Tag Archive for Collaborations

(Digital Collections) Browning Day 2014


The members of the Browning Letters Project gather for a tour of the RDC (from left): Roberta Rodriquez (BU), Anna Sander (Balliol, Ofxord), Ian Graham (Wellesley), Fiona Godber (Balliol), Darryl Stuhr (BU), Eric Ames (BU) and Allyson Riley (BU)

Several members of the DPG team were privileged to present at the Armstrong Browning Library’s annual Browning Day celebration this week. The event, held on Robert Browning’s birthday every year, celebrates the life, legacy and impact of the poet’s work and features receptions, guest speakers and more.

Assistant Director Darryl Stuhr and Curator of Digital Collections Eric Ames joined Ian Graham of Wellesley College and Anna Sander and Fiona Godber from Balliol College at Oxford (UK) to present an update on the Browning Letters Project. Longtime blog readers will remember that Baylor and Wellesley teamed up more than three years ago to bring a substantial collection of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s correspondence online via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections. Recently, we’ve been excited to welcome Balliol to the project. Their collection of letters will be digitized on-site in England and the digital files transmitted to Texas for inclusion in the project. This phase will take place over the next several months and represents the first international additions to the growing corpus of letters.

The team was also able to announced that the University of Texas at Austin will be added letters from their holdings to the project in the coming months as well, bringing the total number of project partners to five, with a combined collection totaling more than 5,000 letters between them.

Check out the photos of the event below and if you haven’t done so already, check out the Browning Letters Project today!


Darryl Stuhr (click to enlarge)


Darryl Stuhr


Ian Graham


Ian Graham


Anna Sander and Fiona Godber


Anna Sander and Fiona Godber


Eric Ames


Eric Ames

(Digital Collections) “Unquestionably the Most Elaborate and Complete, of Any Which I Have Seen” – An Update on the Browning Letters Project


Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Hugh Stuart Boyd, May 28-29, 1828. Source for the quoted text we used for our blog title this week. See the full letter at http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ab-letters/id/23271

If it’s Valentine’s Day, it must be time for another update on our most love-centric undertaking, the Browning Letters Project! Two years ago, we announced the unveiling of the first phase of the project, wherein 1,400 letters digitized from the collections of Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library and Wellesley College were placed online for the first time, including the “love letters” capturing Robert and Elizabeth’s courtship years (1845-1846).

Today, we’re excited to announce another major milestone: the addition of the entirety of Wellesley’s collection of correspondence, a total of 1,624 letters! This brings the total number of digitized letters to a shade over 4,500, the balance of which come from Armstrong Browning Library. All of the “phase III” Wellesley materials are full-text searchable, and the percentage of full-text capable items from ABL continues to grow, with a goal of reaching 100% searchability by May 31 of this year.

When we announced the addition of the love letters in 2012, we experienced more than 1,000,000 hits to our server in the course of a little under three days. While we’d certainly welcome a repeat performance this time, we’re equally interested in letting our readers – and users, and Browning scholars, and fans of 19th century correspondence in general – know that the next major phase of the project is complete. We’ve got our eyes on two other major collaborative partners (more to come when we can formally announce their participation!) but for now, this 4,500+ collection is already a major resource in the world of Victoriana, Browningiana and other related fields of study.

Bonus Content

To answer a user’s inquiry about reading the entire back-and-forth exchange between Robert and Elizabeth from their courtship phase in plain text, we added a link to a work published in 1900 titled The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett on the Project Gutenberg site. This will allow readers to follow their unfolding love story in a single, continuous website and makes for a nice complement to the high-quality images provided via the Browning Letters Project.

Also, here’s a great story put together by our campus media folks all about the latest news!

For more information on the Browning Letters Project, visit the collection’s homepage. To learn more about Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library, visit their homepage. And to learn more about Wellesley College, visit their homepage


(Digital Collections) This Train is Bound for D.C.: The Smithsonian-Baylor Digital Projects Group Black Gospel Collaboration Confirmed!


