The Cincinnati (Ohio) City Engineer – Rapid Transit Records collection includes both negatives and prints of subway construction and street improvement projects conducted by the City of Cincinnati between 1917 and 1957. While we are fortunate to have over 2000 printed copies from negatives included in the collection, not every negative has a matching print, and the digitization project does not extend to producing archival prints of the negatives. Because the prints and negatives have been separated into folders, with the negative folders organized by date and the print folders organized by street name, it is quite a task to match a print with a negative.
Like a game of Concentration, I compare prints to scanned images, hoping to match a print with its negative, spurred on by the challenge of turning over the right combination of cards! Fortunately, having gone through each folder to prepare the materials for scanning has made me familiar enough with the contents to have a general idea of where I might locate an image of Elm Street or Ludlow Avenue. Most helpful is the information being transcribed from the negatives and prints as they are scanned, which provides dates and street names in a spreadsheet that I compare and also match to the finding aid. As the project moves into the online collection building phase, each print will be matched with its negative in a database, so that ultimately researchers viewing the images on screen may quickly determine if a physical print is available. Continue reading Pairing Prints with Negatives: Adventures in the Subway and Street Improvements Digitization Project
Reviewing the images of the subway construction has provided me with a great opportunity to learn the names of the streets and the different intersections around downtown Cincinnati that were major points along the subway route. As I learn to navigate my way around the city, driving from one location to another, I’m finding this very useful as I’m constantly recalling images and the navigational captions written on the negatives. By providing the street names and directional information for each image, the photographer gave us a map of 1920s Cincinnati. I thought it would be fun to show a “then and now” perspective of some of those streets and intersections, courtesy of Google maps, providing a snapshot of how much the city has grown and changed, starting with the removal of the canal in the 1920s.
The images shown here begin at Race Street and head west along Central Parkway, then make a turn at Plum Street to head north on Central Parkway past Mohawk Place (The building on the corner of Central and Mohawk Robin Imaging, the company digitizing the collection.), and north on McMicken Ave.
Many of us are preparing this week for Thanksgiving, one of America’s oldest traditional holidays. Food rituals are key in most cultures, and they are certainly featured in the contents of the Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection. Providing a common link and shared experience, Thanksgiving dinner, and the holiday itself are prime examples of traditional American culture.
There are many Thanksgiving traditions which mark the holiday as an example of folkloric tradition. We may take for granted how commonly held practices such as preparing a turkey or breaking the wishbone might be considered folklore given their ubiquity, but folklore can be just that: a ritual so regularized that it begins to be practiced without thought. Continue reading Thanksgiving Tradition
Admittedly scatter-brained in many regards, it sometimes takes a few days for me to catch on to matters. To wit, two weeks ago a book arrived on my desk from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers accompanied by no letter or other explanation, only the package with my name typed on the label. I thought it was just another of the occasional books that find their way here, usually self-published religious or philosophical musings that are mailed wholesale to everyone and his brother. The title was interesting, though: Terrorist Attacks on American Soil: From the Civil War Era to the Present, and it was from a legitimate publisher. But even so, I set it aside with barely a glance. Continue reading The McNamara Brothers and American Terrorism
The Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection features a wide range of folklore related topics and this week’s blog explores food lore and folk art with a local twist. Carol Watkins’ paper from the collection features photographs and information on Myra’s Dionysus, a charming restaurant situated in a unique building at 121 Calhoun Street. Myra’s Dionysus is well known locally for their ethnic foods, vegetarian options and, perhaps most notably, for their seasonal soups. If you have ever visited the restaurant, you might remember that the soups which are being offered that day are listed on colorful hand-painted signs hanging in the doorway to the small, but cozy, dining room. Continue reading Myra's Dionysus: Local Folk Art and Food Lore
Are you in election withdrawal? Don’t know what you will do without those election commercials? Even if you are still celebrating the fact that you can turn on the TV and listen to a commercial that does not talk about Republicans, Democrats, unemployment, or debt, you may still enjoy this exhibit by the Museum of the Moving Image. “The Living Room Candidate” holds presidential campaign videos from every presidential election since 1952. It provides an interesting look at the issues of each of those elections and the changes in presidential campaigning since the mid-20th century. For example, look at the cartoons and catchy tunes used in the commercials of John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower, and then the references to violence in the commercials of both Nixon and Humphrey in 1968. See how the families of candidates have been used in campaign commercials over the past sixty years, and make sure to look for any television or movie stars who might show up in a commercial.
The construction of the subway seems to have been something of a spectator sport in Cincinnati, with groups of onlookers crowding along the banks of the old canal and hovering over the rails of bridges, watching as workmen dug out the canal bed to build the framework for tracks and tunnels.
This week I’m reading Pete Townshend’s recently published autobiography, Who I Am, and it brought to mind how we document part of his life here in the Archives & Rare Books Library. It was nearly 33 years ago that The Who played Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati on December 3, 1979 and eleven people were killed in a stampede for festival seating.
Digitally preserving eighty-year-old negatives and prints for online access requires clear guidelines and close attention to detail to ensure all information contained in the photographic records is captured. Such a project also requires careful organization of the physical collection so that all assets may be accounted for through each stage of the project. Finally, close inspection of the digital rendering is necessary to ensure the highest quality of scanned images is obtained and preserved for future use.
Due to the unstable nature of the negatives, safe handling of the physical material is a priority both during the organization phase of the project at the Archives & Rare Books Library, as well as during the scanning phase at Robin Imaging Services. Proper handling will not only protect the physical condition of the negatives and prints, but of those handling them, as well! While organizing the collection, I wear cotton gloves to avoid contact with the negatives and a filtered mask to avoid breathing in any fumes that the negatives may be putting off as they deteriorate. I also use a metal spatula to lift and separate each individual negative. This allows me to create an itemized list of each asset in a spreadsheet, which will be used to generate the metadata that is required to build the online collections. It will also give us a final tally on total number of negatives and prints contained in the collection. Continue reading Subway and Street Improvements Project Digitization Taking Shape
The ability to predict and foresee oncoming weather has long fascinated humans. Before advanced Doppler technology and the ability to capture satellite images, weather prediction methods were passed through generations by way of proverbs and superstitions. The Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection features such lore and shows the interesting ways that it continues to be cycled because of its (sometimes surprising) accuracy.
Jennifer L. Collins’ contribution to the folklore collection has a wide range of weather lore from Southeastern Indiana farmers who depend on the proverbs’ precision even in contemporary times. Even before almanacs became popular, easy to remember lines were most effective for passing the tradition of weather lore. A fairly common proverb of Southern Ohio is “Red sky at night, sailors delight, Red in the morning, sailors take warning.” This lore can be traced back at least to biblical times where it is paraphrased in Matthew 16:3 “And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring” (King James Bible). Continue reading Silver Linings and Early Birds: Weather Lore in the Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection