Exploring Nature Online!

By Kendall Hallberg

Well Quarantine Vibes ™ have some of us traveling only via the internet and we are finding some pretty cool things available. Some of my favorite sites to explore are projects like the National Park Foundation’s Virtual Tours and the National Museum of Natural History’s Find me in the Butterfly Pavilion. Those are maybe slightly more exciting than bird watching from my window (but having a window has been really nice since it has proven rare in my career history). I may have gotten very excited about spotting a tufted titmouse and have an ongoing issue with a cardinal that likes to sing loudly right outside my window at 4:30AM. (Can you tell I may be missing my co-workers?)

While looking for things to do, remember that Digital Collections has been adding materials online for the past 15 years and it is very cool stuff! It encompasses all sorts of topics, from postcards to civil rights, to geography, woman’s history, politics and war. There is definitely something for everyone. I especially enjoy illustrations and natural history, so I went and searched for an interesting collection relating to that. The Ethelind Pope Brown Collection of South Carolina Natural History is one of the earliest works, outside of Mark Catesby’s Natural History, that illustrated South Carolina’s Natural History. While the artist is unknown, it is believed to be John Laurens (you can read more about this on the collection’s page). Many of the same species can be seen in both collections and comparing their interpretations has been a fun outlet for me. I’ve included two very similar birds below, one by Mark Catesby and the other from the Ethelind Pope Brown Collection.

Whether it is online or outside, make sure you get a dose of nature and let us know what you find!

Mark Catesby’s Northern Flicker
Mark Catesby’s Northern Flicker
Pope Brown’s Woodpecker
Pope Brown’s Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Employee Feature: Mackenzie Anderson

Mackenzie Anderson
Mackenzie Anderson, head shot

By Mackenzie Anderson

I always love hearing library employees’ stories about how they came to work in libraries. The world of Library and Information Science attracts people from diverse backgrounds and with many different skills and interests. This is one of the things that I love the most about the field. My own path to working in digital collections has been exciting but complicated and, at times, challenging.

I first became interested in libraries during my junior year of college. Prior to that, I planned on going to veterinary school. I love animals, and I was attracted to the idea of helping people in need and alleviating animals’ pain. During my first year of college, I loaded up my schedule with biology and calculus classes, determined to pursue my dream, but it did not take long for me to discover that as I had grown older, I had developed a severe squeamishness towards needles and blood that would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for me to enter into any kind of medical profession. This realization was devastating, and for the next year and a half, I felt very lost and directionless. I took classes in just about every subject offered at my university, unsure of what career I wanted to pursue or even what I wanted to study. Then, in the fall of my junior year, a close friend told me that she would be attending graduate school for Library and Information Science the following year. Although I had never considered a career as a librarian and knew very little about the field, I was instantly intrigued. I reached out to the public library in my hometown to find out about summer volunteer opportunities, and a very kind librarian offered me an internship in the library’s archives. Even though I knew essentially nothing about archives, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library: The first library I ever worked at. I worked here the summer between my junior and senior years of college. https://tinyurl.com/ybqnhoqy
The Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library: The first library I ever worked at. I worked here the summer between my junior and senior years of college. https://tinyurl.com/ybqnhoqy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the summer cataloging a collection of memorabilia donated to the library by a historical high school’s alumni association. For hours at a time, I sat in the cool archives poring over pictures, yearbooks, student newspaper publications, graduation pamphlets, war ration books, and letters, organizing the materials and writing item descriptions. I loved every minute of it. By the time August rolled around, I was determined to follow in my friend’s footsteps and enroll in a master’s program for library and information science in hopes of becoming a special collections librarian or archivist. I spent my senior year applying to graduate programs and trying to get as involved as I could in my university’s library. I joined a library ambassadors’ program and interned in the library in the spring, putting together a social media project for the library’s fore-edge painting collection.

A fore-edge painting from the Ralph H. Wark Collection at the Earl Gregg Swem Library that I photographed as part of my social media project.
A fore-edge painting from the Ralph H. Wark Collection at the Earl Gregg Swem Library that I photographed as part of my social media project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The summer after I graduated, I interned at the Missouri State Archives, where I worked with microfilmed genealogy records, state fair correspondences from the 1920s, and 19th century state Supreme court documents. Each of these experiences solidified my interest in libraries and made me feel excited for the future.

