Visions of Rapture 2018: The Online Exhibit

The third annual Visions of Rapture exhibit celebrates the music from Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, specifically the 45 rpm discs that were released without cover art during their original pressings. Working with students in Prof. Andrew Baker’s ART 3333 course on Type and Design, the project showcases their visions of what cover art would look like for these songs if they were designed and released in record stores either in the 1960s or today.

Explore the students’ artwork from the 2018 exhibit below, and see the link at the bottom of this post to listen to the songs that inspired the designs.













LISTEN UP

Listen to the songs that inspired the exhibit at this link. Learn more about the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at the project homepage.


The physical exhibit for Visions of Rapture is available through summer 2018 in Moody Memorial Library. Our thanks to Prof. Baker, graphic design intern Kacey Byrne and exhibits coordinator Erik Swanson for their invaluable contributions to this exhibit.

Remembering the West Explosion, Five Years Later (Classic Post)

On April 17, 2013, the course of history for the town of West, TX was changed forever. The following day, we wrote a brief blog post on the nature of recovery, perseverance and the fleeting nature of memory, data and life in general. Today, on the fifth anniversary of that devastating day, we are reposting that article in its entirety.


The article below originally ran on April 18, 2013, one day after a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas destroyed the facility and caused 15 fatalities (mostly first responders) and millions of dollars in property damage.

The aftermath of an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, April 17, 2013. (Photo via BusinessInsider.com)

At the time of this writing, the campus of Baylor University is quiet, subdued under a twin burden thanks to the dismal weather (due to a cold front/rainstorm combo) and an event that occurred just twenty short miles up the road in West. As reports roll in documenting the destruction – physical, emotional, communal – wrought by an explosion at a fertilizer plant on the north side of town, the Baylor community is responding with a prayer vigil, offers of donations of materials and financial gifts, and the use of our collective expertise in helping the citizens of West find new hope in the rubble of last night’s wreckage.

As we try to come to grips with the scope of devastation, it comes at a time when the national mood is already unsettled due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Add into the mix the fact that this, the third week in April, has seen traumatic national events in the past two decades (the Columbine High School massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Davidian standoff, chiefly) and you have a general sense of discomfort, a time of unwanted reflection on the darker side of human nature.

All of this may seen like a strange topic for a blog post focused on digital collections, but it reinforces an absolutely inarguable point: life is uncertain. We can build legal structures, steel-studded concrete walls, social norms and inner rationalizations to protect us from the things beyond our control, but they can only take us so far. For all of us will face an event in our lives that we cannot control, that is beyond our power to influence. And in the midst of that uncertainty, it helps to have reminders that our daily work to preserve the documented history of our campus, our community, our world is one way we can provide the tumultuous present with a concrete anchor to the past.

“The Preservers of History”

Chiseled into the stonework of the façade of Pat Neff Hall, Baylor’s main administration building, is a quote from former Baylor president (and two-term Texas governor) Pat Morris Neff. It reads, “The preservers of history are as heroic as its makers,” and I believe this sums up our role in the Digital Projects Group in a simple, profound way that paragraphs of explanatory text cannot. We are the preservers of history, yes, by the nature of our work to digitize physical history and preserve its digital surrogate for access by the future. But more important than simply scanning and archiving data, we are preserving the stories contained within those documents and we are ensuring that those stories will be accessible and available to people many years from now. On days like today, it seems particularly important to preserve the stories happening all around us, even if they aren’t as newsworthy as an explosion, a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack.

This is not a responsibility we take lightly, of course. For every artifact, archival resource, photograph, map or other item that comes through our doors, we know we are handling the “real stuff” of history and it is our job to take that one unique thing and give it a new life, a greater usefulness in the realm of academic scholarship and worldwide access. In a sense, we serve not so much as the preservers of history but as its spokesmen, the professional communicators tasked with taking something out of its phase box, Mylar sleeve or acid-free folder and putting it on an international stage via the Internet so its unique story can reach people on our campus, on our continent, on the other side of the world.

The Way of All Flesh (and Data)

We are given only a short time on this Earth to do the work we were created to do. There will come a time when the words of this blog will be seen as a record of what one group of people thought was important in the early decades of the 21st century. They will read of a fertilizer plant explosion in a small, Czech community in central Texas and want to know more about how it spurred a library staff member at Baylor University to write about its relation to digital preservation.

