Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

Jacqueline's posts / Jennifer's posts

Read the Printed Word!

Marginalia: Playing the Margins

Playing the margins is a project headed by Sian Prosser and Paris O’Donnell, two MA LIS students at the University College London Department of Information Studies.

The aim of the project, funded by UCL’s Train and Engage programme, is to bring drama students into the UCL Special Collections, allow them to interact with early printed books, and ask them to consider what annotations in these books might reveal about their authors’ engagement with these works.

The last workshop was held on 24th May in the Petrie Museum.  The site does not indicate when, or whether, another workshop will take place.

O’Donnell included a post on this project in her Day of DH blog and another on the UCL DIS student blog.  The latter contains an account of the first workshop, held on 9th May.

You can follow the project on Twitter here.

Your Hippocampus

The increasing ubiquity of digital information has given rise to not a few debates on the superiority of these new formats.  Ebooks have yet to replace paper in many people’s hearts, not to mention on their shelves.  Digitization of archives and artifacts, as we know, is costly and leaves a lot behind.  Some people are (still!) insisting that email has nothing on a “real”, paper letter, even as email is left in the dust by social networking and chat.  And speaking of social networking, there has been no end of discussion by naysayers on the use of the word “friends” in that context.

However, some things seem unquestionably to have been improved by the digital age.  Maps, for example.  It’s hard to beat the convenience of Google Maps when gauging how long a journey will take.  GPS, whether mounted on your dashboard or installed on your smartphone, offers reassurance in unfamiliar territory.

But by ditching paper maps — and our own sense of direction — we might be losing a lot more.  Last year John McKinney, writing for Miller-McCune, reported on a study led by Toru Ishikawa at the University of Tokyo that asked participants to navigate on foot from point A to point B.  Some were given a GPS device, some were given maps, and others had the route described to them by a researcher.  From the abstract:

Results showed that GPS users traveled longer distances and made more stops during the walk than map users and direct-experience participants. Also, GPS users traveled more slowly, made larger direction errors, drew sketch maps with poorer topological accuracy, and rated wayfinding tasks as more difficult than direct-experience participants.

In other words, GPS was not more efficient than other methods, and participants paid less attention to their surroundings while using it.  Quoted in McKinney’s article, cartographer and publisher Tom Harrison remarks that “We seem to be rushing away from using our ability to navigate in the real world.”

The detrimental effects of GPS may extend further than just missing out on the scenery.  In an article eloquently titled "Are GPS zombies eating your brain?", Psychology Today's Ron S. Doyle reports on research done by Veronique Bohbot of McGill University, that found that over-reliance on stimulus-response strategies in navigation (GPS is one) shrinks the hippocampus, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.  (The hippocampus is where we “keep” our “cognitive maps”.)

For a comprehensive overview of this issue, see Global Impositioning Systems by Alex Hutchinson, from the Canadian magazine The Walrus.  Among other things, Hutchinson suggests that we may soon have to exercise our brains the same way we do our bodies — to make up for exercise we might once have gained naturally.

This lock of Mary Shelley’s hair is part of a collection of realia and rare documents currently on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library.  May 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the iconic building in which it resides.
This article from Salon defends the idea of the library as place, as well as noting that not all of the items held by the library are scannable documents.  Also on display: Charlotte Brönte’s writing desk, Jack Kerouac’s Valium box, and a pamphlet, entitled “What To Do If You’re Arrested,” distributed in the 1960’s by the gay-rights organization the Mattachine Society.
See also: This video, a news story on the anniversary from WABC.  In response to some more controversial items on display, such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hood, curator Thomas Mellins cautions, “the library’s mission is to be our collective memory, it is not to be our collective conscience.”  For more information on the New York Public Library, see their Tumblr page, NYPL Wire.

This lock of Mary Shelley’s hair is part of a collection of realia and rare documents currently on display at the main branch of the New York Public Library.  May 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the iconic building in which it resides.

This article from Salon defends the idea of the library as place, as well as noting that not all of the items held by the library are scannable documents.  Also on display: Charlotte Brönte’s writing desk, Jack Kerouac’s Valium box, and a pamphlet, entitled “What To Do If You’re Arrested,” distributed in the 1960’s by the gay-rights organization the Mattachine Society.

See also: This video, a news story on the anniversary from WABC.  In response to some more controversial items on display, such as a Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hood, curator Thomas Mellins cautions, “the library’s mission is to be our collective memory, it is not to be our collective conscience.”  For more information on the New York Public Library, see their Tumblr page, NYPL Wire.

Albert Einstein’s papers

The Einstein Archives Online are a collaboration between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  3,000 high-quality digitized images of Einstein’s writings may be browsed on the site; these represent over 900 of Einstein’s documents.

The digitized documents represent a small fraction of the papers held in the Einstein collections of the three participating institutions.  The Archival Database contains records for over 43,000 records of Einstein and Einstein-related documents.  The site also offers a finding aid.  According to this article on profetic, these 43,000 records have not yet been digitized because the universities cannot afford to do so.

