Posts related to the archives and rare books category

The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati

The Children's Home of Cincinnati, 1093
The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, 1903

In my previous blogs, I have explored the history of Cincinnati’s House of Refuge and the records of the institution that are still available.  Throughout my journey, I have been struck by the number of homeless children and children without adequate homes who were placed in this juvenile detention facility.  One of the questions that I have been exploring is why these children were placed in the House of Refuge and not in another institution.    My first thought was that there must not have been anywhere for these children to go, but a search for orphanages and other institutions in 19th Century Cincinnati has revealed that there actually were institutions that cared for children who had been abandoned, neglected, or whose parents were simply unable to care for them.  So why were children who were not juvenile delinquents living in the House of Refuge?  It seems that one reason may have been because there was not a standardized or centralized way of dealing with neglected, abused or homeless children in the city.[1]

Services for children in need in 19th century Cincinnati were controlled by different entities and the placement of children was often influenced by religion, ethnicity, and race.  Orphanages in Cincinnati were almost exclusively privately run and they were often affiliated with a particular religion.  Some took in children who were homeless or children who the administrators felt were not adequately cared for by their parents, but other institutions only accepted orphans whose parents were either both deceased or whose parents were contributing members.  In addition, only a few institutions in 19th century Cincinnati, including the House of Refuge, accepted African American children.  A closer look at a few of these early Cincinnati orphanages shows how their services differed and overlapped. Continue reading The Cincinnati House of Refuge and Asylums for Children in 19th century Cincinnati

“I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying!”: A Cincinnati College Soldier-Poet’s Embrace of the Battlefield

By:  Kevin Grace

William LytleOn September 20, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, General William Haines Lytle of Cincinnati was shot and killed by a Confederate sniper’s bullet in the Battle of Chickamauga.  A few days later, his body was carried back to his hometown.  Lytle’s funeral was held at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati and the thousands of mourners followed his casket in the cortege to Spring Grove Cemetery, miles away from the church.  The slow procession took up most of the day, the general’s body not arriving at Spring Grove until dusk.  Sometime later, his grave marker – a broken column – would dominate the landscape of the garden cemetery.

William Lytle was more than another officer killed in battle.  He was a literary man, a soldier-poet whose verse in antebellum America was popular in both the North and the South, and whose lines reflected his experiences on the battlefield.  They showed a view of the bloody vista typical of the Romantic era and they embodied his view of duty as well, in his eyes, a terrible beauty of death and destruction.  Lytle was a part of the Romantic tradition in his poetry, incorporating his classical education as a boy with his notions of heroism and duty in life.  This is an excerpt from a poem he wrote in 1840 as a fourteen-year-old, “The Soldier’s Death”: Continue reading “I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying!”: A Cincinnati College Soldier-Poet’s Embrace of the Battlefield

Art and Empire in Nineteenth-Century India

By:  Alia Levar Wegner

Travel literature in 19th-century India was closely linked to the British empire. Behind every picture was an army. This is especially true of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Ramus Forrest’s illustrated book, A Picturesque Tour Along the Rivers Ganges and Jumna, In India, (SpecCol RB Oversize DS408 .F65) published in 1824.

Picturesque Tour Title Page
Title page of A picturesque tour along the rivers Ganges and Jumna, in India. (Spec Coll RB Oversize DS408 .F65)

Continue reading Art and Empire in Nineteenth-Century India

What does records management have to do with maintenance?

Coast Guard and Agencies Response to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In April 2016, Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel published an article in Aeon titled “Hail the Maintainers.” Russell and Vinsel called for a closer examination of how our culture venerates technological innovation. We elevate innovation and innovators, while overlooking the important role of maintenance in keeping society going. The concept took off, and there has been a subsequent conference known as The Maintainers and many academic articles on maintenance, particularly on the history of technology.

Archivist Hillel Arnold has applied the idea of maintenance theory to the work of archivists, noting that archivists “do the hard and invisible work of maintaining records. Not only do we perpetuate the physical existence of records through preservation activities, we also manage ongoing access to records, in part by maintaining the context of record creation and maintenance through arrangement and description processes.” Hillel and I collaborated last fall on a paper tracing the connections between recordkeeping, maintenance, and environmental regulation. In recent months, I’ve started to examine how the maintenance of regulatory recordkeeping breaks down during fossil fuel industrial accidents and disasters – with significant consequences both for workers and the environment.

