Shifting Collections to Maximize Space

We recently completed a two phase project that included a MASSIVE shifting of our collections on the fifth floor. This project was carried through in large part by our Public Services team, Rachel Lilley and Trevor Sandgathe. In this interview, they reflect on the project and what it means for the department and our researchers.

What is your role in SCARC and how long have you worked here?

TS: I am an archivist with SCARC. I help coordinate our public services, arrange and describe collection materials, and oversee our collections storage. I began working at the OSU Special Collections as a student employee in 2007 and have been a staff member since 2010.

RL: Like Trevor, I’m an archivist in SCARC. I’m the other half of the “front of house” Public Services team, so I do a lot of what Trevor already described. I started working at SCARC in April of 2017 (on the 17th), so I’ve been here just over one year.
What was the impetus for the shelf shift project?

So much space to move!

So much space to move!

TS: In the summer of 2017, we found that we were beginning to run out of usable storage space in our Valley Library facilities. As a result, we developed a multi-phase project to make facilities changes to allow for expanded storage and consolidate our existing materials.

RL: This meant that we presented a proposal to Faye Chadwell, University Librarian, for changes to our stacks core that would facilitate a more efficient storage design and allow for room to grow. We were given a fixed sum to implement Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the proposal we presented to Faye.

What were some of the lessons learned in the course of the project?

RL: As the newest employee in SCARC, I’m finding that one of the surprising outcomes of this project is how many more collections I recognize and know a little something about, which is obviously useful in my public services role.

TS: To modify a popular adage, “measure twice, move once” was an important guiding philosophy during this shift (and a lesson we learned the hard way…more than once).

How will it make working in SCARC easier for employees?

Pauling's library shifted and now located next to the other rare books collections

Pauling’s library shifted and now located next to the other rare books collections

RL: I think one of the reasons I was drawn to the archival profession is that I love making order out of chaos. I would never have described our stacks as chaotic prior to this work, but I think both phases of this projects have helped us to arrange materials in a more efficient way, and in a way that makes them easier, and safer, for staff to retrieve. The project also gave us “space” to tackle some general “house-keeping” projects as natural parallels of the physical moving of boxes (e.g. rehousing as necessary, dusting shelves, etc.).

TS: Materials in our 5th floor storage area are now better organized and consolidated, allowing for simpler placement and retrieval of our manuscript and rare book materials.

How will it be better for our researchers?

TS: We should see an overall improvement in our retrieval times which will translate to more efficient research visits for our users. As we continue the project, we should be able to transition materials from our auxiliary storage to our primary storage which will further simplify the retrieval process.

RL: The whole goal of this project was space…well, maybe space, and as a by-product, efficiency. We now have more space, and space that is used better, so we can continue to accept new collections and additions to collections. The more collections we have, the higher the likelihood that we have material that will fit any given patron’s research interest. I think retrieval will also be faster, which I think many of our patrons will appreciate.

Did you find anything fun/weird/random?

An aisle of Pauling, condensed and reorganized

An aisle of Pauling, condensed and reorganized

TS: This project was a trip through SCARC’s history and offered plenty of opportunities to reflect on the work of our predecessors. It was a nice chance to be reminded of some of our lesser-known holdings and to appreciate the volume and quality of work that has gone into making these materials available to the public since the University Archives inception in 1961.

RL: I learned that Tiah can dance. I also have a fuller appreciate for the full breadth and scope of the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Papers.

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Digital Preservation and Outreach

This is the second post in a two part series exploring the work of Brian Davis, the Digital Production Unit Supervisor, which emphasizes the importance of  digitization and digital preservation in Special Collections and the Valley Library, and the field more broadly.


How did you get involved in the alliance’s digital preservation working group?

I don’t remember if I volunteered or was asked to be part of the working group, but I’ve been a member since January of 2016.

I’ve been involved with digital preservation at the institutional level for while, which means that I’ve largely worked alone or with one other person. Working with a larger group sounded like something that I’d like to try. There are five of us in this group. The first thing we did was put together a digital preservation survey for alliance members to gauge where their institutions are in terms of digital preservation, and then build out training resources based on the responses.

We could tell from the survey responses that there is a lot of confusion about digital preservation among alliance members. We ended up putting together an extensive website based upon the NDSA’s Levels of Digital Preservation. Each member of the group took on one of the five sections, mine was Fixity & Data Integrity, and I helped with the File Formats section. We also planned for each member to lead a webinar on their respective sections. I led two webinars in June of 2017. The webinars were supposed to have been recorded for those who weren’t able to attend, but they had issues with the GoToWebinar software and couldn’t figure it out in time.

What is the importance of outreach for you in your position and for the larger library community?

There’s little time for outreach outside of the day-to-day workload for me. It’s just me and two part-time students in the DPU who do the digitization, and I do the digital preservation. If I do any sort of outreach, then I have to shift other parts of my job.

While more along the lines of service than outreach, my digital preservation work for the alliance comes directly from the daily work I do and hasn’t required that much extra time outside of work.

Brian’s GitHub site for digital preservation scripts

Brian’s GitHub site for digital preservation scripts

I have found ways to share much of the work I do externally. For instance, most of the audiovisual tools I use are command-line driven, so I’ve translated many of them into right-clickable shell scripts and share them via GitHub. I’m also pretty active on, as well as with the Twitter hashtags #digitalpreservation and   #avpreservation. I was maintaining work-related tumblr for a while, but putting together regular posts takes some time, so I’ve abandoned that. I’ve been using the Medium publishing platform to share DPU workflows and digitization specifications with others since access to wiki pages outside of the library is problematic.