To those future researchers –and to my 2013 contemporaries reading this post today – I can only say that as this week’s unexpected events have unfolded on the East coast and a half-hour drive from my front door, it drives home to me the frailty of life, the knowledge that the things we create today are not promised to exist tomorrow, and that the challenge for our field is to try to find some permanence in the world, to promise our grandchildren’s grandchildren that they will have access to the world we are living in today. And, more importantly than all of this, that they will have access to our stories.

If you would like to assist the people of West in their recovery and rebuilding efforts, please visit Baylor’s “Response for the City of West” web age or contact the Central Texas Red Cross. Photo from REUTERS photographer Mike Stone via Business Insider (www.businessinsider.com)

State of the Union for the State of the Art: An Update from the Riley Digitization Center


They say life has only two constants: death and taxes. But sometimes “They” forget to add the other immutable law of the universe: change. In any system, there is no such thing as complete static, total immobility, immutability. There’s always some change at work, even if it’s on a molecular level, and given enough time, it will invariably impact everything it touches.

What’s true for the created universe is true for organizations, of course, and that’s why this post exists. In the past few months, there have been changes underway with the team that digitizes, preserves, promotes and provides access to the archival and library holdings of this university. Some are big, others small, but all of them share one common bond: they impact the ongoing work of the men and women who call (or, [spoiler alert] called) the Riley Digitization Center their home.

A New Name

First off, let’s address the most obvious change. The group formerly known as the Digital Projects Group is now the Digital Preservation Services group. The change was made to better reflect the action that is at the core of the work carried out by the DPS’s staff: preserving analog materials in a digital format for long-term access. This change was made during a rebrand of the former Electronic Library (now Library and Academic Technology Services or LATS) which took place last year. While the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (which are created and maintained by the DPS) will keep their name for the time being, the DPS will be working to rebrand their online presence both on social media and on the Digital Collections site (digitalcollections.baylor.edu) in the coming days and months.

New Faces in Familiar Places

The other big changes to the Group Formerly Known as the DPG involve personnel. For some time, Travis Taylor has been part of the DPS team, beginning as a graduate assistant, then a temporary employee and briefly in a dual-reporting position doing audiovisual digitization and monitoring and tracking usage statistics for the various systems administered by LATS. But some internal moves within the LATS structure allowed the DPS to add another full-time position to the team, and Travis has since moved into that spot to serve as a full-time audiovisual digitization specialist alongside long-time employee Stephen Bolech. He is working primarily with the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project’s analog discs but also assists with video digitization and is investigating systems for film digitization as well.

Partnering with the DPS team to take over usage statistics work – and assisting with digitization, quality control and other critical tasks – is Libby Shockley. Libby joined the Digital Library Services and Systems (working under Denyse Rodgers) after serving with the libraries as an Information Specialist in the Library Collections Services department. Libby will work closely with Allyson Riley, who continues in her role as Digitization Coordinator.

A Departure

The final staffing news of note involves our Curator of Digital Collections — me. After working with DPS director Darryl Stuhr for more than 12 years – first as the second (and only additional) full-time staffer and most recently as curator – I left the DPS for a position as Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications for the division of University Libraries and ITS. I am proud to report that my tenure as curator helped grow the Digital Collections from a handful of small collections to a robust repository of almost 500,000 items, including more than 3,000 items in the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, a complete run of the Baylor “Lariat” (the campus newspaper) and more than 70 additional collections. My curation work, which included loading materials into Baylor’s CONTENTdm instance, will continue under Darryl and Metadata Librarian Kara Long.

I will continue my relationship with the DPS in the role of promoting and publicizing the ongoing work of the group, including its established social media channels, ongoing events (like the Voices & Vinyl concert and the Visions of Rapture art exhibit) and in writing grants for use by the DPS in their ongoing projects. The decision to leave my friends and colleagues at the DPS was not an easy one, and being able to maintain these ties to the amazing work being done by this group of talented professionals was one major reason I was able to make the transition with full knowledge that it was the right (if not necessarily easy) choice for me at this stage in my career.

So What’s Next?

The changes will continue for the DPS as it continues to add content to an already-sizable digital collection, with an expected increase in video digitization coming in the near future, as well as the ingestion of additional resources from our campus archival collections. There’s also a change to the appearance of the Digital Collections site on the horizon, as Baylor transitions into CONTENTdm’s mobile/responsive design template, a move that will make browsing our materials on tablets and phones a more intuitive and engaging experience. There might also be new equipment to tell you about soon, the addition of which will allow the DPS to explore digitization in areas where we’ve only previously dabbled.