600 Small Finnish Museums (but not for long?)

Vimuseo is a website that documents the doctoral research of Magdalena Laine-Zamojska (Academia.edu and LinkedIn), a doctoral student in Museology at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland).  The main product of this research will be virtuaalimuseo.fi, an online tool for creating virtual exhibitions and multimedia presentations, geared toward small museums that would not otherwise be able to afford to digitize their collections.  The site’s About page explains that out of 919 museums listed on the Finnish Museum Association website, around 600 are not professionally run.  This means that, while these museums may be willing to digitize their collections, they might not have the tools, or the know-how, to do so.  virtuaalimuseo.fi aims to make the digitization process easier.

Laine-Zamojska demonstrated her project at Museums and the Web 2011, a conference which took place April 6-9 in Philadelphia (here is her published paper).  The abstract states that the interface is user-friendly and requires no knowledge of programming.  The program supports multimedia such as flash animation, movies, music, Google maps and more.  In addition, social aspects will be implemented and tested.

Photo of Jyväskylä University Bridge by Alessio Damato.

A little off-topic but, perhaps, relevant to our concerns here is this infographic from marketing blog WordStream (via Mashable).   If you’ve ever wondered how eco-friendly your Google searches really  are, or how much it costs the planet to spend a whole work day online,  this might give you some idea.
Are the eco-costs of the internet less noticeable than those of paper and ink?  What do you think?

A little off-topic but, perhaps, relevant to our concerns here is this infographic from marketing blog WordStream (via Mashable).  If you’ve ever wondered how eco-friendly your Google searches really are, or how much it costs the planet to spend a whole work day online, this might give you some idea.

Are the eco-costs of the internet less noticeable than those of paper and ink?  What do you think?

Peace of Mind?

Are books the new Prozac?  So asks Jeannie Vanasco in The New Yorker, reporting on a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.  The study found that

Major depressive disorder is positively associated with popular music exposure and negatively associated with reading print media such as books.

But do happy kids read, or are reading kids happy?  Which comes first?  The authors of the study admit this has yet to be determined.

The Independent noted that this study was announced on the heels of a warning by the American Academy of Pediatrics on a possible link between social media and a rise in depression among teens.

Dear readers: Get lost.

Link via sopantsso.

Palaeontological Data

If you feel strongly about open access to scientific data, you might want to sign An Open Letter In Support of Palaeontological Digital Data Archiving.  Its authors advocate “[making] digitally-archiving research data in appropriate freely-accessible databases a ‘normal’ part of the publication process.”

What has compelled author Ross Mounce to write this letter?  Nature News reports that there is currently no standard way for palaeontologists to share their raw data, and doing so is a matter of choice.  Tracking down this data can be an arduous task, and Mounce (and his co-signatories) believes that if journals require researchers to archive their raw data they will only encourage scholarship.  But there are naysayers: some object that such a database would make excavation sites more vulnerable to the illicit fossil trade; others doubt that researchers would want to let others use their hard-won data.

Optional services for archiving your palaeontological data include Morphobank and TreeBASE.  For informed commentary on this issue, visit john hawkes weblog or The Open Source Palaeontologist.

Photo by FunkMonk.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

This article in the Sun will have tipped many Britons off to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation’s INtervene Now! campaign, launched on 27th January 2011, World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  From the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum site:

INtervene Now!” is an initiative to engage individuals, organizations and governments around the world to protect and preserve the authentic remains of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the memory of the victims and survivors of one of the most heinous crimes in our history.

After 66 years, the camp and grounds, along with thousands of invaluable historical objects, face accelerated irreversible deterioration and natural erosion.  It is the mission of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to create a Perpetual Capital Fund to finance long-term conservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site to safeguard it for future generations.

You can donate to this initiative through the Museum website.  There is also a Facebook page. The preservation plan is focused on preserving buildings, including drawings, inscriptions and wall paintings, as well as “thousands of moveable objects and documents that constitute evidence of the crimes committed at Auschwitz-Birkenau”.

The Museum already has a devoted preservation team; you can read about their activities here.  One current preservation effort involves the digitization of archival documents from the SS-Hygiene Institut.  Documents are scanned before and after preservation efforts, resulting in “a digital record that can be used in detailed historical studies.”  No link to a digital archive is provided, nor does there appear to be an online catalogue of the Museum’s holdings.  Other ongoing projects include the preservation of children’s shoes and of the remains of chimneys of barracks in Birkenau.

While some photographs are available through the museum site, like this gallery from the Let Us Build a Memory exhibition (other photographs of exhibitions and activities can be seen here), the images available represent only a fraction of the collection, and are not in sufficient detail to replace the experience of viewing the items firsthand.

The Jewish Virtual Library has compiled a directory of major concentration camps of the Nazi era, including locations and visitor information.

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