Our Summer With Gabby: Hosting a Waco ISD Summer Intern

Fans of our Facebook page may recall seeing this photo at the start of the summer:

This fresh-faced young lady is Gabriella “Gabby” Hernandez, a rising senior at Waco ISD’s University High School (home of the Trojans) and our 2017 Prosper Waco summer intern here at the Baylor University Libraries! Gabby spent 80 hours with us over the course of June and July getting experience in the work we do here in the Digital Projects Group, and today we’re highlighting her end-of-internship project.

But first, some background. The Baylor Libraries participated in the inaugural Prosper Waco/Waco ISD summer internship program last year. Intern Casandra Barragan-Melendez worked with staff from the Central Libraries to create a custom artwork based on a 15th century piece titled Très Riches Heures. (You can read about Casandra’s project on the Central Libraries blog.)

This year, the DPG agreed to host the Prosper Waco intern, and from the start we knew we’d struck gold with Gabby. She is unfailingly polite, punctual and positive. Every task we gave her – from the mundane, like organizing stacks of old newspapers, to the innovative – she handled with attention to detail and politeness. In short: we were thrilled with the quality of Gabby’s work during her time in the Riley Digitization Center.

Because the internship program doesn’t have a category for “students who want to work in a state-of-the-art digitization center” yet, our biggest challenge was finding a way to adapt our resources and technologies to Gabby’s post-high school interests. Her dream is to open a childcare center, the kind of place where preschoolers can go to learn and develop into successful children; not, as Gabby puts it, a place to “babysit people’s kids all day.”

After some conversations and giving Gabby time to explore our Digital Collections, we hit on the idea of challenging Gabby to take items from the collections and turn them into learning tools – like hands-on manipulatives (puzzles, matching games), songs, art projects and more – for kids ages one to five. Gabby came up with eight examples using materials from the Digital Collections, including a coloring sheet, a matching game and an early literacy evaluation tool.

Another component of Gabby’s time with us was introducing her to the WordPress suite of tools. She expressed an interest in setting up a website for her post-school business, and we thought a WordPress blog offered a good introduction to both desktop publishing and entrepreneurial enterprise. So she reserved a URL (https://gabriellahernandezweb.wordpress.com/) and set up her first blog, with a post about her experiences with us this summer and another detailing her plans for creating lesson plans using Digital Collections materials.

We won’t spoil her stories here, so we’ll encourage you to head over to Gabby’s blog to read the thoughts and experiences of a 17-year-old budding businesswoman in her own words.

Our time with Gabby was short but certainly sweet, and it was a positive experience for all involved. We exposed her to new technologies, helped her develop skills and materials for her future job and we benefited from having the energy and insight of a high school student around the office. That’s one busy summer!

From all of us at the RDC to Gabby and all her fellow Prosper Waco interns, we wish you great success as you enter your senior year and SIC ‘EM!

You can view Gabby’s blog at https://gabriellahernandezweb.wordpress.com/. Read her post on lesson plans here, and her post on her experience in the RDC here.

Evangeline’s Windy City Pilgrimage

Sometimes a project comes together after a long, thought-out process. Sometimes it’s serendipity – something you couldn’t plan for just happens and the right things come together. Sometimes it spins organically out of an existing situation, a related set of materials nestled together under a broader umbrella.

And sometimes, it’s all of those things … plus, a trip to Chicago, a birthday celebration for an icon and a photo op with one of your heroes.

For our graduate assistant Evangeline Eilers, her recent trip to Chicago had its genesis more than a year ago when she began work on our to-be-released Black Gospel Preachers Project. The BGPP began as a spin-off from the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, now in its tenth year of activity (and freshly installed as part of the National Museum of African American History & Culture).

