I’ve been lost in the archives, and finally found my way out! I’ve actually been taking some time to look at the collection as a whole, and have been eager to get back into looking at some of the contents at a closer level. One piece which caught my attention early on was a letter from none other than Robert F. Kennedy, from 1957. I’ve been excited to dig into this and learn more about the people in the letter and circumstances surrounding it.
The children are either drawn as freckle-faced street urchins or as the clean-smocked offspring of the hoity-toity. The animals – a parrot, typically dogs – look on quizzically or crack wise. And the occasion being Valentine’s Day, the messages are about the lovelorn and the hopeful. These are the early 20th century postcards drawn by Richard Felton Outcault, a pioneer of the modern newspaper comic strip who gave America such literary figures as Buster Brown and The Yellow Kid. And advertising being what it was (and is), Buster and the Kid gave us books, shoes, coin banks, calendars, clocks, pencils, puzzles, and all manner of geegaws, selling the country on the all-American pastime of buying stuff.
But the postcards deviated from the overall merchandising a bit, although Outcault’s newspaper employers and their agents certainly generated a lot of them. The holiday cards were something a little different, a reflection of the artist’s own attitudes to his comic creations. R.F. Outcault was born in 1863, hailing from Lancaster, Ohio. He came to Cincinnati in 1878 to attend the McMicken School of Design – which is now the Cincinnati Art Academy, though the University of Cincinnati certainly traces part of its heritage as well to the McMicken school, so in effect Outcault is a UC alumnus. He graduated in 1881 and began his employment as a painter of bucolic scenes in the massive safes constructed by the Hall Safe and Lock Company. Growing in local reputation, Outcault managed to land a job with the 1888 centennial industrial exposition in Cincinnati, one of the many local product fairs held in the 19th century, and which were begun as an outlet of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, founded in 1828 and now part of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. At the exposition he painted scenes for Thomas Edison’s electric light displays, parlaying that into a career on the east coast with trade magazines. Incidentally, while Edison was a telegraph operator in 1860s Cincinnati, he frequented the OMI library for his reading pleasure.
By 1894, Outcault was drawing cartoons for newspapers and magazines, particularly the New York World, the New York Journal, Judge, and the New York Herald. It was during this time that he created his first famous character of his “Hogan’s Alley” cartoon, the Yellow Kid. By 1902, R.F. introduced his famous Buster Brown and his faithful terrier, Tige. And, his personal style of using panels and dialogue balloons became a standard in cartooning.
But those strange Valentine cards? They are unlike the sweet and lovey-dovey kids’ valentines of the late 20th century. Instead, there is an edge to Outcault’s art, a bit of an insult here and there, and more rejection than true love. In a way, they are an outgrowth of the so-called “Vinegar Valentines” of Victorian America. Vinegar valentines were sarcastic and insulting, greetings designed to reject the offers of true love. Competing with true romantic valentines, these little missives of misanthropy usually were sent anonymously to those one disliked, be they flirtatious bachelors or suffragists. Outcault’s cards resemble them in a natural progression, one supposes, from invective to just strange little takes on the whole idea of Valentine’s Day.
For R.F. Outcault, his valentine postcards were done in his typical style and represent another aspect of what was a long and productive cartooning career. Retiring from the hubbub of daily newspaper work, he spent the last decade of his life quietly painting and died in 1928.
It was hard for me to really conceptualize the true narrative power of song until I was reorganizing the Virginius C. Hall Jacobite Collection this week. As I was arranging a stack of books, I saw one that caught my eye. The spine read: The Scottish Jacobites and Their Songs and Music. Written in 1899 by Thomas Newbigging, the book recounts in detail not only the history of the Jacobite movements, but also their rich musical history.
Though I’ve never really had any musical talent (except some early experiences with the recorder), I thought it might be interesting to pursue some further research on the topic. Sure enough, there were further resources on the musical stylings of the Jacobites, and I decided to dig in! Though in this post I’ll only be referencing Newbigging’s book, I’ll include a reading list of some other books I found here at the ARB that focus on the Jacobites’ music and song.