Our thoughts on today’s news, as captured by this album from The Trumpets of Jericho.

Some big news regarding the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project was made official this weekend via the social media of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC): the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP), managed and maintained by our own Digital Projects Group, will become part of the permanent collection when the museum opens its doors in 2015!

According to the story from the NMAAHC’s Tumblr, we will contribute highlights from the collection for incorporation into an exhibition called the Musical Crossroads. From the Tumblr:

This permanent exhibition will tell the story of African American music from the arrival of the first Africans to the present day.

Both [NMAAHC curator Dr. Dwandalyn] Reece and [Baylor journalism professor Robert] Darden see these recordings as important additions to the new museum for the stories they can help tell. While planning for the exhibition is ongoing, the Baylor recordings may be used to explore the importance of gospel music to the civil rights movement.

Featuring select recordings from Baylor’s growing digital collection in the Smithsonian will give visitors an opportunity to learn these stories and to listen to many gospel recordings that may otherwise have been lost to history.

Dr. Reece also pointed out the ways is in which materials from the BGMRP can help us better understand the impact of black gospel music at a regional level:

The recordings may also be used to highlight the regional diversity of early gospel music. “Not all gospel recordings made during the pinnacle of gospel’s popularity were made on major labels,” Reece explained. “Many were done in connection with local churches and there are differences in style based on where these types of recordings were made.”

The collaboration announcement post, via the NMAAHC’s Tumblr page.

The project was sparked in 2005 by an op-ed piece written by Prof. Darden for the February 15 edition. In it, he bemoaned the loss of America’s recorded collections of black gospel music. That appeal generated a lead gift from collector Charles M. Royce that funded equipment and the first audiovisual specialist, Tony Tadey. From there, Prof. Darden’s tireless promotion combined with the technological and information handling mastery of the DPG to create a collection of more than 8,000 digitized tracks, 1,200 of which are available online with more added regularly. (For more on the history of the project, please visit the project website.)

We are obviously quite excited to be partnering with an institution with such an august reputation and world-wide name recognition as the Smithsonian Institution, and we look forward to working closely with Dr. Reece and her team at the NMAAHC in the coming months.

The Digital Projects Group is a part of the Electronic Library, a special collection within the Baylor University Libraries. DPG staff involved with the BGMRP are Assistant Director for Digital Projects Group, Darryl Stuhr; Audiovisual Specialist, Stephen Bolech; Digital Collections Curator, Eric Ames; and Digitization Coordinator, Allyson Riley.

For More Information

Read the NMAAHC’s Tumblr post

Read our previous blog post about the partnership

Visit the BGMRP homepage

View the BGMRP collection via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections

Visit the NMAAHC website

Email us at digitalcollectionsinfo[at]baylor.edu

(Digital Collections) Baylor Faculty Members Secure Grant Funding for Digital Collections-Based Research Project

Professors William Weaver, PhD (left) and Greg Hamerly, PhD (right) secured grant funding to study the love letters of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning using computer algorithms. Their project will get underway this summer.

In a year filled with firsts for the Digital Projects Group, we’re excited to announce another. Two Baylor University faculty members – Dr. Greg Hamerly (Associate Professor, Computer Science) and Dr. William Weaver (Assistant Professor, Great Texts Program – Honors College) – shared the news with this week that they had received a URC grant for a joint project entitled “Critical Soliloquies: A Project of Electronic Discovery in the Browning Love Letters.” This project is the first-known research project based on items from one of our Digital Collections to receive grant funding, and it all centers on one of our most well-received collections.

The project is an ambitious blend of rhetorical evaluation and computer science, a combination that is a perfect fit for the digitized Victorian-era letters available via the Browning Letters Project. Dr. Weaver shared the abstract from the proposal, which describes the research project thusly:

For over a century, from their first publication in 1899, the love letters of Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning have won the hearts of readers. A near complete record of the poets’ courtship from 1845 to 1846, these letters include a substantial body of literary criticism. This criticism includes their assessments of each other’s works in progress and the works of major contemporary figures like Carlyle, Tennyson, and George Sand, not to mention numerous minor artists of the Victorian era. It would be possible and interesting, using transcribed editions of the letters, to excerpt and collect these critical writings.

