Archive for the 'Online Tools for Scholars' Category

Civil Rights History Project

From our friends at the American Folklife Center:

On May 12, 2009, the U. S. Congress authorized a national initiative by passing The Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (PDF here, if you’re interested). The law directs the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to conduct a survey of existing oral history collections with relevance to the Civil Rights Movement, and to record new interviews with people who participated in the Movement. The survey information and portions of selected interviews will be made available worldwide through the Project website. The interviews will become a permanent part of the national library and the national museum.

This portal principally focuses on making available information about relevant audiovisual collections throughout the country. Because the collections reside at a wide range of institutions, we are not able to provide access to the collections themselves. The repositories include local historical societies, university special collections, and public libraries. The database will allow users to search for and locate information about collections in the following ways: by broad topic listings, by Library of Congress Subject Headings, by the name of the collection or the repository, and by the geographic location of the repository. In some instances one can locate interviews by searching on the names of individual CRM participants, if the repositories have made such information available through their websites and/or finding aids.

Why is this relevant? Well, of course, the Southern Oral History Program’s resources are included in this survey. And SOHP alums Willie Griffin and Elizabeth Gritter were two of the four scholars who compiled the list.

But even more exciting is the fact that the Southern Oral History Program is contracted to complete the interviews that will join the Library of Congress collection and become part of the museum. The SOHP has done thirty-five of the fifty planned interviews, speaking with Judge Matthew Perry shortly before his death; with a family of activists in Bogalusa, LA; and with Pete Seeger, among others.

Announcing “Content, Context, and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina”

The Triangle Research Libraries Network (composed of Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill libraries) has been awarded a $150,000 grant to be used for the collaborative large-scale digitization of 40 archival and manuscript collections documenting the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina. The project, entitled “Content, Context and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina” is projected to span three years, with funding renewed annually by LSTA. LSTA funds awarded by the State Library of North Carolina are made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

Each university library holds outstanding unique primary source materials that document the Long Civil Rights Movement, during which struggles for racial, social, and economic justice reshaped the cultural and political landscapes of North Carolina and America. The materials selected for digitization document grassroots activism and institutionalized efforts during the LCRM, as well as the resistance on the emerging New Right that drove and was transformed by the LCRM. To provide both the content and context requisite for archival research, each collection will be digitized in its entirety—every page of every item in every folder. The digitized collections will be available online free of charge and will be searchable both through Search TRLN ( and the individual libraries’ websites.

The goals of the project are to promote and support educational and scholarly research uses of modern primary source materials, to provide a proof of concept for a collaborative approach to large-scale digitization, to test interinstitutional workflows, and to develop shared standards and practices for large-scale digitization among TRLN Libraries.

To learn more about the project, please visit our website: or contact Joyce Chapman, Project Librarian for the grant, at chapmajc at email dot unc dot edu.

LCRM Online Experiment Ends July 18

Finally it is time for the LCRM pilot’s 15-month test period to draw to a close.  The official end date was June 30, 2011, although closing access will take us a bit of time and the site will remain open until July 18.

Since its launch on April 15, 2010, the LCRM online publishing pilot has gained 772 registered users and 607 annotations contributed by users–numbers that surpass our initial expectations.   A sincere thank you to the authors, students, professors, librarians, archivists, and interested members of the general public who contributed to this exciting online-publishing experiment!  We appreciate everyone’s participation, whether you used the commenting feature or whether you simply increased the usage statistics by browsing the 70+ the books, articles, papers, and reports in the site.

If you wish to take a look at the full experiment while access is still available, register before July 18!  A comment bubble to the right of book, chapter, and article titles shows how many comments were made by registered users on that content selection.

After that date, only the content that is open access (articles and papers, mostly) will be viewable by most users.   Registered users will still be able to use the commenting feature, but only with the open access content.  Project staff and a small number of users whom they designate will continue to have premium access to all of the content for demonstration purposes.  The UNC Library will continue to host the site as long as it continues to function without systems-department attention.

The online pilot’s “Voice” platform, built using open-source software and frameworks, was designed to be portable and scalable for use in other projects and institutions; a public distribution of the software has been finalized, and documentation for the installation and management of the software has been updated.  Interested entities may contact Tim Shearer, Director of Development, Library Systems, UNC to obtain the documentation and source code.

We continue to discuss lessons learned and plan publications based on them.   Look here for more LCRM Project news, reports, analysis, and follow-up plans over the next weeks and months.


The LCRM Online Pilot: The “Elevator Speech”

The brief description that an entrepreneur should be ready to spout on a moment’s notice–between floors in an elevator if necessary—is sometimes called an “elevator speech.”  Here is the one that I have used to explain the LCRM Project’s online publishing experiment at meetings and conferences.

On April 15, 2010, the LCRM Project launched a searchable online collection of scholarly content (books, articles, papers, reports—mostly books) on the long civil rights movement.   Its main innovation is a commenting feature that allows registered users to add annotations to the text at the paragraph level.  You can include a link in your annotation, and that is the kind of annotation we are especially interested in, because you can link the publications to primary sources hosted online by libraries and archives, such as letters, diaries, reports, photographs, and audio files such as oral-history interviews.

The books and other scholarly publications in the collection become multimedia-enhanced e-books over time, via the contributions of users.

If my listener is engaged and interested at this point (and if I’m not really on an elevator), I might elaborate briefly:

Continue reading ‘The LCRM Online Pilot: The “Elevator Speech”’

What on Earth Happened to Cairo, Illinois?

