I thought I would share a little bit of information about the process involved in developing the site, along with some technical details that people in the library/digital humanities/digital public history fields may be curious about. We started talking about the project and having some initial meetings back in the fall of 2017, but work really began on the site in the spring of 2018, with the majority of the work completed from April to June, according to my ad hoc project management spreadsheet. This was only possible because the content for the site had already been gathered, curated, and organized, even though it lived in dropbox and files on a personal computer.
There were a number of aspects that the team had to work through in figuring out how to represent the information for Century of Black Mormons in OmekaS. In terms of digital content, we had genealogical information about each person, saved in the GEDCOM data format. There were also multiple primary source documents such as photos, census records, and baptism records that needed to be associated with each individual, along with biographical essays. You can see all of this coming together in the stories of the people represented in the site such as Freda Magee Beaulieu. One of the first things we did was take advantage of OmekaS support for customized vocabularies, with a variant of GEDCOM edited by Jeff Turner, a graduate student working on the project. Jeff added additional fields to track some of the unique information for Century of Black Mormons such as baptism and confirmation dates. We tested multiple plugins and configurations for the site, helped by Dhanushka Samarakoon, who installed plugins and provided web hosting support for our instance of OmekaS.
We decided that the best way to express all the information we had was on a page for each person with embedded metadata and the Universal Viewer to display the primary source documents. Century of Black Mormons has two item sets for people and primary source documents within OmekaS, that combine to form the database. Essays that were originally written in MS Word needed to be run through a MS Word html clean up service before being copied over to the OmekaS site. The key component of making the site work was Leah Martin Donaldson’s custom theme for the site, which allowed us to embed the genealogical information about each person into the biographical essays in a visually attractive way. Jeff Turner developed visualizations for the site, for example this timeline of baptismal dates, with the Knight Lab Timeline application.
Even though the site was just launched, in a sense the work is just beginning. There are 41 out of a possible 238 people whose stories are currently represented in the site, and I expect moving forward we’ll likely want to make adjustments and develop new ways of interacting with the information collected by Century of Black Mormons. For example, we’re curious to see what we might be able to do with the Neatline plugin if that is made available in OmekaS. While this post gives background in the digital curation work involved in the public history site, if you look at the credits page, you can get a full sense of the scale of collaboration involved in developing a public history project like this. For me, working on this project has been very personally rewarding, and figuring out how to represent Century of Black Mormons in digital, web-accessible was an exciting challenge.
Here are some additional articles about the project for additional context:
In time for the nation’s 242nd birthday, Marriott Library is celebrating an exciting new addition to Utah Digital Newspapers. A complete run of The Hilltop Times, the official newspaper of Hill Air Force Base, is being digitized and placed online.¹
The bombers that defeated the Axis Powers in World War II—the B-29, B-25, B-24, and B-17—were repaired there. The captain of the Enola Gay prepared for his mission there. Every Minuteman ICBM in the Air Force arsenal was built there. It was the first base to operationally fly the F-16 and F-35 fighters. Its responsibility encompasses the largest block of contiguous overland, special-use airspace in the continental U.S., and its founding forever altered the physical and demographic landscape of Northern Utah.
Hill Air Force Base’s history is the stuff of legend, and one newspaper reported it all.
The first issue of the official base newspaper, published on January 1, 1943, states: “We exist to win the war and everything is subordinated to this dominant purpose.” Marriott’s Digital Library Services Department recently added more than 61,000 pages of the Hill Air Force Base newspapers, covering the period 1943 to 2006, to its online repository, Utah Digital Newspapers. The site now contains 2.4 million pages of Utah newspapers dating back to 1850.²
Hill Air Force Base was founded shortly before the U.S. entry into World War II, and it went on to serve a critical maintenance and supply role. According to Hill Aerospace Museum Director Aaron Clark, if it weren’t for Hill Field, “damaged B-24s, B-25s, and B-17s could not have been returned to the war and (the U.S.) could not have carried on fighting.”
The same is true today. “We fix weapons systems to support our warfighters,” he says, including C-130s, F-16s, F-22s, F-35s, T-38s, A-10s, landing gear, canopy, and software.
Hill is one of the largest installations in the USAF and is one of only three depots for that branch of service. Depots are responsible for overhaul and maintenance of active weapon systems, to include aircraft, software, missiles, and supporting components.
