One last collection… Marcia Siegel Papers

First things first.  As promised, here is the persistent link to the Sandra Lee Hughes Collection:

You may also be interested in the Marcel Marceau American Collection, also freshly uploaded to the OhioLINK finding aid repository:

To finish out my time at TRI, I’m working with the Marcia Siegel Papers! Yesterday involved a traveling adventure to the Ackerman off-site location to collect her boxes.  I say adventure because it was a special move-in day for the students who help with the real OSU move-in day on Sunday.  Between roads closed for construction and roads blocked for move-in, it took quite a while to get to Ackerman.

The Marcia Siegel Papers are her collection of research materials for her Twyla Tharp book, Howling Near Heaven.  She did a ton of interviews, so there are audio cassettes and transcriptions.  There’s also programs and her review notes (!!), and notes on materials from the OSU Twyla Tharp archives she used for her research.  It’s a small collection because it is so specifically focused – 7 boxes total.  Perhaps Marcia Siegel will eventually bequeath all her papers and things to TRI.  That would make quite a collection for some lucky archive fellow to process.  Today I will be making the OhioLINK EAD finding aid.  I must say, it was a privilege to be rifling through her files, seeing her handwritten notes on concert programs and notebook pages.  There’s also copies of Tharp’s choreographic notes.  I’m not sure if these are also in the Tharp collection here, but I am always interested to peek at how other dancers write their movement.

Next week I’ll just have a few loose ends to tie up in a few of the collections and report on where things finalized. Fellow archive fellow Tara Davis is traveling back to Oklahoma today – good luck and safe driving, Tara!

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In which we house audio reels

It’s been quite a bit longer than I wanted since the last post.  Primarily I have been finishing up major tasks such as processing the Sandra Lee Hughes Collection and creating the EAD finding aid for it, and entering the Dalcroze School of Music collection into PastPerfect.  Done, done, and done.  Because it takes a business day for the finding aids to show up on the OhioLINK EAD finding aid repository, you’ll have to wait to visit the collection until tomorrow.  I’ll post the link then.

Earlier in the week my audio reel boxes came! Callooh callay! I could finally finish processing Irwin Spector’s collection!  Spector’s collection includes several dozen audio reels.  Two Hollinger boxes worth.  They look like film reels, but instead of film, it’s audio tape.

piles of audio reels

Piles of audio reels, so many reels.

As you can see from the piles, there were several different sizes to boot, and at least one without its own protective box.  There are specific ways audio reels need to be housed in order to preserve them well.  Here is how now to house them:

unhappy audio reel tangled up in box

This fella was stored horizontally and became unravelled in his box.

To fit into the two Hollinger boxes, the reels were stored horizontally stack on each other.  This made for very heavy boxes because more reels could fit that way.  As you can see from the picture, many of them had come unwound, some of the reels were even sitting on top of the tape.  Not good.

Audio reel sitting happily inside its new box.

This reel fits nicely into its new archival box.

Audio reels, like VHS and video tapes, need to be stored vertically.  This allows the tape pack to be supported by the reel hub.  Horizontally stored tapes are more likely to get damaged from impacts or shocks as well because they are not being supported by the reel hub.  Tapes should be wound tightly as well to promote hub support.  I’ve also been told that vertical storage over the long run helps prevent the magnetic tapes from demagnetizing  from the Earth’s magnetic field.  If you are really curious for in-depth information on housing magnetic tapes and how they can degrade, visit these pages from the CLIR website:

How Can You Prevent Magnetic Tape from Degrading Prematurely?

 What Can Go Wrong with Magnetic Media?

Reel too small for the box

Too small for the box!

We also deemed that the original boxes the reels were in were starting to go south, so we ordered new acid-free boxes.  Every reel that had come un-wound or was loose had to be re-wound.  And there is not a box size for every reel size in this collection.  Having the reel slide around willy nilly inside the box that is too big is unacceptable, so some of the odd sizes needed extra padding for protection.  This is a pro-tip I learned from Lisa.