As the BGMRP picked up steam, an opportunity came to us to digitize the videotaped sermons of the Rev. Clay Evans of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Evans, an influential African American pastor and gospel musician, has been active in the Chicago-area civil rights movement for more than half a century. For decades, Rev. Evans’ lively sermons – which feature passionate preaching, world-class gospel music and inspired testimonials on a weekly basis – have been preserved on video formats and archived at the Chicago Public Library. Through a series of fortuitous connections – and based largely on our reputation for handling the digitization of thousands of black gospel recordings – the Digital Projects Group was approached about the possibility of digitizing these tapes and making them available to the world.

As of this writing, the digitization of these sermons is complete, but what came next was the more time consuming part – and the part where Evangeline joins our story.

In order to make the videos more useful to our researchers, we knew we needed to do more than simply post them online with a date and a title as the sole metadata. And that meant someone had to sit down and add things like keywords, search terms, scriptural references, song titles and anything else that someone might need to locate in a catalog of hundreds of hours of digitized content.

Evangeline Eilers works in the Riley Digitization Center to add metadata to a sermon from the Rev. Clay Evans video project, July 17, 2017

Evangeline began working with us as an undergraduate student in 2015. She’s worked on a number of projects for us, but she immediately clicked with the Rev. Evans videos. And for the past several months she’s done the heavy lifting on the videotapes’ metadata enhancement process, adding the keywords and info that will eventually make the collection searchable, findable and much more useful to users.

An unexpected side benefit of working on the project came about earlier this summer, when Patty Nolan-Fitzgerald – who has known and worked with Rev. Evans for many years – invited members of the RDC staff associated with the project to come to Rev. Evans’ 92nd birthday party in Chicago. This being summer, and with staff being in and out of the office, it turned out our sole representative who was able to attend was (you guessed it) Evangeline! We were thrilled to be able to give her the opportunity to travel as our representative at the birthday celebration on behalf of the university.

Evangeline and her mother traveled to Chicago to attend the event. She said she spotted many people she recognized from the videos – a choir director, a worship leader, Rev. Evans’ sister Lou Della Evans-Reid and more. After the event that night, she wrote in an email to Darryl Stuhr, the DPG’s Associate Director,

Being in this space with people I have spent so much time watching on the tapes was a surreal experience but I felt that I was among friends.
We joke sometimes that the longer we spend with a project, the more we feel like we “know” the subject of the collection. For example, after I spent months transcribing the audio of the George W. Truett Sermons, my inner dialog spoke in Truett’s voice for a solid month. (I’m not kidding.) For Evangeline, being surrounded by the living embodiment of Christian service, civil rights and community partnership was a fulfilling – if a strangely unreal – experience.

Part of that dreamlike sense came from being in the presence of several civil rights luminaries in the audience that night. Evangeline’s email continued,

As a history major, being in a room with three notable civil rights leaders (Clay Evans, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan) was incredible. I am very thankful for this experience!

Photographed at Rev. Evans’ 92nd birthday party are (from left) Allyn Eilers, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Evangeline Eilers, June 25, 2017

Overall, it was a night of celebration not just for Rev. Evans but for the collaborative spirit that brought together a nonagenarian African-American preacher, two noted civil rights leaders, a university digitization center in Central Texas and a project to preserve and spread the Word to any who would hear it, from Chicago to the entire world.

This fall, Evangeline will begin her graduate work in the Department of Museum Studies, and we were thrilled when she accepted a graduate assistantship that will keep her in the RDC for another year. That means another year of connection with the Rev. Evans collection and – perhaps? – an invitation to a 93rd birthday event next summer, something we’re all eager to celebrate.

I Say O-MEK-a, You Say O-MEE-kah, Let’s Call the Whole Thing AWESOME: Introducing Our Digital Exhibits Platform

omeka-post-headerWe’re always looking for new ways to connect the unique content in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections with our many and multi-faceted publics. So when it came time to find a way to create digital exhibits based on either a.) formerly physical exhibits or b.) entirely digital content, we settled on web publishing platform Omeka – specifically, a hosted omeka.net account.

