We recently worked with McKissick Museum’s Curator of Collections, Christian Cicimurri, to digitize one of their new acquisitions, an impressive paper pieced mosaic quilt top with a very interesting backstory. Donated to McKissick this past April by Mr. Pickett Wright, the piece is an unfinished mosaic quilt top made of fabric wrapped around hexagonal paper templates. The fabric has been “fussy cut,” so the resulting medallions make a design themselves. (Fussy cut simply means when a piece of fabric has been cut to target a specific area of a print, rather than just cutting the fabric into random pieces.)
According to Mrs. Cicimurri, “[Mr. Pickett Wright] is a direct descendant of General Andrew Pickens (1793-1817) – the Wizard Owl of the Revolutionary War and a U.S. Congressman from 1775-1783. He is not entirely sure who made the quilt or exactly when, but feels certain (from conversations with his grandmother—Annie Lena Salley Smith) that it was either Rebecca Margaret Pickens Salley (1832-1893) of Orangeburg, SC (great-granddaughter of Gen. Pickens), or one of her daughters, Emma Legare Salley Evans (1869-1963) or Mary Boone Salley (1863-1941). These daughters were his grandmother’s sisters.”
Family legend suggests the paper pieces used for backing were letters written home by a confederate soldier, but there is no direct evidence of this claim. The paper used is largely handwritten letters and handwriting practice sheets with the dates of 1872 and 1874 visible.
McKissick is very excited to add this to their robust collection of quilts ranging from about 1815 to around 2016. Keep an eye out for the final images of the quilt coming soon! To give you a taste, here is our team in the process of digitizing this masterpiece.
Calling all Social Studies Teachers! As you begin to think about returning to the classroom, please consider using a document-based question from this Fresh Batch!
Those of us working in Digital Collections spend our days providing access to rare and unique materials from the various Special Collection libraries on campus. We often marvel at the potential educational value of the digitized primary source materials. We have long sought to broaden the awareness of our digital collections to elementary school and high school teachers and encourage them to incorporate some of these materials into their lesson plans.
In 2017, Digital Collections and the S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Coordinators received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for a Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records grant. This grant funded three workshops for a total of forty-five teachers to write document-based questions using the Libraries and SC Digital Library’s digital collections. The workshops were conducted during the Summers of 2017 and 2018 with great success.
Thanks to a lot of support and help from Social Studies teachers, coordinators, and outside reviewers, we are finally at the stage of making these resources available online. The S.C. State Department of Education’s Social Studies Associates assisted throughout the project. Carolina Yetman and Lewis Huffman wrote the grant with USC Libraries’ Digital Collections. Jeff Eargle and Elizabeth King conducted the first workshop; and Stephen Corsini assisted with the last workshop and final stages of the grant. Three outside reviewers (Greg Grupe, Fay Gore, and Franky Abbott) with pedagogical backgrounds in K12, reviewed all the DBQs to ensure their integrity and Elizabeth King made sure they are up to the 2020 Social Studies standards. We were lucky to have the same excellent teacher, Matt Rose of Lexington Richland 5, teach the teachers for all three workshops. Thank you, Matt! Also, thanks to those teachers that attended the Middle School and Social Studies conferences to share their work. We hope teachers across the country will use these to engage students in learning about South Carolina history.
The DBQ’s are presented in the South Carolina Digital Academy, a web-based resource, hosted by the University of South Carolina, that makes it easy to browse by grade level and subject matter. The lesson plans incorporate a wide variety of digitized materials such as maps, correspondence, photographs, moving images, posters and more. These types of primary source materials can bring history to life for students, giving them a window into the thoughts and feelings of generations past. By providing divergent view points and opinions in contemporary materials they encourage critical thinking. These tangible connections to the past can also create empathy for students who might otherwise feel distanced from it.
The S.C Digital Academy portal acts as a detailed catalog for the DBQ’s featuring easily accessible standards, vocabulary, time required, questions, contextual information and support materials. Each entry links to downloadable pdf documents that are designed to help make it easy for teachers to incorporate digitized primary resources into their classroom activities.