Apparently bubble wrap (at least the bubble wrap we have at TRI) is archival safe and acid-free.  Fold strips of bubble wrap in half length-wise and wrap around the reel snugly so that it is packed into the box like so:

Small audio reel snug in its box protected by bubble wrap.

This little guy isn’t going anywhere.  

These new boxes were, unfortunately slightly thicker than the original boxes, so some re-arranging was in order.  I had to create Box 14 for the collection to house the overflow of reels, which required some re-numbering of materials and re-uploading the finding aid… but now the materials are better housed and that’s what’s important.

I’m especially thrilled that the boxes arrived because this is likely my last week at TRI for the summer (school starts next week).  Some wrapping up of loose ends is probably about all that’s left now.


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Dalcroze Society of America EAD finding aid published!

The EAD OhioLINK finding aid for the Dalcroze Society of America Collection is now published!  You can browse this collection at:

Abstract: Photographs of Frances W. Aronoff and her Dalcroze classes, issues of the American Dalcroze Journal, the Dalcroze Society of America’s newsletter, publications by Frances W. Aronoff, and various papers and articles relating to Dalcroze and Eurthythmics.

The links to the three other Dalcroze collection finding aids are (with abstracts):

Dalcroze School of Music:

This collection contains letters, photographs, articles, books, journals, advertisements, lesson plans, musical instruments, sheet music, and historical timelines related to the teaching methods of Swiss composer and professor of music Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and the establishment of the American Dalcroze School of Music in New York City.

Irwin Spector Collection:

Papers of Dr. Irwin Spector, a noted educator, musicologist, and composer, including a chapter drafts for his noteworthy biography of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze.

John Colman Collection:

The John Colman Collection contains letters, lesson plans, photographs, books, manuscript notebooks, calendars, and compositions related to the career of pianist, composer, and Dalcroze Method master teacher John Colman.

Researchers, teachers, musicians, dancers, and other interested persons can now access and cross-reference these collections through the finding aids. Publishing the finding aids should make the contents of the collections more accessible, allowing for increased traffic to and use of the collections.  There’s good stuff in there, people!

I would also recommend visiting the TRI news page for some topical and of interest headlines: For example, renowned contemporary choreographer and OSUDance faculty member Bebe Miller has been awarded the 2012 J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award!

And I promise, next time we will talk about housing and preservation of reel audio.

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Extra Processing of Sandra Lee Hughes Collection

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’ve moved on to the Sandra Lee Hughes Collection (SLH), which means checking the box contents against the entries in PastPerfect.  Sometimes this entails simply verifying that the boxes and folders are all present and labeled and the contents are catalogued.  Sometimes this entails some additional processing and re-housing of materials.  In this case, a lot of additional processing and re-housing of materials.  I don’t know the circumstances of the original processing of this collection.  It was thoroughly catalogued into PastPerfect, but the housing of some of the materials has been less than ideal.  A task that should have taken a few days (there were 20-odd boxes) has taken about two weeks.

Side note: Being slowed down recently by the need for additional processing and re-housing, I realized that I have worked with 5 collections this summer.  However, only one of them is “completely” finished.  Three of them are waiting on instructions or verification from other persons or the arrival of supplies for me to be able to continue and completely finish the work.  No. 2 is waiting for audio reel boxes to re-house material.  No. 3 is waiting on word about accession numbers changing in order to be entered into PastPerfect and get bar codes for new boxes.  No. 4 is waiting for approval of the front materials for upload to the EAD.  The 5th will be in-process probably until my tenure is over for the summer.  I would love to have all 5 collections done, but we shall see.  Two of the three waiting collections won’t take much work, but one will be a hefty load of data entry.  Hoping to be able to begin that next week.  Anyhow.

