Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Enhancing Access to Oral History Interviews

Thanks to a 2014-2015 award through the University Libraries' Innovation and Program Enrichment Program, we are currently working on providing access to audio and enhanced transcripts for the oral history interviews conducted as part of our African American Institutional Memory Project.

These interviews with African American alumni from the 1960s and 1970s, which typically are an hour or more in length, provide in-depth information about an interviewee’s contributions to and viewpoint on their time at WC/UNCG. Often these interviews provide valuable personal insight into history in a way that the official university records cannot. Student researchers in particular find the oral history interviews interesting, as they present a perspective that is often more relatable to them.

Currently, access to these oral histories is provided primarily through the interview transcript (the word-for-word text of the interview). Audio recordings are available on CD if requested, but access to these recordings is not provided online. The transcripts are among the highest ranked downloads from across the University Libraries’ digital collections, yet the process of finding relevant information within the transcripts is often challenging due to their lengthy nature.

With the project funds, a second-year graduate student from the Department of History is working with us to use an open-source tool (the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, developed by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries) to enhance access to oral history audio recordings online and time-synch the audio recordings to existing transcripts. This will allow researchers to more readily search each oral history recording for relevant information and quickly skip to certain key topics discussed in the interview.

At the conclusion of the project in June 2015, it is anticipated that at least 25 enhanced oral history audio recordings and accompanying transcripts will be made available to researchers online. We also hope to build a web exhibit that highlights some of the key stories told in these interviews.


October is Archives Month, an annual observance of the agencies and people responsible for maintaining and making available the archival and historical records of our nation, state, communities and people. As part of the month-long celebration, this blog is highlighting some of the innovative and exciting work being done in Special Collections and University Archives.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Cello Music Collection!

October 23 marks the fifty-first birthday of the UNCG Cello Music Collection, the single largest holding of cello music-related materials in the world.  This unique archive, presently representing the collections of eleven cellists, was made possible by the generosity of countless donors, but founded through the support of Friends of the Libraries.

UNCG Cello Music Collection
In 1963, when Elizabeth Cowling learned that the estate of Luigi Silva was prepared to sell his library, she immediately contacted University Librarian, Charles Adams. The library is committed in its support of faculty research, but there were several risks to consider in pursuing the Silva Collection. First, the school’s cello program was not particularly strong, as the school was ordered to become coeducational only that same year, and the cello was historically a masculine instrument. Additionally, the Library to that date only held one collection of archival music (the North Carolina Holograph Collection), and the Silva collection was fifteen times the size of that one. There was no music library nor was there a music librarian on campus either. However, the greatest obstacle was the quoted price of $3000 ($1000 for Silva’s manuscripts and $2000 for the remainder of the collection), an intimidating sum for 1963.    

Charles Adams conveyed Elizabeth Cowling’s vision of a centralized repository for cello music research founded upon the renowned library of Luigi Silva before the Friends of the Library (there was only one library at this time). In terms of an investment, it was a gamble, but the Friends of the Library were persuaded by Cowling’s passion and made the purchase. Cowling and Adams brought the collection back from New York in October of 1963. 
Contract for the sale of Silva's
Collection in Cowling's hand, Oct. 23, 1963
The collection was dedicated on April 5, 1964 with a recital featuring several of Silva’s arrangements. Many donations were made in honor of Luigi Silva celebrating this event. Margery Enix, a student of Silva, donated draft notes of Vademecum, Silva’s treatise on the thumb position. Franco Colombo, head of the New York branch of the music publisher Ricordi donated several of Silva’s manuscript drafts, including the 24 Caprices of Paganini transcribed for cello by Silva, Boccherini’s Concerto in D Major No.2, and the cello and piano transcription of Boccherini’s Concerto in D Major, Op. 34. Charles Wendt, a student of Silva's, donated a manuscript of the Paganini Capriccio XIII transcribed for cello and piano and purchased Robert Crome's The Compleat Tutor for the Violoncello (ca. 1765) for the collection. Cellist Rudolf Matz provided the gift of 15 volumes from his work First Years of the Violoncello. Violoncello Society of America president JanosScholz (who was awarded an honorary doctorate from UNCG in 1981) donated a manuscript collection of anonymous 18th century cello sonatas and transcribed opera arias.

