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.

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

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

Justice For All: A Digital Exhibit for South Carolina Civil Rights

By Mēgan Oliver

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.

 

A Team Effort

By John Quirk

The creation of a digital collection always demands some amount of collaboration. Content matter experts, scanning technicians, metadata librarians, web developers…all working together to bring a project to fruition. The size of the team varies from collection to collection but it is always a collaborative effort.

UofSC’s Digital Collections has been involved in a project lately that not only exemplifies this spirit of collaboration but pushes it to unusual lengths. This project is the Abstract of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868.

This 31-volume abstract of voter registrations was originally created by order of the commander of the Second Military District who had ultimate responsibility for the registration of voters and the conduct of elections. The volumes record the name and race of each registered voter arranged by county and registration precinct. It is a fascinating and historically valuable snapshot of elections in South Carolina in the years just after the Civil War. The process of bringing these documents into the digital world has demanded the efforts of an unusual number of dedicated souls.

These historic volumes were originally microfilmed in 1987 by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. The South Carolina State Library recognized their significance and the potential value of having them digitized and made available on the web. The University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections department scanned the microfilm, creating the digital files using its Mekel Microfilm scanner. The South Carolina State Library then created the metadata describing each volume. UofSC’s Digital Collections used that metadata to upload the digitized Abstract of Voter Registrations to its CONTENTdm database make them freely available online. The road often ends there…but in this case the road has a few more twists and turns…

Having such historic documents digitized and online certainly extends their discoverability and accessibility well beyond volumes on an archive shelf or in a microfilm drawer. However, if a text can be made fully searchable the usefulness and discoverability is hugely improved. When scanning text that is printed or typewritten it is possible to create a searchable text file using an optical character recognition program (OCR) that can decipher text in a still image. However, automated OCR is not an option when the text is handwritten as it is in this Abstract of Voter Registrations. This is where the collaborative aspect of this project grows exponentially.

Richland County Library’s Walker Local and Family History Center has been marshalling a phalanx of intrepid volunteers and librarians to manually transcribe each page of the entire 31 volumes. These transcribers are peppered across the state and as they complete their efforts the transcriptions are sent to the Walker Local and Family History Center to be collated.  Those transcriptions are then sent from Richland Library to UofSC where they are integrated into the digitized items online. In the end, this process will make the entire Abstract of Voter Registrations fully searchable for names and locations thus improving its reach and usability.

One example of the broad reach these files can have is the recent featuring of an item from this very collection on a segment of Henry Louis Gate, Jr.’s PBS program Finding Your Roots. Click here to see a clip: https://www.pbs.org/video/michael-k-williams-immediate-voter-registration-p9xcw3/ After so much coordination and concerted effort, it is quite rewarding to see the fruits of those labors pay off in such a way.

All of this cross-institutional collaboration is aided by established relationships developed over time as partner members of the South Carolina Digital Library. The SCDL is a statewide search portal that aggregates digital collections from over 60 institutions bringing together over 300,000 digital items. The UofSC Digital Collections department is the  scanning hub helping to coordinate collections being created in the Midlands and hosts collections for smaller institutions that do not have the means to do that.

 

John H. McCray Digital Collection

Portrait of John H. McCray, year unknown

By Chauna Carr

As part of the Justice For All exhibit at Hollings Library, the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at UofSC created a timeline of African Americans in South Carolina, advocating for the full rights promised to them by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. John H. McCray was but one of many who played an influential role in the fight for justice for African Americans in South Carolina and across the nation. McCray was the founder, editor, and publisher of the Lighthouse and Informer weekly newspaper, one of the top black newspapers of its day. He used the newspaper to launch his program for black political participation, and to advocate for racial equity and social justice.