In short: change is what’s next. It’s unpredictable, it’s sometimes difficult, but it’s always been something the DPS team has handled with skill, ability and foresight.

So let’s look forward together to what changes await, and thanks for being a part of the journey that’s led us to this moment. Here’s to the future.

A Second Helping of Thanksgiving Gratitude Courtesy Rev. Selsus E. Tull

Anyone can post an article about Thanksgiving the week of; what would happen if you got another chance to think about gratitude, thanksgiving and spirituality the week after? To find out, read this guest post by Professional Writing senior Will Overton on the theme of thanksgiving throughout the sermons of Rev. Selsus E. Tull.

A Selsus E. Tull Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been observed in the United States ever since the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in 1621. However, it was not until Abraham Lincoln was president that it became an officially recognized national holiday. While we are familiar with the usual staples of the holiday, dinner with our families, the Macy’s parade, etc., we are also thankful for what God has provided for us. In a series of sermons, Selsus E. Tull delivers his thoughts on the importance of Thanksgiving and how we should not relegate giving thanks to just one day a year.

Selsus E. Tull was a prolific pastor in the Southern United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Tull preached on many topics over the course of his long and illustrious career, including the importance of giving thanks in our lives. While complete transcripts of Tull’s Thanksgiving sermons do not exist, we are offered a glimpse into his thoughts on the holiday. Even with pieces missing, these sermons are as meaningful today as they were when he first delivered them.

Page one of sermon “Thanksgiving Service 1926”

In his sermon titled “Thanksgiving 1926: A Contrast in Life’s Ideals”, Tull uses Luke 12:16-23 and Psalm 116 as a way to draw a contrast between two men who lived different lifestyles. The man in the Luke verse stores up treasures on Earth after he “yielded an abundant harvest” (Luke 16:16). While he plans to store the grain in his barns for his own use, God warns him that he will die before he can use it. Jesus summarizes the parable by saying “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 16:23). Tull is using this advice to warn his congregation to show thanks to God and store up treasures in heaven instead of earth. If they devote their lives to God and do not store up treasures for themselves on Earth then they will live a rich and fulfilling life.

Psalm 116 is a psalm of thanksgiving often attributed to David. Despite the hardships in his life, he continues to praise the Lord. In contrast to the man in Luke 16, the speaker in Psalm 116 is devoted to the Lord and gives what is owed to him. This is shown in verse 12 where he asks “what shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116). The tone of the Psalm is also more reverential than the parable of the man and his grain. The use of these two verses is meant to draw a comparison between the man who “looked at the harvest” and the man who looked “at the Lord of the harvest.” Tull hopes that the congregation behaves more like the man in Psalm 116 in their daily lives and not just at Thanksgiving.

The entirety of Tull’s notes for a sermon titled “Thanksgiving”

The Tull sermon titled “Thanksgiving” gives its message rather succinctly. Tull wants his audience to know “what to be thankful for”, “when to be thankful” and “how to be thankful.” Those three phrases make up the entirety of this sermon note. While no other information is available about the sermon Tull delivered, his talking points make it clear what he wanted his audience to take away from it.

In “Thanksgiving Service”, Tull talks about the third chapter of Colossians and what Thanksgiving means to Christians. One of the ways that Tull talks about Thanksgiving is by saying it is an obligation that comes out of a blessing. Whenever we feel blessed by something God does for us, we are obliged to give thanks for it. The concept of giving thanks and celebrating Thanksgiving is called “a unique and most commendable custom.” One of the harsher truths Tull brings up is the quality of someone who does not give thanks when they receive a blessing. According to him, ungrateful people are “a blight and a curse” on the world around them. But none of those people are at the service on the day Tull spoke because he feels assured that he is addressing “Christian hearts” who know how to “give thanks.”  This set of sermon notes ends with the beginning of a list that is now incomplete. Whether Tull wrote more or the remainder are lost is unknown. There is no incorporation of verses from Colossians 3, indicating that either the chapter was recited at the start of the sermon or that it was part of the sermon not included in Tull’s notes.

There is another Tull sermon titled “Thanksgiving Service” that finds Tull speaking about Thanksgiving as a “distinctly…American day.” Tull’s assuring his congregation that everything wrong with the world today, 1937 to be precise, is due to the actions of man not God. These words of assurance are true, even if there are some people who would argue against it. Tull delivering this sermon during the Great Depression is his way of reminding the congregation that they should still give thanks, even if they do not have an abundance of earthly goods. The idea that we should give thanks during hard times is especially important today, when it seems like there are more hard times than good. Tull’s words reiterate the notion that giving thanks is not just for when everything is going well in our lives. We should give thanks even when times are rough, if for no other reason to remember what good we do have in our lives.