We are in the process of adding forty-four DBQs to the site, so check back frequently to see what is new. Some of the ones just up:
Recently the South Caroliniana Library contacted us with some feedback from a patron who discovered a mislabeled map in the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of South Carolina. The map, seemingly identical, to the one with which it was grouped, was actually from an earlier time. However, this wonderful patron, Tom Fetters, who has spent decades studying railroads in the United States and South Carolina specifically, discovered that the map, was actually for the Westmoreland Lumber Co., formerly Charleston Lumber Co. He also provided some excellent background information on the company below:
“Westmoreland Lumber dates from 1911. They did later have a mill at Green Pond, but this is not it. Charleston Lumber was only [located] at Wiggins and built there sawmill in 1903. [The] Post office came in 1905 and Mary E. Wiggins was Postmistress. Charleston Lumber was a Norfolk, VA company. They had a 17-mile logging railroad with 3 locomotives and 40 logging cars. They sold out in 1909 when R. G. Wiggins severed his connection and decided to go into business for himself. He was VP and Manager for Charleston Lumber at Wiggins. The first sawmill was built by Robert Wiggins.”
Thanks to his findings, we are in the process of correcting the metadata for the two maps. Now Colleton County has a new link to its past. This is just one example of how valuable user feedback is to our department. We love when patrons find things and connect the dots to history we were unable to see. Thanks Mr. Fetters!
On the far side of the office in Digital Collections sits a squat, gray machine about the size of a CPU: the Mekel. Before I started digitizing newspapers, I was told that it scans microfilm. Not being quite sure what microfilm was, I quickly forgot about the machine in the wake of the glorious, planetary Zeutschel scanner we have. These days, though, I’ve been getting pretty familiar with the cute little Mekel. Here in the office, we’ve been working for a while on digitizing issues of The Newberry Sun, issues dating from around the 1950s to the 1970s. I decided to get in on the fun, and in being part of this project, I experience the intricacies of our newspaper collections.
Microfilm comes to us in rolls slightly larger than the palm of your hand. The film gets unrolled in a very specific woven path around the knobs of the Mekel. Start up the scan and hang out for about an hour and a half and – boom – you have about a thousand JPG files that make up two years of newspaper articles. These images are processed using a Mekel-based software called QuantumProcess, edited in Photoshop (we call it “post-process”), and meticulously documented during the metadata creation process. If there’s even a tiny error in the metadata, the content won’t be able to be uploaded to the our historical newspaper database, http://historicnewspapers.sc.edu/
There are series of other steps; ABBYY OCR (optical character recognition) processing, re-naming, XML creation, and various homebrewed scripts passed down from the days of yore (1999!). These processes are sort of like running a chemistry lab experiment, in that you must have everything properly set up, executed, and documented, or it blows up and you’re starting from scratch again.
Thankfully, nothing has blown up – yet – and after a long semester, we uploaded 11 rolls of The Newberry Sun. Since then, I’ve become the head newspaper person, and am helping to organize and digitize issues of The Clinton Chronicle, Barnwell People, Barnwell Sentinel, The McCormick Messenger, and The Clothmaker. Feel free to take a look at these newspapers here: http://historicnewspapers.sc.edu/
In December of 2018, Digital Collections Librarian, Mēgan Oliver, and Library Web Developer (Library Technology Services (LTS)), Sarah Funk, met with the exhibition team from the Center for Civil Rights History and Research. The civil rights team was planning an exhibition entitled “Justice for All: South Carolina and the Civil Rights Movement“. The team members, Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Jill Found, Patrice Green, Jennifer Melton, Celeste Minor, and Jonathon Johnson, expressed their needs for a digital exhibit, and we in Digi and LTS laid out what digital exhibition options are available (we’re building digital exhibits in WordPress currently). The civil rights team chose their layout, essentially the digital look and feel of the exhibit, and expressed their goals. As the Director of the Center, Dr. Donaldson communicated what was most important, in terms of the collection’s context and emphasized how he wanted to highlight visually compelling digital archives to support the physical exhibit of Justice for All: South Carolina and the American Civil Rights Movement. With these parameters, Digi and LTS began working to support this traditional exhibit structure with an online component.
The exhibit opened in the Ernest F. Hollings Library in February of 2019, complete with civil rights speakers, tours of the collections, special events, and a variety of press releases. This summer, the exhibit will see it’s final few months. Don’t miss the incredible collections on display! Justice for All is open until August 31. If you can’t make it to Columbia, SC to see it in person, not to worry: there’s a permanent digital exhibit with the same title, Justice for All.