McCray’s entire collection is digitized and available through the South Caroliniana Library. However, upon putting the exhibit materials together for Justice For All, it was discovered that the McCray collection needed some updating. As a preliminary task to the collection-wide metadata assessment underway in the Digital Collections department, Digital Collections Librarian Mēgan Oliver tasked me with cleaning up the McCray metadata. I started the project in January and am making steady progress. Keep an eye out for those improvements and more updates in the future. If you live in the area and are interested in this topic, stop by the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library to see the Justice For All exhibit up until August 2. If you cannot stop by in person, visit our digital exhibit:  https://digital.library.sc.edu/exhibits/civilrights/

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.

More on the Qidenus: the Acquisition & Set-Up, Part II

By Laura Stillwagon

The Arrival

As addressed in the previous blog post, the Qidenus SMART Book Scan 4.0 was purchased to scan and digitize bound items. In our department, nested inside the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, we have found the complexity of the Qi’s construction to be a reflection of its precise and accurate functionality. In this machine, both design and output are streamlined. Almost everyone who meets the Qidenus before they begin using it for the first time is intimidated, and I was no exception. At the time, not only did I have little knowledge in the digitization process, but what little functioning knowledge and experience in photography and operating DSLRs I had gave me no security; I had no knowledge on tethered technology, nor enough on all the settings that contributed to the exposure of images; and I certainly did have not enough confidence in myself to operate two DSLRs at once. The sleek machine doesn’t smell fear, but nothing downplays the machine’s sophistication. Once I was given instruction on the basic operation of the Qi, I grew more comfortable after each use. And upon given permission to explore the features and other functions of the machine, the Qi and I developed a good working relationship.

Not Yet Suitable for Routine Use at the Time

Those using the Qi immediately after arrival at Digital Collections were not entirely pleased with the images it produced. Following its delivery and set-up, little time was available to learn and integrate the Qidenus as a tool for the Digital Collections projects of and those of the other departments like the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections located next door. There was no company-issued manual available. Once purchased, we received paper manuals only for the Canon cameras used in the Qi, but they were all in German, French, Italian, and Dutch and no one in our offices or the neighboring offices speak these languages to our knowledge.

Upon investigation, I found that minor exposure adjustments had to be made to the captured images in Photoshop (post-process) in order to get rid of a shadow that seemed to shroud the pages. This didn’t make any sense to us who used the Qi because the item seemed to be clearly featured under the LED lights in the ceiling of the machine. Fortunately, I was tasked with investigating the Qi and diagnosing what was causing the images to be under-exposed. Thankfully, and as expected, I found nothing to be wrong with the machine and the only problem that has consistently stifled the Qi’s performance is the incurable virus, User Error. This is not to say that we as users continually and with intent used the machine without learning how to use it, but that we simply did not have complete instruction at the start.

In our defense, the minimal instruction on operating the Qi we were given, and what we passed on by word of mouth to each other and to new users, did not begin to cover the knowledge that was required to operate DSLRs. We lacked knowledge of photography: not knowing what aspects of light contributed to exposure and image capture and the features of digital-SLRs (and other cameras, for that matter) that interpret and manipulate light to produce images. Once I confirmed that there was nothing ailing the Qi, one of the major gaps in knowledge that I sought to fill with research was camera operation and other relevant aspects of photography. (At one point when it was still a possibility that the machine had a flaw, we had brainstormed fixes and jokingly—but also seriously—considered using a curtain to further isolate the machine and DSLRs from other light in the environment.)

 I gathered information on the settings common to all cameras like shutter speed, aperture, white balance (WB), and ISO, and then I searched for features specific to the Qi’s Canon EOS 5DS cameras. I performed many tests to determine the proper exposure settings to serve as a keynote for users and the diverse bound items they bring to the Qi. To attain these settings, I tested a variety of items with pages that ranged from having lots of detail, or a glossy finish, to those that appear weathered and faded. Since then I have learned what can be accomplished with the Qi, creating in-depth instructions (in English!) specific to the Digital Collections department. With my new understanding of light, photography, DSLRs, Canon technologies and software, I endeavor to also assist others as they learn to use the Qi for the first time.

In the next blog, I’ll outline the complexity and daily use of the Qi. Stay tuned!