This interdisciplinary project, between literary studies and computer science, attempts something more ambitious. Building on Baylor Library’s recent digitization of the 574 letters (published on Valentine’s Day 2012), we will create a database of critical and non-critical writing from the letters. Using tools for text classification, we will then test whether a computer can make reliable discriminations between the two classes of text. Such a tool could be extended to discover “critical soliloquies” (Elizabeth Barrett’s term) in this and other Victorian archives.

If using computer-based tools to analyze 19th century missives sounds like the ultimate steampunk/sci-fi fan fiction, you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. And no pair of researchers is better suited to tackle the task than professors Weaver and Hamerly, two men with great skill and expertise in two very different – but strangely complementary – areas of interest.

The Origins of Our Involvement

Weaver and Hamerly approached us about a year ago with the idea of using one of our digitized collections to perform computer-based evaluation of materials that were written by hand or set in type before the advent of computers. After a meeting with myself and Darryl Stuhr, Assistant Director for Digital Projects, we enthusiastically agreed to provide access to any digital assets that the professors might need to carry out their work.

For us, it was a natural fit between the wealth of information to be found in archival materials and the power and accuracy of evaluation performed by computers. And once the Browning Letters Project went online in February 2012, the opportunity to analyze the love story of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning proved too good to pass up.

What’s Next?

Dr. Weaver informs us that the first step is to assign students the task of creating a database and begin assigning annotations to the letters. He hopes to see this phase one of the project get underway in June. Successive steps would include the creation of the computer algorithms and processes for analyzing the data input by the students in phase one.

This cross-departmental, multi-discipline approach is the kind of research being conducted at universities across the country, where experts in several fields find new ways to play off each others’ strengths in pursuit of a new, shared goal. In this case, it is the quest to see if a computer can match a human’s critical analysis and evaluation of the written word. Will the machine find these distinctions between the “critical and non-critical writing,” or will it prove to elude even our most up-to-date technology? Will computer science open new doors in the rhetorical examination of our analogue past? And can the application of computing power make it easier for our scholars to delve deeper into the minds (and hearts) of two of Western culture’s greatest creators?

Stay tuned to this blog for updates!

For more information on Dr. Weaver’s work in the Baylor Great Texts program, visit his website. For more information on Dr. Hamerly and his work in Computer Science research, visit this website.  

(Digital Collections) A Century of Daily Baylor History, Now Online: The “Lariat” Digital Collection

The “Lariat” digital collection spans the entire 20th century and beyond

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll recall a few weeks ago that I teased some “big news” was forthcoming. Well, the wait is over, and we’re excited to announce that thanks to the efforts of the Digitization Projects Group, The Texas Collection and the office of Student Publications, the entire run of the Baylor University Lariat is now available online via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

From the inaugural issue of November 8, 1900 to the present, users around the world can now access every issue of the Lariat from the comfort of their own homes. Issues from 1900 to 2006 are available in our Digital Collections, while issues from 2007-present are available from the Lariat’s website.

You may have seen some media coverage about this collection thanks to articles in the Lariat and the Waco Tribune Herald, but we wanted to give you some more information here, via our blog, about just what went into the creation of this major collection.

Planning and Process

The process began about three years ago with very early, test scans of bound volumes of the Lariat dating back to the early 1900s. We used our Zeutschel planetary scanner to handle the digitizing and found the process of manipulating bound volumes to be slow and cumbersome. With the addition of the Cruse large-format scanner – and permission from The Texas Collection’s director to unbind the volumes – we made much better progress. In fact, a skilled operator could digitize ten issues of the Lariat two pages at a time on the Cruse, a dramatic increase in efficiency that allowed us to complete the digitization of more than 11,000 issues of a newspaper collection in about a year and a half.