Here’s a recap of the kinds of processing I’ve done on the SLH Collection.  Two boxes were full of newspapers and clippings.  However, the newspapers were complete newspapers, and did not fit well into the Hollinger boxes without excessive folding or smashing of other materials.  They needed to be separated into other boxes for better housing (not just for themselves but the other materials in the boxes).  A few interesting finds in these boxes included a handbag painted like a bee mask, a box of slides, a scrapbook of news clippings, and two binders of photo contact sheets, negatives, and slides, and a trophy. (see below).

A handbag painted as a mask of a bee face and mime.

Back of bee handbag with G.A.M.E. patch stiched on

On the back of the bag, you can see a patch with the logo “G.A.M.E.” stitched on.  G.A.M.E. stands for Great American Mime Experiment, a long term performance project/group led by Sandra Lee Hughes and her partner Michael Hickey.  I get that the face is a mime because Hughes’ work in primarily in mime and mask, but why a bee?  Perhaps it has something to do with this?  You can also see her initials SLH on the top of the bag.
The beebag went into the map case (which I learned about along with 7 unprocessed, uncatalogued boxes of video media mid-way through checking) for the very over sized materials.

The scrapbook paper, in addition to the news clippings in it, had turned acidic.  You know when paper has turned acidic because it turns a lovely yellow-brown color and crumbles when you touch it.  There is also a magical marker (but not a Magic Marker) that you can wipe over paper to test whether it is acidic or non-acidic.  Archival quality materials — paper, folders, tissue, boxes, photo sleeves, bubble wrap — has to be non-acidic for the longevity of the materials they house.

photo of a scrapbook with yellowed paper

The scrapbook had to be taken apart for re-housing.  Because it was so large, it ended up in two new over sized folders.  Each page now sits between acid-free tissue paper.

Page of a scrapbook siting between tissue paper

The large article on this page is about their production “Mime Dreaming of a White Christmas” being broadcast nationally in 1977 on PBS from Cleveland.  I believe it won an Emmy.  Another fun thing about mime clippings: anyone who writes about mimes seems compelled to use titles with bad puns.  Not sure why…

All of the need for various kinds of re-housing — including audio-cassette tapes, photographs, binders, movie film — makes me wonder what the conditions were for the original processing.  Most of the boxes were very well done; it was just the later boxes with unusual materials that needed help.  Maybe the priority at the time was to get everything catalogued and time for processing and housing ran short.  At any rate, I’m glad to be able to give the materials happier homes.

The only tricky thing now is, there is quite a bit of separated material — material that for various reasons is separated from its place within the collection to another location.  This is not an ideal situation because it messes with the organization of the collection.  This collection is also not ordered by series, so to add new boxes for separated material or newly accessioned material means you just add on to the end of the box numbering.  Photographs might then be separated from the rest of the photographs for example: say all the photograph boxes were in two boxes, 10 and 11, but separated or new photographs would go in box 32 if that is the next available number.  If a large collection is ordered by series, you can keep all the photographs together and add in the box inside the series.  Say Photographs were series 2 of 5 series; separated or new photographs would go into series 2 at the next box number, box 3 in series 2 of our imaginary collection, and stay with the rest of the photographs.  Or, they can go into a map case, which is a whole other thing.

The materials needed better housing, so these are the circumstances I’m working with right now.  The main portion of the collection is checked and updated now in PastPerfect.  The new boxes for separated material have not been catalogued into the database yet, but will be shortly.  All that leaves now is the map case (oooh, it’s full of oversized posters and design materials!) and the seven virgin boxes of video media.

A few film pro tips I learned from Lisa: Film should lie flat, while audio reels and videocassettes should stand up on their sides.  Don’t pull on film to tighten it on its reel because it can stretch.  Rather, unwind and rewind it.  There are machines that help with this.  If you have a strange size of reel, like I did, you can put a pencil through the center of the reel to spin it, and the weight of the film will help keep the re-winding tight.

Until next time when we talk about better ways to store audio reels than haphazardly in old ratty boxes.


