In The News: The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project

On this morning’s Marketplace (TM) was this little gem. Good to see conservation science in the mainstream media.

by Noel King
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 – 05:00
STORY

The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project
Spectral ratio version of Livingstone, The 1871 Field Diary, 297b/157-138

If you were around during the 80s, you probably remember the Indiana Jones movies—The swashbuckling archaeologist traveled the world digging up ancient treasures.

If you were to go looking for a real-life, present-day Indiana Jones, you might get someone like Michael Toth. He and his teams travel around the world using modern technology—lasers, high-tech cameras—to unearth treasure. It’s centuries-old writing that appears in very faint form on manuscripts called palimpsests. Along the way they’ve discovered everything from lost languages to some very mysterious fingerprints.

You’re not discovering ancient manuscripts; you’re working to read what’s buried in them. Tell me a little about the work you do?

We work on a range of manuscripts—the earliest copy of Archimedes work, David Livingston’s diaries, and we use spectral imaging to reveal that text which is not seen by the naked eye.

Why isn’t that text visible? We’re talking about two different layers of writing here, right?

That is correct. It’s usually on parchment. And they’re written initially with an ink made out of the galls of oak trees and that’s been scraped off and overwritten. And in doing so, it’s preserved that text underneath it.

See the entire Marketplace story online.

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Chronicle of Higher Ed: Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive

Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, recently wrote a nice piece on the complications of preserving born-digital collections. It’s worth the read, and good to see these issues hit the academic newswires.

The first challenge is making sure people can get to the work when they do want to come. Analog or digital, no work will have much influence if it doesn’t stick around to be cited or argued with. The technological advances that make digital-humanities work possible also put it at risk of obsolescence, as software and hardware decay or become outmoded. Somebody—or a team of somebodies, often based in academic libraries or digital-scholarship centers—has to conduct regular inspections and make sure that today’s digital scholarship doesn’t become tomorrow’s digital junk.

Bradley J. Daigle, director of digital curation services at the University of Virginia Library, calls this “digital stewardship.” It’s an essential but easily overlooked element in any digital-humanities project. Born-digital work can die. Digital stewardship “involves care and feeding” to make sure that doesn’t happen, he says. “My unit essentially pays attention to the life cycle of the digital object.”

“Bradley Daigle, a digital curator at the U. of Virginia, and his colleagues Matthew Stephens and Lorrie Chisholm were in charge of preserving an early digital archive on the Civil War.”

In The News: Preserving Audio For The Future Is A Race Against Time : NPR

The Library of Congress’ efforts to preserve audio materials is highlighted on NPR today. Find the full story online.

“We’re probably acquiring between 50 and 100,000 a year,” DeAnna says. “We’re at least stabilizing them in a good environment so that their deterioration will slow down, and we’ll hopefully get to most of them before they’re lost.”

Many already have been lost, according to in 2010. Radio recordings, which the study calls “an irreplaceable piece of our sociocultural heritage” (we’re flattered), were rarely kept for safekeeping before the 1930s. At commercial record companies, master recordings of musical artists were sometimes thrown out due to space constraints.

And once recordings are made digital, they’re still at risk of being lost. Unless the digital format is updated consistently, it might not be recognized by a computer in 10 years. Modern recordings that were “born digital” — think songs streamed on Myspace — are especially ephemeral and at risk of being lost, the Library of Congress study says.

“It’s an active process, not a passive process,” DeAnna says. “It’s not like putting something on the shelf.”

via Preserving Audio For The Future Is A Race Against Time : NPR.

In the News: Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Bradley J. Daigle, director of digital curation services at the University of Virginia Library, calls this “digital stewardship.” Its an essential but easily overlooked element in any digital-humanities project. Born-digital work can die. Digital stewardship “involves care and feeding” to make sure that doesnt happen, he says. “My unit essentially pays attention to the life cycle of the digital object.”

via Born Digital, Projects Need Attention to Survive – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the News: Library of Congress: 75% of Silent Films Lost | Variety

A study from the Library of Congress reveals for the first time how many feature films produced by U.S. studios during the silent film era still exist, what condition they’re in and where they are located.

via Library of Congress: 75% of Silent Films Lost | Variety.

In the News: Nov. 22, 1963: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Assassination of JFK

As we remember this fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, library and archival collections are providing vivid time capsules of that tragic event — and new ways to present those artifacts.

The University of Virginia Library is “live-tweeting” (@UVaDigServ #JFK50) a transcript of the broadcast wire from a United Press International teletype machine in Jacksonville Florida chronicling the shooting and death of President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963.  Learn more about the recent donation of the teletype machine printout of wire reports received by UPI on Notes from Under Grounds: The Blog of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

And even though they don’t give quite enough credit to their archival sources, this Huffington Post story does a great job pulling together news footage, newspaper headlines, and wire posts that detail the frantic attempts to report the assassination.

The LBJ Library’s Nov. 22, 1963 Tragedy and Transition online exhibit features many digitized manuscripts and a/v recordings related to the event.  An a/v preservation colleague points out a particularly interesting recording:

Here is Lady Bird Johnson’s first diary recollection from November 22, 1963. She used her secretary’s son’s portable reel to reel and recorded over a music tape that was on the machine. Being a frugal person she used the batteries in the machine until they were dead. This caused the pitch of this recording to fluctuate over two octaves during each segment.

This segment was “re-pitched” over the past few years, sometimes syllable by syllable.

 

Who Owns The Archives Of A Vanishing Iraqi Jewish World? : Parallels : NPR

Back in 2003, that Baghdad basement was flooded, thanks to a U.S. military strike. Floating in the muck, according to Doris Hamburg of the National Archives, were scads of documents. Some are centuries old, others more recent. They chronicle Baghdad’s role as a center of Jewish life. There were holiday prayer books, sections of Torah scrolls, books on Jewish law, and Jewish community organizational documents.

Who Owns The Archives Of A Vanishing Iraqi Jewish World? : Parallels : NPR.