What do you focus on in your training? What do you think are key takeaways for your training webinars?

I actually don’t do very much training any more. That’s not to say that there’s nothing for me to learn, I just don’t have that much time. The last instructor-led training thing I did was the Dive Into Hydra workshop at Code4Lib 2015. Now my training is more DIY, where I’ll find a resource online and go at my own pace. There has to be something practical that comes out of it, otherwise its pointless. In 2010, I took an Objective-C class that Stanford University offered through iTunes-U. When I finished the coursework I was able to build a few iOS apps, one was a companion app for Omeka image galleries I had setup previously and the other was an app for the library I was working for at the time.

tmux (terminal multiplexer) window

tmux (terminal multiplexer) window

A more recent example of my DIY approach is the local ZFS storage system that I use for my videotape digitization workflow. Oracle has a number of great guides on how to configure ZFS systems and I needed a good short-term storage appliance in my office. After a bit of reading and a couple of tutorials, I was able to configure a ZFS system on an old Mac Pro that I have in my office and I now have daily backups, replication, self-healing, snapshots, etc. These are all the things you want from your storage system. Another example is tmux, which is a terminal multiplexer that allows me to have multiple bash/ssh sessions open in a single window. There are a number of great tutorials out there, along with a lot of bad ones. It did take a bit of extra tweaking for me to get it customized due to the key bindings being different on a Mac, but it was definitely worthwhile.

You also have worked with young people as they are working on their degrees and entering the field. How do you encourage and support these new participants in the field?

Since we’re a small unit with a relatively large amount of work being sent our way every day, it’s a struggle to find a balance between making this job a learning opportunity for students and maintaining a reasonable level of productivity. For students, a lot of it is just picking up bits and pieces as the work proceeds. Of all the students that I’ve supervised, I think that only one has gone on to study library or archival science.

Presidents of Oregon State University Photographic Collection technical metadata work

Presidents of Oregon State University Photographic Collection technical metadata work

We have a current student in the DPU who is very interested in archives, digitization, and digital preservation — pretty much everything that we do. She also has a solid technology background, so she takes on a lot of the higher-level work. I would love to be able to spend time showing her a bit more about the digital preservation work that I do, as well as the videotape digitization processes. She’s only able to work 20hrs a week and that doesn’t leave time for additional training.

Where do you see the field going? How do you see your work being important for the future of libraries and scholarship?

As the question relates to digitization in general, I think that most institutions have already gotten into building digital collections. The next steps could include getting into preservation-level digitization for certain materials. While the fundemental equipment isn’t that expensive, getting someone with the appropriate skill level to do the work could make it prohibitive for many organizations. However, there are plenty of vendors out there offering this type of digitization.

Digital preservation is the one thing that I get asked about most often. I think that we’re going to start seeing an influx of organizations looking to fill digital preservation-focused positions. It’s not an issue that’s going away.


Videotape signal testing with a vectorscope

Hopefully everyone knows that magnetic videotape is an obsolete format that is actively degrading. It’s doing that even in ideal storage conditions. It’s estimated that the window of opportunity to preserve this content closes in fifteen to twenty years, less for certain formats. More institutions are going to try to follow what Indiana University is doing with their Media Digitization & Preservation Initiative. Audiovisual digitization is something that the Orbis Cascade Alliance has discussed as a potential area to offer some sort of service. I would love to be involved with something like that.

Why should we care about preserving obsolete formats (Beta, VHS, etc.) and continuing to preserve them as we get more and more digital?

I think that tape-based materials, such as Betacam and VHS, are deceptive when compared to other collection items. While the exterior of the tape itself may look clean and like new, the actual carrier of the content, the magnetic coated polyester, is unstable. Depending on the manufacturer and age of the tape, it could be suffering from loss of the lubricant that assists the tape as it winds through the tape deck, or the binder holding the magnetized signal could be absorbing moisture from the air, making the surface too sticky for playback.

Tension error on U-matic deck caused by sticky tape

Tension error on U-matic deck caused by sticky tape

Magnetic tape was never meant to have a very long shelf life. It was initially developed to save a recording for a very short period of time. Bing Crosby was doing a live radio show two times a day in the mid-1940’s, once for the east coast and another for the west coast. He only wanted to do one show so that he could get an earlier start on the his evening festivities. He invested pretty heavily in this new technology that would allow the radio station to play back a recording of the earlier show, which they were finally able to do in 1947.

There’s also the obsolescence issue, where the machines required to playback the various formats are no longer being made and replacement parts are becoming scarce. Even if you can locate machines and parts, finding someone who knows how to do the repair work is becoming difficult. All the old school broadcast engineers are retiring, so there’s a vacuum of knowledge and experience fast approaching. Considering all of this, I think it’s vitally important for SCARC to preserve these materials pretty quickly. This includes audiotape recordings since they are on the same carrier with the same issues as videotape.

Capturing VHS recording of No Big Whoop

Capturing VHS recording of No Big Whoop

I have been able to digitize 342 videotapes for SCARC over the course of the last four years. Much of what comes through DPU is sports-related, which is pretty popular. Outside of athletics, there’s amazing content ranging from flyover shots from an erupting Mount St. Helens and mechanized potato harvesting footage from the Oregon Tilth records to ridiculous (and awesome) KBVR productions like No Big Whoop and Limited Reality.