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A Mime News quickie

Been (re)processing the Sandra Lee Hughes collection. She is a mime, mask, and theater movement artist. You can check out her more current work at Gateway Performance Productions. There’ve been quite a few gems in this collection, which has needed a lot more additional processing and housing than I expected. The bulk has now been checked, leaving several boxes of video media and a map case. I’ll give a more thorough look at what I’ve been doing and what’sn the collection soon, but I ran across Mime News, published by International Mimes and Pantomimists, and enjoyed an article so much I just had to share it with you.

“Fourteen Reasons for Supporting Your Local Street Performers” by Ray Jason (vol 3, no 2, March/April 1979). My eye caught this title, and got curious – there’ve been several photos of Hughes in street performance.


The points are a little naive, but well-intentioned. Mr. Jason, I’m sure, is imagining a specific kind of street performer given that his article is published in Mime News. But it got me thinking about how we don’t see a lot of street performers or street theatre where I live, but what it could add to our performing arts community. And how do street performers thrive and function, apart from the subway musicians, dancers, and others I’ve witnessed in NYC. What kind of conditions are necessary for this mode of performance to thrive? Weigh in on your experience with watching or being a street performer in the comments. Or if you’ve been a mime. Or know what the difference is between a mime and a pantomimist.

Another note from the folder containing mime news: Hughes studied with Marcel Marceau, announced by a newspaper article. Too bad Tara (who processed the new Marcel Marceau collection) isn’t here today to share this! She’s moved on to her practicum with the Kristina Isabelle Company.

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EAD XML Encoding adventure part 1

Who doesn’t love a good XML file?  You know the kind, with the tags closed, and the syntax correct, and it’s been parsed and validated.  Now let’s see a raise of hands who loves getting the XML file into that state? Anyone?

If you haven’t guessed, this week’s archiving adventures have been primarily about encoding XML files.  These files are, essentially, the finding aids for the collections I am working on and will live online at the OhioLINK finding aid repository.  (Warning: This post will include jargon, but I will do my best to explain all of it.)

Encoded Archival Description

The first thing you need to know is that Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is the standard for archival encoding, maintained by the Library of Congress and the Society of American Archivists.  Should you be interested in learning about its origins and development, visit the Library of Congress’ EAD website.  Basically, the idea of EAD is to standardize and accommodate a diversity of international archival descriptive practices to make archival materials accessible to users.  EAD deals in terms of data structure as opposed to data content, meaning the way content is structured is encoded into a finding aid but not how to process, house, arrange, number, or describe materials.  EAD encoding is in XML (extensible markup language) format with over 100 tag elements.  If you’re not familiar with XML, it’s a markup language for computers using tags, not unlike HTML, but also not like HTML.

What are tags? Tags are the encoding bits (to use really technical terminology) that go around your content and maintain the structural order of that content.  For example:

<unittitle>Box 7:  Photographs</unittitle>

“Unittitle” is the tag, signifying the title or name of the element, in this case a box of photographs.  Each tag is enclosed with the brackets.  Whatever text comes after the brackets is your content for that tag (in this case Box 7: Photographs) until you close it, indicated by the slash closing tag.  (So yeah, like HTML.)  This would be a descriptive element tag.

There are also hierarchical element tags that determine ordering or level.  For example, in a particular collection you may have (from largest entity to smallest) series, box, folder, item.  Say we have a huge collection, like the Bebe Miller Company collection at TRI.  There are hundreds of costumes in this collection, so all of the costumes are arranged into a Costumes series, just as all the videos and films are arranged into a series together.  Then there are several boxes within each series, and then within boxes folders and/or items (depending on the material and how detailed the descriptions need to go.  This is where the phrases “folder level description” and “item level description” come from.  Also, smaller collections, like the Dalcroze Society of America Collection at TRI, which is three boxes, don’t need series level organization.).  The levels fit into each other like a Russian nesting doll.  To reflect this hierarchical organization with a collection, the level, or <c>, tags are used: <c01>, <c02>, <c03>, etc.  Imagine it working this way:

