Employee Feature: Allison Rogers

“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.

The Aiken Recorder
The Aiken Recorder

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.

Left to Right: Laura Stillwagon, Alex Trim, Allison Rogers, Stephanie Gilbert, [under table] Chauna Carr
Left to Right: Laura Stillwagon, Alex Trim, Allison Rogers, Stephanie Gilbert, [under table] Chauna Carr

How To Cure a Cold in One Day: and Other Medicinal Oddities from the Past

By Allison Rogers

Hey. How are you feeling? Do you have a runny nose? A slight but persistent cough? Perhaps even a fever? Sounds like a cold to me. And if you’re in Gaffney, South Carolina in 1905, you’re in luck! This excerpt of a 1905 issue of ‘The Ledger’ from Gaffney, South Carolina reads “To cure a cold in one day, take Laxative Bromo Quinine Cold Tablets!”

The Ledger Friday, December 9, 1904
The Ledger Friday, December 9, 1904

Widely known as a cure for influenza, the Bromo Quinine tablets’ main active ingredient was quinine hydrobromide, which resulted in long term psychiatric and neurological damage to those who consistently ingested the tablets (Olson, 2003; “Bromo Quinine Cold Tablets,” 2019)

Perhaps your illness is more serious, and you have determined that you suffer from a “disease of circulation” (whatever that means). Good thing you have Handcock’s Liquid Sulphur! You have at last found “nature’s own remedy from the bosom of Mother Earth”.

The Ledger Friday, November 25, 1904
The Ledger Friday, November 25, 1904

Two years later in November of 1907, an inspector from the Department of Agriculture (DOA) purchased the Liquid Sulphur. One of the samples was subjected to analysis in the Bureau of Chemistry at the DOA and was determined to consist of an aqueous solution of commercial calcium sulphid, which was not a natural germicide, as was claimed on the label. The bureau found that the claims made by Handcock’s Liquid Sulphur were “false, misleading, and deceptive” (Gane & Webster, 1909).

The Ledger Friday, November 4, 1904
The Ledger Friday, November 4, 1904

Finally, we have everyone’s favorite medicine Pe-ru-na, used to treat about anything you can think of. Peruna was one of the most popular medicines sold from the late 19th to mid 20th century. Samuel Hartman, creator of Peruna, was making as much as $100,000 a day from the product, which was believed to work so well that babies were named after it (Hunter, 2012). In 1906, a claim was made that Peruna and other patent-medicines were frauds, alleging that Peruna itself was 28% alcohol. This claim, among others, led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (Kennedy, 2000), whose main purpose was to ban diluted or mislabeled food and drug products. Basically, the law was a “truth in labeling” law designed to raise standards in the food and drug industries and protect the reputations and pocketbooks of honest businessmen.

To check out more ads with absurd scientifically falsified claims, check out the Historical Newspapers of South Carolina! The clippings seen here are from The Ledger, which we are hard at work digitizing. Until it’s released, check out our other new titles which also feature fun medical solutions for your ailments: McCormick Messenger and The Sun (Newberry, SC).  https://historicnewspapers.sc.edu/

 

 

Works Cited

Olson, K. R., Anderson, I. B., & Benowitz, N. L. (2004). Poisoning & drug overdose. New York: Lange

Bromo Quinine Cold Tablets.; Grove Laboratories; 1940s; Fincham Collection 237. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ehive.com/collections/4339/objects/358512/bromo-quinine-cold-tablets

Gane, E. H. & Webster, M. H. (1909). Laboratory Notes from the Analytical Department of McKesson & Robbins. Drug Topics, 24(2), p.22

Hunter, B. (2012). A historical guidebook to old Columbus: Finding the past in the present in Ohio’s capital city.

Kennedy, S.  (2000, February). Adams, Samuel Hopkins (1871-1958), muckraker and writer. American National Biography. Retrieved 26 Nov. 2019, from https://www.anb.org/view/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-1600013

 

Meet the Mekel, Our Microfilm Scanning Machine

By Allison Rogers

Newberry Sun
Newberry Sun

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/

Employee feature: Meet Allison!

By Allison Rogers

Allison working with illustrations on the Zeutschel OS 14000 A0 planetary scanner

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.

Allison working with illustrations on the Zeutschel OS 14000 A0 planetary scanner

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.