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

“The Archives/Digitization/Digital Preservation Thing”

This is the first post in a two part series exploring the work of Brian Davis, the Digital Production Unit Supervisor, which emphasizes the importance of  digitization and digital preservation in Special Collections and the Valley Library, and the field more broadly.


What has your career path been like? What got you interested in videotape digitization and digital preservation in the first place?

It’s been broad and a bit random. I say that because I didn’t take the traditional path and sort of backed into the archives/digitization/digital preservation thing that I do.

I’ve been at OSU Libraries & Press for almost six years years, and part of SCARC for two of those years. Just before coming to OSU, I worked as a Media and Digital services Librarian for a small liberal arts college. Although overseeing a number of things, my primary responsibility was managing a media production lab that was open to all faculty, staff, and students. Along with my student staff, it was my job to provide instruction and assistance with a variety of projects ranging from building posters and presentations to providing lecture capture services for professors and leading monthly technology workshops. Although there isn’t much crossover from this job to my current one, I did learn quite a bit about managing students and projects.

Prior to that I worked as a Digital Production Developer at Duke University Libraries. I was focused on three primary areas in that position; digitization, programming, and digital preservation. Of all the positions that I’ve held, this one is the most closely related to what I do here.

Brian at Arizona State University’s Hayden Library

Brian at Arizona State University’s Hayden Library

I do have a background in archives and special collections. I began working at Arizona State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections department in 2003, initially as a digitization technician, but I eventually became the visual materials archivist. My position, inconspicuously titled Academic Associate for Media Development, was that of film and video archivist at first. Then our acting photo archivist left a couple years into my position. At that point my responsibilities were expanded to include all of the photographic materials. To be honest, I was in way over my head, as I was still managing most of our digitization (including audiovisual digitization) and getting started with digital preservation. This is when I realized that I enjoyed the technology-focused responsibilities of my job more than the more traditional archivist’s parts (e.g. processing, collecting, reference, collections management). More than half my time each week was devoted to providing reference services, which didn’t leave much time for the rest of my responsibilities.

My time at Arizona State is when I became interested in audiovisual materials, but the initial spark started in the late 90’s. I worked installing exhibits at an art museum and worked as movie theater projectionist. At the museum, I got a crash course in materials handling and storage as I assisted curatorial staff with whatever they needed. The movie theater was focused on showing indie and foreign language films. Most of the prints we got weren’t produced in great quantities and many were already in poor condition, so I soon became aware of the general need for film preservation. My experiences from both of these jobs have had an impact on the work I do today.

When I arrived at Arizona State and saw the telecine machine in the audiovisual lab, I jumped right in and started inspecting, cleaning, and transferring 16mm film. In addition to motion picture film, we also had a number of large videotape collections. We were the repository for Arizona PBS and I was asked to do videotape transfers from that collection soon after I started. This was before I really knew what I was doing. It was a great learning experience for me, as I could run over to the Arizona PBS studios, which were on campus at the time, pick up some tapes to accession and get technical help from the broadcast technicians that worked there. They were especially helpful when we were getting our 1” open reel video player operational in our digitization lab.

Arizona State is also where I was first exposed to digital preservation. I had been involved with programming to some degree since the 90’s, but it was a visit from Bill Comstock to ASU in 2006 that put me on that path. Bill managed digitization at the Harvard Library and I owe a lot to him. I’ve been involved with digital preservation ever since that meeting. I learned from Bill that there’s a large amount of information embedded into files that could be utilized. I also learned how to insert additional information into files using terminal commands to write to TIFF tags.

Batch embedding Dublin Core XML records in directory of DPU’s TIFF files via Adobe Bridge

Batch embedding Dublin Core XML records in directory of DPU’s TIFF files via Adobe Bridge

At the time, standardizing technical metadata was a big project for the Library of Congress as they were developing the MIX standard. At Arizona State, we were following along behind them, making similar metadata decisions for the library. I was specifically tasked with deciding what NISO Z39.87 elements should be in our technical metadata standard. While this work might sound a bit dry, it was pretty exciting for me to be able to couple my interest in programming with audiovisual materials and photography, the other things that interested me most. Once I started putting together scripts and began automating workflows, things progressed pretty quickly for me.

How have you seen the field change and evolve in the past 15 years?

It terms of digitization, things have been on a pendulum of sorts, slowly swinging from one side to the other for the last decade. When I began working in digitization, everyone’s goal was to capture the best quality they could for virtually everything that they were digitizing. We were primarily focused on digitizing nitrate negatives, glass plate negatives, and audiovisual materials at Arizona State. Digitizing at a high level made sense for us because these are materials for which you really do need to do provide preservation-level digitization.


When the OCLC published Shifting Gears, it brought up a lot of good points about what we were doing and why we were doing it. When I got to Duke, we took a hard look at our workflows to see where we might be able to make some changes. It’s always been my opinion that you can work more efficiently, but if your goal is to just to work faster, then you’re going to make mistakes and potentially damage collection materials. We made a number of informed decisions to minimize certain parts of our workflows, like post processing of image files. That cut overall digitization times pretty substantially.

Post-scan editing is also something that I stopped students from doing in the DPU when I began in 2012. Students were scanning things poorly and then editing them in Photoshop to try to compensate for the bad initial scan. Below is screenshot comparing a glass plate negative that was scanned by a student to my rescan of the same negative.