As a small staff with plenty of work to do digitizing, curating, preserving and cataloging the items in our care, we needed a solution that would allow for template-based, low-cost entry into the digital exhibit creation game. Omeka’s hosted solution was the perfect fit. Going hosted meant we didn’t have to install and maintain yet another piece of software and using its template-based approach means no time lost writing code for a custom solution.

Once we settled on a solution, we set about creating our first digital exhibits. The first – and most elaborate so far – was for the physical exhibit created for the Armstrong Browning Library’s “Uses of ‘Religion’ in 19th Century Studies” conference held in March 2016. The physical exhibit featured numerous artifacts curated around the many ways the word (and concept) “religion” were used in the 1800s; topics covered include social issues, literature, religious discourse and more.

Next up was another ABL exhibit, this one inspired by the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The exhibit, titled “A World of Their Own: Children’s Literature at the Armstrong Browning Library,” focused on examples of children’s literature held in the ABL’s vast collections, including numerous examples of first editions, fanciful illustrations and morality tales used to educate 19th century youth.

We shifted gears fairly radically with our third exhibit: Visions of Rapture. We came up with the idea for the project – using Baylor art students to design covers for American black gospel songs that had been released without accompanying cover art – and proceed to mount both a physical and digital exhibit featuring their work.

Our most recent collaboration is with the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, an all-digital exhibit titled, “Poage’s Passport.” It focuses on the world-traveling expeditions of Congressman W. R. “Bob” Poage, namesake of the Poage Legislative Library and long-time member of the House Agriculture Committee. The exhibit is the first to fully integrate materials from a collection housed in CONTENTdm, meaning that all of the images from the exhibit link to full item records in the Digital Collections system. This integrated approach will be the preferred way of creating digital exhibits moving forward, as it provides an additional inroad into the Digital Collections without adding duplicate records in another system (i.e. Omeka).

Future exhibits will be coming online in the near future, with exhibits on the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, American involvement in World War I and Baylor athletics on the drawing board. For now, we encourage you to click on the exhibits below to view them in Omeka, and let us know what you think. We look forward to using this helpful platform for many years to come!


ARMSTRONG BROWNING LIBRARY

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.56.29 PMA World of Their Own: Children’s Literature at the Armstrong Browning Library

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.56.52 PMThe Uses of “Religion” in 19th Century Studies


BAYLOR COLLECTIONS OF POLITICAL MATERIALS

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.55.53 PMPoage’s Passport


ELECTRONIC LIBRARY / DIGITAL PROJECTS GROUP

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.57.32 PMVisions of Rapture: Art Inspired by the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

 

Spotlight On Graduate Student Scholarship: Digital Exhibits From MST 5327, Archival Technology and Digital Collections Management

One of the great privileges afforded by my work with our digital collections is the opportunity I’ve earned to teach some of Baylor’s finest graduate students from the Department of Museum Studies. Over the past three years, I’ve taught several courses on technology, marketing, historic preservation and digital archival management, and I can say that it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career.

Following the success of a combined technology/marketing course first offered in the Spring 2013 semester, I worked with the MST department and my excellent supervisory chain in the libraries to split that coursework into two new courses: Archival Technology and Digital Collections Management (Fall 2014) and Outreach and Community Relations (Spring 2015).

For the Archival Technology course this semester (which was limited to second-year students only), their capstone project was to create a new digital exhibit using curated materials from our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. In this post, I’m excited to reveal the excellent work they’ve done, and to encourage you to check out their insights into four themes that interweave the collection: dance, humor, love and war.

Each student chose their own pieces from the more than 5,600 pieces in the digital collection that illustrated their assigned themes. They chose the WordPress templates and plugins they felt best displayed their work, and the contextual research they conducted helped make the topic more relatable and enhanced users’ engagement with the items from the collection. In short, they had total editorial and creative control on their exhibits, and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Without further ado, I present the capstone projects of MST 5327: Archival Technology and Digital Archival Management!

