Friday, August 11, 2017

Collaborating with Digital Vendors: Going over to the dark side?

I have been approached by several vendors of digital packages over the years who were interested in including materials from the James Ford Bell Library in new digital products.  These vendors scan and package a variety of digital materials, drawn largely from archives and special collections, and then sell the packages to schools and universities.  I resisted.  Although these vendors situated the images within a well-researched historical context, something I favor over letting the images float about with a context, selling this material seemed wrong;  it should be made freely available to anyone who asks.  After two years of dithering, I changed my mind.

I realized that it might be years before this material could be scanned in-house and be made available through our own digital repository.  Participating in one of these programs would get the material out there much sooner.  Second, and I learned this during discussions with Adam Matthew Digital with whom we eventually partnered, our institution received Master TIFFS of all of the images, along with any new metadata that AMD creates for the image.  Third, we receive royalties from sales, which can help us scan more of our own material.  Yay!!!    Fourth, participating in the project did not prevent us from sharing these materials with our researchers on an individual basis;  we are only restricted from including them in a competing large-scale digital project, and we could include scans of items from the collection that we already had that were pertinent to the project;  these items would be under no restrictions, but still would be shared with a potentially broader audience through the project. And fifth, I could help shape the context in which the images were were viewed.

A colleague in another unit in the U of MN Libraries also decided to participate in a different ADM project, so we developed the contracts, procedures, and protocols together, which will now serve as a model for any future projects we or our colleagues may pursue.

The Bell Library is partnering with Adam Matthew in the "Age of Exploration" package, scheduled to be released in 2018.  If you are interested in this or other Adam Matthew Digital projects, check out their web site:

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Find Delight In the Book Arts

Noam Sienna:  Contemporary art with early modern roots.
I work with rare and beautiful books every day.  In every respect they are examples of the art and craft of bookmaking, from the design of the type font or the letter form, to the marbled end papers, to the illustrations.

As our knowledge sources become more digital, the book as physical object, whether a manuscript or printed, is becoming more precious.  The Minnesota Center for Book Arts celebrates the book and the book arts, their traditions and new incarnations.

I was fortunate to attend the opening of a new exhibit at MCBA this week:  Take Words With You:  In Our Home and In Our Ways.  One of the students in my graduate seminar, Noam Sienna, is one of the featured artists.  I encourage you to check it out;  it will be on display through May 28, 2017 in the Cowles Literary Commons in the Open Book building, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis.


Noam Sienna is a Hebrew calligrapher and manuscript artist who investigates the relationship between letters, image, color and light, inspired by the tradition of Jewish books throughout the centuries. His graduate work in Jewish History and Museum Studies provides his art with deep roots and a commitment to seeing the past come alive again in the present.
Aaron Greenberg Silver’s artwork is typically created by cutting paper, but he has also worked in watercolor, steel, and clay. He invites the viewer to see objects and ideas in new ways, extracting the essence of a scene or object to portray it unencumbered by extraneous material.
Demetrios Vital’s artmaking begins in awe and curiosity of natural history and Jewish community. In search of a connection between letters and life, he creates and restores sacred manuscripts with careful attention to their history and place within their community. His calligraphic art combines Hebrew scribal traditions and text, with modern sources of inspiration.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Magazines, magazines, magazines

I'm a hoarder.  I confess it.  Magazines have taken over my family room.  I just may need that  recipe for the perfect short ribs (with the bonus recipe for short rib tacos made from the leftovers) or the instructions for cleverly painting floor cloths using cut potatoes and milk paint sometime in the future, so even though I have already read these magazines cover to cover, I feel I must keep them. Something in them might come in handy someday.