<series>   <box>   <folder>  <item></item>   </folder>    </box>   </series>

So, that’s the gist of the EAD XML encoding.  And where our adventure actually begins…

At TRI we use the PastPerfect program for our own in-house record keeping, AND we create EAD finding aids for the OhioLINK repository.  They serve different needs and hold different information.  This week I created/edited three finding aids for Dalcroze Collections: Irwin Spector Collection, Dalcroze School of Music Collection, and the Dalcroze Society of America Collection.  The first two finding aids already exist on the OhioLINK repository, but needed updating (particularly the Spector collection since only the Dalcroze half of the collection was previously processed).  The DSA finding aid needed to be created from scratch.

Either way, I spent most of this week converting Excel spreadsheet data into XML documents, via a mail merge.  (What?!)  So, most of the data lives in PastPerfect, so it can be exported into an Excel spreadsheet (yay spreadsheet!).  Now, if you are working with a large collection, and in this case I would say anything with more than 20 items total is large, you really don’t want to manually encode the tags for each item.  Not only would that be mind-numbingly tedious, you also leave yourself open to a lot of typing errors. But how to get all those happy EAD XML tags around the data? That’s where the mail merge comes in.  Beth Kattelman, one of the curators at TRI, created a mail merge document with the appropriate XML tags so that the process could be automated.  And by automated I mean, the bulk of the encoding for the items is done by the computer, but you can still have a lot of clean up to do.

For instance, the Excel spreadsheet had to be cleaned up and re-organized because the numbering method we use doesn’t jive with Excel in a seamless fashion.  IS.3.20, meaning Irwin Spector Collection, box 3, folder 20, ends up being read by Excel as a decimal number.  Meaning 3.20 (box 3, folder 20) is the same as 3.2 (box 3, folder 2).  And all of the teens and 100’s come before the 20’s, 30’s etc. because they are read as decimals — 1.122 (box 1, folder 122) is a smaller decimal number than 1.2 (box 1, folder 2).  Without going into too much detail or getting long-winded (too late!), there was a lot of trial and error on my part in the arranging and merging and cleaning up of various documents to get the items into XML format.  Now I’ve got a system for myself that makes everything more automated and less manual-clean-up-reliant.

Next step

Getting your coding into a program that can read and help edit the XML.  NoteTab Lite is a free program, or for a small amount of money you can purchase NoteTab Pro; it helps read and edit all kinds of text files.  To make this program all the more useful, I needed to find the EAD Cookbook.  Not as delicious as it might sound.  It’s a library of files that you import into NoteTab, created by one Michael J. Fox (no, not that Michael J. Fox).  The NoteTab specific files/program was created by Chris Prom and adds an EAD specific library of functions to NoteTab — proper element tags, the ability to Parse and Validate the encoding, for example.  Both the Cookbook and the NoteTab materials are free! They were made specifically for assisting archivists (who have varying degrees of XML and computer savvy) navigate encoding finding aids.

Next, next step

Editing the XML code in NoteTab.  Once you get the Cookbook installed properly, get the hang of the syntax, tags, etc. and once you get a handle on navigating a new program, it’s really not so bad.  Until then, you will be swearing at your computer under your breath.  I will say, that NoteTab is not the friendliest program to human reading because it doesn’t highlight or bold or color tag elements automatically, or give the option to collapse hierarchical tags for scrolling ease, code lines aren’t numbered (if anyone reading this has any tips for managing these issues, please let me know!).  I ended up toggling between NoteTab and a program called Microsoft Visual Studio Tools because it does automate visual elements like color and bolding and collapse-ability into it’s reader.  This program also has built in generic XML error-detecting, though not EAD specific abilities.  Like I said, once you get your workflow going, you can move pretty quickly.

Next, next, next step

Encode the front materials for your finding aid.  Front matter includes accession information, ownership information, dates, biography/historical note of the collection, processing and finding aid creation information, arrangement of the collection, scope and content and extent, restrictions on use if any, institutional information about the housing archive, and so on.  I find that creating all of the information in a word processing program (like Word or Pages) is best for me because I can just edit the content.  Once it’s ready, then it can be encoded into the XML document.