“Look to the past. It’s just incredible the things people have done here over the past 75 years to protect your freedoms.” —Aaron Clark, Director, Hill Aerospace Museum
In 2017, over 5,700 active military and more than 16,000 civilians worked on base. Clark states, “It is in essence a small city. [We have] roads, sewer, water treatment, a fire department. The host unit is the 75th Air Base Wing, and the Commander, Colonel Jon Eberlan, is seen as the mayor.” Civilian roles on base include machinists, mechanical engineers, aerospace engineers, software engineers, dentists, doctors—even plumbers.
Hired as an Air Force Historian in 2009, Clark oversees the Hill Aerospace Museum and does double duty heading the Hill Air Force Base History Office, the official custodian of the base’s archives. According to Clark, “A lot of people are surprised. They have no idea that the Air Force and our sister branches have history programs. What our service members are doing is important to record: the accomplishments, the setbacks, the issues. So we can learn from them.”
“Twenty, thirty, forty years down the road,” says Clark, “We’ll probably have to open these records in order to fix new weapons systems we don’t even know about yet.”
Base historians produce reports that document the activities of specific units. They also respond to requests for information from the public, government agencies, and researchers. The History Office fields, on average, 100 research requests a year.
Forged suddenly in the midst of global warfare, Hill Field created, in effect, a boomtown. Thousands of Americans flocked to Northern Utah to help with the war effort. Entire communities were created to house the workers and educate their children. The current site of Layton (UT) High School was once Verdeland Park, built to provide housing for civilian workers at the base and the Naval Supply Depot.
Says Clark: “They were supposed to be temporary communities, but some of these places still exist, for example, Washington Terrace [UT].”
Hill Aerospace Museum is located adjacent to the base, just off of I-15, five miles south of Ogden. Opened in 1984, it hosts 265,000 visitors a year and it owns over 4,000 objects, including aircraft, military vehicles, missiles, ordnance, and artwork. Its exhibits bring together a particular aircraft along with the armor, jeeps, tents, uniforms and equipment its crew would have used.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about these digitized newspapers. We’re revamping our entire museum to better tell the history of this base and Utah aviation,” with exhibits that are more immersive and interactive.
A key advantage of newspaper digitization is the speed with which researchers can find information within the more than 70,000 newspaper pages published since 1943.
“Just yesterday, our intern was doing research on the B-1 aircraft,” says Clark. “In a matter of seconds [by searching the digitized newspapers] we were able to find over 32 references to B-1 work that occurred on this base.” In contrast, working from print or microfilm, Clark estimates it would take “a couple of months” to uncover the same information.
Aaron believes the value of the digitized newspapers will be far-reaching, whether one is researching the military, studying the history of the Ogden area, or looking for a family member.
Clark recalled a current HAFB employee whose grandfather was employed on base during WWII. This individual wanted to understand how his ancestor had contributed to the war effort, but the man’s peers had passed away or were unable to remember. The employee began combing through the more than 35 volumes of bound, printed newspapers stored in the archives.
“He spent weeks and weeks there, and he couldn’t find anything.”
Using the Utah Digital Newspapers web site, within fifteen minutes he had discovered that his grandfather worked at the base lumberyard. He also found articles written by his uncle during the Cold War era. “He learned about his family and the contributions they made,” Clark says. “It was pretty emotional for him.”
More than 90% of The Hilltop Times is now available online. The years 1991, 1998-2000, and 2002-03 will be added later in 2018.
The Western Name Authority File (WNAF) project was funded by an IMLS planning grant in early 2016 to explore and pilot a system for developing a collaborative, regional authority file for personal names and corporate bodies from digital collection metadata. As we near the end of the two year grant, we will provide information on the data model we’ve chosen for our vocabulary, what we’ve done to collect and reconcile names from a variety of partner institutions, and the emerging vocabulary workflows that we’re in the process of developing in order to make the WNAF available as JSON-LD. We will also discuss the platform we are using to make the data openly accessible.
Jeremy Myntti (Head of Digital Library Services) and Molly Steed (Moving Image and Sound Archivist) have been awarded the Marriott Library Jumpstart Grant for 2018-2019. This internal grant program was designed to support new original research projects that address challenges in libraries and archives. The title of the project is “Accessibility for Digital Audiovisual Resources” and the term of the grant is July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.