Click the image of each project’s homepage to access the exhibit.


Let’s Dance! Dance in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Popular Sheet Music (Jennifer Browder)

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Humor in Music of the Early 20th Century (Becca Reynolds)

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American Diversity and Love in Early 20th Century Popular Music (Raquel Gibson)

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Masculinity and Music in Turn of the Century America: An Examination of the Spencer Music Library (Erik Swanson)

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Big thanks to Becca, Erik, Jennifer and Raquel for their outstanding work this semester. You can learn more about the Baylor University Department of Museum Studies at their website or on Facebook

An Open Letter to Darius Rucker Re: The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

open_letter_darius_rucker_header

Dear Mr. Rucker,

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the Digital Projects Group, five dedicated professionals in the world of digital collections in academia, specifically Baylor University in Waco, Texas. You probably don’t know who we are, but we know you’re familiar with Baylor: you and your buddies in Hootie and the Blowfish played a huge concert here in 2005, as evidenced by this photo and article from our campus newspaper, the Baylor Lariat:

Vintage you (and your buddies) from the December 1, 2005 "Lariat"

Vintage you (and your buddies) from the December 1, 2005 “Lariat”

But we’re not writing today to relive the glory days of Waco’s early 2000s music scene. Our goal is to pique your interest in our Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, about which we’ve written extensively on this blog, and you may have seen featured on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and in various publications across the country. It’s even going to be a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open on the National Mall in 2016.

The reason we see this as something that might be of interest actually harkens back to a bonus track featured on the Blowfishes’ seminal 1994 album Cracked Rear View. Tucked away at the end is a beautiful a cappella rendition of the traditional Negro spiritual Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. We know YOU know what that sounded like, but for our readers who may not have experienced it yet, here’s a version from YouTube.

It’s impossible to say just how much emotion, history and tradition are embodied in that 54-second clip. According to Wikipedia, this particular song dates back to as late as the 1870s, with an early documented version showing up in 1899. It has particular resonance for African Americans given its ties to the destructive era of slavery in our country, but it also holds universal appeal to anyone who’s felt alone, lost and without a destination beyond the hoped-for “home” beyond this earthly life.

Our Black Gospel Music Restoration Project contains a dozen different versions of this song performed by artists ranging from Willa Dorsey to the Singing Stars of Louisburg, North Carolina (a short five-hour drive up the road from your native Charleston, South Carolina, as the map below indicates).

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In case you were interested in a road trip!

Of all the versions of that song to be found in the BGMRP, we are partial to the one recorded by the Malcom Dobbs Singers ca. 1963 for their album Great Spirituals. It is spare – only vocals, a timpano and an ethereal organ – but it contains a world of emotion, and it builds to a satisfying payoff of grandness tinged with sorrow. Take a listen below.


(Copyright RCA Camden, all rights reserved. See the full item in our Digital Collection for more information.)

Whichever version you prefer, it’s obvious to us that you felt a connection to this song, and we wanted to take a moment to point out its prominence in a collection we are very proud of. We hope you’re able to discover a new version you hadn’t heard before, and we hope our collection helps further your love of American gospel music.

We’re certainly not asking for anything on your part – you can consider this a publicly available version of an FYI – but if you were to, say, offer to come back to Waco and grace us with a concert of your favorite gospel-inspired songs, we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that. (But seriously, if you want to talk, drop us an email: digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu.)

Best wishes on a successful tour of the UK!

Your friends in the Baylor University Digital Projects Group


This post is part of a series of Open Letters to musicians, authors and others that we hope will connect our collections to prominent people in America. If you have someone to suggest, or if you’re the subject of this post and want to drop us a line, send us an email (digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu).

For more information on Darius Rucker’s music, including available discs, upcoming shows and info on his latest release of Christmas music called Home for the Holidays, visit his website.