Glass plate negative scan comparison

Glass plate negative scan comparison

The right-side image that I scanned has greatly expanded tonal range and substantially more detail compared to the one from the student. DPU had professional scanning equipment at the time, but they didn’t know how to use it properly. There shouldn’t be any sort of post-scan editing, aside from a bit of cropping and rotating.

I should mention that preservation-level scanning doesn’t mean just scanning at higher resolutions. There are other factors that are just as relevant as resolution. The quality of equipment, the scanning environment, color settings, and file formats are every bit as important. When someone gives us photographic materials, we do them all the same regardless of what digitization level has been requested. Most are going into Oregon Digital and need to have sufficient detail for the image viewer.

Scanner color calibration

Scanner color calibration

With that being said, there are materials for which quicker access might be more important than going down a slightly slower digitization path. For instance, we do access-level scanning for many of our periodicals and publications. Most of these are off-set printed with lots of text, so there’s little to be gained by scanning at the same resolutions that we use for photographs. We’ve settled on 400ppi as a good compromise between scan time and sufficient quality for OCR. However, we still use the same calibrated equipment, color profiles, and formats even if preservation isn’t the goal.

As the question relates to digital preservation, I think that it has unfortunately become as much of a buzzword as it has something that people and organizations are actively engaged in. I guess that I should be happy that at least people are talking about it. The time is now to start doing something. Having led our digital preservation efforts for a couple years, I found that it’s very hard to make headway if people aren’t sure what digital preservation is and don’t have a clear picture of the resources needed. Digital preservation is not a single application that you can download from the App Store and it’s not something that can be just handed off to a student.

There are only a few organizations who have good digital preservation systems in place, but most of them have lots of resources. It’s hard to find a comparable institution to look to as an example of how we might proceed. We made an attempt with this technical report last year but little has happened so far. That’s why I think that a consortial-level effort in the Pacific Northwest could be a way to bridge some of those resource gaps that a lot of us have.

What do you find most interesting about the work you do?

U-matic videotape capture with live levels monitoring

U-matic videotape capture with live levels monitoring

I think that almost all of it is interesting to be honest. If I have to pick one thing I would say it’s the relatively recent intersection of audiovisual digitization with digital preservation among colleagues. I’ve been working in both areas for a while, but now it seems that there’s suddenly an influx of people who do both. They’re coming out of programs like the National Digital Stewardship Residency program at the Library of Congress and the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at NYU. It does make sense with most audiovisual preservation work leading directly to digitization, which then moves into digital preservation. With all magnetic media like videotape, there is a substantial level of degradation actively occurring with the physical object. This newly digitized file will act as the representation of this artifact as time goes on and the physical source further degrades. Knowing that, it’s imperative to do whatever it takes to ensure that the file survives.

For me, it’s encouraging to have lots of younger people participating in the profession. It’s certainly been making the yearly AMIA conference more technology-focused, which is great. It also makes for lively Twitter discussions.

What do you want people to know about your work? Why do you think this is such an important aspect of what the work of the Valley Library?

This might sound funny, but one thing I’d like people to know is that I am not a cataloger and I have never been responsible for mail deliveries anywhere I’ve worked.

DPU’s BagIt file verification

DPU’s BagIt file verification

In all seriousness, I hope that everyone realizes that the Digital Production Unit plays a vital role in making our unique collections accessible. This was a key objective in our most recent strategic plan, and without the work of the DPU, the library definitely would not have the number of items available online. We also would not have the quality of work that we now have.

As far as digital preservation goes, I don’t want people to think that we’re not doing anything. There’s a fair amount of digital preservation happening every day on library materials that move through the DPU. ETS has also made progress with daily backups for our preservation storage and with our distributed backups of ScholarsArchive@OSU materials to MetaArchive.

What are common misconceptions about your field/work that you do?

I think that there’s misconceptions surrounding a lot of digitization and digital preservation. The first thing that comes to mind is the confusion surrounding what digitization means and the implications of having an object digitized. Just because an object has been digitized that does not mean that it’s been preserved and there’s nothing else to do. I think that’s the point where a lot of the ongoing work begins.

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

New Guides to Our Collections for March

Here are the most recently added or updated collections from the past month:

Richard Y. Morita Papers, 1949-2005 (MSS Morita)
morita-600wThe Morita Papers document the academic and research career of Richard Yukio Morita, a marine microbiologist who conducted extensive research on the effects of pressure, low temperature, and available energy on the physiology of marine bacteria.  Richard Y. Morita was a faculty member in microbiology and oceanography at Oregon State from 1962 through 1988 and pursued an active research program as a Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Oceanography from 1989 through the 2000s.  In 1942, Morita’s family was forced to enter a Japanese internment camp.  Morita earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology-Oceanography from the University of California Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1954 as the first Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) to graduate.


Alice L. Edwards Papers, 1895-1962 (MSS EdwardsAlice)

mss-edwards-alice-600wThese materials were generated and/or assembled by Alice L. Edwards, a 1906 graduate of Oregon Agricultural College.  They document her career as a home economist and include materials related to her personal life.  The Papers include correspondence, clippings and publications, photographs and artwork, certificates and awards, ephemera, coursework and teaching materials, and two diaries kept by Edwards on a trip to Europe in 1925.  Of special note are the results of a survey conducted by Edwards in 1924-1925 of alumni of the Oregon Agricultural College home economics program regarding the effectiveness of the program and its effect on their lives.


