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Looking backward, looking forward
Posted on April 3, 2014 by Anne Sauer | Categories: features | | Add comment |

On Monday, I left the DCA office for the last time, ending 10 years as director, 16 years in the archives, and 20 years working for Tufts University. It’s hard to know how to process leaving a place after so long, but after a few days to reflect, I know there are a couple of things I will really miss.

First and foremost, my colleagues! The DCA staff is like none other. Smart, creative, dedicated, ambitious – ready to take chances, try new things, and continually move forward. DCA has attained truly remarkable achievements for a very small program: the Tufts Digital Library, dramatically expanded collections and services, and all of this while engaging in research on electronic records and linked data and archives. I’ve been asked, many times, how we were able to do so much. It’s all about the people – staff in DCA, and colleagues across the libraries and the university who gave us space and support to follow where our creativity and ambition took us. What a great place to work! I cannot thank my colleagues enough for making my time at Tufts so exciting, positive, and productive. I’m going to miss you!

And yes, I’ll miss our collections, even the quirky ones. Jumbo’s tail, icky and not at all photogenic, but the most requested relic of Tufts’ history. Transcripts and student records – not sexy, maybe, but vital to documenting the education of so many thousands of Tufts students over more than 150 years. Newsletters from grassroots environmental organizations, documenting communities’ struggles for environmental justice. The Early American election data gathered by Phil Lampi and made available through the New Nation Votes project (with the American Antiquarian Society and NEH). And more.

My sentimental favorite is the Melville Munro photograph collection. Munro had an extraordinary talent for composition and capturing light, and while his primary subject was daily campus and student life, he left us thousands of images that both document Tufts and, in many cases, are stunningly beautiful. This image, of Jackson students stitching a service flag during World War I is one I am taking with me to my new job.

Jackson Students with Service Flag

What’s that new job? I’ll be trading in the steady and true brown and blue of Tufts for Cornell’s Big Red. Coming to Ithaca? Look me up at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections!

Data migration success
Posted on February 27, 2014 by Erin Faulder | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  , , |

Here at the DCA we manage a lot of material. We have images, folders of documents, ground breaking shovels and other three dimensional objects, digital files, books, and A/V material. In order to manage the material effectively, we need a system that helps us identify, describe, and locate it all.

In 2010 we undertook a project to replace our old collection management system with a new tool that would help us do our job better. This tool is an open source web-based application called CIDER (source code can be found on GitHub.) However, creating the application was only the first step of replacing our old system. We also had to migrate all of the data that existed in the old system to CIDER.

The migration process was no small feat. We had over 600 collections to migrate. Some collections had only a handful of records. Others had thousands of records. We had to standardize, clean up, check the accuracy, and transform all of the existing data before we could import it into CIDER. Once it was in CIDER, we had a complex QA process to ensure that every piece of information was migrated accurately and completely. Each record was touched at least four times before it was considered complete. It took some excellent coordination, motivation, and commitment from those who helped the process go forward and the staff who had to work in an environment where our our data was in two different places at once!

We are happy to announce that the migration and QA process is now complete and we wanted to share some statistics from the process:

  • There were nearly 250,000 records migrated as part of this process.
  • The first collection was frozen in the old system to prevent changes to the data was on December 20, 2011.
  • The QA process was finished on the final collection, 26 months later, on February 24, 2014.
  • A quarter million records in 616 collections averages to about 406 records per collection.
  • On average, we were able to migrate approximately 2200 records per week.
  • Three people worked part-time on the first step of migrating data from one system to another
  • Six people worked part-time on the final QA steps.

Chi Omega Christmas party for South End House

Time to pull out the tinsel and throw a party!

Provenance regarding the Tufts sculpture ‘Désespoir’ by Auguste Rodin
Posted on February 19, 2014 by Susanne Belovari | Categories: features | |  Tagged:  , , , |

Many of us did not know that Tufts had a beautiful small bronze by Rodin. In fact very little was generally known about the sculpture except its plaque reads “Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Gilbert-Brought from the Rodin Atelier by Mrs. Abigail Adams Homans, mother of Mrs. Carl J. Gilbert.”


odin sculpture called Désespoir or 'Despair

Laura McCarty, Senior Art Registrar of Tufts Art Gallery, asked Susanne Belovari (Archivist for Reference and Collections) to do provenance research regarding ‘Despair.’ If one can date the figure to the early years of Rodin’s work, if he supervised the casting, and if the foundry was by Alexis Rudier, the piece would not only have a tremendous value as an artifact but also in monetary terms.