The purchasing of the Luigi Silva Collection by the Friends of the Libraries has attracted many researchers and performers to the Libraries (even Leonard Rose in 1980), but it also encouraged other cellists to donate their collections. Ten cello music collections have been donated to the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives since that time, inspired by the purchasing of the Luigi Silva Cello Music Collection. Over the past five decades, the centralized repository for cello music research envisioned by Elizabeth Cowling has been realized and made possible by UNCG Friends of the Libraries.
Program from Dedication of the Silva Collection

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Friends of the Libraries’ dedication of the Silva Collection, we have digitized Silva’s manuscripts of Vademecum and La Tecnica Violoncellista so that musicologists and performers worldwide can benefit from this legacy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Social Media, Outreach, and SCUA

Through blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and other outreach activities, University Archives spreads stories from the records of the University's past and promotes our work to preserve and provide access to these important records in new and exciting venues.

In addition to this blog, staff write weekly posts on the Spartan Stories blog, published each Monday morning. These posts, typically about 500 words in length, detail one specific person, place, event, or action in the University's history, from its founding through today. Recent posts have focused on the Darlinettes and Rhythmettes big bands of the 1940s and 1950s, the 1932 Carnegie Library fire, the founding and growth of campus radio station WUAG, and the move of the Chancellor's House in 2003. On the Spartan Stories site, readers can subscribe to receive updates on new postings via RSS feed or email. Since its creation in October 2012, Spartan Stories has been viewed over 14,000 times by more than 6,000 individual readers.

Many of the Spartan Stories readers come to the blog from one of the two social media accounts focused on University Archives. The University Archives Twitter account (@UNCGArchives) has nearly 300 followers. The account is used to highlight collections, anniversaries, events, and resources in SCUA. A recurring trend is participation in the popular Throwback Thursday (#tbt) hashtag, where a photo from the University's past is posted. You can follow University Archives if you have a Twitter account. But if you don't, you can view new tweets by visiting the Spartan Stories site and scrolling through the Twitter box on the right side of the screen (just below the Past Posts).

Below the Twitter blog is a way for folks to keep up with the University Archives Tumblr, the most recent addition to the social media outlets for learning more about University Archives and University history. You can also follow the Tumblr directly if you have Tumblr account. Although we only started the Tumblr in July, we're already up to almost 100 followers -- a large number of whom are current UNCG students. The Tumblr is updated on an almost daily basis, and often focuses on photos, important quotes, or other short highlights from the University's past.

We have also begun posting a number of film clips from University Archives to YouTube. These include some promotional videos for the University from the mid-1970s as well as some shorter clips from events and activities in the 1940s and 1950s. Since posting began in July, the videos have had nearly 1000 views total. The most popular has been a video showing various buildings on campus in the 1950s. This video has been seen by over 300 people.

SCUA staff are also teaching classes, conducting campus tours, developing lectures and other special events, and creating exhibits in the library and around campus in an effort to ensure that the history of the University is known by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others. If there are people or events in the University's past that you would like us to focus on in future blog posts or social media activity, please let us know!

October is Archives Month, an annual observance of the agencies and people responsible for maintaining and making available the archival and historical records of our nation, state, communities and people. As part of the month-long celebration, this blog is highlighting some of the innovative and exciting work being done in Special Collections and University Archives.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Preserving Our Digital History

Have you ever tried to access a digital document that you created in the mid-1990s? Finding a computer with the hardware to read the 3.5” floppy or Zip disk it was probably stored on is a massive challenge. But even if you do find a way to access the files, you likely will have trouble opening or reading the content – and that’s if the disk and content haven’t been accidentally erased or corrupted over the years!

Digital preservation is a huge task, and staff at the UNCG University Libraries are tackling issues head on with a newly-created tool aimed at acquiring, managing, and preserving important digital archival files now so that researchers – now and in the future – can have greater insight into how our University and society as a whole operates. This development puts UNCG ahead of most other institutions in terms of proactively addressing digital preservation.

BDRM interface
The new tool – called Born-Digital Records Management, or BDRM – is a collaboration between the Libraries’ Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and Electronic Resources and Information Technology (ERIT) departments. In preserving University history, for instance, it allows us to actively acquire electronic newsletters, presentations, websites, and other materials that typically lose information and operability if printed.

The BDRM interface allows faculty, staff, and administrators to upload their digital archival records directly to University Archives. Behind the scenes, archivists can use the BDRM tool to arrange and describe these files in a way that makes them findable through online searches, through our finding aids, and (coming soon!) through a special BDRM public website.

While an archivist may simply stumble upon a forgotten Civil War era diary that is still perfectly readable, the accessibility of a chance find is much less likely in the digital world. With their work on BDRM, the University Libraries is ensuring that valuable records aren’t lost due to file deterioration or technological obsolescence. We want to be sure that the archival records created today – regardless of format – are findable and retrievable by researchers now and in the future.

If you have questions about BDRM or transferring digital archival files to the University Libraries, please contact Special Collections and University Archives.