At the Missouri State Archive, I worked extensively with genealogical records. Most of the records were on microfilm, but on occasion, we came into contact with handwritten documents such as the marriage records above.
At the Missouri State Archive, I worked extensively with genealogical records. Most of the records were on microfilm, but on occasion, we came into contact with handwritten documents such as the marriage records above.
A lot of the work I did at the Missouri State Archive involved preservation. We spent several weeks of the summer humidifying Supreme Court documents that had been folded up in boxes for decades. To flatten the documents, we created humidification chambers such as the one above.
A lot of the work I did at the Missouri State Archive involved preservation. We spent several weeks of the summer humidifying Supreme Court documents that had been folded up in boxes for decades. To flatten the documents, we created humidification chambers such as the one above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I began graduate school at the University of South Carolina in the fall with the intention of getting involved in the Library. When I saw that the Library’s Digital Collections department was looking for a student scanner, I applied and was extremely excited to be offered the job. Working for Digital Collections has been the highlight of my first year of graduate school. I love getting to work with beautiful artwork, learn about the artist Giovanni Piranesi, and complete post-processing work such as photoshopping images. Like my other jobs in libraries, working in digital collections has reassured me that I am going into the right field, and it has also shown me that I have an interest in working with digital materials. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work in digital collections, and I am excited to see what the future holds.

Food, Glorious Food!

By Kendall Hallberg

Catesby’s “Natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Isles” was created for an interested European audience. Many of the plants and animals of the New World were completely unknown to them as a three-month long trip didn’t make America very accessible. Catesby’s unique work was one of the first that pictured animals together with the plants that dominated their habitats. By virtue of this, there are quite a few well-loved and delicious foods alongside a few that you may not be familiar with.

Let’s start with a crowd favorite: Chocolate. By the time Catesby was creating these books (think early 1700s), chocolate had made its way into the hearts of Europeans. However, they still would not have known how this plant was cultivated. While Spanish and French colonies were producing chocolate, Catesby wanted to encourage cultivation of “this excellent tree” by the English (Catesby, 1731, p.6). While publishing his work on the Carolinas, Florida, and the Bahamas, he also collected accounts and made illustrations that he knew would be of interest.  This reasoning is why we also have the addition of Mexican Vanilla. While Mexican vanilla has since been introduced to regions in the United States and Territories, Catesby likely wouldn’t have come across it in his day. In fact, Catesby says, “With this fruit the Spaniards perfume their chocolate . . . This perfume is so little agreeable to an English palate, that it is rarely made use of any more in our American Plantations than at home, and therefore not cultivated by us” (Catesby, 1731). Can you imagine? Another plant that Catesby includes is the Cashew. It is included both as a curiosity as well as a correction upon the work of previous naturalists which illustrated the growth of the plant incorrectly. The inclusion of all three of these plants work to elucidate European audiences with what they may be familiar with, but misunderstandings of their nature still existed.

Catesby wasn’t just recording plants with popularity in Europe, he also exposed his audience to the many plants the New World had to offer; some more familiar to us than others. First, there is the Sweet Potato. Catesby’s descriptions of all the potatoes in America speaks to their general greatness. We, in South Carolina, are also very familiar with Persimmons as a common fruiting tree. Whether they are eaten fresh or dried, they are quite delicious as Catesby would attest. A bit less familiar is Yaupon. It’s in the holly family and can be brewed into tea though it has a rather unfortunate scientific name, Ilex vomitoria. This name links back to Yaupon’s traditional medicinal use by Indigenous people to detoxify, but the plant itself does not cause vomiting. It’s more like a relative, Yerba Mate, in flavor (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 2016). Last, but not least, the Pawpaw or sometimes called a custard-apple. Discovering this in Catesby’s work was my first time learning about this fruit. However, if I go by Catesby’s word, it might not be that delicious. He describes, “All Parts of the Tree have a rank, if not a [fetid] Smell; nor is the Fruit relished but by very few” (Catesby, 1731, p.85). There are plenty of other native plants that may or may not be delicious, but these are just a few. To discover more, join me next time as I explore other Natural Histories from our collections! (aka browsing the library in pajamas? Fun!)

 

References

  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2016). Ilex vomitoria. Retrieved from: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ILVO
  • 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.

Take a Tour of South Carolina with South Carolina Postcards

By Josh Schutzenhofer and Alex Trim

An Introduction

The South Carolina Postcards Collection features historic postcards from across the state of South Carolina. From Battery Park in Charleston to Table Rock Mountain in Greenville, this collection provides the perfect opportunity to get a unique and colorful glimpse of South Carolina in the 1900s. With postcards ranging from 1865 to 2016 this collection captures what the travel and tourism industry was like in the state while also giving us picturesque views of historic South Carolina. Currently housed in the South Caroliniana Library, it has quickly become one of our most popular collections.