Hello, I’m Allison, one of the new digitization specialists in the Digital Collections family. When I’m not studying for exams and assignments in my undergraduate degree in Computer Science, I’m digitizing letters and documents from the American Revolution or scanning film from newspapers in the 1950s. While meticulously charting metadata can sometimes be monotonous, the work is intriguing. In digitizing the material we have, I get to experience a more casual glimpse into American history, as I review letters about plantations, accounts of purchased goods, and even notes from meetings of the Continental Congress. Currently, I’ve been scanning and creating metadata for newspapers that my grandparents might have read in the morning before heading to work.
What I do here is not only fascinating; it’s distinctly different from what I do in my classes at the university. Computational science can be extremely engaging and exciting, but the work I do now is dry and technical, with little room for creativity and perspective. Additionally, many of the career paths for these kinds of majors are concerned with how to create more profit for already giant companies. Before working here, there seemed to be little application for involving art, literature, or history.
Working at Digital Collections has truly been a magical experience for me. In my classes at the university, programming is logic and linear algebra and string operations on arbitrary homework assignments. Here, in the basement of the library, among gorgeous aged rare books, I see incredibly intelligent and skilled individuals writing and running scripts, coding databases, interpreting and analyzing metadata, and preserving rare historic material. It is astounding and encouraging to be a part of a department that marries programming with history.
I am also delighted to see so many women around me engaged in programming, troubleshooting, and web development. It’s wonderful working with such talented and skilled women, especially coming from a male dominated field. In my short time in this office, I have come realize that a background in computing and programing can offer a sort of modernization to the humanities, and that we can work together to keep art and history and cultural relevant in an increasingly digital age. Although for now, I do simple data input, I’m excited to learn more about web development and big data analysis and apply it here or in adjacent areas as the field of digital humanities expands.
Abby Munro was a teacher from Rhode Island who came to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to help Cornelia Hancock in teaching Black freed men and women at the Laing School. At the Laing School, students received an education and were given an opportunity to learn a trade. (Laing Middle School of Science and Technology; Fludd; Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). In the 1870s, Munro took over for duties from Hancock and became the principal of the school. She expanded on the original work of Hancock, when in 1882 she opened a Children’s Home for Destitute Children, one of the first orphanages for African Americans in South Carolina (Fludd; Mount Pleasant Historical Commission). Though older than the Jenkins’ Orphanage, the Destitute Children’s Home was smaller and served the local population of Mount Pleasant. (Fordham, 2009).
This collection consists of a range of items related to Abby Munro’s work at the Home of Destitute Children and the Laing School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, like legal documents signed by parents giving custody of children to Abby Munro. Additionally, documents in the collection frequently outline that a child will be cared for while receiving an education. A second medium found in this collection is photographs, most of which are of the Laing School. These photographs allow for a glimpse into education at the Laing Normal and Industrial School. One photograph shows students learning to cobble shoes. Another photograph shows young girls learning to sew.
Arthur Macbeth, an African American photographer based in Charleston, South Carolina, took many of these photographs of the Laing School. After studying with German, French, and American photographers, Macbeth opened his own studio in Charleston in 1886 (Bowser, 1999). A few of Macbeth photographs were used some of the in Laing School publications that reported on progress of the school and home. Both the Laing school and Children’s Home relied heavily on donations and these publications used to show how the donations were being used, plus how the donations were making a difference.
I landed in digital collections by pure serendipity. I entered the Public History program with a focus on historic preservation at the University of South Carolina. Receiving no funding from my department, I applied for a position in Digital Collections helping to digitize The Gamecock from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. Discovering my love for Library Science too late, I continue to work in Digital Collections hoping to build upon my interest in how digital collections can be used for historical preservation. Over the last few months, I have worked on five different projects including digitizing a portion of the John Caldwell Calhoun papers.
In planning for the Teacher Workshops for Social Studies teachers, library organizers selected the John Caldwell Calhoun papers for use in the workshop. A controversial figure of history today, Calhoun was an active proponent of slavery and states’ rights during his political career. A native of South Carolina, Calhoun served in the United States House of Representatives, became the Secretary of War and became the Vice President of United States. Thus, it was easy to see why items from this collection were ideal for a workshop focused on helping social studies teachers utilize digital collections in their classroom.
This collection consists mainly of business and personal correspondence of John C. Calhoun from the South Caroliniana Library, little of which was digitized. For the workshop, a few letters were selected to be digitized. In selecting this letters, however, it was discovered that these letters were silked, in attempt to preserve the letters. Silking was a conservation technique used in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth centuries. In basic terms, this process consisted of adhering a thin piece of transparent silk to a document. The reasoning behind this process was to slow down the deterioration process of the paper (Barrow, 1942; McCarthy, 2016).