Leonard M. Maki Nuclear Power Collection, 1958 – circa 1990s (MSS Maki)

maki2.3-concept-600wThis collection consists of materials documenting the development of nuclear power in the 20th century.  Maki taught nuclear engineering courses at Oregon State University after his retirement from Rockwell International in 1987.  Of particular note are records detailing ideas and prototypes for nuclear power systems designed to operate in outer space.


Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Reuniting Finley and Bohlman: Focus on the Metadata

This is the fourth, and last post, in our series covering the reunion of the William Lovell Finley and Herman T. Bohlman photograph and manuscript collections held by OSU and OHS.  This interview was conducted with Erin Clark, who has been a Library Technician at the Valley Library since February 2014.  Before OSU, she worked as a Project Archivist arranging and describing collections for the Siletz Tribal Cultural Collections.

Dallas Lore Sharp holding poles and three unidentified men constructing a nature blind out of tules. The boat and a camera tripod are visible in the background.  Constructing a nature blind, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS)

Dallas Lore Sharp holding poles and three unidentified men constructing a nature blind out of tules. The boat and a camera tripod are visible in the background.
Constructing a nature blind, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS)

Have you ever worked on a project of this type/scale before?  How did the Finley Bohlman project from others you have worked on in the past?

I worked on the Century Farm and Ranch Program project, which was another large scale project in collaboration with OHS. The Finley Bohlman project contained a greater variety of materials than previous collections I have worked on.

What was it like to collaborate with the Oregon Historical Society on this project?

It was enjoyable to work on another project with OHS and learn about additional aspects of the project, including planning for the OHS exhibit and outreach efforts.

You specifically focused on the metadata of the project.  Can you explain what metadata means for those who do not know?  What did processing the metadata for this project entail?  Was it different from other projects you have worked on in the past?

Effective metadatamakes items easier to be discovered and more accessible for a variety of users, including researchers and the general public. The process included creating a data dictionary for our metadata intern at OSU, reviewing and creating spreadsheets for materials that would be bulk ingested into Oregon Digital, and researching scientific names for images of animals. The project’s focus on nature was different than most of the projects I currently work on.

What do you see as the largest the success of the project?  The largest challenge?  Why?

The main success of the project is the amount of materials now available to the public describing Finley and Bohlman’s careers and observations. The largest challenge was describing and uploading all of the materials before the project deadline.

What was your favorite aspect of the project?  Did you have a favorite item?

My favorite part of the project was researching and learning more about specific bird species in the Pacific Northwest. The set of barn owl images are my favorite items in the collection.

Barn Owls, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS)

Barn Owls, William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS)

What is the LSTA and what did it mean to you for the project to win this award?

The grant from LSTA funded the work on the Finley Bohlman project. It was exciting to hear the Finley Bohlman collection won the award, recognizing the work everyone contributed to the project.

 osu-affc8cb5897e9f4cb7b29c76023a4763 ohs-666ac113287d835373d89728e9099757 imls-54d1ce245272241a5b116f14d7354555

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Reuniting Finley and Bohlman: A Supervisor’s Perspective

This is the third post in our series concerning the reunion of the Finley and Bohlman papers at OSU and OHS.  Brian Davis manages the daily operations related to digitization, digital preservation, and Oregon Digital projects within Special Collections and Archives at Oregon State. He deals with questions concerning digitization of analog resources including text and audiovisual materials, the accessibility of digitized resources, and digital preservation.


Have you ever worked on a project of this type/scale before? How did the Finley Bohlman project from others you have worked on in the past?

Yes, I’ve worked on a number of large digitization projects similar to this at other institutions. I lead a couple of large glass plate digitization projects that proved to be beneficial as I helped get the glass plate negatives digitization process going for the Oregon Historical Society. Newton’s Rings are something that you definitely want to avoid when you scan negatives and my recommendation to use Plexiglas supports that raise the negative off the surface of the scanner eliminated that issue. As for the manuscript side of things, I have done a fair amount of digitization of those but nothing at this scale.

Hand-colored, unmounted lantern slide of Herman T. Bohlman and William L. Finley sitting among the tules with five young gull chicks. (Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1898-1925 (P 202))

Hand-colored, unmounted lantern slide of Herman T. Bohlman and William L. Finley sitting among the tules with five young gull chicks. (Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1898-1925 (P 202))

This project was challenging for a number of reasons and many of those were separate from the materials themselves, having more to do with our environment. For example, we were scanning on multiple scanners in two different locations and it was challenging for me to get the scanning equipment calibrated in a coherent way. There should be a uniformity with the color regardless of what scanner was used and having two different scanners in two different lighting situations made building the color profiles rather complex. It’s not something that calibration software can auto-magically do.

As with all digital collections projects, our digitization workflow is dependent on the time and schedules of others since materials need to be prepped before coming to us. There were occasional delays in this process. Knowing that we had quarterly targets that we were trying to hit, there were times of panic when there just weren’t any materials available for us to scan. When boxes of manuscripts were made available to us, we put it into overdrive so to speak. I also stepped in and did some scanning myself just to stay on track.

