Posts related to the archives and rare books category

Recordkeeping and climate change

The science and history of climate change is intrinsically tied up with the practice of recordkeeping. In climate change conversations we often talk about “records” as in, “the hottest summer on record” or “a record level of flooding.” But those notable milestone records do not reveal themselves – they are revealed because of bits of data, created through the practice of observational recordkeeping, constituting a baseline that makes notable records possible.

One of the longest running data sets related to climate change are the Mauna Loa observatory records from Hawaii. These measurements, still carried out today, record atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and were begun by Charles Keeling in 1958.  The resulting diagram of the measurements, popularly known as the Keeling curve, shows an unmistakable rise in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since it began. The Keeling curve is one of the most important pieces of documentary evidence in demonstrating the phenomenon of climate change, and human contribution towards creating climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions.

https://i0.wp.com/scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_full_record.png?w=830&ssl=1

The phenomena of climate change is all around us today. But it took decades of maintaining meticulous observational data records, and unearthing other forms of data through historical climate surrogate or proxy records, for climate change to enter mainstream scientific consciousness, let alone popular culture. Scientists had been discussing climate change in disciplinary publications and conferences since the 1960s. But climate change did not begin to enter mainstream conversation or awareness until the mid-1980s. After 1985, various phrases like climate change, global warming, and greenhouse gases began to appear in popular culture. An example of this can be seen in looking at the Google Books Ngram viewer, which registers phrases that appear in its corpus of 5 million digitized books. Around 1986, a major rise begins to take shape, and it gains major steam through the late 1980s.

So what happened in the mid-80s? Several landmark events. One was the Montreal Protocol, which developed international cooperation in reducing the use of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs), which had contributed to the ozone hole. The awareness and international response to the ozone hole helped the public understand the degree to which human activity could adversely impact the environment. Then in 1988, a NASA scientist named James Hansen appeared before Congress during unusually hot summer weather to give testimony that global climate change was happening due to the use of fossil fuels, and that the United States needed to prepare for it.

The New York Times reported that “Dr. Hansen, who records temperatures from readings at monitoring stations around the world, had previously reported that four of the hottest years on record occurred in the 1980’s. Compared with a 30-year base period from 1950 to 1980, when the global temperature averaged 59 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature was one-third of a degree higher last year. In the entire century before 1880, global temperature had risen by half a degree, rising in the late 1800’s and early 20th century, then roughly stabilizing for unknown reasons for several decades in the middle of the century.” Until this time climate scientists had been hesitant to call for major public policy changes towards averting climate disaster. Hansen’s examination of over 100 years of weather station records led to his determination that global temperature rise was on enough of an upward trajectory than the alarm bell had to be rung.

Ohio Digital Newspapers & Chronicling America Presentation in ARB on Thursday July 26

Come hear about Ohio’s digital newspaper project and learn how to freely access historic newspapers from around the country.

When:  Thursday July 26 from 11:00am-12:30pm

Where:  Archives and Rare Books Library, Seminar Room 814

Westliche Blatter mastheadDid you know that 90 Ohio newspapers including foreign language papers have been digitized and are now part of the Library of Congress’ free newspaper database Chronicling America?  Learn how to access the over 13 million pages of historic newspapers from 47 states and territories covering 1789-1963 on Chronicling America.  Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program, and Bronwyn Benson, Quality Control Technician, from the Ohio History Connection will demonstrate basic and advanced search strategies and how to work with your results to find information about local, state, national and international events, people, places and culture. They will also provide a brief overview newspaper digitization process and an update on the digitization of Ohio’s foreign language newspapers.

The Colored Citizen mastheadTreasures from the Archives and Rare Books Library collections including items from the German Americana collection that complement the digitized newspapers will be available for viewing before and after the presentation.

 

The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

By:  Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist

Book on the Cincinnati Transit CompanyFor the past several months, work has continued on processing the Benjamin Gettler Papers donated to the Archives & Rare Books Library.  Gettler was a notable lawyer, businessman, and civic activist in Cincinnati, an international philanthropist, and a former member of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.  I’ve been fascinated by the amount of public transit-related history in this collection.  An often over-looked part of urban history is transportation infrastructure.  Public transportation records can tell us not only where people lived, worked, and played, but also the routes taken and who the routes served.  They can also provide insight into how, where, or why neighborhoods changed over time.

