Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The End!

Week 14

During the final week of my internship, I completed the project and presented my findings to the senior staff of the River Forest Public Library. It was a busy week – I finished scanning/documenting the files, finished converting all files to .jpg format, and uploaded them to the website. I also finished writing little blurbs introducing the content on the website. After going over it with Sophia, I made a few edits, and then presented it to the senior staff. The presentation went well, they seemed to be very excited about making this information available to the public. Sophia also asked me to continue working for the library this summer, by both updating the site on occasion and creating an ebook from the online files. All together, I think the internship was a success!

Final Stages

Week 13

This week, I focused on documenting and scanning the remaining material. Once again, I relied on my previous experience with primary documents to identify, analyze, and organize the materials at hand. Since I’ve already completed the easily identifiable items, such as the memoirs from the first citizens of River Forest in the mid-nineteenth century, or the personal notes of various River Forest citizens, the documents that remain are more difficult. I’ve also had to reconstruct documents whose unbound pages have been mixed into their boxes. I almost feel like an archeologist, digging through old papers from the past.

In addition to scanning and documenting the remaining boxes, I also began to upload them to the website. As I stated earlier, this process requires the conversion from the PDF scans to .jpeg files, which is rather time consuming. As I was converting these files, I’ve noticed an issue with the scans. Many of the older documents didn’t scan well. Not only was the paper thinner, people often wrote on both sides of the page. As a result, many of the scans not only show the text of the correct side, it also shows the imprint of the text on the reverse side. As I’m running out of time for the project, I don’t have the time to play around with it in Photo Shop, but it is an issue that I’ve brought up with Sophia.

I can’t emphasize enough how interesting I found so many of these files. I found librarian notes from 1914-1918 that described the impact of World War One on book sales, personal recollections from the turn of the twentieth century, and more, all of which detail the birth and evolution of my home town. It was a pleasant surprise to connect so personally with a project I was assigned to complete for school.

Project Supervisor Check-In

Week 12

This week had a two-fold purpose. Not only did I continue to document/scan the remaining archive materials, I had a meeting with Sophia to review the status of my project so far. Before our meeting, I spent a fair amount of time working on the website. I uploaded a majority of the scanned files to the site, so I could give her a realistic idea of where the project was so far. I also did a bit more cosmetic work on the site: added widgets, menu options, etc. Once again, the original River Forest Public website was instrumental in directing the look of my own site.

My meeting with Sophia went very well. She was very enthusiastic about the work I had done so far, and thrilled with the files that I had uncovered and uploaded online. We also went through the materials I believed we should keep off the site (see Week 10 for more information), and she agreed we should document them, but not upload them. We also brainstormed adding more detail to the site: including a “Spotlight” and “Did You Know?” section, adding blurbs of information to introduce the materials, etc. Sophia really gave me the opportunity to play with the structure of the site, and she seemed pleased with the ideas I presented.

I also spent more time scanning/documenting the remaining materials. With two weeks left, I still have a little over two boxes to go through, so I’ll be busy next week!

Ode to My History Professors

Week 11

This week, I developed a new appreciation for all the work my various history professors have done to develop the skills needed for working with primary documents. While I did move forward in scanning and documenting the two boxes I organized last week, I spent a lot of time this week going through the last three boxes of unorganized material. As the majority of these documents are not easily identified, this process took a fair amount of analysis on my part. To top it off, many of these documents are from the turn of the twentieth century. The older the materials are, the more difficult they are to physically handle (the paper is often very thin and/or significantly faded), and read (the handwriting can be difficult to decipher, both due to the fading ink and the handwritten style of the time). As a result, I often utilized the skills I’ve been taught by my professors to review and analyze these primary documents. That education made this process significantly easier!

I encountered a few difficulties this week. For one, analyzing and organizing these new files took a fair amount of time. Fortunately, as all of the files relate to the history of River Forest in one way or another, the fact that I was born and raised in this down gives me a great amount of insight into its history and allows me to contextualize the material. For another, I had to be very careful with the materials themselves. I once again used gloves when handling the majority of these files, which helped prevent me from smudging or ripping the pages. However, the most significant concern I encountered was one of a practical nature. With the delicate nature of the older documents, I can’t scan them in bulk without tearing them, so I have to scan each file individually. As the majority of the documents in the final two boxes are individual leafs of paper, that’s a lot of material to scan individually. As time consuming as this process is, I did manage to scan and document another box of materials.

Into the Rabbit Hole

Week 10

This week, I dove back into the boxes of archive materials. I’m focusing on the three boxes that are somewhat organized, in the sense that the materials generally relate to each other. There is a considerable amount of material within these boxes, so I’ve decided to organize them, and then scan and document them. I quickly discovered the easiest way to do this is to lay out all of the materials on a large surface, and then group by topic. From there, I started scanning/documenting the easily identified material. I began with items like the spiral-combed booklets that outlined the RFPL’s (many) renovation plans, and black and white photographs of the 1989 renovation in progress (over 130 pictures in the collection!). At the same time, I also began to group together documents that I think should not be added to the online archive, such as a series of valuation reports, insurance information, and additional financial detritus the RFPL collected over the years. I plan to speak with Sophia next week to confirm that these files should be documented, but not included in the online archive. I managed to scan and document almost a full box of material, which puts me about halfway through the ten boxes I started with. Fortunately, two more of those boxes are now organized, so it should be easier to get through them.