Kline Iron & Steel Company Oral History Project

By John Quirk

Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit
Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit

What do the South of the Border’s Sombrero Tower and the massive antenna array that used to sit atop the World Trade Center in NYC, have in common? Weird question, yes…but in fact they were both constructed by Kline Iron & Steel Company right here in Columbia, South Carolina. These are just two of the very diverse projects created by Kline over it’s 80 year history.

Kline Iron & Steel Company (1923-2003) earned a reputation for supplying high quality steel products as well as being a company that fostered great loyalty and respect between employees and owners. Many who worked at Kline likened it to being part of a family, which contributed to its unusually low turn-over rate of employees. The fascinating story of the development of this long-time, iconic Columbia company is brought to life through the Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections  featuring over thirty oral history interviews compiled by UofSC’s Department of Oral History.

Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

This collection is just one part of an exciting project we have been working on here at Digital Collections. We have been migrating various oral history collections into our Cdigital collections repository (hosted by OCLC’s CONTENTdm) from the Department of Oral History. They have a robust offering of oral histories that provide first-hand accounts and insights on life in South Carolina. Most of these interviews are available as both audio recordings and interview transcripts. Additionally, the Department of Oral History has created wonderfully rich online exhibits for many of these collections that feature photographs, print materials, manuscripts, timelines and more. Of course, we link directly to those exhibits from our landing pages.

By adding these oral histories to our digital collections repository they become discoverable along with the many other digital collections that are represented there. So, a user’s search will potentially return photographs, print materials, maps, and manuscripts along with oral histories all from a single database. Also, these collections will eventually be harvested into the South Carolina Digital Library and will be discoverable statewide along with items originating at over 60 institutions across South Carolina.

Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

We are excited to be making the Kline Iron & Steel Company oral histories and the many other oral history collections more broadly available. We believe patrons will find them interesting and rich resources for South Carolina History. Go to the Dept. of Oral History to check out the many collections they already have available online and keep an eye on Digital Collections’ database as we continue to add those collections as well.

Listen to a Kline oral history here:





Spring internship reflection: South Carolina & the Civil War digital exhibit

By Kendall Hallberg

My internship with Digital Collections had me working on a digital exhibit entitled “South Carolina and the Civil War”.  These collections are curated in the Visual Materials department at South Caroliniana Library, and are digitized and published online by Digital Collections. This project gave me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have collected during my Master’s program in library and information science, as well as learning important new skills. This semester in general has been a wonderful chance to work closely with issues related to User Experience (UX). I am glad to have had a role in bringing this collection to the public in a new way.

The research phase of this project allowed me to explore the collection and develop an understanding of what it had to offer to the intended audience. These exhibits are an opportunity to explore the collection unencumbered by the metadata and confusing nature of our collections repository, ContentDM. The items selected for the exhibit reflect this intention by needing little to no interpretation to be explored and understood for their significance. Organizing these items into coherent categories took a bit of consideration. The existing digital exhibits are done either by theme or the type of material. Considering the end user, I had to plan for the ways in which the items would be used. The decision to group by theme was made because it offers better browsing and variation with the pages.

Designing the WordPress site was a chance to learn and explore more about User Design and UX. Learning Adobe XD, I was able to plan the layout and features of the exhibit. Adobe XD is a great, free software for UX when communicating ideas to a programmer. Though I was working with certain limitations, I was also able to explore the look and feel of the site with the prototype I designed. This prototype also meant that I was able to give viewers the chance to see how the exhibit would act. During my pitch (internship requirement to pitch an exhibition mock up), I received helpful feedback and questions that improved the final product. I loved working with Sarah Funk from Library Technology Services and having her bring all of my ideas to fruition.

Loading the content into WordPress (our choice of collections web portal) was simple enough and it was great to see all of the items I had selected really come together and shine in such a visual way. The real challenge in loading came in terms of titles and descriptions. There were many instances, especially regarding the Dr. Robert S. Chamberlain collection of Civil War covers, where the titles needed to better describe the material for the sake of exhibiting. I ended up finding those key elements for titles for each material type and keeping it consistent across all the selected items.

I really enjoyed working with the awesome people in UofSC Digital Collections who helped me make this exhibit. Mēgan really trusted me to do a great job and I think I was able to accomplish that with their input and encouragement. I truly look forward to working with them in the future.*


*We did not pay Kendall to say these wonderful things! 🙂

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.