As I read further into Newbigging’s analysis of the songs, I realized how truly important music was to the Jacobites as they pursued their quest to return King James II and VII to the throne, and restore the power of the monarchy to the House of Stuart. The Jacobites were steadfast in their goals; they believed that James’ removal from power was an illegal move, and that he was their rightful ruler. Though the Jacobites were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to restore the House of Stuart, their music lives on and preserves their history.
This music served a variety of purposes. Some songs were poetic battle cries that motivated the Jacobites to pursue their goals, some were sad ruminations upon those that were lost, and some took a darkly humorous outlook on a seemingly hopeless situation. Regardless of their intended purposes, these Jacobite songs are poignant reflections on this period in history, including not only the Jacobites’ story, but their spirit. These songs are performed even today. I wanted to pick out a few of my favorites from Newbigging’s book, and include some audio so you can listen to them too! I didn’t think I’d be spending my week listening to bagpipes, but I can’t say I’m upset about it; rather, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Continue reading A Jacobite Jukebox: Historical Narratives Preserved in Song
Eleanor Dickson Koehl, digital scholarship librarian with the HathiTrust will visit UC Libraries to give a presentation on the HathiTrust Research Center and conduct a workshop on text mining using HathiTrust Resources and python. The talk will be Tuesday Feb 26th from 3- 4 pm and the workshop will be Wednesday Morning from 9am -12pm with a luncheon afterwards from 12 pm-1 pm. Please join for one or both events which will be held in the Vis Lab 240H Braunstein Hall – inside the Geology-Math and Physics Library. These events are free and open to all. We request that attendees of the text mining workshop complete registration through the faculty one stop system.
You are cordially invited to the University of Cincinnati’s 4th Annual Data Day sponsored byThe University of Cincinnati Libraries and IT@UC.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are topics gaining national attention. Our 4th Annual University of Cincinnati Data Day will explore these topics in depth and highlight how researchers can expand their understanding by considering the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion on their own research.
What: University of Cincinnati 4th Annual Data Day
When: Monday, April 1, 2019 9am – 4:30pm
Where: Tangeman University Center, Great Hall (located on the main campus of the University of Cincinnati)
The day will be comprised of panel discussions, an interactive session where participants will learn R programming skills, and keynote speakers to start and end the day. The first keynote speaker, Amanda Wilson, will highlight the historic All of Us Research Program that is gathering data from one million individuals to assist in delivering precision medicine by taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology among participants. The second keynote speaker, Deborah Duran, will address how diversity and inclusion are necessary considerations as we consider our research and how doing so can have an impact on us all. Panelists will discuss health disparities and health equity research from local and statewideperspectives as well as how data is being used to empower social justice.
In my capacity as the University’s Records Manager, I’m on a statewide group called the Ohio Electronic Records Committee (Ohio ERC). Ohio ERC consist of professionals from Ohio’s public entities (including archivists, record managers, IT professionals, lawyers) who have an interest in electronic records. We meet quarterly, and produce resources of interest to other public employees, such as best practices tip sheets based on Ohio-specific concerns and annual workshops. It’s a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening within state government, since what is decided in Columbus can impact records management at UC.
At our last meeting, the topic of blockchain in state government came up. It turns out that there was legislation in the last General Assembly concerning blockchain. You can see information about the bill here. Blockchain is a distributed digital ledger system that is protected through cryptographic measures, and which records all changes, transactions, and modifications to the file or object in question. Blockchain’s most famous implementation is the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. While there is a lot of tech futurist excitement about blockchain, many others caution blockchain suffers from a lack of uniform standards, and others criticize the technology’s voracious energy usage. The reason blockchain is associated with high levels of energy use is because significant computing resources are used to generate its cryptographic verification. As a result, “bitcoin mining” tends to take place in areas with the cheapest electricity. For some time, this included places with extremely cheap coal-generated electricity like China, but this may be changing as renewable sources of cheap power come online.