Paper-based materials from this era are somewhat fragile, so there were bits and pieces of debris occasionally falling off as we pulled the materials out of the boxes. Cleaning was something that we had to do in between almost every scan. While it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time to wipe the scanner down, when you multiply that times 8,000 it does add up. There were also structural issues with some of the materials and we had to use a bit of ingenuity to get certain pages properly imaged. This was also true for the oversized items, most of which were about four times larger than our scanning equipment. DPU digitization techs Valeria and Roxanne both did a great job handling all the non-standard items.

Finally, the sheer size of the digital objects we were working with pushed well beyond the capabilities of our underpowered and aging computing equipment. All of the files were scanned at 600ppi and each file is over 100MB. Not terribly large, but when you combine a hundred of them into a single PDF things can get complicated. The digital preservation part of it was even more complicated, but that’s a topic for another time. In total, there were 8,005 pages of manuscript materials that we processed/assembled/OCR’d down into 1,418 PDFs. The final file size for the manuscript materials is 1.12TB.

What was it like to collaborate with the Oregon Historical Society on this project?

At times it can be isolating doing the work that we do in DPU, so it was nice to make connections with others doing similar work. I set up a Slack channel for the group and that made the collaboration a lot easier for the day-to-day questions that came up. It was also fun to go up to Portland for the occasional meeting/tour of the OHS facilities.

What do you see as the largest the success of the project? The largest challenge? Why?

I think that the ultimate success was getting all the materials available online. In total, the Reuniting Finley and Bohlman collection in Oregon Digital has over 7,000 objects. You’ve heard the expression that too many cooks spoil the broth. That didn’t hold true for this project because it really took a lot of us to make this project a success. From writing the initial grant and overall project management down to the metadata and digitization processes, each of us did our part and did it exceptionally well.

Aside from the challenges I’ve mentioned, it was also no small feat keeping the other projects going in the Digital Production Unit. Although we focused on this project, we didn’t halt our other work or say no to other projects.

What was your favorite aspect of the project? Did you have a favorite item?

The professional relationships I’ve built with the Oregon Historical Society staff have been the best part of the project. As for a favorite item, I’m going to be diplomatic and pick one from OSU and one from OHS.

On the OSU end of it, I like the Getting Our Goat film. It wasn’t something that we digitized for this project, but I think that it has a certain light-heartedness and it definitely shows an underlying sense of humor that you can see throughout the collection.

Almost all of the photographs are great, but I really like this image from the OHS collection of an ostrich chick standing beside an egg. Aside from being a nicely exposed negative, it also shows that sense of humor.

What is the LSTA and what did it mean to you for the project to win this award?

Larry Landis and Shawna accepting the LSTA award

Larry Landis and Shawna Gandy accepting the LSTA award.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) allocates funding for a library grant program in the US. It’s administered at the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and at the state level by the Oregon State Library. The Reuniting Finley and Bohlman project won the state library’s LSTA Project of the Year.

It was a great feeling to be acknowledged, alongside our colleagues from OHS, for our year-long journey through the ups and downs of this project. Larry Landis and Shawna Gandy accepted the award on the project teams behalf.

It’s my hope that this award will shed some light on what the Digital Production Unit does and how our work is key to expanding access to the library’s unique materials.

osu-affc8cb5897e9f4cb7b29c76023a4763 ohs-666ac113287d835373d89728e9099757imls-54d1ce245272241a5b116f14d7354555

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Reuniting Finley and Bohlman: A Student’s Perspective

This continues our series on Finley and Bohlman and highlights the work of one of our student employees.  Valeria Dávila Gronros is an Argentinean photographer, filmmaker, and digital films restorer, about to obtain her BA in Cinema Studies by the Universidad del Cine of Buenos Aires. She is currently a digitization technician at the Digital Production Unit of the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center.  


What was it like being thrown into a project of this scale without any prior experience in DPU or with digitizing archival collections?

It was exciting and challenging, as pretty much everything going on in my life at the time… I had recently moved in the US from my home country, Argentina; it was a radical shift, and, as I was going through that transition, joining DPU provided me not only a job but a supportive environment, where to settle down and get involved with the city and with the university by doing something meaningful.

When I joined, DPU was undertaking its biggest digitization project, «Reuniting Finley and Bohlman», in collaboration with the Oregon Historical Society. The idea was to reunite the OSU and OHS collections online, for public access. This project was challenging in many ways, not only in terms of scale –8000 paper documents–, but also in terms of time. As the project was being funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the LSTA Grant, we had just one year to complete the digitization work.

I had a background in digital photography and filmmaking, and have had previously worked digitally restoring films, so I was comfortable within the digital dominion. But, as for digitizing, my user-level experience was nothing like the specialized digitization that DPU does… DPU digitizes archival materials from the Special Collections & Archives, in accordance to international access and preservation standards, using dedicated software and equipment, so, it was a lot to learn and to get familiar with. In addition to this, the archival environment was completely new to me, but my work at DPU put me in contact with that universe too.


You had mentioned that you were under a time crunch when it came to completing the project. How did it feel when you completed it?

I felt fulfilled, and relieved… I think we all did. At that time DPU was facing its own challenges. In terms of staff, for instance, we were three after I joined. For a project like «Finley and Bohlman» this structure was critical. By the time I started, half year had passed but yet not half the digitization had been made. Six months later we were finishing the project… The achievement was truly a team effort. Both Brian’s coordination and our commitment played a key role in it.


What types of items did you work with in this project?  Do you have a favorite item that you worked with?