The bronze at Tufts is based on a figure originally called Shade Holding Her Foot (known as Despair/Désespoir after 1900) and was apparently a study for Rodin’s The Gates of Hell.

McCarty and Belovari quickly identified a version of the sculpture in the authoritative Rodin catalog by the Musée Rodin; a figure that was cast in 1902 and that appeared to be similar to the Tufts bronze in form, size, and markings.

After some research into the family of Abigail Adams Homans, it became clear that the most likely person to have purchased the figure was Abigail’s uncle, Henry Adams. Adams had been instrumental or at least helpful in introducing Rodin to American buyers and US museums. Boston figured prominently in this history: from the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, Henry bought Psyche for his niece Louisa Hooper and then in 1902 Elizabeth Sherman Cameron (wife of Sen. Don Cameron) and Henry helped Henry Lee Higginson to purchase two Rodin marbles and three bronzes, the “first substantial group of Rodin’s sculptures for an American collection.” Both Hooper and Higginson lent their sculptures to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, together eventually ten figures.

Susanne then searched through the published letters of Henry Adams and particularly those with his life long friend Elizabeth Sherman Cameron with little success. Since about 30% of the letters to and from Henry Adams have not yet been published, however, she proceeded to look through the microfilm of the Adams Family Papers, held in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society and other repositories. And here in the letters between Henry and Elizabeth, she found the details of the purchase of Despair/Désespoir which clearly identified the figure to be dated from 1902, to be one of only two known early casts by Alex Rudier, and cast under the supervision of Rodin himself.

In the fall Laura and Susanne sent copies of the letters and documentation to the Comité Auguste Rodin in Paris, which corroborated the findings with their own research. Not only will a photograph of the authenticated bronze at Tufts be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Critique de l’Oeuvre Sculpté d’Auguste Rodin (Critical Catalogue of the Sculptural Works of Auguste Rodin) but the Tufts community can now enjoy this rare piece on its campus.

Gone when the morning comes
Posted on January 31, 2014 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  , , , , |

Today is my last day at Tufts DCA, and I keep dwelling on all the things I love about this place. There’s what I I love about Tufts University; today on my way into work, as I walked past the straw bales they put against trees so local kids sledding down the hill won’t hurt themselves, I thought about how one of the things that drew me to Tufts in the first place was how it is a member of the surrounding community. There’s also DCA, and everything I will miss here. Of course there’s the people and the work and everything that we’ve accomplished in the time I’ve been here, but let’s face it, it’s easier to blog about my favorite elements from our collections. Therefore I present for you:

Deborah’s list of five treasures she’s enjoyed finding in our collections, in no particular order:

  1. Outerbridge Horsey“. I know this record doesn’t look like much but I am so fond of Mr. Horsey. He’s my favorite name in the entire A New Nation Votes project. One thing I love about the Outerbridge Horsey family is that they understand how truly wonderful the name is: Outerbridge Horsey VII is alive and a practicing architect in Georgetown.
  2. Dog with sign protesting new dorms“, 1978. How can anyone not love this beautiful dog, who is very adamant that there should be no dorms.
  3. The Ginger-Beer Man“, 1890. This gregarious fellow has been my go to image for testing search for years.
  4. Marine Technology Transfer and the Law of the Sea“, 1984. This is a doctoral dissertation, submitted to the faculty of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, by the current dean of the Fletcher School. In between that dissertation and his current position as Dean, he was NATO Supreme Commander Europe. I am always so fascinated by the non-academia experience of the Fletcher faculty.
  5. I don’t have any particular favorites from the This I Believe collection, but I like the collection so much not just because I’m proud of how much work we put in to making this audio + transcript interface have lovely usability and accessibility, but because the content in general makes the 1950s real to me. Here’s a nice sampling: Annie Fisher, 1954, Nazrat Farooki, 1954, Vita Sackville-West, 1953, Yaroslav Chyz, 1952, Louis Brandeis, 1952, Violet Bonham Carter, 1952. What I love about This I Believe is how it blends famous people and regular Joes so seamlessly, without any presumption by either the show or the speakers that the two classes of speakers are any different from one another.