I have thought about getting rid of them. Indeed, I have come up with several strategies.  I could cut out all of the recipes and paste them onto paper and put the paper into binders--ridiculous for so many reasons! I could type all of the recipes I think I might want into a database, but life is way too short-- and getting shorter.  I could get a fancy hand-held scanner and scan all of the recipes into the computer, but then I would still have to figure out how to organize them and they would take up loads of web space that I don't have.   I could rip out and put into tidy folders all of the decorating ideas.  But I'm not in need of another project.  I already have a lot of projects (a subject for another time).  And I don't have the shelf or drawer space all of the tidy folders would take up should I actually figure out how to organize all of the ideas.

Periodically in these magazines there is an article about decluttering and I get inspired.  I decide that I will read through the magazines one last time and then get rid of them.  However, there seems to be no such thing as one last time.  I find something I want to try and decide to keep it. And I run out of time--I have a couple hundred of these magazines.   You wouldn't think this would be such a dilemma for someone who works in a library; maybe that's why it's so difficult. Sigh.

Last Sunday, however, I had a break through.  I read, in yet another magazine, the same ideas but put quite differently:  "Make room to breathe."  "Simplify." "Make room for what matters."  The article wasn't referring only to physical clutter but mental and emotional clutter, as well.  I realized that my inability to come to a decision about these magazines was creating a lot of unnecessary stress in my life.  They were taking up space, both physical and mental, that could be used more wisely, to better effect. 

I filled a bag with magazines that I know a friend would like and put it in the car, ready to deliver.  I filled two more bags for recycling.  That was all I had time for but I now have an entire shelf emptied.  What's more, I copied down the urls for the magazines, where they regularly post recipes and ideas.  My husband and I agreed to cancel all our subscriptions.  No magazines come into the house except mindfully and they go out at the end of the month--no matter what!

I'm kind of sad.  I love to hold books and magazines, I like to flip pages.  Magazines can be carted around easily, no power source or internet necessary; I can read them anywhere.  I appreciate their design, how the image and text come together harmoniously.  I will miss them.   But it was time.

I would rather be a collector, mindfully acquiring beloved, useful things, rather than a hoarder.  And I do collect things:  cake stands, vintage linens, antique tea cups and dessert plates…. But these are lovely things that I use to entertain family and friends, that one day will be passed down to a grandchild, niece or nephew.  I also collect books, but again I am now collecting them more mindfully.  Paperback books that I know I won't read again are passed on to new readers quickly, and I'm getting more and more light reading for my Kindle. 

Ummm...while searching online for the image included with this post, I discovered a site that demonstrates how to make collages using magazines....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Cronicle of Alfonso X

The Estoria de Espanna Digital project is an electronic research environment and searchable digital edition of the chronicle of Alfonso X, king of Castile and Leon.  Aengus Ward, University of Birmingham, UK, has assembled a team of scholars to bring together the rich manuscript tradition of this document in digital form.

During the month of February 2017, several of the extant manuscripts are being exhibited by the institutions that hold them in their collections.  The University of Minnesota's copy will be on display at the James Ford Bell Library through the end of the month.  Following the exhibition, it may be seen in person by request at the Bell Library.  The complete manuscript is also available online: Primera Cronica General de EspaƱa

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Library Cats I

I  wish we could have a library cat like other libraries do.  However, we really can't risk a hairball suddenly gracing the open pages of the first printed edition of Marco Polo's Travels (Bell Call # 1477 Po).  Hence the title of this blog:  it reflects my own cat-like curiosity about the world and its books.  And although I can't cuddle up with one on a rainy afternoon at work, cats do grace several of the pages in the Bell Library's rare book collection.  Take this one, for instance, a medieval mouser complete with trophy.
Bell Library shelf mark: 1400 oBa
It's a hand-drawn marginal illustration in our copy of Bartholomeus Anglicus' Le propriĆ©taire des choses.  This late 14th-century Old French edition of the 13th-century Latin original, De proprietatibus rerum, is a marvelous example of a decorated and illuminated European book.

Bartholomeus, a Franciscan monk, compiled his master work ca. 1240;  it was translated into French by Jean Corbechon in 1372.