Cincinnati’s public transportation, as we recognize it today, really began in 1873 when several horse-drawn tram systems merged to form the Cincinnati Consolidated Railway Company.  Nearly a decade later, it was renamed the Cincinnati Street Railway Company (Gettler, 2012).  It remained the Cincinnati Street Railway Company until 1952, after the company had fully transitioned from rail to rubber-tire service, becoming the Cincinnati Transit Company.

Gettler himself was a prominent figure in Cincinnati’s transit history, as his involvement started slightly before the switch from streetcars to buses and through the sale of the Cincinnati Transit Company to the City of Cincinnati, forming the South Ohio Regional Transit Association (S.O.R.T.A.), and finally serving on the S.O.R.T.A. board beginning in 2003.  A good deal of the collection in the Benjamin Gettler Papers comes from his involvement in public transportation, including items such as meeting minutes from the board of directors.  One in particular which I found exciting to study was the meeting minutes from the board of directors from 1952 to 1954. Continue reading The Benjamin Gettler Papers: An Introduction to Cincinnati’s New Public Transit

How many archives are in the United States?

Archives located in the Gulf South

In recent years, there’s been growing awareness within the United States cultural heritage community about exposure to climate change. Many emerging communities of concerned cultural heritage professionals have emerged. There is now a Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice, the American Library Association Sustainability Roundtable, and ProjectARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change). Climate change is showing up at conferences and journals in the field.

One of the major challenges in assessing the risk of climate change to cultural heritage is that data on cultural heritage is inconsistent. How can you predict how many museums, libraries, or archives will be exposured to climate change without adequate data on how many institutions exist in a given vulnerable location? There is a lot of great data on museums thanks to the Museum Universe Data File. There is a semi-representative directory of American libraries (but it leaves out school libraries). But as an archivist working on climate change issues, I was pretty dismayed to discover a few years ago that there really isn’t a comprehensive data set of archives in the United States.

Last year, my research collaborator Ben Goldman (Penn State University) and I received a Society of American Archivists (SAA) Foundation grant to attempt to compile the first comprehensive data set of all US archives. The roots of this project began with an article we co-authored with geospatial experts from Penn State, in which we took a very limited data set of around 1,200 archives (furnished by OCLC’s ArchiveGrid) and examined their exposure to climate change risks, like sea-level rise, storm surge, and changes in temperature/humidity. However, we knew if there was ever going to be a comprehensive risk assessment of US archives, someone had to bring together a comprehensive data set of how many US archives exist and where they are located. This is what we set out to do with our SAA Foundation grant.

Over the course of the grant, we worked with a fantastic assistant, Whitney Ray, who did an incredible amount of heavy lifting with contacting over 150 archival organizations for any data they had. Essentially, we reached out to anyone we thought may have maintained lists of archives in their region or area of interest. What we received was over 30,000 raw data points! The data came to us in every way you can imagine – from very tidy spreadsheets to webpages with broken links to PDFs of archives. You can read much more about our workflow and process on our RepoData project blog.

We’ve now made data available for 30 states plus Washington DC on our public GitHub repository. We plan to work through the remainder of the states through 2018. While we originally created this data because we know it’s critical for future climate assessment work, we know there will be a lot of potential reuse for it – and we’re excited to see how people use it!

The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

By:  Kevin Grace

For several months from July of 2017 to April of this year, each day on the Archives & Rare Books Library’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ArchivesRareBooksLibraryUniversityOfCincinnati/, featured an architectural element of Blegen Library, from printer’s marks to the original floor tiles and terrazzo walls.  In the way the cultural Belgen Library exteriorheritage of the building was presented with its sculptures and carvings representing the history of the book and the legacy of education, every detail was explored with a capsule account of its meaning and importance.  The figures in the bas reliefs of “Ex Occidente Lux” and “Ex Orientale Lux” were freshly discovered.  The bronze symbols of knowledge over the front door were explained.  The human stories behind the plaster and bronze printers marks were revealed. Continue reading The Cycle of Knowledge and Do Unto Others: The Ouroboros of Blegen Library

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