Woman leaping over a track and field hurdle, with one leg parallel to the floor in front of her and another parallel to the floor behind her
Diane Pilson, November 1979

Welcome, Liz!
Posted on January 16, 2014 by Anne Sauer | Categories: news | | 1 comment  Tagged:  |

We are pleased to welcome Liz Francis to DCA, who has joined us in a term appointment in the Records Archivist position. She has already become a key contributor to the archives team. I asked Liz to write a little something to introduce herself here. Stop by and say hello if you’re in Tisch. Welcome, Liz!

I am thrilled to join Digital Collections and Archives as Records Archivist. Stepping in to replace Veronica Martzahl, now Electronic Records Archivist at Massachusetts State Archives, I am grateful to my predecessor for, well, keeping such good records. My role at DCA is to oversee the intake of new collection material, both physical and electronic, and to process incoming collections to ready them for researchers. Jumping right in, the first collection I tackled, with the help of talented Tufts student assistants Elyse Werling and Grace Tam, was the Mobius records – more than one hundred boxes of materials documenting thirty years of experimental and performance art in Boston. Stay tuned for future blog posts about this important collection.

Before joining DCA in November, I assisted researchers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, processed archival collections at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and researched digital preservation strategies for the MIT Libraries. A long-time Boston resident, I am excited to delve into the rich history of Tufts and the exotic Somerville/Medford borderlands. My initiation begins with some background reading, Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World by Paul Chambers. Outside of Tufts, I participate in the wider archival community by volunteering with our regional professional organization, New England Archivists, and our national organization, the Society for American Archivists.

If you see me around campus, don’t hesitate to challenge me to a Jumbo trivia face-off. And if you would like to discuss your own records, contact me anytime at elizabeth.francis@tufts.edu.

DCA’s 2014 Reunion Classes Exhibit Now on Display!
Posted on January 9, 2014 by Leah Edelman | Categories: exhibits, features | |  Tagged:  , |

The 2014 Reunion Classes Exhibit, now on display in Tisch Library (in the cases located near the entrance to the Tower Cafe), highlights the classes of 2004, 1989, 1979, 1964, 1939, and 1914. The exhibit commemorates Tufts alumni through photographs, news clippings, and ephemera selected from the collections of the DCA.

The standing display case focuses on the 10th reunion year of the class of 2004, the 25th reunion year of the class of 1989, and the 50th reunion year of the class of 1964. Highlights from the class of 2004’s time at Tufts include photographs of notable speakers such as Spike Lee and John Kerry, and a photograph of the Patches for Peace quilt created by the Tufts community in response to 9/11. Highlights from the class of 1989’s tenure include photographs of students at rallies and protests, enjoying senior week activities, and at graduation, as well as a photograph of an early performance by a famous Tufts alum. Highlights from the class of 1964 include photographs of students on move-in day and at social functions and sports events, as well as a Tufts Ivy Book and the front page of the Tufts Weekly after JFK’s assassination.

The flat display case focuses on the 35th reunion year of the class of 1979, the 75th reunion year of the class of 1939, and the 100th reunion year of the class of 1914. Highlights from the class of 1979’s Tufts years include a football signed by members of the 1979 football team, and a photograph of the 1975 fire in Barnum Hall that consumed Jumbo, Tufts’s beloved mascot. Highlights from the class of 1939 include coverage of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, and a photograph of the 1939 women’s basketball team. Highlights from the class of 1914 include photographs of the 1914 Tufts football team and WWI soldiers marching on campus, and a Class Day book.

This exhibit was designed and installed by Leah Edelman, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until Fall 2014. For more information on Tufts history and alumni, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library.

