Bringing Cartography, Digitization and Texana Together for a Limited Time Via Our Digital Collections [UPDATED]

If you’ve followed our blog for awhile, you may recall a post about the special digitization equipment we utilize here at the Riley Digitization Center, including our large format map scanner, the Cruse CS-285. Well, the “big guy” got a workout this past summer when we digitized a number of rare and interesting maps from The Texas Collection in preparation for a joint physical and digital exhibit entitled “Mapping Waco: A Brief History, 1845-1913.”

The exhibit, which will be open at the Carroll Library on campus through December, features 11 maps from the earliest days of Waco and explores the development of our fair city’s boundaries as they extended beyond the original plot of land surveyed and staked by George B. Erath and Neil McLennan.

Maps featured in the exhibit include an 1845 “Map of Texas from the most recent authorities,” an 1873 Bird’s Eye View of the City of Waco and a 1913 Map of Waco, Texas and Suburbs. Each map is a fine example of the cartographer’s art, and true buffs will find much to intrigue them whether in person at The Texas Collection or via the digital exhibit presented via our Digital Collections.

Digitization and Exhibit Creation Process

The maps were scanned on the Cruse at a minimum of 300 dpi, with smaller maps scanned at higher resolutions. The Texas Collection’s staff delivered the maps in either Mylar folders or rolled in archival-safe tubes and Digitization Projects Group staff scanned them over the course of several weeks earlier this year. The files were checked for stability and backed up to our preservation server and other off-campus storage solutions before the originals were returned to The Texas Collection, and the process of adding the materials to CONTENTdm began.

Creating the digital records included attaching cataloging metadata to the maps, and for that we relied on information retrieved from BearCat, the university’s digital cataloging system. As we were putting together the digital exhibit, we added text and other information generated by staff at The Texas Collection to mirror the wording printed for labels for the physical exhibit, thus ensuring that visitors to either version of the exhibit would see the same information about each map.

To add some extra features to the digital component of the exhibit, we turned to two popular online tools, Flickr and GoogleMaps. For the Flickr content, we chose eight maps from the exhibit and digitally enhanced them to give users an idea of what the maps might have looked like when they were first printed. (As a rule, we do not enhance or otherwise alter the items in our Digital Collections, preferring to present them as they appear today. Enhancements are reserved for special cases like this exhibit’s Flickr stream.)

Here, you can see the difference between the current state of the 1869 map of Waco and its digitally reconstructed version, presented via Flickr.

We also wanted to give people a sense of how the maps looked compared to current maps  of Waco, so we used the GIS data presented via GoogleMaps to overlay the boundaries of the historic maps with their modern-day contemporaries. Here, you can see the way the Farwell Heights Addition to Waco Map relates to the current map of Waco. We also added points of interest listed in the original map which are no longer extant today, including a proposed car shed for an electric street car line and the site of the Waco Female College.

A GoogleMap showing the boundaries of the Farwell Heights Addition

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We hope you’ll take some time today to click over and explore this unique exhibit. It will give you a deeper appreciation of the changing landscape of Waco’s streets and buildings, and – we hope – a feel for how digital and physical exhibits can work together to present information to visitors in-person and online. Special thanks to our colleagues at The Texas Collection for their invaluable contributions to the exhibit, and to the DPG staffers and student workers who digitized the maps.

View the Exhibit

View the Flickr Set of Digitally Enhanced Maps

Visit The Texas Collection’s Website

“Mapping Waco: A Brief History, 1845-1913” is a joint exhibit of The Texas Collection and the Digitization Projects Group and will be available in person and online through December 2012.

UPDATE: November 7, 2012

Our friends at The Texas Collection have written a blog post about the exhibit as well. You can view it via their blog.

A Sisyphean* Task, An Unending Passion: “A Life’s Work” and Its Connection to the BGMRP

Records of America’s gospel heritage

Back in 2010, a crew of professional documentary filmmakers visited the Digitization Projects Group. They were on a mission: to interview and film the team of professionals working on the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP), a project brought to life through the vision of Baylor University journalism professor Robert Darden. David Licata and his crew spent a day shooting on-camera interviews with Professor Darden and hours of b-roll footage featuring our team working to clean, digitize, catalog and scan materials from the collection.

The footage Licata and his crew captured is being included in his documentary film, A Life’s Work. Described on his website as a “documentary about people engaged with projects they may not complete in their lifetime,” the film chronicles the stories of men and women who know their passionate pursuits will not be realized before they pass on to the next great adventure, and how that knowledge shapes their approach.

In addition to a segment on the BGMRP, Licata’s film will examine an architect and his “urban laboratory” in the Arizona desert; the director of the Center for SETI Research; and a father-son team of tree farmers who are trying to clone old-growth trees for long-term reforestation projects.

Prof. Darden’s attempts to save America’s black gospel musical tradition – especially materials from its “Golden Age” from 1945-1975 – have been documented on NPR’s Fresh Air, in the pages of major newspapers across the country, and through Darden’s own relentless drive to present about the project in front of audiences across the country. He knows the odds are stacked against him in terms of finding and saving the majority of the existing gospel recordings. In fact, by Darden’s own estimate, more than 75% of these recordings have already been lost.

But through hard-nosed tenacity and the generosity of some major donors, we at the DPG have managed to digitize and preserve thousands of black gospel songs thanks to a combination of technology and staff expertise. From the efforts of our original audio engineer, Tony Tadey, to the ongoing work being done by audio-visual digitization specialist Stephen Bolech – along with contributions by every member of the DPG team – our group has seen the importance of Darden’s work and are fully invested in helping him realize his dream.

One Step Closer to the Big Screen

This week we received an email from Licata telling us he’d added a new sequence of footage from his time at Baylor to the blog for A Life’s Work, and we wanted to pass it along to you, our blog readers. There are actually two clips at the link, and both feature interviews with Darden and a look at Tadey’s work in the audio booth. Licata’s blog post is full of excellent detail on the thought process behind how he creates the sequences for his documentary.

View the clip at YouTube

One update for our readers regarding Darden’s concerns about keeping someone in the position of audio engineer is worth noting here. Since the interview with Darden was conducted in 2010, the Electronic Library has added a full time staff member – Stephen Bolech – to work with audio-visual materials, including materials from the BGMRP. In addition, we are contracting with Tony to continue his work digitizing materials from a major collector in the Chicago area (where Tony now lives and works). To answer Darden’s quote from the clip, “I need more faith,” we can respond with a hearty “praise the Lord and pass the reins to Stephen” – the BGMRP will go on, and Darden’s fears of the project languishing can be laid aside.

Stephen Bolech at work in the audio booth

We are eagerly awaiting the release of A Life’s Work and will pass along details to you as they become available. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit Licata’s website, read his blog, and support the people in your life whom you know to be on a quixotic quest to do something that seems impossible. Without their efforts, we may truly lose irreplaceable pieces of our shared human experience, and that’s the gospel truth.

To Learn More about A Life’s Work

View the trailer for A Life’s Work

Visit the website for A Life’s Work

Follow Licata’s blog

* For you non-Greek myth buffs, Sisyphus was a king who was forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill for all eternity. The worst part? Every time he got it to the top, it rolled back down again and the cycle continued anew. Now, his name is an adjective meaning “endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.”