Fossil fuel energy production is a highly regulated industry – at least on paper. However, despite the thousands of regulations that govern the extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas, and subsequent downstream production and transmission activities, these regulations have failed to protect the health of workers, nearby communities, and the environment due to several factors that include regulatory capture and lack of enforcement capabilities. Recordkeeping violations are also an explanation for regulatory failures. Industry failure to maintain authentic records – whether by manipulating existing records, or by destroying incriminating records – can accelerate dangerous situations.

Examples of these failures of recordkeeping can be found in two deadly energy industry accidents that happened just two weeks apart in April 2010.  On April 5, an underground mine explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed twenty-nine miners. On April 20, an explosion occurred at the offshore drilling platform known as Deepwater Horizon, located 40 miles off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed on Deepwater Horizon, and oil leaked from the site for close to 6 months, resulting in the worst domestic oil spill in history.

Investigations of the Upper Big Branch disaster found that Massey Energy, the parent company, routinely underreported safety violations in the records they shared with regulators. In other words, Massey Energy manipulated the very records that could have demonstrated to regulators that the mine needed to make necessary safety improvements.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, many of the recordkeeping concerns that surfaced were over questions of responsibility and accountability for the months-long oil spill in the Gulf. One BP executive was accused of manipulating oil spill estimates. Others were accused of destroying evidence associated with the post-disaster investigations.

We are currently in a period of increasing deregulation of environmental protections. When it comes to American fossil fuel companies, there is a clear role that recordkeeping – or rather, attacks on recordkeeping – play in deregulation. Effective regulation – whether over fossil fuel production and emissions, or workplace safety rules – requires comprehensive and accurate recordkeeping. In contrast, American politicians who support expansion of fossil fuel energy production in the United States routinely deride regulatory oversight as limiting economic progress and domestic energy independence. One of the primary tools of deregulation has been to cut back the amount of information that industry is required to share with regulators, or the amount of recordkeeping it must maintain internally for safety and accountability.

Recordkeeping alone cannot produce environmental health and workplace safety. But achieving either is impossible without baseline records that provide accountability and information to affected communities.

Farewell and Hello – New Student Helper in the Data & GIS Collab

With the end of the semester comes change.  And this is also true for the Data & GIS Collab.  Our wonderful student Shiyu Gong will end her time with us as finals end this week.  We thank her for all the hard work and wish her the best as she pursues the goals of her next phase of education.  You will do amazing work!

Shiyu Gong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also welcome a new student to the lab.  Zhiyuan Yao will join us starting April 30th.  She is a Geography & GIS graduate student and has much GIS expertise.  She has been a TA for both introduction and intermediate GIS courses and is interested in transportation research.  She is eager to help you with your spatial analysis.  Come visit her in the Collab.  Hours for the lab are posted at  https://guides.libraries.uc.edu/GISandData/Collab

Zhiyuan Yao, Jenny Latessa and Shiyu Gong of the Data & GIS Collab

Above Board, Below the Ground

December 12, 2013, Youngstown, Ohio. Truck crash and spill. EPA incident review conducted. Truck was a contractor hauling fracking wastewater from ChemTron in Avon, OH. Liquids went into storm sewers and Crab Creek – a tributary of Mahoning River. Image courtesy of FracTracker. Photos from Lynn Anderson, Frack Free Mahoning, & Jean Engle, Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee

In my recent explorations of how recordkeeping practices inform environmental policy and knowledge, an interesting trend has revealed itself in the context of state regulation of fracking in the Marcellus/Utica shale region (i.e., Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). State agencies in these areas are far more likely to proactively disclose records concerning permits, well locations, and production volume than any other records.

This means that there is significant data on the expansion of fracking – from its geographical extent to the volume of extractive activity. What is far more difficult to obtain is information on the effects of fracking. In other words, the records that contextualize fracking’s impact on the communities where it takes place – complaints, routine inspections, and investigations – are largely absent from the available data on state oil and gas websites. Instead, citizens must file records requests to obtain this information. Pennsylvania is a notable exception in comparison to Ohio and West Virginia, as it discloses records specifically pertaining to inspections and waste production and handling. It also partially discloses complaint and investigation records (primarily related to water contamination issues).

Ohio’s inspection records are highly obscured, requiring one to go through a very confusing process to obtain records from the Department of Natural Resources website. There is no obvious way to search for specific inspection, complaint, or investigation records through either Ohio or West Virginia’s website. Ohio law requires that a database concerning major violations by oil and gas operators be made available to the public on the Division of Oil and Gas resources website. Some of this information may be available through Ohio’s RBDMS application, but due to installation difficulties, I was unable to confirm this. When I asked an agency official regarding whether this web database was available, I was told the agency was “in the process” of creating it. The law calling for such a database was passed in 2010 and amended in 2011.

