Posts related to the archives and rare books category

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 and via e-mail. To receive Source via e-mail, contact 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.

Feb. 28 Digital Humanities Speaker Series to Feature Two Speakers from the University of Iowa

digital humanities speaker series

Sponsored by the Digital Scholarship Center, the next Digital Humanities Speaker Series event, scheduled for Wed., Feb. 28 in both the Walter C. Langsam Library and the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library, will feature David Eichmann, director and associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science, and Blaine Greteman, associate professor of English, both from the University of Iowa. Both sessions are free and open to all.

Blaine Greteman
Blaine Greteman
David Eichmann
David Eichmann

10:00 a.m.-noon: [Keynote]: “Networking Print: Small Worlds, Phase Transitions, and Hidden Histories in 500,000 Early English Books.” Led by: Blaine Greteman. Co-Presenter: David Eichmann.  Location: Walter C. Langsam Library 462

Noon-12:45 p.m.:  Lunch- all welcome, Langsam 462

1:30-3:30 p.m.:  “Identification of Collaborator Networks in Biomedicine (and How They Relate to the Printing/Publishing Community of Pre-1800 England).” Led By: David Eichmann. Co-Presenter: Blaine Greteman. Location: Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library, Dr. Stanley B. Troup Learning Space (MSB G005G)
David Eichmann has conducted research in relational database theory, software reuse and reengineering, web search engines and intelligent agents, biomedical informatics and ontology-based research profile harvesting and visualization.  His current projects include Shakeosphere (modeling the social network of the print community in England 1540-1800), CTSAsearch (aggregating research profiles from 70+ institutions), CD2H (an informatics coordinating center for the CTSA consortium) and Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L) (where he is part of a consortium exploring the next generation of library catalogs).

Blaine Greteman writes regularly for popular publications including The New Republic, Slate, TIME and The Week. His first book was The Poetics and Politics of Youth in Milton’s England (Cambridge University Press, 2013); his forthcoming book, Networking Early English Print (Stanford University Press), is based on Shakeosphere, a digital project built in collaboration with David Eichmann. Greteman holds an M.Phil from Oxford, where he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship, and a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley.

Located in the Walter C. Langsam Library, the Digital Scholarship Center (DSC) is a joint venture of the University of Cincinnati Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences. Launched in September 2016 as an academic center, the DSC provides faculty and students across the university with support for digital project conception, design and implementation. For more about the Digital Scholarship Center, visit

Love Data Week 2018

“Hey Data-ful, do you come here often?”                              

“Why yes, yes I do, You can always find me in the repository.”

It is Love Data Week and time to show your love for your research output.

What is Love Data Week (#LDW18)?

From the Love Data Week website –

Similar to Open Access Week, the purpose of the Love Data Week (LDW) event is to raise awareness and build a community to engage on topics related to research data management, sharing, preservation, reuse, and library-based research data services. We will share practical tips, resources, and stories to help researchers at any stage in their career use good data practices.

Love Data Week is a social media event coordinated by research data specialists, mostly working in academic and research libraries or data archives or centers. We believe research data are the foundation of the scholarly record and crucial for advancing our knowledge of the world around us. If you care about research data, please join us! This event is open to any institution – small, large, research intensive or not, so please feel free to share, adapt, and improve upon it.  We encourage individuals, data librarians or otherwise, to participate in the campaign.

Continue reading Love Data Week 2018

Indian Clubs and German-American Health Promotion

By:  Kevin Grace

Women with Indian ClubsOn a hot June day in 1909, thousands of people gathered at the Carthage Fairgrounds just beyond the city limits of Cincinnati.  There on the nubby dusty infield of the racetrack, groups of women clad in long dresses divided themselves into squads of threes and fours and faced the spectators.  In each hand they held an “Indian club,” a standard piece of gymnasium equipment at the time, and as the crowd watched, the women began a series of intricate, graceful movements, swinging the clubs up from their sides and around their bodies, crisscrossing the clubs in patterns that emphasized coordination and discipline.  The demonstration was just one of several exhibits of mass exercises at the quadrennial Turnfest that was hosted by the Cincinnati Turners organizations that year, a fitting location as the American Turner movement was founded by German immigrants in Cincinnati in 1848.

The festival attracted Turner athletes from around the country and around the world, all journeying to Cincinnati as they had to other cities in past years to exhibit the Turner philosophical ideals of physical and mental fitness, and civic responsibility.  In the days before the ladies’ exercise with Indian clubs, students in the city’s schools demonstrated the skills they had learned in physical education classes, a mainstay of the public school academic program in Cincinnati.  The proper uses of parallel bars, wands and rings, and the pommel horse were performed in front of school officials and Turner judges.  It was a program already several decades old, begun in earnest after the Civil War when secondary and primary teachers learned the techniques of physical fitness and health promotion under the leadership of Turner instructors. Continue reading Indian Clubs and German-American Health Promotion

Sunlight as the best disinfectant?

