spread nonviolence and advocate to end war. As shown by their calendar covers, the League supported other movements and prominent non-violent figures of social justice, like a calendar in the McCain collection that includes a dedication to Mahatma Gandhi, and one to Jessie Wallace Hughan, an American educator, social activist, and radical pacifist.
Another calendar supports equality for women, and another promotes Civil Rights peace with the gospel song lyrics “We shall overcome”. One of our favorite calendars includes a photographic collection of the Civil Rights Movement and some other fun features like rock and roll music lyrics and an uplifting message for peace. The calendars themselves are very inspiring; with many motivational poems and quotes included throughout. McCain interacted extensively with his calendars and each one shows what he believed and aligned with. Illustrated with the pacifistic nature of Gandhi, equality for women, and using one’s right to protest, the calendar covers were a reminder of what McCain was fighting for.
McCain used his calendars to plan his events, track his meetings and travels, and record other miscellaneous things about his daily life; for instance, he logged his speedometer readings, meal prices, and resting days. On top of recording local community accomplishments, he always tried to acknowledge the achievements of people of color by taping or stapling news coverage of their successes directly into his calendars. For example, he wrote:
“Sumter schools reopen today – black parents and citizens negotiated with school authorities not to dismiss students to roam the streets again but try to deal with protesters at sch. Mission successful.”
Here are some other examples:
James T. McCain was a prolific figure working behind the scenes during the Civil Rights movement. The South Caroliniana Library is in the process of preserving and displaying McCain’s collection, and Digital Collections is working in collaboration with them to digitize his work. We’re digitizing this archival collection of day planners as part of a university awarded ASPIRE II grant, written by Graham Duncan, Head of Collections and Curator of Manuscripts at South Caroliniana Library; Bobby J. Donaldson, Associate Professor and Head of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research; and Mēgan A. Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian.
There’s still more to come! This project is still in process and on track to being completed this semester. We are looking forward to learning more, and sharing more, about James T. McCain!