During the meeting, we took a look at the full text of the bill (SB 300). Something that jumped out to many of us in the room was the definition of blockchain. The bill defined it in the following manner:
“Blockchain technology” means distributed ledger technology that uses a distributed, decentralized, shared, and replicated ledger, which may be public or private, permissioned or permissionless, or driven by tokenized crypto economics or tokenless. The data on the ledger is protected with cryptography, is immutable and auditable, and provides an uncensored truth.”
As I read this, something seemed a little off – the language seemed a little too bombastic to be written by state legislators, which made me think it was likely a form of model legislation. So I did some searching, and found that indeed, the phrase “uncensored truth” was part of similar legislation introduced in at least two other states, including Arizona and Tennessee. In other words, SB300 was model legislation, though it still isn’t clear who is shopping this around to state legislators. In 2018, eighteen states had some kind of legislative activity related to blockchain.
As it turns out, SB 300 was not passed, however language pertaining to blockchain (minus some of the colorful descriptions like “uncensored truth”) was part of another bill and is now part of the Ohio Revised Code (i.e. state law). It is in the section pertaining to commercial code and electronic transactions:
“(G) “Electronic record” means a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means. A record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic record.
(H) “Electronic signature” means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record . A signature that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic signature.”
Incidentally, earlier this month, a top aide of Governor Kasich (who recently left office due to term-limits) reportedly left state government “to work for a Cleveland tech company that’s developing ways to use blockchain to store and record government records.” It seems likely that we’re going to start hearing a lot more about blockchain in Ohio soon.
In this year’s annual Progress Report, we make note of the accomplishments of the previous year, as well as take a holistic view of UC Libraries since the Strategic Plan was launched five years ago. We celebrate the continued success of annual events that promote library collections and services, highlight milestones of major library initiatives and feature library spaces.
Integral to fulfilling the work of the Strategic Plan is the dedication of the faculty and staff of UC Libraries along with the investment of our donors. By highlighting the accomplishments of our hard-working staff and listing the current donors, both groups are recognized and celebrated in this Progress Report.
Finally, if all of the accomplishments listed in this report signal that we are at least on the road to transformation than we must ask ourselves the question…what’s next?
For as long as archivists have been preserving the past, they have also considered what the future holds. The future has meant many things to archivists: the role of technology, the changing faces of our users, and the reasons for why we preserve records in the first place. As part of a book review I am writing, I recently delved into the writings of archivists who have reckoned with the future by doing a quick literature search across several major journals (American Archivist, Journal of the Society of Archivists/Archives and Records (UK and Ireland), Archives and Manuscripts (Australia) and Archivaria (Canada). This pulled up around 60 citations for articles with “future” in their titles, published in these four journals.
The four archival journals I pulled citations from started between the 1930s and 1970s. Although there are scattered “future” articles during the mid-twentieth-century, there were only five before 1974. Nearly half of all future-oriented articles were published since 2000. Clearly, the millennium triggered significant professional introspection on the direction of our profession.
The history of archival futurism in the last century has often concerned the role of rapidly-changing technology in the creation and preservation of records under archivists’ care. In fact, the very first article published in The American Archivist with the word “future” in its title (1939) concerned the preservation and reliability of motion picture technology. Twenty years later (1958) brought “The Future of Microfilming,” and two decades later (1977) we weren’t quite yet at cloud storage, but we were considering “Optical Memories: Archival Storage System of the Future, or More Pie in the Sky?”
By the 80s, a note of anxiety began to creep into our archival futurism. Perhaps reflecting back cultural anxiety over the collapse of organized labor, rise of austerity measures, technological dystopias, and the late stages of the Cold War, archivists warned about “Instant Professionalism: To the Shiny New Men of the Future,” and asked themselves “Is There a Future in the Use of Archives?”