Tufts students at unidentified outdoor function, 1964

Tufts Alum Eugene Fama Wins Nobel Prize
Posted on November 12, 2013 by Timothy Walsh | Categories: news | |  Tagged:  , , , , , |

Here at DCA, we receive a number of reference requests relating to Tufts graduates who have gone on to do amazing things. For some of these graduates, their career trajectories must have been easy to predict from the time they came to the hill. Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria, both noted actors, performed in a number of plays as undergraduates in the Drama department. Gregory Maguire, author of many books, including Wicked, completed his Ph.D. in English and American Literature at Tufts. Gordon S. Wood, the Pulitzer Prize winner who was perhaps immortalized by a certain bar scene in Good Will Hunting, graduated summa cum laude from Tufts, where he began his academic studies in history.

Sometimes, however, Tufts graduates go on to make their mark in unexpected ways. Eugene Fama, one of this year’s recipients of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, is one such example. Fama, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, spent his time at Tufts studying not economics but French.

However, while Fama’s eventual chosen field might have come as a surprise to some of those who knew him here at Tufts, his level of success likely has not. As an undergraduate, Eugene Fama was a busy, well-rounded, and high-achieving student. In addition to playing both football and baseball, Fama was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sword & Shield, and the Society of Scholars. He won a number of awards, including the Cotter Prize for excellence in French, and was selected for Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In his senior year, Fama received a fellowship for graduate study at the University of Chicago, where he earned an MBA and Ph.D. in economics and finance and then remained to teach.

Eugene Fama (left) winning Morgan Stanley-American Finance Association Award, 2008

Congratulations to Eugene Fama – yet another Jumbo making us all proud.

To see Tufts materials related to Eugene Fama and other notable Jumbos, stop by DCA Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm, send us an email, or give us a call at (617)627-3737.

Historical New England Medical Center Archives
Posted on October 31, 2013 by Susanne Belovari | Categories: features | |  Tagged:  , , , , , , |

New England Medical Center model and poster, ca. 1950

DCA is pleased to announce that as of July 2013, it is preserving the historical New England Medical Center (NEMC) Archives for the Tufts Medical Center located in Boston, MA.

Please take a look at our new featured collection page for the Historical New England Medical Center Archives which also includes online pdfs for a historical resource guide and a timeline stretching back to 1665.

Browse through already digitized images regarding some of the medical institutions and check out findings aids to already existing collections at DCA.

DCA’s Fall Exhibit Now on Display
Posted on September 20, 2013 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: exhibits | |  Tagged:  , , |

[Guest post by intrepid student worker Tim Walsh]

Stop by the DCA display cases in Tisch Library (located near the entrance to Tower Café) and check out the new fall exhibit: Jester Hairston, A29: He and His Talents Prevailed. The exhibit, which includes photographs, correspondence, news clippings, and album covers from DCA collections including the Jester Hairston collection, commemorates the life of notable Tufts alum Jester Hairston, class of 1929.

Jester Hairston, the grandson of slaves from Bellows Creek, North Carolina, started out as an amazingly talented singer and actor in the 1920s and early 1930s. Affected by widespread racism of the time that extended into the arts, Hairston eventually also became an accomplished conductor and composer, areas relatively open to African American artists for much of the 20th century. As such, Hairston became one of a small number of African American composers whose work transformed African American spirituals into an accepted genre of choral music. He is perhaps best known as the composer of “Amen,” a spiritual so “authentic” many did not realize Hairston had composed it.

Jester Hairston, 1994

Despite the constraints of the time, Jester Hairston also had a remarkable, if sometimes overlooked, career as an actor. He first made his mark in radio, with recurring roles in the Amos ‘n’ Andy show and Bold Venture (1951-52), where he starred as King Moses alongside Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. As a television actor, Hairston was a regular on The Amos ‘n Andy Show (1951-53), That’s My Mama (1974-75), and Amen (1986-1991). Hairston also had roles (often uncredited) in over 60 films, including The Alamo (1960), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), The Last Tycoon (1976), I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), and Being John Malkovich (1999). Occasionally criticized for taking film and television roles that stereotyped African Americans, Hairston said, “We had a hard time fighting for dignity. We had no power. We had to take it, and because we took it, the young people today have opportunities.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Hairston was honored for his work across the US and was frequently invited as a guest conductor at high schools, colleges, and church choirs. He also made several goodwill State Department tours to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, once stating, “I will bring more love to China through American Negro folk songs than anything Kissinger can write.”

Jester Hairston at the dedication of Lewis Hall, 1972

For his many and varied achievements, Jester Hairston received honorary doctorates from four schools, including Tufts, and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He will be the subject of the upcoming documentary “Amen: The Life and Music of Jester Hairston.”