According to an issue paper authored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and FracTracker, West Virginia once had an active Oil and Gas spills database that was updated at least through 2013. The database is still hosted online, but does not appear to have any records in it from the last several years, or the time period in the issue paper.

When agencies have leeway to determine the scope of their proactive information disclosure, what is shared likely reflects how the agency views it mission. It appears that Ohio and West Virginia’s regulatory agencies prioritize disclosing information about the growth of fracking far more than its potential ramifications for the environment.

Read about Preserving Taft, the Writing of E.B. White and the Digital Scholarship Center in Source.

source vol 16 no2Read Source, the online newsletter, to learn more about the news, events, people and happenings in UC Libraries.

This latest issue of Source includes a feature on the work of the Preservation Lab and their collaboration with the Archives and Rare Books Library on a collection about William Howard Taft. Xuemao Wang, dean and university librarian, talks about how libraries need to adapt for the future. Kevin Grace, university archivist and head of the Archives and Rare Books Library, writes about a collection centered around children’s books author and co-writer of The Elements of Style, E.B. White. A grant from The Andrew Mellon Foundation in support of the Digital Scholarship Center’s research on machine learning and data visualization in multiple disciplines in the humanities and beyond is announced. Dean Wang and Liz Scarpelli, director of the University of Cincinnati Press are interviewed about the progress of the Press one year in. Gino Pasi, archivist and curator for the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions, writes about a set of historical and important surgery films recently digitized and made available. Other articles announce the Libraries’s Adopt-a-Book program and the 2016/17 Annual Progress Report.

Read these articles, as well as past issues, on the web at http://libapps.libraries.uc.edu/source/ and via e-mail. To receive Source via e-mail, contact melissa.norris@uc.edu to be added to the mailing list.

Exploring Tagalog Grammar

By:  Alia Levar Wegner, ARB Intern

The University of Cincinnati’s Archives & Rare Books Library holds a rare first edition of Sebastián de Totanes’s Tagalog grammar, Arte de la lengua tagala y manual tagalog para la administración de los Santos Sacramentos.  Printed entirely on rice paper and bound in vellum, this book served as a Tagalog language primer for Spanish missionaries.

Tagalog Grammar Cover and Title Page

Left:  Vellum cover of Arte de la lengua tagala (PL6053 .T7 1745),  Right: Title page

Continue reading Exploring Tagalog Grammar

Talking About “Style” and the UC Alum Behind It

By:  Kevin Grace

Strunk Cover     If you took a composition course in America, chances are you were faced with the seminal book in writing well, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style.  And if you were fortunate, you had a high school teacher or college professor whose teaching could match the plain elegance and helpful guideposts of this little book.  The Elements of Style is arguably the most referenced guide to writing in American education.

But how many of us know the story behind this famous text?  Chances are we’re all familiar with E.B. White, the decades-long columnist for the New Yorker and the author of modern classics like Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, One Man’s Meat, The Second Tree From the Corner and a host of other books.  Curmudgeonly almost to a fault and a writer with uncommon regard for the simple declarative sentence, White was one of the great literary stylists of the 20th century.  And William Strunk?  He happened to be an English professor at Cornell University during White’s undergraduate days, White graduating from Cornell in 1921.  Strunk developed a little handbook for writing that he used in his classes and decades later White wrote an essay for The New Yorker about Strunk’s lessons for usage and style.  At the urging of a publisher, White revised Strunk’s work, added an introduction and The Elements of Style was born.

William Strunk
William Strunk, Jr.

Now to the University of Cincinnati connection: William Strunk, Jr., the author of this famous guide, grew up in Cincinnati and was an 1890 graduate of UC.  For the Archives & Rare Books Library’s “50 Minutes” lunchtime series of talks, Greg Hand returns to campus on Thursday, February 22, to relate in his well-informed fashion the story of Mr. William Strunk, and an interesting one it is.  As always, Mr. Hand tells his tales with great aplomb and guaranteed satisfaction for all, earning the favor of everyone in attendance.  He will speak of facts and fictions, of parodies and paradoxes, and if he were to offer an elegant phrase or two of his own, we would not mind in the least.  The talk begins at 12:00 noon in Room 814 of Blegen Library and will last until everyone is ushered out around 1 pm.  Bring your lunch, a friend, and acceptable manners (note the Oxford comma).  There will also be a random drawing of select and relevant books.