By the 2000s, the anxiety gave way to even more ominous warnings, many invoking worries of a digital dark age in which all of our bytes bite the dust. Archivists wrote about “Diaries, On-line Diaries, and the Future Loss to Archives; or, Blogs and the Blogging Bloggers Who Blog Them” and “Saving-Over, Over-Saving, and the Future Mess of Writers’ Digital Archives: A Survey Report on the Personal Digital Archiving Practices of Emerging Writers.” To give electronic records the materiality of their analog cousins, archivists used metaphors of manmade infrastructure (“Digital archives and metadata as critical infrastructure to keep community memory safe for the future – lessons from Japanese activities”) and natural phenomena (“On the crest of a wave: transforming the archival future”).
Archivists often summarize their work by saying “we preserve the past for the future.” This sentiment is visible in the titles, as nearly a quarter of the articles also contain a reference to the past, such as “What’s Past Was Future,” “Seeing the Past as a Guidepost to Our Future,” or “Metrics and Matrices: Surveying the Past to Create a Better Future.” That anchoring of archival work in the work of the past, not just for its own sake today, but also for the benefits of users we may never meet, is perhaps what gives archivists such a unique sense of perspective among the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector.
There is no doubt that as long as archivists still exist, we’ll keep writing about the future. But sometimes looking at our own history of archival futurism tells us more about where our profession has been than when we’re headed next.
 Dorothy Arbaugh, “Motion Pictures and The Future Historian,” The American Archivist 2, no. 2 (April 1, 1939): 106–14, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.2.2.7kv56p4206183040.
 Ernest Taubes, “The Future of Microfilming,” The American Archivist 21, no. 2 (April 1, 1958): 153–58, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.21.2.26114m62333099k3.
 Sam Kula, “Optical Memories: Archival Storage System of the Future, or More Pie in the Sky?,” Archivaria 4 (1977): 43–48.
 George Bolotenko, “Instant Professionalism: To the Shiny New Men of the Future,” Archivaria 20 (1985): 149–157.
 David B. Gracy II, “Is There a Future in the Use of Archives?,” Archivaria 24 (1987): 3–9.
 Catherine O’Sullivan, “Diaries, On-Line Diaries, and the Future Loss to Archives; or, Blogs and the Blogging Bloggers Who Blog Them,” The American Archivist 68, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 53–73, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.68.1.7k7712167p6035vt.
 Devin Becker and Collier Nogues, “Saving-Over, Over-Saving, and the Future Mess of Writers’ Digital Archives: A Survey Report on the Personal Digital Archiving Practices of Emerging Writers,” The American Archivist 75, no. 2 (October 1, 2012): 482–513, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.75.2.t024180533382067.
 Shigeo Sugimoto, “Digital Archives and Metadata as Critical Infrastructure to Keep Community Memory Safe for the Future – Lessons from Japanese Activities,” Archives and Manuscripts 42, no. 1 (January 2, 2014): 61–72, https://doi.org/10.1080/01576895.2014.893833.
 Laura Millar, “On the Crest of a Wave: Transforming the Archival Future,” Archives and Manuscripts 45, no. 2 (May 4, 2017): 59–76, https://doi.org/10.1080/01576895.2017.1328696.
 Maynard Brichford, “What’s Past Was Future,” The American Archivist 43, no. 3 (July 1, 1980): 431–32, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.43.3.631227106ux2q512.
 Brenda Banks, “Seeing the Past as a Guidepost to Our Future,” The American Archivist 59, no. 4 (September 1, 1996): 392–99, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.59.4.92486pp6w6p20575.
 Libby Coyner and Jonathan Pringle, “Metrics and Matrices: Surveying the Past to Create a Better Future,” The American Archivist 77, no. 2 (October 1, 2014): 459–88, https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.77.2.l870t2671m734116.
UC Libraries will be closed Thursday, November 22 and Friday, November 23 for Thanksgiving, with the exception of the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library, which will be open Friday, November 23 from noon – 5:00pm. Regular library hours will resume Saturday, November 24.
This closing includes the Langsam Library 4th floor space, which will close Wednesday, November 21 at 6pm and re-open Saturday, November 24 at 10am.