Fortunately, among the 8000 documents there were diverse types of items, from manuscripts and typescripts, to maps, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera, such as postcards, letters, social events invitations, brochures, and the list continues. This diversification made the digitization interesting for me, and a great source of training and learning. As straightforward as it may seem, digitizing requires creativity and ingenuity, since each item is different in terms of shape, texture, size, color, reflectivity, etc., demanding, accordingly, different digitization techniques.


Digitizing «Finley and Bohlman» taught me that you have to be caring and patience with the archival materials and with the process, since it can sometimes get arduous. These lessons guided me all the way through the following projects, yet it has proven to be an ongoing learning. We are always challenged with unique items that we have never handled or digitized before. Those teaches you the most, and often add a little magic to the work too.


Favourite items? Yes! Well, I wish I had digitized some of the amazing photographs, but I loved digitizing the newspaper clippings, the maps and the postcards, because they were all image-based.


You mentioned how complicated some of the scanning was, did you have a standard procedure with each item?  Could you describe how you went about scanning Finley-Bohlman?

We have specific workflows for both paper-based and photographic materials digitization. «Finley and Bohlman» was a paper-based special collection. Most of its items were fragile, and many were falling apart, requiring a extreme careful handling and scanning. Besides, we often had oversized newspaper clippings and maps, that were twice or triple the size of our scanner, so we would scan them in several parts –from as little as two and up to six, or more– and then merge the digital pieces into one single image using Photoshop. The automatic merging tool would not always work as expected, so I would often merge the pieces manually. As making a puzzle, it was arduous and time-consuming but rewarding once got the final images.


Digitizing was one part of the process. The other was preparing the materials to the online repository. So, we would review each digital file for quality control, and while we would create and keep archivable PDFs from said files, we would also create a compressed version for online access (visit


After putting in all the time and effort, what did it feel like winning the LTSA award for the project?

Wow! The «Project of the Year» award came as a surprise to all of us, and it was gratefully welcomed.

It was the perfect way to give closure to a project like this one, that was different from the start because there were a strong interest and expectation regarding «Finley and Bohlman» within the archive community. Plus, a joint effort was made by OSU and OHS to set up lectures that would contextualize and disseminate the project, and given the relevance of these figures in the context of wildlife conservation, the project got the attention of the media as well. This interest and repercussion were great because it has drawn attention to our work, giving us the space to share our experience. I very much enjoy sharing this, so thanks for your interest!


Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Reuniting Finley and Bohlman

This is the first post in a series detailing the joint project between OSU and OHS to bring together and digitize the William Lovell Finley and Herman T. Bohlman photograph and manuscript collections held by these institutions. 

William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman with the umbrella blind in the tules, 1908 (William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS))

William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman with the umbrella blind in the tules, 1908 (William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS))

William Lovell Finley trained as a biologist at the University of California-Berkeley and shared an early passion for birds with his childhood friend Herman T. Bohlman. Together, they developed an artistic knack for bird photography that provided an important body of scientific evidence. Backed by their keen observations and ability to communicate effectively with both policymakers and the public, they had a dramatic influence upon local and national conservation viewpoints and policies.

Finley and Bohlman’s activism, along with that of other Oregon bird lovers, led to the passage of the Model Bird Act of 1903 and the formation of the Oregon Audubon Society (now the Audubon Society of Portland). Their images also played a key role in President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to declare Three Arch Rocks, Klamath, and Malheur as special wildlife reservations. William Finley worked for the state of Oregon for eight years, serving as Oregon fish and game commissioner, state game warden, and state biologist. Finley’s wife, Irene, also took an active role after their marriage in 1906, working as his field partner. The two worked together on several nature films and published a large body of books and articles on ornithology, wildlife, and conservation.

The materials in this collection are the result of a yearlong partnership between the Oregon Historical Society Research Library and the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center to digitize the Finley and Bohlman photograph and manuscript collections held by our libraries. Now reunited online, the materials represent over fifty years (1899-1946) of work to document and protect the diversity of bird life in Oregon.

Species names and descriptions are drawn from original metadata and may not reflect currently accepted naming conventions or terms. The Reuniting Finley and Bohlman Collection pulls materials from several preexisting OSU and OHS collections. These collections include:

Collections held at OSU:

MSS Finley – William L. Finley Papers, 1899-1946
P 202 – Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1890-1925


Collections held at OHS:

Coll 542 – Herman T. Bohlman lecture notes
Mss 2654 – William L. Finley letters and scrapbook
Org. Lot 369 – William L. Finley photograph collection


This project is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.


Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

New guides for January and February!

The month isn’t quite done, but we’re excited to share the 8 new/updated finding aids completed in January and February 2018.

It’s an eclectic set! And you’ll see several links to Oregon Digital, where you’ll find all sorts of cool digital content.

DPDlogoDifference, Power, and Discrimination (DPD) Program Records, 1970-2011  (RG 250)

The DPD Program Records document the establishment and functioning of the DPD Program at Oregon State University as well as the topics of diversity, discrimination, racism, minority students and faculty, and women in higher education.  The DPD Program at Oregon State was established in the early 1990s as a means to deliver courses to address cultural and ethnic diversity as well as racism, discrimination, and their origins.

