how to destroy special collections with social media

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Rare Book School to deliver a talk in their 2015 lecture series. It was the last week of their summer season in Charlottesville, the week when the Descriptive Bibliography course (aka “boot camp”) was in full swing, and the weather was in all its hot, glorious humidity. I wanted to keep things light as well as make some points I feel very strongly about: the importance of librarians and researchers using social media to help sustain special collections libraries.

Below are the slides and my notes for my July 29th talk. Since RBS records and shares the audio of their talks (go browse through past RBS lectures and listen!) I have, with their permission, also embedded the audio of my talk here so that you can listen and read along if you’d like (there are some variations between the two, though nothing substantive—I’ll leave you to decide which is the authoritative version…). § continue reading

it’s history, not a viral feed

For months now I’ve been stewing about how much I hate @HistoryInPics and their ilk (@HistoryInPix, @HistoricalPics, @History_Pics, etc.)—twitter streams that do nothing more than post “old” pictures and little tidbits of captions for them. And when I say “nothing more” that’s precisely what I mean. What they don’t post includes attribution to the photographer or to the institution hosting the digital image. There’s no way to easily learn more about the image (you can, of course, do an image search through TinEye or Google Image Search and try to track it down that way).

Alexis Madrigal recently wrote a piece for The Atlantic revealing that @HistoryInPics is run by a couple of teenagers who are savvy at generating viral social media accounts to bring in money:  § continue reading

disembodying the past to preserve it

What follows is a keynote I gave at the Digital Preservation 2013 conference on July 23, 2013. If you’re curious, there’s a video up of the talk and the Q & A as well and a pdf of the slides I showed (some of which vary from what I’ve shown here).

“Disembodying the past to preserve it”

I am, as you’ve heard, not someone who focuses on issues of digital preservation. I’m a book historian and performance scholar who works at a cultural heritage organization that is focused on the preservation and exploration of centuries-old objects. I think about the digital and preservation from the perspective of someone who studies the past and seeks new ways to make it accessible to scholars and the public.

So since I spend a lot of time thinking about the history of books and since so many people see the rise of the digital heralding the end of print, I thought I would start off by looking back at the earliest surviving instances of moveable type in the West.  § continue reading

book dealers’ descriptions and catalog records

Mike Widener (Rare Book Librarian at Yale Law Library) wrote a great post about his practice of adding dealers’ descriptions to catalog records of rare books; Jeremy Dibbell included it in his link roundup; John Overholt tweeted about it; and then the conversation began. I’ve storyfied it and embedded it below (you can also go straight to Storify to see it). I wanted to capture the conversation, but we all also wanted to hear a wider range of responses and have a longer conversation about the value and potential pitfalls of this practice. It’ll end up on the EXLIBRIS-L listserv as well, so I’ll include a link to all that when it happens (thanks, John!) but in the meantime, read and comment:

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tweets not sheets

Looking for pithy thoughts about early modern printing? Wynken de Worde is now on Twitter! You can follow wynkenhimself or just scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar to see his feed. And it’s not procrastination. It’s the expansion of his unerring instincts for cross-referencing and promotion that made him the great printer that he was. Um, I mean, is. (Keeping track of the time-period switching and the gender-changing is trickier that you might guess.)

And so that you can more fully appreciate the joke in the title: the sheets in question are of course not sheets on your bed, but the sheets of paper that are the basic unit of measurement for early modern printers, who thought of books–and the cost of books–in terms of the number of sheets it took to print them. Funny, right? That Wynken, he’s got a sense of humor. § continue reading