Through this project, we plan on researching and investigating methods for creating transcripts and captioning for digital audiovisual resources. Without a transcript or captioning available for this type of content, users with a disability such as hearing impairment are not able to fully use the resources, and the potential for scholarly digital analysis of the materials is limited. By looking at different tools that can be used for creating this type of data in-house as well as examining options for outsourcing some or all of the transcription of audiovisual items, this project will help to ensure that this content becomes more accessible to all of our users regardless of their needs.
Accessibility needs to be at the forefront of all library projects to make sure that we are meeting the needs of our patrons. It can be difficult to know all of the needs to our digital library users since we do not have face-to-face interactions with the majority of them. If a digital library patron is not able to get the information they need from our resources because we have not done the necessary work to make them accessible, we are not serving our patrons to the best of our abilities. This project will give the Marriott Library and its industry partners the practical information we need to effectively implement a program to make digital audio and audiovisual collections fully accessible to all users, including the hearing impaired.
Expect to see project updates throughout the year on this blog as we explore several of the options available for making our digital audiovisual resources more accessible for all users.
This session was sponsored by the ULA Genealogy Round Table, so we ended the presentation with information about how UDN can be used for family history research, such as finding birth announcements, obituaries, wedding announcements, military service, and many other tidbits of information about the lives of our ancestors.
The old newspaper files, like the human lives they represent, are precious beyond valuation, for they cannot be replaced; and within their aging covers are the records of the chief events of every person that ever lived in the community, from the birth to the funeral—besides the stories in intimate detail of every event of public importance in the history of the town and country.
Like the throngs of other Americans, I visited several cemeteries on Memorial Day to pay tribute to my ancestors. Every time we visit my wife’s grandparents grave in the Provo cemetery, we see a nearby monument to John M. Drake. According to a family legend going back several generations, if you stand in front of this headstone and say “Drake! Drake! What did you die for?”, he will answer. The answer we always get is silence or “nothing at all.”
Since my wife’s family has visited this grave site for many decades, telling the family legend to all who come, I have been curious as to who he was and why he has such a large headstone. In order to discover his story, I turned to Utah Digital Newspapers to see if there was any information about him and why he really died.
With the information from his headstone and these newspaper articles, I now know that after service as a Union soldier in the 42nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, John moved to Utah in hopes of profiting from the boom in the mining industry. He apparently went on to earn a quite a fortune in the Woodside mine and as a partner in the Martin & Drake Live Stock Association and had “unostentatious and cordial manners [and] won the friendship of all who knew him.” His estate was auctioned off after his untimely death in 1890 due to “paralysis of the brain” at the young age of 42.
While his story didn’t have the happiest of endings, it was great to be able to find so many stories about him in Utah Digital Newspapers to learn more about this mysterious monument that we have seen for many years.
One of the things I’ve been working on for the past year is developing support and workflows for digital exhibits in the Marriott Library. My first exposure to digital exhibits was back when I was involved in the Mountain West Digital Library, as part of a grant we produced a set of three exhibits for DPLA. The exhibit I worked on was Roosevelt’s Tree Army: The Civilian Conservation Corps. DPLA used Omeka for their exhibits, and as we were considering developing our own program for exhibits at the Marriott Library we debated between Omeka Classic and OmekaS. We ended up going with OmekaS, and we now have 4 exhibits available on that platform. The new exhibits page is available here: https://exhibits.lib.utah.edu and we have several more exhibits in development that will be available soon.
One of my goals for the exhibits is to provide additional context and narrative for items that are in the Digital Library and Marriott Library Special Collections. So far, we have collections centered on Hotel Utah, Glen Canyon, the Japanese American experience in Utah and the West, and Fighting Words, a multimedia exhibit focusing on rare books during the Revolutionary War era.
One of the most enjoyable things about launching a digital exhibits program like this is finding new ways to collaborate with people in the library. The new exhibits have been a team effort, with support from staff in IT on web development and design, and exhibit content being developed by librarians and part-time student workers. Alison Elbrader and I spoke about the new digital exhibits at the Utah Library Association conference recently, and slides from that presentation are also available.
I was browsing through some photographs in the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts’Larson Studio Negative Collection yesterday and noticed that over 1600 of these photographs were titled either “Unknown Woman” or “Unknown Man.” As I reviewed some of these, I kept thinking to myself that these are real people with names that have families somewhere that probably don’t even know that these photos are online since they are currently unidentified. The more I looked through these photographs, I started to wonder what we might be able to do to identify some of the people when out jumped the following image.