In digitizing the Calhoun papers for the Teacher’s Workshop, my initial thoughts were on time management for the project, in order to ensure that everything was accessible and usable for the workshop. Thus, my focus was on the project flow of this endeavor, scanning all the items and ensuring clear images, that any questions about the metadata edited, and everything loaded on the library depository, well before the deadline. Although it was interesting to see and work with letters that went through this early method of preservation, the fact that items in this collection were silked was not a part of my initial focus.
I started by scanning letters from the Calhoun collection on the Zeutschel, a large flat base scanner in the Digital Collections office. In looking at the first images of the scanned letters, I noted problems in seeing the handwriting in the images. Since the letters were going to be used in a workshop, and the fact that handwriting from the nineteenth century materials are in themselves hard to read, the clearest images were needed. Thus, I sought advice on getting more clear images. The library consulted a conservator to see what could be done about the silked documents while in the office, basic research was conducted into experiences from other libraries and archives in using silked materials.
One unexpected outcome of silked archival items it that the items become harder to read over time. The aluminum in the paste affected the acidity of the paper, resulting in ink dissolving and discoloration of the paper overall. It is possible that this what led to the discoloration in the documents. Further research also revealed that this process often used arsenic. While there was no evidence that these materials contained arsenic, I took precautions and wore gloves when handling the Calhoun papers (Information Resource Management Association, 2019; McCarthy, 2016).
While the problem with clarity of some of the images remained, I continued to scan the letters and began to create metadata in hopes some of the images could still be used in the Teachers Workshop. The last step was to add the images and metadata in to the library’s digital depository known as CONTENTdm, so the images would be accessible online through the Library’s website. Some of the more legible images were used in the teacher’s workshop. The fully digitized John Caldwell Calhoun collection can be found here: https://digital.library.sc.edu/collections/john-c-calhoun-papers/
Barrow, W. J. Restoration Methods. (1942) The American Archivist. Page 152 Retrieved from http://www.americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.6.3.497248722g4584rr?code=SAME-site.
Information Resource Management Association USA. (2019). Digital Curation: Breakthrough in Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=lcxjDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=arsenic+in+silking+archival+materials&source=bl&ots=ymV2dnhioj&sig=nzhC0NeX3EpyvjEGAzeaKA2nyAU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiwv5jFv-rdAhWC21MKHcwZDfAQ6AEwCXoECAIQAQ#v=onepage&q=arsenic%20in%20silking%20archival%20materials&f=false.
As mentioned previously the reprocessing of the Workman photographs began last Fall (2017) with Mae Howe conducting the arrangement and reprocessing of the collection images. She rehoused all of the materials collection using proper storage resources for preservation sake, as well as adequately addressing all of the new changes and topics covered in each image in an updated finding aid. Mae worked diligently with the help of Laura Litwer (South Carolina Political Collections digital initiatives archivist) to create a finding aid that covered the extensive collection of images Workman kept. A challenge in itself due to the many duplicates the collection contains. Questions quickly arose as to how redundant the finding aid should be in this regard. The two agreed that to minimize redundancy an appendix should be made.
To further explain, the Workman photograph collection houses different size print images and different size negatives, mostly of those same images and of others that remained undeveloped by Workman. Mae not only had to identify the duplicates in a collection of over 3,000 images, but she also had to identify potential copyright violators, create item level metadata, and continually update the finding aid with the daily changes whenever she came across the two previously mentioned issues. She achieved these tasks that quite thoroughly with only minor mistakes that Chauna would later find and fix.
Chauna took over the project for Mae at the beginning of the summer, picking up where she left off digitizing negatives. Chauna was placed in a unique situation where she had to start in the middle of a large project and carry on the work of someone else. With a little help from Mae and her trusty blue binder filled with detailed notes, she was able to continue her initial work and complete the digitization and creation of metadata for the remaining Workman negatives. It may not seem like much but starting where someone else has left off is a daunting task in itself. If you remember from this post, we had to take some time to get our bearings and review the progress completed up to this point.
Chauna quickly found her footing and was able to complete the remaining scans and add valuable information to the metadata where necessary. When processing images and creating metadata at the item level it takes some time to create item specific information. But, Chauna gladly accepted the challenge having done similar tasks in the past with South Carolina Political Collections. Now all that is left for her to do is upload the images to CONTENTdm, finalize the finding aid, and release the collection for public access online.