TL HeaderTeam Liberation Records, 2002-2004 (RG 287)

These records document the establishment and functioning of this organization during its first two years.  Team Liberation was established at Oregon State University in 2002 to provide interactive human relations workshops to the Oregon State community.  All the materials in the collection are born-digital records that are available to researchers in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room. 

mss-centuryfarms-600wOregon Century Farm and Ranch Program Records, 2006-2016 (MSS ORCFRP)

The Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program Records document farms and ranches in Oregon that have applied for and received recognition as Century or Sesquicentennial farms or ranches.  The records consist primarily of application materials and administrative files related to the awards ceremonies; a database listing all the farms and ranches accepted into the program is also included.  The Oregon Century Farm and Ranch Program was established in 1958.  All available application files and select administrative files are digitized and available in Oregon Digital. 

pride-center-600wPride Center Records, 1973-2013 (RG 236)

These records document the establishment of the Queer Resource Center (later known as the Pride Center) at Oregon State University and the programs and activities of this resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members of their OSU community and their allies.  The collection administrative records, publications, educational materials, posters, photographs, and digital copies of scrapbooks that are available in Oregon Digital.

Coed Code CoverAssociated Women Students Handbooks, 1924-1963 (PUB 010-23d)

These handbooks (commonly known as the Coed Code) consist of guides for women students at Oregon State University regarding regulations and expectations.  The first handbook was published in 1924 for the 1924-1925 academic year.  The Coed Code ceased publication in 1963 with the 1963-1964 issue.  The Associated Women Students was established at Oregon State in 1924 with the purpose of furthering the educational, social, and cultural aims of women.  Most of the items in this collection are available online in Oregon Digital.

oregon_countryman_191202-coverOregon Countryman, 1908-1922 (PUB 010-14a)

The Oregon Countryman was written, edited, and published by students in agriculture and home economics at Oregon Agricultural College from 1908 through 1929.  This archival collection consists of 11 unbound issues of the magazine published between June 1908 and February 1922.  These issues are available online.  An index for the magazine was prepared in the 1970s or 1980s and is also available online. 



hc1888-homen-600wHomer Maris Collection, 1918-1946 (MSS Maris)

This small collection contains correspondence and manuscripts relating to the Oregon State University alma mater, Carry Me Back, which was written and composed by Maris.  Also included in the collection are photographs and an Oregon Agricultural College student handbook.  In addition to incorporating an addition to the collection, this guide has been revised to reflect current descriptive standards and practice.



Persiani-002Paul J. Persiani Papers, 1938-2009 (MSS Persiani)

The Persiani Papers document the career of Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) physicist Paul J. Persiani.  The collection includes research data related to neutron radiation, reactor development, and fuel analysis; administrative files, photographs, and memorabilia from Persiani’s time at ANL; records of his participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START); publications, lectures, and teaching materials generated by Persiani; and reference materials including conference proceedings and scientific publications.  This guide has been updated to incorporate additions to the collection received in 2017.

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment

Interview with Karl McCreary, Organizer of OSU Art Exhibit

In honor of the new exhibit “Community – Collaboration – Craft: A Glimpse of Art at OSU” in our foyer, I interviewed archivist Karl McCreary to learn more about his reason for displaying this aspect of OSU history.

Art Exhibit Kiosk Slide Revised-01

What is your role in SCARC?

I review materials offered to the OSU Archives by campus departments, faculty, alumni, and associated organizations for permanent and historical value. For documentation of archival value, I describe their contents in a way to increase their accessibility for research.  This all means I see a lot of cool things to share.

Why did you choose this exhibit topic?

Personal interest in random crafty things.  I’ve reached out to and been a part of the art community here on campus since I started working here in 2000.  This has been through the Craft Center and community shows at La Sells, where I have pieces displayed currently!

Why do you think it’s important to showcase this topic?  Who do you think it will appeal to?

Anyone with an imagination will love this.  It’s just fun.  And it’s important to remember OSU isn’t just a science school.  I wanted to highlight the other aspects of campus and art is very visible on campus.

Image uploaded from iOS

Need help designing a face?

What is your favorite item in the exhibit?

Since I can only pick one, I would have to say the Danceramics. They have a fascinating background and story behind them.  Although she was an instructor of modern and creative dance from 1927-1972, Betty Lynd Thompson was inspired to replicate modern dance moves in clay, a form of art she called “danceramics.”  These ceramic pieces were also given as awards.

Betty Lynd Thompson with ceramics

Betty Lynd Thompson with ceramics

What surprised you the most in looking for materials?

Well, this is a culmination of years and years of seeing amazing things come into the archives.  But I think the most surprising things I found in the Memorabilia Collection when I was just looking for information and not actual items to display.  Some of these found items actually made it into the exhibit, like the art exhibit flyers from the 1930s-1950s.

Art exhibit flyer from 1937

Art exhibit flyer from 1937

Was there anything you wish you could have included but couldn’t?

Lots of things!  But I think we did a good job including some aspect of everything that needed to be included…even film from a class project in 2006 or 2007!

If people want to know more, what are other collections they could look at?

Check out the Memorabilia Collection and the Art Department Records, or just email me (karl.mccreary at  That’s probably the easiest since some of these collections aren’t fully described or open to the public yet.

Are you ready to do another exhibit?  What exhibit would you like to do next?

Who knows!  Creating this exhibit had a huge learning curve…thank god for Tiah and Natalia!  But there is still so much more to do with this current exhibit, including talks in the Collections at the Center series and an open crafty event.

Exhibit will run until May 31 in the foyer outside of Special Collections and there will be a catered reception on February 15, from 4-6pm in the reading room.  Stay tuned for other exhibit events coming up!

Posted in Main Page | Leave a comment