The South Carolina Postcards collection includes all 46 South Carolina counties, 6,144 postcards, and nearly four years’ worth of work completed by three students and staff from the Digital Collections (Digi) office. The project was started in May of 2016 by Library Science graduate student, Mir Pavin. During her time in Digi, Mir completed 15 counties. After she graduated the project was shelved for nearly a year before Digi Project Assistant, Matthew Haney, began working on it. Matthew completed 13 counties. After Matthew left, the project was again shelved, thankfully just for six months this time, before it was picked up again by Josh Schutzenhofer. It was Josh who finally finished this project.

Josh and the Postcards

I am Joshua Schutzenhofer, a Library and Information Science graduate student here at USC. I have been working in digital collections for a little over a year. I started working on the South Carolina Postcards Collection in the Spring of 2019 and completed the project in early February of this year. During my time working on this project, I scanned postcards for 17 counties, including the largest county Charleston, which has over 1,000 postcards. For those who don’t know, the collection includes postcards featuring images of historical sites, churches, graves, schools, hotels, tourist attractions, bridges, monuments, train stations and depots, factories, highways, paintings, historical figures, everyday people, and advertisements.

One of my favorite postcards features a monument to the defenders of Fort Moultrie in a park in Charleston, S. C. I have always had an interest in history and the battle at Fort Moultrie was a significant event in the American Revolution, as well as the inspiration for the South Carolina Flag and the nickname “The Palmetto State.” (Did you know, we have William Moultrie’s papers? He was the person for whom the fort was named, and his papers are digitized and published online in our American Revolution in South Carolina Collection.)

Another interesting postcard I found was of the A. C. L. Passenger Station in Sumter, S. C. Trains were a key reason that several towns in South Carolina were built. I really enjoyed all the time that I spent working on this collection, seeing South Carolina throughout history in black and white, and technicolor.

The South Carolina Postcards Collection started in May of 2016 and three years and ten months later it was completed. Nearly four years after it was started digital collections has made the entire collection available online. And while it might have taken awhile to complete, it certainly proved to be an interesting and colorful collection to work with.

 

 

 

Introduction to the Center for Digital Humanities’ Piranesi Project

By Mackenzie Anderson

Hello! My name is Mackenzie Anderson, I am a graduate student in Library and Information Science here at the University of South Carolina, and I am working on the Piranesi project.

The Piranesi project was created and is spearheaded by Dr. Jeanne Britton, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections curator and Department of English Language and Literature affiliate faculty. The project itself is executed by both the Center for Digital Humanities, located in UofSC’s Innovation Center, and the Digital Collections department, located in the Ernest F. Hollings Library. Awarded an NEH grant 2019-2021, “The Digital Piranesi” digitally enacts graphic features of Giovanni Piranesi’s innovative works in a comprehensive digital collection and an interactive digital edition.

Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta dell’Avanzo del Mausoleo di S. Elena, madre di Constantino Imperatore… (View of the mausoleum of Saint Helena, Rome) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)

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.

Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de' Metelli sulla via Appia ... (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)
Veduta di un gran masso, avanzo del sepolcro della famiglia de’ Metelli sulla via Appia … (View of the remains of the tomb of the Metelli on the Via Appia) from Piranesi, Opere, Vol. 3, Le Antichita romane, (part 3 of 4)

 

A Peek at Mark Catesby’s Natural Histories

By Kendall Hallberg

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.

“Summer Red Bird” or Summer Tanager
“Summer Red Bird” or Summer Tanager
Southern Magnolia
Suillus, Great Hog-Fish
Suillus, Great Hog-Fish

Watch this space for more natural history and updates on the project!

A Year in the Life: James T. McCain and the Freedom Rides

By: Kaylin Daniels and Laura Stillwagon

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.

From James T. McCain calendar, May 23, 1961, pg. 23
From James T. McCain calendar, May 23, 1961, pg. 23

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.

From James T. McCain Collection calendar, November 24, 1961, pg. 49
From James T. McCain Collection calendar, November 24, 1961, pg. 49

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!

References

Catesby’s Insight on Extinct and Endangered Animals

By Kendall Hallberg

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.

 

References

Natural History, Digitized

By Mēgan A. Oliver, Digital Collections Librarian, UofSC. [Cross-posted from Mining McKissick, McKissick Museum’s blog]

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.

The Bahamas Titmous[e], first edition of Mark Catesby’s “The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands”, 1731.
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.

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Image

The Bahamas Titmous[e], first edition of Mark Catesby’s “The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands”, 1731.

References

Introduction to James T. McCain

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.

“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
“We Shall Overcome”, 1964 Calendar cover by War Resisters League
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
1960 Engagement Calendar created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League
“Days of Gandhi”, 1969 Calendar by War Resisters League

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:

“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Will Be Horry County Town’s Mayor” news clipping from the State, August 20, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9, 1968
“Negro Leads Conway Vote” news clipping from the State, Oct. 9,

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!