This staggering amount of content is the primary reason most universities choose to either avoid digitizing the full run of their campus newspaper or outsource the job to mass digitization companies. We chose to keep the process internal so as to avoid shipping irreplaceable copies of the Lariat off-site, as well as exercising full control of the metadata creation and collection curation process.

As with all of our digital collections, high-resolution preservation copies of the files were created and stored on our preservation server, and access-friendly PDFs of the issues were created and ingested into our CONTENTdm system. “Skeletal” metadata – basics like date, editor name and page count – were added to all items as they were ingested; later additions to the records include listing headlines for each issue, names of Lariat staff members, and the price per issue.

The Collection’s Impact

Digitizing a century’s worth of the campus newspaper was no small undertaking, and the decision to handle the process in-house from start to finish meant a significant investment in infrastructure, hardware and staff time. But none of those potential obstacles were significant enough to deter us from our goal of giving instant access to the wealth of information available in the pages of the Lariat. Now, scholars around the world can delve into the daily details of campus life, social commentary and world events as seen through the eyes of Baylor University’s student reporters.

Keyword searching makes the collection’s entry points as diverse as the English language. The ability to restrict a search to a single point in time – a year, a month, a decade – makes browsing from issue to issue not only manageable but enjoyable. The ability to zoom in on photos and paragraphs of text makes navigation and closer examination a breeze. And of course, access via the Internet makes it possible for everyone to use the collection, not just those with the ability to travel to the Baylor campus.

We look forward to seeing the ways our users dissect, synthesize and utilize the information in the Lariat collection. If you find something fascinating, earthshaking or downright bizarre in the thousands of pages therein, drop us a line at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu and tell us about it. Who knows? We might even feature your find in a future blog post (with your permission, of course!).

The digital Lariat collection is available at www.baylor.edu/lib/lariats. The Digitization Projects Group, The Texas Collection and Student Publications collaborated to create this collection.

(Digital Collections) Stop the Presses, Start the Scanners: Digitizing Baylor’s News Release Archive

Baylor University news releases from the 1930s

It’s hard to imagine given the pervasive nature of the media outlets available today – from the major broadcast networks, cable news networks, blogs, microblogs, social media avenues and more – but there was a time when the concept of a press release didn’t exist. The content readers found in their daily newspaper or heard over the air on their RCA radios came from journalists doing “shoe-leather” reporting, hitting the streets with steno pads and press passes, determined to get the scoop.

That began to change in the 1910s and 1920s with the advent of the field known as public relations. Early practitioners like Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays pioneered tactics like crisis communication and publicity via the media. As more and more corporate and public sector clients began to use tools like the press release, the idea of seeding the media with pre-packaged news items – professionally written, accurately worded, and unfailingly positive for their originators – became common practice.

Dating back to at least the 1920s, Baylor University embraced the notion of writing news items for distribution to the media outlets available around the country. Beginning with the University News Service and continuing to the present as the division of Marketing and Communications, skilled wordsmiths began writing stories and announcements that would expand the world’s awareness of the goings-on at the world’s oldest (and largest) Baptist university.

For many years, the Texas Collection kept vertical files of the press releases generated by the university, from the 1920s to the present. In 2011, the Digitization Projects Group began the process of digitizing these important original sources. Texas Collection staff and students spent hours pulling the press releases from their various holdings and condensing them into almost 50 bankers boxes. After months of slow but steady progress, a concentrated effort to finally put the press releases into chronological order was begun two weeks ago.

After 500 combined staff and student hours were spent on the project, the press releases have been sorted into chronological order and duplicates removed. Our rough estimate is that some 60,000+ pages of press releases will be digitized and placed online as part of a fully searchable collection documenting events major and minor in the history of the university.