In his “Thanksgiving 1927” sermon, Tull delivers a memorable quote: “We ought not to live in the past, but the future of no people is safe who forget the past.” Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of remembrance, which is reflected in this sermon. Tull talks about people’s reliance on the Psalms when the Psalms are only concerned with the relationship between God and his people. These sermon notes are interesting because they include both long hand and short hand writing. Tull knew the major points he wanted to touch on, but also jotted down brief examples of giving thanks to help illustrate them.

The “Contentment” sermon has Tull preaching on the subject of finding Contentment in giving thanks. This sermon is important to Tull and his congregation because it was delivered during the Great Depression, though it is never brought up in the sermon.  Instead, he talks about people clamoring for material needs, even when they cannot afford them. Tull makes a lot of strong points in this sermon, particularly about people needing most what the world cannot provide: “peace of mind and contentment of soul.” Tull’s sermon about finding Contentment at Thanksgiving, especially during a time as trying as the Great Depression, is certainly fitting and still applicable today.

Thanksgiving in the year 1942” follows a similar pattern to Tull’s previous sermons. He talks about the meaning of Thanksgiving and relates it to how we should be thankful for what we have. One difference with this sermon is Tull’s opening “sketch of the First Thanksgiving Day.”  Among the Tull sermon notes collected in the archives, this is the first to directly mention the Pilgrims. Tull draws upon the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving as a way of reminding his congregation that the principles and beliefs that America were founded on are tied to the holiday of Thanksgiving.

At the time this sermon was delivered, America was in the midst of fighting in World War Two. Tull directly mentions the war on page five of his notes as a way to tie the current conflict with the American fight for Independence. Men were fighting to protect everything America stood for in the 1940s, just as they did in the American Revolution. In fact, soldiers fighting for “the survival of our American Liberties” is one of the things Tull mentions that his congregation should be thankful for. Besides the obvious tie-in to Thanksgiving, this is a sermon that would only have been heard during wartime. Specifically, the parts about being thankful for men who are fighting to protect the principles of freedom that America was founded on. That’s not to downplay the sermon’s importance in any way, just to point out the type of sermon that major world events like World War Two gave us. Tull’s other sermon notes are not directly about Thanksgiving, but do mention it as a means of talking about the topic of the sermon.

Comparing Tull’s Thanksgiving sermons to the Thanksgiving sermons of George W. Truett reveals a few similar ideas and themes. Both Truett and Tull talk about gratitude and being thankful. Truett even starts his sermon titled “Ingratitude: The Commonest Sin” by talking about the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. Both pastors share the belief that people should be thankful every day of the year and not just on Thanksgiving. Truett goes on to say that no matter how much we thank God for everything he provides for us, we will never be able to “sufficiently” thank him. The idea that ingratitude and thanklessness is the most common sin amongst humans is interesting because of the implications. Ingratitude is the most common sin because we sometimes forget to appreciate what others do for us and what we have. Some may argue against his claim, but ingratitude can still be seen around the world.

Disc label for November 23, 1941 sermon by Dr. George W. Truett titled “Ingratitude: the Commonest Sin”

Where Tull discusses the act of giving thanks in relation to world events like the Great Depression, World War Two and the significance of the First Thanksgiving, Truett uses real-life stories as examples. Even though Tull and Truett approach the topic of giving thanks from similar points of view, the use of real-life examples in their sermons differs. Because of the way Tull wrote his sermon notes, it is sometimes difficult to see where he made use of the included Bible verses. But they should not be dismissed because of their brevity. We can learn a lot about Tull’s beliefs from his sermon notes and be thankful for what notes of his we do have in the digital collections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrating a Milestone: 50 Spencer Sheet Music Covers for 50 Percent Online

This blog post was written by Baylor Libraries intern Will Overton. Will is a senior professional writing major from Dickinson, TX working in the Office of Marketing Communication for the Libraries and ITS.

Music has been a part of American culture since the Colonies were founded hundreds of years ago. Many examples of American sheet music dating all the way back to the 1700s are in the process of being made available online in the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. This physical collection of approximately 30,000 pieces was acquired by Baylor in 1965 and continues to grow. Today, with 16,453 items online, it may seem daunting to browse the collection. In celebration of reaching the halfway point in making these titles available, I have compiled a list of my Top 50 favorite American sheet music covers that are currently available for browsing.