Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday fun

This is cross-posted from my intranet blog at work.

Now you can create your own catalog card. John Blyberg created this widget. He describes it in this posting to his blog.

The generator has become very popular. Here are some examples, mostly self-referencing and created by bloggers. We can do better than this! Send me images or links and I'll post them.

Here's the card generator form imported from Blyberg's page. Choose your card type, fill in the form, click "Make it!" and you'll be taken to Blyberg's site to see the card you've made. Do a right click on the card image and make a choice as to what you want to do with it. Saving it is probably the best first step.


Call number:





Monday, January 15, 2007

a primary source for historical research

This post is about time I've been spending lately staring intently at enlarged images of text captured on 35mm roll microfilm.

But first a little history.

In the late 60's, during my graduate school days, the world turned upside down. As now, young people opposed a war being waged by two-faced civilian leaders in which precious lives were squandered, but, unlike now, young men then faced the likelihood of being drafted forcefully into that dreadful carnage. Before that time, I'd had dozens of vague plans involving an orderly transition from home, to college, to graduate school, to some type of satisfying career. The war policies of the Johnson/Nixon presidencies ripped apart that day dream. I hung on to an increasingly precarious deferment through two years of Master's work and two years' poverty work as a Volunteer in Service to America. A huge burden lifted on my reaching the milestone age at which my government considered me too old to be compelled to fight. I tried to piece back together the old, uncertain career-plan, and, much more though luck and the generosity of a friend than any thought-out intention of my own, I stumbled into some part-time work for a small business that specialized in publishing reprints for the academic library market. It was a good connection, profitable on both sides. While still a part-time employee, I worked on and then initiated some interesting reprints and eventually evolved into a full-time executive type with responsibility for original monographs and lots of research collections of microforms (the links I've given here show how some of the projects I worked on have evolved over the decades since then). I did some writing as well as research, product development, editing, marketing, and the like, including an introduction to a reprinted newspaper which you can find on this bibliography (scroll way down).

But the money then was mostly in the microform sets and publishing them, more or less consequently, became my primary responsibility. It's difficult to recall the importance of micropublishing, so much has the digital revolution changed academic research since those years. But microforms haven't gone away. The other day I was surprised to read: "After the receipt of 96,039 items in 2006, the Microform Reading Room custodial collections [at the library where I work] contained approximately 7,878,169 items at the end of 2006." So maybe it shouldn't also have been a surprise to find -- now that I've begun research on as aspect of the mathematical revolution in Isaac Newton's time - how very many of my sources are available not on the web, not in bound and printed collections, but rather on 35mm roll film.

Microforms have never had a good reputation with the people that have had to use them. The medium itself has drawbacks and so does the equipment that's required for accessing it {"user resistance" has always been a problem, as this pdf document explains}. I guess they're still in the category of "necessary unpleasantness, avoided if possible" but, oddly, I found myself enjoying my time before the machine last week. I liked having these 17th-century publications available to me, liked being able to photocopy pages, even liked figuring out how to use the equipment and dealing with the custodial staff who repeatedly accepted my handwritten request forms and delivered up the reels exactly one half hour later.

Some addenda:

Here's a comic from Grinnell College that lampoons the "user resistance" experience in microform reading rooms: Johnny Cavalier; Microfilm Man,

Here's press release on a project I worked on: Recon Project for Preservation Microfilm Masters Completed.

Here's Wikipedia's take on Microform.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Friesian horse rescue

I've written before (twice actually) about the magnificent Friesian breed of horse. Recently, a friend sent me a link for a video showing a horse rescue in the Friesian province of The Netherlands. BBC News provided good coverage of the event, with photos, including this one:

{click to enlarge}
(Note that BBC gives AP credit for the shot.)

The video is short and, though lo-res, is worth the few moments of your time that it takes to view:

The rescue occurred near Marrum, a municipality located in northwest Friesland, as it turns out very close to Hallum, where my great-, great-grandfather, Hette Pieters Hettema, farmed in the first half of the ninetheeth-century. Hallum was then known as a center of religious conflict, one in which my forebears took a leading role opposing Napoleonic efforts to achieve doctrinal uniformity.

Click this link to view a Google-earth depiction of Mallum with Hallum just below.

The map reproduced below shows Marrum to the north of Hallum (Hallum is boxed in blue - click to enlarge). The other blue boxes show other municipalities associated with my Friesian forebears. Contact me if you'd like access to a web page of mine on these anscestors.
{click to enlarge}

This last photo, again from BBC/AP, shows the stranded horses.

Monday, January 08, 2007

presidential slim pickings

David Broder's column in Sunday's Washington Post has the best anecdote on Gerald Ford that I've read. Broder quotes David Obey of Wisconsin. As Broder tells it:
Two years ago, on a visit to Washington, Ford spent an hour chatting with members on the floor of the House, where he had served for so many years.

Obey, one of the few current members who served with Ford, told the former president that he was finishing a memoir, in which he discussed all the presidents he'd known in Washington, from Richard Nixon to the current President Bush.

"You'll be surprised," said the liberal Democrat, "but I've written that you were the best president of the bunch."

Ford paused for a moment and then replied with a smile, "Pretty slim pickings, wasn't it?"

The Obey memoir is forthcoming from the U of Wisconsin Press.

Image source