Below are some photos of the painstaking process of sifting through more than 120,000 pages of documents that overtook the Riley Digitization Center in the past month. (The additional 60,000 pages were duplicates removed before scanning begins.) As digitization gets underway, we’ll update you on progress towards getting these invaluable resources online for everyone to access via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

In addition to staffers Darryl Stuhr, Allyson Riley and myself, the project received excellent efforts from a bevy of student workers:

  • Sarah Minott
  • Holly Tapley
  • Sierra Wilson
  • Leslie Zapata
  • Sannya Salim
  • Kaitlin Pleshko
  • Liz Haddad
  • Brooke Farmer
  • Macy Floyd
  • Jilli Floyd

(Digital Collections) “How do I love thee?” Let Us Digitize the Ways!

They were written between two of the most famous names in Victorian poetry, spanning a famous courtship, an elopement to Italy, and a widower’s final years. They were preserved by two institutions of higher education in the United States, one a private liberal arts college in the Northeast, the other a private Baptist university in Texas. And now, for the first time, they are available online in the same digital collection for the world to experience.

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are two of the most recognizable names in the world of poetry. Their work – like the partial line in our title, which comes from “Sonnets from the Portuguese” Number 43 by Elizabeth – is quoted by English majors and schoolchildren alike. Their storied romance is celebrated to this day as the uniting of two kindred souls brought together through mutual love of the poetic muse. And over the course of their lives, they wrote thousands of letters: to each other, to family members, to admirers and casual acquaintances alike.

Now, thanks to a collaboration between Baylor University’s Armstrong Browning Library and Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, we are excited to announce that 1,411 letters written by the Brownings are available online as a collection called The Browning Letters. This is the first time the digitized letters have been made available to the public via the Internet, and they represent the largest single digital repository of Browning correspondence in the world.

The Baylor-Wellesley Collaboration

The project came about through an interest expressed by Baylor’s Dean of Libraries and VP of Information Technology, Pattie Orr. Dean Orr, who came to Baylor after serving as director of user services at Wellesley, knew of the holdings of Browningiana at both institutions and initiated a conversation between the two that focused on creating a collaborative collection. After extensive talks between both parties, the agreement was made to include images of Wellesley’s letters in a digital collection created, hosted, and preserved at Baylor.

Wellesley’s major contribution to the collection – 573 letters – contain what are called the “Browning love letters,” a series of letters exchanged between the two poets from the earliest days of their courtship. In fact, the first letter written by Robert to Elizabeth, which begins with the line “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,” is included in the collection, as is the final letter from their courtship, written by Elizabeth to Robert just prior to their embarkation to Italy in 1846. Wellesley submitted preservation copies of the letters to Baylor’s Digitization Projects Group, where staff and graduate students reformatted them into items for display and access in CONTENTdm, the software that houses and displays Baylor’s Digital Collections.

Elizabeth Barrett’s first letter to Robert Browning, January 11, 1845. Courtesy Wellesley College, Margaret Clapp Library, Special Collections via the Browning Letters Collection

Baylor’s Browningiana contribution to the collection has so far included more than 800 letters written by Robert Browning. Drawn from the Browning correspondence held at ABL, the letters represent almost one third of their total collection of approximately 2,800 letters. Rita S. Patteson, Director of Armstrong Browning Library, chose to begin the digitization of Baylor’s letters with the Robert Browning correspondence; the plan is to eventually digitize all of the letters at ABL, including those to Robert Browning and those written by and to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The Digitization Projects Group’s Efforts

For the staff at the DPG, a great deal of time and effort has gone into image reformatting, digitization, data management, and online display configuration for the 1,411 letters available on day one of public release. More than 200 combined staff and graduate student hours have been dedicated to the project since December, and the DPG has committed to preserving 340GB of data for the first phase of the project, with an estimated 1.2TB of total file space necessary to finish the project.

With every image in the collection requiring a complex blend of digitization, image editing, metadata cataloging and quality control checks, the investment in this project has been substantial, but the importance of giving worldwide access to these invaluable resources is of great importance to Browning scholars and casual fans alike. The team of DPG staff, graduate assistants and undergraduate students for The Browning Letters project included:

  • Darryl Stuhr, Manager of Digitization Projects: Project lead
  • Allyson Riley, Digitization Technology Support Specialist: Digitization and data mgmt.
  • Eric Ames, Curator of Digital Collections: Contextual research and user interface
  • Austin Schneider, Library Information Specialist III: Metadata cataloging
  • Hannah Mason, Rachel Carson and Natalie Fiegel, graduate assistants: Digitization and metadata
  • Katy Poteat and Kayla Zollinger, undergraduate student workers: Metadata mgmt.

