The Best Show In Town

By:  Angela Vanderbilt

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.

Men looking over construction site Continue reading

Remembering the Who Tragedy

By Kevin Grace

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.

Aftermath of stampede at Who Concert

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Subway and Street Improvements Project Digitization Taking Shape

By:  Angela Vanderbilt

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

Cincinnati Ballet at 50-Preparing for a Celebration


Colleen Giesting in Salome

By Suzanne Maggard

The Archives and Rare Books Library has been working with Cincinnati Ballet to prepare for their 50th anniversary season which begins in 2013.  As part of the celebration, David Lyman, the dance writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer, is working on a book about the ballet.  Lyman was contracted to write the book by the Cincinnati firm, Allegori, who, in turn, has a contract for the book with Cincinnati Ballet.  Lyman has been doing research on the ballet using Cincinnati Ballet records and the David McLain and David Blackburn Collection held in the Archives and Rare Books Library.  Photos and slides from these records are currently being scanned for use in the book which will be released in 2013.  Although the images in this blog post are not necessarily ones chosen for the book, they are a sampling of the some of the images in the collections.

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Local Lore: Haunted Buildings of Clifton

By:  Molly Gullett

Arlin's LogoAs Halloween approaches, many of us are preparing to celebrate the holiday, from trick-or-treating to haunted house tours.  October is a month filled with a sense of the uncanny, and the Southwest Ohio Folklore Collection has many local examples from several research papers dealing with all things mysterious and ghoulish.

All communities have their collective legends and mysteries, and Clifton is no exception. Elise Maynard’s paper in the collection titled The Arlin’s Ghost in a Community Context features first-hand accounts from Arlin’s bartenders on the supernatural legends housed within this Ludlow Avenue bar. For years among the staff, there have been legends passed down about spirits that inhabit the building. The oral legends that passed down were brought to action when several bartenders and a few patrons conducted a séance in the basement. Continue reading

The Subway and Street Improvement Photograph Grant Project- Images of Progress

By: Angela Vanderbilt

The first delivery of scans depicting the 1920s subway construction project has arrived. These scans were made from a set of highly sensitive nitrate-based negatives, which are being digitized first due to their state of deterioration. A variety of factors have contributed to this deterioration, including the physical composition (an unstable silver nitrate emulsion held on a celluloid surface), age (many are from the 1920s-1930s), and environment (negatives had been stored in a location with dramatically fluctuating temperature and humidity levels prior to being stored at UC’s ARB repository), so it’s important to have them scanned as soon as possible. For safety reasons, the nitrate negatives will be destroyed once scanning is completed and image files are approved. Following the nitrate scanning, acetate-based negatives will be scanned. These negatives are also deteriorating due to similar factors but do not pose safety issues like the nitrate negatives, apart from their offensive vinegar smell…Following the negatives, the collection of prints will be sent for scanning. When completed, we will have over 8000 digital images of the subway and street improvements projects, images portraying Cincinnati from the 1920s through the 1950s, with over half produced as positive images from negatives.

Industrial Scene

Men walking along subway route Continue reading

Irish Cincinnati-Mike Mullen and Ward Politics

By:  Kevin Grace

As the election season draws to a close over the next couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to consider the story of Mike Mullen, perhaps corrupt in the eyes of muckraking journalists, but certainly beloved among his own kind – and isn’t that always the case when it comes to urban politics? A jaded opinion, you say?  Maybe, I respond, but certainly one that is backed by the boisterous heritage of American city life.  And, so in the spirit of Archives Month in Ohio and the democratic system of government, here we go… Continue reading

The Haunting of Wilson Auditorium

By:  Molly Gullett

Wilson AuditoriumPlay in Wilson AuditoriumAs work proceeds on the Southwest Ohio Folklore Archives, there are a few papers that are certainly appropriate at this time of year.  In November, 2002, student Mathew Z. Keller submitted his contribution to the archive with an account of UC’s Wilson Auditorium.  Superstition and mystery are as linked with theatre as performance itself and there are many superstitions associated with theatre.  Of course, there is “break a leg” instead of “good luck,” and the ominous effects of saying Macbeth backstage. Perhaps less known is the superstition to never whistle anywhere in a theatre because it signifies that a play will be ending soon. Another ritual is to leave a ghost light on in the belief that it would convince spirits of the theatre that they had not been forgotten. Like most, UC’s theatres are also riddled with superstitions and legends which comprise their lore. Continue reading

Celebrating Archives Month and the Peoples of Ohio-Procter & Gamble Irish Connection

By Kevin Grace

An early Irish immigrant to Cincinnati, Alexander Norris was born in Caledon, County Tyrone, Ireland in 1771.  The date of his arrival in Cincinnati is uncertain, but it was before 1819 when he first appears in a city directory as a chandler.  Norris came to the Queen City with his family, which included his daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who was born in Ireland in 1811.  After establishing a successful tallow business, Norris moved in the local social circles of candle makers, where Elizabeth met and married another Irish immigrant, James Gamble, in 1833.  The couple had ten children, and further joined business interests when Elizabeth’s sister Olivia married the widowed William Procter.  Alexander Norris persuaded his sons-in-law, both of whom were involved in the animal fat business, to join together and form a mutual manufacturing enterprise. Continue reading

Moving Along. . . in the Subway

By:  Angela Vanderbilt

Subway ConstructionDigitization of the Cincinnati subway and street improvement project prints and negatives began this week with three boxes containing 681 silver nitrate-based negatives delivered to Robin Imaging Services for scanning. Each negative will be carefully scanned by a photo technician experienced in handling silver nitrate negatives, using scanners that operate at low temperature levels to ensure the sensitive nitrate is not exposed to heat. Each negative will be analyzed during scanning to ensure the proper exposure settings are applied to capture the best detail possible when it is saved as a positive image.

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