October is Archives Month, an annual observance of the agencies and people responsible for maintaining and making available the archival and historical records of our nation, state, communities and people. As part of the month-long celebration, this blog is highlighting some of the innovative and exciting work being done in Special Collections and University Archives.

October 10 is also Electronic Records Day, as sponsored by the Council of State Archivists. This day is designed to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world. We in SCUA recognize the importance of electronic records in modern communication, and we are working to ensure that the importance archival records of today are preserved for researchers now and in the future. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

A New Exhibit in the Hodges Reading Room: Kay Brown, David O. Selznick, and Gone with the Wind

Exhibit Poster

The Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce a new exhibit -  Kay Brown, David O. Selznick, and Gone with the Wind. This exhibit features photographs and mementos belonging Dr. Kate Barrett, daughter of Kay Brown Barrett. Dr. Barrett is currently a Professor Emerita in the Department of Kinesiology of the School of Health and Human Sciences and continues to be involved in many university projects.

In 1936, Kay Brown was well into her successful career as Eastern Representative of Selznick International Pictures when she came across the yet unpublished manuscript of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Brown read the book in galley form and was so impressed with it that she immediately contacted producer David O. Selznick and his financial backer John “Jock” Whitney and urged them to buy the rights to the novel. Unsure of the success of a Civil War film, Selznick initially was not interested in the property, but Brown was adamant and he trusted her. Margaret Mitchell trusted her too and the two women would form a friendship that would last long after the filming ended. The legal rights to the book were purchased from the author for the sum of $50,000. Brown then began the painstaking project of acquiring a writer to adapt the book for the screen. Meanwhile, Selznick began searching for the right director to bring the story to life. 

Kay Brown with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jock Whitney at a press conference announcing the purchase of the rights to the novel Gone with the Wind

Casting the movie would soon take on a life of its own.  After the book was published, it became a Pulitzer Prize winning sensation and casting the leads became a national event. While Selznick was considering casting the usual suspects of the Hollywood stars, fans across the country had their own ideas. Everyone seemed to think that Clark Gable was a natural choice for Rhett Butler, but he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and legal negotiations ensued. In the end, MGM lent Gable for the movie in exchange for the distribution rights and half of the profits. It was a hard bargain, but as fans threatened to boycott the film if Gable was not cast as Rhett Butler, Selznick had little choice but to agree. Olivia de Havilland was borrowed from Warner Brothers Studios for the role of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes and Leslie Howard reluctantly agreed to take the part of Ashley Wilkes.

Producer David O. Selznick and the portrait of Scarlett O'Hara used in the film

The search for the right girl to play the self-centered and determined heroine Scarlett O’Hara would be the stuff of which legends are made. Selznick’s representatives traveled throughout the country testing local actresses, creating a media frenzy which continued until the movie’s release. Almost every actress in Hollywood tested for the role but ultimately, it was an English actress, Vivien Leigh, who would capture the part and the heart of the nation as Scarlett.

Gone with the Wind premiered in December of 1939 and became an instant critical and financial success. The movie swept the 1940 Academy Awards - nominated in thirteen categories and winning in eight. Selznick took home the Best Picture Oscar, Vivien Leigh won for Best Actress, and Hattie McDaniel won for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award. The movie won additional Oscars for Best Director (posthumously awarded to Victor Fleming) and Best Screenplay (Sydney Howard) as well as Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Interior Decoration. Walter Plunkett, who designed the costumes for the movie, was not nominated as there was not yet an official category for Best Costume Design until 1948.

A personalized photograph of Arthur Miller
After Selznick was forced to liquidate his studio in 1942 amid financial troubles, Brown became a talent scout and agent, representing stars such as Rex Harrison, Montgomery Clift, and John Gielgud, as well as writers Arthur Miller and Lillian Hellman. Brown was considered a brilliant and powerful presence in the literary and film industry until her retirement at 80. In addition to her career, she had a full personal life, marrying James Barrett and having two daughters, Laurinda and Kate.

This exhibit will be featured in the Hodges Reading Room from October 1, 2014 until January 7, 2015. The Reading Room is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October is Archives Month!

Celebrate Archives Month!!!
October is North Carolina Archives Month, an annual observance of the agencies and people responsible for maintaining and making available the archival and historical records of our nation, state, communities and people. Throughout October 2014, the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will host numerous exhibits and events aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of our profession to our state’s citizenry and public leaders.

Folks who are not able to attend any of the events or exhibits will still have a chance to join in on the celebration through our various social media outlets. This blog will be used to highlight some of the exciting and innovative work being done to promote archives at UNCG. Additionally, SCUA staff will share additional information and materials via Twitter, Tumblr, and the Spartan Stories blog.