This exhibit was designed and installed by Timothy Walsh, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until January 2014. For more information on Jester Hairston and other notable Tufts alums, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library or check out the Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History on the Tufts Digital Library.

So Long and Thanks for all the Elephants
Posted on September 15, 2013 by Veronica Martzahl | Categories: features | | |

As Douglas Adams said, “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” While anyone who knows me will attest that this quote certainly applies to my personal lack of direction, especially when driving, it also applies to my career path. I left college with a strong start in a career in retail at a major bookseller. Several years on that career path taught me patience, customer service skills, and that I didn’t like working a job with crazy hours and no time off on holidays. After that I spent five years doing medical billing for a drug and alcohol treatment facility where I learned how to do really fast data entry and that I was really interested in record keeping practices. I also learned that when I started talking about how no one was writing letters anymore and that correspondence was shifting to email and wondered what that would mean for historians in the future, people would look at me funny. So I decided to go where people understood these concerns: library school.

The plan was my husband would work and I would go to school and take care of our 1 year old son. Things didn’t go quite according to plan, and I found myself looking for a part-time job as well. And that’s what brought me to where I needed to be – Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives. Well, technically it brought me to the American Antiquarian Society and the A New Nation Votes project, but the data entry work was being done at Tufts and I was interviewed by Anne Sauer, so let’s leave it at DCA. I was so nervous for that interview. I had barely a semester of library school completed and I was just hoping that my undergraduate degree in history would make me a strong candidate. In retrospect, I really didn’t need to worry since I had five years of previous data entry experience and I’m wicked fast and accurate. So there I was at the end of the following summer when a cadre of Simmons students went off into the world and there were openings for new grad school assistants. I transitioned from A New Nation Votes to DCA proper where I promptly processed my first collection of materials. It was one box and I spent two weeks on it. Yup, that was a bit of overkill there! So there I was again – not where I thought I wanted to be, but ABSOLUTELY where I needed to be. And that continued to the summer of 2007 when two brand new positions were added to the DCA staff. I was nervous applying since I still had a year of library school to finish, but the time I had spent in the department and the work I had done (I got faster than a box every two weeks) paid off. Anne took a chance on me, and gave me the flexibility to finish my classes.

Veronica's farewell cake featuring a Fighting Jumbo.

Veronica’s farewell cake featuring a Fighting Jumbo.

Thus started six amazing years as the Records Archivist for the DCA. I can’t begin to put into words how much I needed to be there as I started my career (which is a bit of bummer since this is a blog after all.) I have learned so much about the profession, about how to balance workloads and deadlines, and how to take the risks you need to take to make improvements in workflows and processes. I’ve also learned that something a professor told me when I was hired is absolutely true: in twenty or thirty years when the profession is looking back on the most innovative, daring, and influential archives at the start of the digital era, Tufts DCA will be the institution everyone talks about. That will be 100% because of the leadership of our director, Anne Sauer. She allows her staff the room to grow, to contribute, and to try the cutting edge. And she trusts us to not mess it up.

This post will get very long and I will start crying if I start listing all the wonderful people I have had the honor to work with in the DCA, so I will limit this to just one more person mentioned by name, our amazing University Records Manager, Eliot Wilczek. Eliot is a rock star in the archives profession. He doesn’t believe it, but he is. While details were being worked out for my new job at the Mass State Archives, my new boss was talking to someone from another state archives. He couldn’t say too much, but mentioned that he was working on getting someone from Tufts. The guy from the other state archive looked at him in awe and said, “You’re getting Eliot Wilczek!” And Eliot is so awesome I can’t even feel annoyed about that, because really, who wouldn’t want Eliot working with them? So my parting present to Eliot is that I promise, in print, that I will never make “Eliot Groupie” ribbons to put on the Society of American Archivists conference nametags, even though EVERYONE would would want one.

So in closing, I guess I would say that I’m leaving not because I want to go so much as I know that my new job is where I’m supposed to be. Because I would be totally insane to WANT to leave the most wonderful colleagues I could ever hope for. I’m just so glad I can still call them my friends.

With much love and respect,

Veronica Martzahl