Sunrise over Yellowstone Lake, US Geological Survey. Photo credit: Philip Sandstorm, Montana State University.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously stated that “sunlight was the best disinfectant,” enshrining a principle of transparency as a cornerstone for open democracy and good governance. The United States passed the Freedom of Information Act following Watergate in 1974, and many states subsequently adopted their own freedom of information (FOI) laws (often times referred to as sunshine, open records, or right to know laws). Freedom of information laws give the public broad rights to access records, however the burden to obtain the information still falls on the individual.

Since the passage of FOI laws, there has also been a movement towards what is known as proactive disclosure. This is when public entities proactively share information, data, and records with the public. The internet has made proactive disclosure cheaper and easier, and has given rise to many efforts towards what is known as “open government,” in which data sets from the government are made available to the public.

Transparency of information is an idea that most people agree on in principle, but in practice, the implementation is very uneven. Furthermore, there isn’t conclusive evidence that transparency leads to improvement for the public. In “Transparency With(out) Accountability,” Shkabatur (2012) notes that voluminous amounts of government information are now available, however a lack of context around that data, agency discretion over what to release, and a lack of enforcement has not led to government accountability.

An example of this paradox of transparency can be seen with environmental information. State and federal environmental laws require the disclosure of massive amounts of environmental information. On the other hand, that information is often not contextualized and agencies are not necessarily required to make information easy to find and understand, as long as it is available somewhere. In other words, Ohio may release information related to where gas wells are located, but it does not have to share other information that would make this information meaningful to the general public, such as how many complaints have been filed in proximity to a given well.

In this example, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources can technically say they are being “transparent” – after all, they are providing information about wells on a website accessible to the public. But unless you are a subject specialist, many of the available well records are incomprehensible to the general public. The records show evidence of actions that an agency took (approving construction and ongoing production of a well), but few of the records shed any light on the broader policy decisions and directions of the agency.


Bloodsport for the Undergrads

By: Kevin Grace

On December 3, 1907, an angry father wrote to the Board of Directors at the University of Cincinnati:


     Enclosed you find a doctor bill for treatment of a fractured nose, rendered to my son Armin C. Arend, who was hurt in a flag rush on the 30th of October; the rush being aided and supported by the officials of the University of Cincinnati.  I hope your Honorable Body doesn’t expect that I have to pay this bill since I, as well as my son, am opposed to flag rushes.  Please take this matter into your hands, & judge for yourself who should pay this bill.  Remember, that I paid tuition for this day, which is not given as a holiday in the School Calendar of the University of Cincinnati.

     It is hard enough for me as a workingman to pay tuition let alone such foolish unnecessary expenses.

                                                         Yours Respectfully,

Julius Arend
3318 Bonaparte Avenue, City

The bill in question, for $5.00, was referred to the Board’s Law Committee, which quickly denied the father’s claim.    As no further word was heard from Mr. Arend, presumably he chalked up the medical bill to an educational expense, like young Armin’s textbooks, but literally, a lesson in the “school of hard knocks.”

Because that is what “flag rush” was during the Progressive Era, a bloodsport of occasional broken noses, broken arms, concussions, and countless contusions and abrasions.   A variation on games we know as “capture the flag” and “red rover,” flag rush was a heightened example of these, and was popular on college and university campuses around the country.

Flag Rush at UC

Continue reading Bloodsport for the Undergrads

University-Area Planning in the Gettler Papers

By: Alex Temple, Gettler Project Archivist, Archives & Rare Books Library

Martin Luther King Jr. and Vine Street IntersectionOne of the most notable parts of Benjamin Gettler’s life and work is his time spent on the Board of Trustees at the University of Cincinnati.  He was appointed by Governor George Voinovich in 1993 and elected to chairman of the board in 2000, from which he retired in 2002.  While sorting through the records related to his tenure, I was really struck by the massive amount of thought and work that not only goes into shaping the experience for UC students, but also into the surrounding community.

Among the various campus-life projects represented in the collection, one that is very interesting is the long-term plan to improve the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Jefferson Avenue, and Vine Street.  At that time, Uptown (Avondale, Clifton, Clifton Martin Luther King and Vine Street IntersectionHeights, Corryville, Fairview, Mt. Auburn, and University Heights) accounted for 10% of the city’s population and 14% of the city’s employment, which together provided for over 46,000 workers commuting into or out of Uptown daily.  In addition to the university itself, the hospitals, and the Environmental Protection Agency complex, the immediate area saw the construction of a new office complex, the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies, and a UC conference center, including a Marriott hotel.  I found the moving pieces, stakeholder interests, and politics concerning an area approximately 100,000 sq. ft. very intriguing. Continue reading University-Area Planning in the Gettler Papers