Last step

Upload! The edited/updated DSM and IS finding aids should be showing up any day on the OhioLINK.  I didn’t have access to upload them myself because I did not originally create them, and Beth Kattelman is uploading them for me.  The DSA finding aid I will wait to create on the OhioLINK EAD finding aid creation tool until after we send the front matter to the DSA to check over and approve, so it may not show up for another week or two.

Here ends part one of my EAD XML encoding adventure.  Special thanks to Tara, Brian, and August (and Orville) for their support the past three days as I figured this out.  They may be encoding their own finding aids shortly…  With the majority of the Dalcroze work completed, I will be moving onto the Sandra Hughes Collection — checking, processing and entering into PastPerfect as needed, then creating the EAD finding aid. Productive!

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Processing Musical Instruments

In the midst of checking the Dalcroze School of Music Collection, I found a box labeled “Musical Instruments.”  Hmmm… When we lifted it, the box jangled, rattled, and sounded full of promise.  Here’s the contents laid out on the processing table:

Musical Instruments

How in the world to process these?! As you can see, there’s a gong in the lower part of the picture (which we gently tried out).  It may be harder to tell, but there were several castanets, jingle bells, maracas, two sets of high quality wooden African claves, drum sticks, and a guiro.  There were also some things that looked like toys, which upon further inspection turned out to be a set of whistles from Japan that were shaped like various things, for example a bird.  In the top right of the photo, you can see three “cuts” or print making stamps.  The images on the cuts are of children and adult classes from the DSM, plus one of Hilda M. Schuster’s signature.

They are all kinds of odd sizes and materials, some sturdy, some fragile.  They’re obvious not going to fit into acid-free folders and are going to need padding around them.  After discussion with some of the curators about how to best house the instruments, I decided to break up this box into several smaller boxes within the same series (Series 6, Musical Instruments). The instruments are now wrapped carefully in acid-free tissue paper and bubble wrap inside their boxes.

The oddest items to find? Two handheld rolling back massagers, a wooden hammer that makes the sound of a squeaky toy (yes, like the sound of a dog’s squeaky toy), and a bug spinner.  What’s a bug spinner you say?  It’s a little wooden carving of a bug with wax paper covering one end.  The bug spinner is attached to a stick with string, so that you spin it to hear the crazy bug sound.

Bug spinner
See the bug spinner in action!  Click on the link to go to a YouTube video:  (I would have preferred the video embedded directly into this post, but WordPress can’t handle video or audio files, even ones that are only a few kilobytes without an expensive storage upgrade or an upgrade to VideoPress.  Seriously? Consider this my formal complaint, WordPress!)

Speaking of interesting finds…

Brian Devine, a colleague from the Department of Dance is working on processing the newly acquired Maggie Patton Collection.  Maggie Patton was a mover and shaker for the Columbus, OH dance scene for many decades.  Kristina Isabelle’s company (plus several guest stars) did a tribute concert to Patton and Columbus’ rich dance scene this past spring (see Dispatch article).  Here’s a gem from the slides, in a box labeled “Dancentral Battlestar Galactica.”

Dancentral, Battlestar Gallactica

So say we all.

Yes, Virginia, that is a Cylon in 1st arabesque in the front row.  It’s hard to tell, but there is a Captain (or was he Admiral in the original series?) Adama in a blue cape in the back.  Any takers for re-staging this in Columbus?

It turns out, you never know what you’re going to find in the TRI archives.

On to PastPerfect database entry and EAD uploading for me.  The Irwin Spector, Dalcroze School of Music, and Dalcroze Society of America collections all are in the midst of being checked, updated in PastPerfect, then XML-ized to uploading onto the OhioLINK EAD finding aid repository.  For anyone who loves data entry and technical jargon, I’ll be sure to get some updates on how this goes.  Until then, so say we all!

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