The project team envisions future partners in the Browning Letters collection, as there are an estimated 11,500 pieces of Browning correspondence scattered across dozens of institutions around the world. The processes and systems put in place by the DPG during this phase of the project will ensure future collaborators have a smooth integration of their materials into the growing digital collection.

Digitizing and making the letters available is a huge step in the process, but we hope to unveil additional functionality for this collection in the near future. For now, we invite you to take a moment to discover the timeless story of Robert and Elizabeth’s lives as revealed through their voluminous correspondence.

View The Browning Letters at www.baylor.edu/lib/browningletters and visit www.browninglibrary.org for more information on the Brownings, their works, and the Victorian era.

(Digital Collections) “War of the Rebellion Atlas” Puts DPG on the Map in Tennessee

The Digitization Projects Group’s efforts to put the War of the Rebellion Atlas online have once again led to an exciting collaboration, this time with Zada Law, Director of the Fullerton Laboratory for Spatial Technology at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Law will be utilizing high-resolution copies of several Atlas maps of the Nashville area to see if defensive earthworks built around the city by Federal forces might still be discoverable today, almost 150 years after the war ended.

Law, a PhD candidate at MTSU, plans to overlay the Atlas images with “modern high resolution orthographic aerial images,” she told me via email. Using records from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and enhanced elevation (LiDAR) datasets, she hopes to locate “previously unrecorded extant earthwork sections or identify where archaeological traces of entrenchments may still remain.” (1)

Defenses of Nashville, Tenn. from the War of the Rebellion Atlas

Before she located the Atlas using a simple Google search, Law was relying on hard copies of the Atlas and other records to conduct her research. That all changed when she found our Digital Collections.

“Finding Baylor’s freely accessible high resolution image of an original copy of the War of the Rebellion Atlas plus searchable metadata was the tipping point for me to finally proceed beyond the dreaming phase,” Law said. “And, as GIS becomes an accepted part of scholarly research in the humanities, I’m certain the need for access to digital copies of original maps will increase.”

The metadata Law refers to is the cataloged information that accompanies each image in our digital Atlas, including information like city names, names of battle participants, descriptions of geographic formations and more. This is the fully-searchable information that makes finding specific locations or persons in our Atlas much faster than using traditional printed indices and page-by-page searching available elsewhere.

In addition to her work on the Federal defenses of Nashville, Law shared access to the Atlas collection to Dr. Wayne Moore of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Moore is heading up a project called the Tennessee Civil War GIS Project, where he and his team are working to “inventory and describe the geospatial data points for approximately 700 Tennessee Civil War military engagements” throughout the state. “Having the Atlas’ maps available online and searchable and ‘zoomable’ through your website will improve our workflow and will be less tedious that looking at hard copies of the maps with a magnifying glass,” Law said.

Finally, Law hopes to use an image of the area around Murfreesboro – specifically a location called Fortress Rosecrans – to search for the location of a nearby contraband camp. “Contraband” during the Civil War referred to Confederate-owned slaves who sought protection in Federal camps or who lived in areas that fell under Federal control. The public history program at MTSU is documenting a “rural post-emancipation African American community that likely had former residents of that camp,” Law said, and the maps provided by Baylor could help them in their work.

Topographical Sketch of Fortress Rosecrans from the War of the Rebellion Atlas

We’ll keep you posted on how Law’s research goes, and we wish her and her colleagues all the best in their efforts. We’re happy to be collaborators in this important work, and we look forward to seeing where it leads as the Civil War Sesquicentennial continues through 2015.

(1) Excerpts from email from Zada Law, received 1/5/2012

Visit the Texas Collection online at http://www.baylor.edu/lib/texas for more priceless Texana.