The photo was labeled as “Unknown Woman”, but I knew her! This is a picture of my mother-in-law, Shirley Van Cott. I quickly shared this photograph on my family’s Facebook page so everyone could see it. Once my father-in-law saw this, he let me know that the photo was taken not long after they were married while they were both still in high school (they eloped in 1955, but that’s a story for another day!).
With this information, I was able to update the metadata for that item and now this photo of Shirley Van Cott is now discoverable rather than being lost in a sea of unidentified photos. In looking through many of the other photos around this one, it began to look like a set of photographs taken for a high school yearbook. Now I want to pull out the yearbook from Provo High School and Brigham Young High School from the mid-1950s and see if they match up with other photos in this collection.
This also made me wonder what other family members might have a photo in this collection. I started searching a bit more and found some photos of my father-in-law’s brothers, sister, and a couple of their kids. Most of these photographs had the correct people identified, but I was able to update a few more records for photos where children’s names were missing (Tuffy and Tommy), my wife’s aunt was identified by her father’s name rather than her own (Marsha Baum), or another of my wife’s aunts was only identified by her husband’s name (Mary Alice Baum).
If you ever notice any metadata record within our digital library that could be improved, please let us know so we can have more accurate metadata and make sure these items are discoverable. Without good metadata, digital items are as good as lost.
Good day to you, fine reader! Or maybe you aren’t having a good day? Well, a wise person once told me that if you aren’t having a good day, you should go out and do something to make it good. Alright. Maybe the wise person wasn’t so wise and he was actually just me talking to myself at 3 in the morning (not out-loud), but that is not the point! The point is that I practice what I preach. Therefore, I did something recently that was guaranteed to result into an exceptionally good day. I attended a fantastic event called the Nihon Matsuri.
The Nihon Matsuri is entirely unique and one of the most fun festivals to attend in Salt Lake City. This festival celebrates Japanese-Utahn life and culture. It happens once a year in an area the locals call Japantown, behind the Salt Palace along 100 South between 200 West and 300 West.
The festival offers entertainment for everyone. Two large stages bookend a closed-off street where live dancing and music are performed throughout the day. They also have martial arts demonstrations, taiko drum performances, and even a cosplay contest! Along the street you can find traditional Japanese cuisine, souvenirs, children’s activities, and information about the community. Everywhere you look people are smiling, chatting, and having a wonderful time.
Not to be outdone by all the outdoor activities are the tours of the Buddhist Temple. Inside, you find a simple worship hall highlighted with ornate shrines dedicated to the teachings of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. A guide walks you through its history and philosophy, which emphasizes living a spiritually-awakened life in the midst of ordinary circumstances.
Sitting opposite of the worship hall was a very popular and fascinating exhibit hall. This area was packed with people throughout the day, including local and foreign dignitaries. Those who ventured through were rewarded not only with air conditioning, but with captivating showpieces from the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Japanese Archive. This archive offers a glimpse into the unique world of Japanese-Utahns from the early days building the railroad to the present day. The exhibit included photographs, oral histories, and artifacts set up by Lorraine Crouse, who manages the archive for the Library. She was also instrumental in adding the extraordinary Utah Nippo Newspaper to the archive, which was on display as well!
The Utah Nippo chronicles Japanese-American history for over 78 years. Founded in 1914 and printed until 1991, its immense value is not only historical. The newspaper speaks of life, struggle, and the perseverance of its founders and the Japanese American community. Interestingly enough, the Utah Nippo was the sole privately-owned Japanese newspaper allowed to be published in the U.S. during World War II. Therefore, it became the primary source of reading for many Japanese-Americans housed in internment camps like Topaz. It is a rare gem of knowledge and information that can now be read online at https://digitalnewspapers.org/
Spoiler alert! I, too, work at the J. Willard Marriott Library as the Assistant Head of Digital Library Services. I attended the Nihon Matsuri to enjoy the festivities as well as to help get the word out on the fascinating digital collections we host online! Check them out! You’ll be amazed at what you might find. And definitely don’t miss out on next year’s Nihon Matsuri festival. I guarantee you’ll walk in and away delighted for the experience.
Since Solphal, the Marriott Library’s Digital Asset Management System, is a homegrown system built off of open source tools, we are able to add new features to the user interface as different needs are discovered. One new feature that was recently implemented is a date range slider to facet by year. This year facet is on the left side of a search results page at the top of the facet list. You can either select the starting and ending year that you would like to limit your results to or else use the slider bar to scroll to the desired years. This enhancement should make it easier to identify digital items by date in order to discover more relevant items when searching.