At the end of November a redditor (a user of the site named inkslave found him/herself in Cairo, Illinois. Here’s inkslave’s reaction:

The streets were not just deserted, but decimated. The few intact businesses were surrounded on all sides by the abandoned husks of buildings, including a multi-story brick building downtown that had mostly burned down at some point, and which apparently no one thought needed to be knocked the rest of the way down. Right on the main drag.

Photo from the Cairo Project.

What happened to Cairo? Another redditor had the answer.

Continue reading ‘What on Earth Happened to Cairo, Illinois?’

Digital Humanities

The New York Times on technology giving humanities scholars a new digital tool: data.

Bringing Bibliographies Alive II

When the LCRM team was working to design the LCRM publishing pilot, we discussed various ways that we could take the information collected by authors in the bibliographies of their works and make it accessible to the reader. One method of making the bibliographic information usable by the reader that we focused on was OpenURL. OpenURL is a tool that puts your library’s digital catalog right at your finger tips. It takes the bibliographic information that has been encoded into the webpage to create a custom search of your library’s catalog for versions of the work available online through your library.

If the LCRM publishing pilot were a library subscription product, your library would install OpenURL at the institutional level.  However, right now the pilot is available only to individuals.  If you are the sort of person who likes to install useful plug-ins, please read on. Continue reading ‘Bringing Bibliographies Alive II’

Page Numbers in E-Books

The LCRM Project team had a bit of a debate about whether to include page numbers from the original books in the LCRM online publishing pilot.  Philosophically, one might argue that they are no longer necessary in a new medium that makes the book navigable in new ways.  However, some believed that the connection to the print book, which is still used, should be clear and literal.

Once we decided to include the page numbers, we puzzled over how to show them clearly but unobtrusively.  Our solution is a page-turning icon in the right margin labeled with the page number.  If you hover your cursor over the page-turning icon, a red vertical line appears in the text to the left of the icon, to show precisely where the original page break is in the print edition.

We look forward to hearing whether our users intuitively understand what this little feature is and whether they find it useful.  One use we envisioned was accurate citations.

Another purpose would be classroom use, although we have not yet developed a version of the LCRM Project for mobile devices.  Even now, this feature would make it possible for a class to share the book in both print and e-form (on laptops and computer monitors).

In contrast, although the Kindle is a popular device for reading for numerous reasons—and hundreds of UNC Press books are available for the Kindle—the lack of page numbers made classroom use challenging in an experiment at Princeton.  (You can read about it here.)

Classroom use would be even more challenging if some students had the Kindle version while others had the print edition, a scenario that would have been more likely if the class had not been conducting an experiment in which each student received a free Kindle device.

To obtain premium access to the full text of all of the books and other content in the LCRM online publishing pilot and check out the page-number feature, please send a request to lcrmproject at gmail dot com.

Zotero for Historians

Zotero is an amazing tool for scholars, developed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.  If you are a historian and you haven’t look at it, you might be surprised at how useful it is for organizing the sources and citations for your next writing project.

The LCRM Project’s online publishing pilot is zotero-enabled, which makes it especially easy to save bibliographic entries to your personal zotero bibliography.  When you are in one of the books’ bibliographies, click the book icon in your browser’s address bar.  The entire bibliography will pop up in a window, arranged as a checklist.  Select all or some of the entries to save automatically to your zotero bibliography.  This screencast by one of the authors whose book is included in the pilot shows the tool in action.

To save the book in which you are browsing to your personal zotero bibliography, click the “Create new item from current page” icon, and zotero will download the bibliographic information and URL.

To go back to the beginning, remember those index cards that your high school teacher taught you to use to organize your term-paper bibliography?  (I am dating myself, I know.)  Now, perhaps, you have graduated to using Microsoft Word to list your sources.  The next generation of tool for this purpose is called “bibliographic management software.”  Some universities subscribe to Endnote or another similar offering and make it available to all faculty and students within their IP range.  Zotero is free, though you must use Mozilla Firefox as your web browser to access it.  It is a plug-in for Firefox.

The LCRM Project has started a group bibliography for the long civil rights movement in zotero; you can learn more about it here.

To obtain premium access to the full text of all of the books and other content in the LCRM online publishing pilot, please send a request to lcrmproject at gmail dot com.

Book Indexes Online

Some people say that book indexes are not needed online, because full-text searching takes their place.  On the contrary, I think that a book index represents valuable brain work that should not be abandoned.  If a knowledgeable human being, such as an author or professional indexer, has combed through an entire book to anticipate what the audience might want to look up, that is an irreplaceable service which remains useful to readers online.

If you use the search box in the LCRM online publishing pilot to search all of the books and other publications on the site for a term such as “NAACP,” you may notice that the books’ indexes are included in the search results.  If you look in the index of any of the books in the pilot, you will see that each page number is a live link to that page, for convenient navigation.

A more sophisticated system might incorporate index terms in a thesaurus that would inform search-results relevance, seamlessly incorporating that valuable brain work in the search  mechanism without requiring more clicks on the part of the user.  We do not have the resources to accomplish that at this time, but an interim step might be to offer a search of book indexes only, as an advanced-search option.

Such a search option might mimic Reference Universe, a service that aggregates encyclopedia indexes.

To obtain premium access to the full text of all of the books and other content in the LCRM online publishing pilot and check out the linked indexes, please send a request to lcrmproject at gmail dot com.