Provenance Project Internship Blog

14 April 2014

Week 8.5: The Civil War Book

The book that I’m discussing in this post was, in my opinion, too cool to not have its own blog post.  In our last round of photographing, we took photos of a multi-volume work entitled History of the Popes by Leopold Ranke.  The book itself didn’t look like much on the outside, as it had been rebound.  The interior had the typical St. Ignatius College stamp, just like the ones we’ve found on countless books now.  What really set this book apart from the others was the inscription.

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Bigger sizes HERE

The inscription reads that the book was taken from the house of a reverend by a Union soldier of the 30th New York regiment who lived in Fairfax Virginia on October 5th, 1861.  The name of the soldier himself is rubbed out, but what makes this book even more fascinating is that it was just sitting in the main stacks of the library, available to be checked out by anyone who took the chance to look at it.  We just had a piece of Civil War history sitting on our shelves with none the wiser.  Without this project, the book may neevr have been discovered or preserved.  But don’t go looking for this in Cudahy Library, folks; you’ll be out of luck.  After the presentation for the Flickr site launch, I made sure this book got safely into the capable hands of our archivists in special collections.

14 April 2014

Week 8

I’ve decided to label this post week 8, as week 7 was technically spring break.  I did spend much of week 7 editing and tagging photographs in preparation for the site launch over my break.  Once again, technical difficulty was had over the getting everyone quick access to the edited photographs.  I was able to upload all of my edited work to my Google Drive for them to be uploaded.  The only issue with the drive is that downloading the photographs from a computer as well as uploading them is very time consuming.  We were able to get all of my work(and Evan’s) uploaded to the site, however, and the site was officially launched this week!

You can check out the website HERE!

The presentation itself went very well.  Prof Roberts did a brief opening introducing the project, then Josh came in describing the technical aspects of the project.  I was third, and did a brief presentation on 19th century binding, as well as on a fascinating book that deserves a post all to itself(which I will post soon!).  Evan presented briefly as well on a book he personally found interesting as well as on the many illustrations we have come across during our project work.  Josh and Prof Roberts then concluded the presentation, and we circulated the room, answering questions and discussing the future of the project.  The turnout for the presentation was huge, in fact greater than the capacity of the room we were given to present in!

(Me presenting above)

Check in next time to hear about what I consider our coolest find yet!

14 April 2014

Week 6

Crisis struck again in the photographing process this week, when we realized that all of the photographing that we had done for our round of book this week had once again been taken in the wrong format.  Wrestling with technology has definitely been the most difficult hurdle to overcome in this project so far.  Whether it be trouble with focusing the camera(requiring reshoots), or catching thumbs and fingers in the photographs we take, we have made adjustment after adjustment to ensure that we come out with the best possible product.  This is particularly important as the official launch of the site comes in two weeks, the week after spring break.

With this major setback, and the launch looming over our heads, we had to decide whether to go back and rephotograph everything, losing a great deal of time and website-ready work in the process, or soldier on and work with what we had, leaving the make-up work to those who would work on the project during the summer.  After some deliberation, we decided that giving the website as much content as possible was the highest priority, and that moving forward with editing what we had was the strongest path.  This was a valuable experience for me.  Mistake are often made, and as a deadline approaches, one has to quickly prioritize elements of a project.  Tune in two weeks from now to hear about our Flickr site launch and presentation!

23 February 2014

Week 5

With this week came another round of photographing, and a new discovery. As Evan and I were rounding up the books to be photographed, arranging them, and recording all of their elements, I noticed that some of the books were in terrible shape. Many of the books we come across are boxed to prevent further deterioration. After one of the covers of a particular volume of “History of the Catholic Church” by M. l’Abbé J. E. Darras, I saw that the binding of the book was slowly being separated from its spine, wide enough so that I could see the original material that bound the book.

What I saw made me do a double take: there was text on the interior of the book binding. I have a few ideas on what the paper that the text was printed on came from, such as a journal or newspaper. What’s stranger is what I thought to be one anomalous and perhaps lackadaisical binding of a book was not the only instance of this binding that I found today. This week’s little research project for me will be finding out how often this method of binding was used. Down below are photographs of the book’s binding, its detached cover, and a lovely illustration from it. Check back next week to see my results.

P.S. My supervisor did in fact find a James P Sullivan, who was a student at the college (See first post)!

16 February 2014

Week 4: The First Set and the Protestant Book

This week we really got down to the business of editing and categorizing our photos in preparation for the Flickr website launch. The process is less physically laborious than I anticipated, but the editing process is also more time-consuming. I spent most of the week converting the files into the proper formats from the RAW file, relabeling the files for easier searching and uploading, and recording the appropriate tags for all of the elements of each book we photographed.

It’s been a bit of a struggle to find the most time efficient method to complete this process without error, but after talking it over with our supervisor and with each other, Evan (my co-intern) and I have a pretty good order of action worked out. All that’s left is to write it down somewhere so we don’t forget it, and future workers can have a better idea of how to approach the project’s process order. There are some frustrations with being the guinea pig for finding the most efficient methods, but also a novelty. With the first-hand experience of how to budget our time well gives me a better idea of how I would format my own projects in the future.

One book in particular that we all have been marveling over is a find of Evan’s. I’ve attached some photos below of the title page(the book was rebound, so the cover is pretty typical with no special characteristics). The book is called The History and Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by the Reverend J. Milner, M.A. Being a Jesuit university, Loyola(and its predecessor St. Ignatius College) has not always seen eye to eye with Protestant factions. What’s really shocking about this book is that this tension is blatantly spelled out in an inscription that is repeated on multiple pages from the book. The title page, which also holds a stamp from St. Ignatius College, has written in the margins, in what appears to be the same hand, “A Protestant Book” multiple times throughout the volume. Though I only have photos of the title page in this post, you can clearly see the deliberate and large inscription. I can’t wait to see what other funny little quirks show up in the other books.

9 February 2014

Weeks 2 & 3: A Comedy of Errors

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a SNAFU on multiple fronts, with myself included. The main issue has been working around both my and my partner(Evan)’s schedules while simultaneously battling it out digitally with the entire student population for access to their good digital cameras. Our group should be getting a camera of our own (actually, we were supposed to have gotten it at least a week ago), but until then we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get at those digital cameras.

A second issue we ran into was one of our own making. When taking pictures of the books with the camera, an important step in the process is making sure that the photo files are of archival quality. This is achieved by having the camera save the picture as a RAW file. My partner and I, in our understandable eagerness to get photographing as quickly as possible, skipped this step. With this one tiny misstep, we lost an entire week’s worth of work, and had to do it all over again. Then, when we went to rephotograph everything, we noticed that many of the books hadn’t been re-shelved in the main stacks yet.

At this point, Evan and I were pretty close to tearing our hair out. We understood(eventually) however, that this was all part of the process in getting the project up and running. By taking it with a grain of salt, we were able to somewhat calmly address our problems systematically and efficiently. The week wasn’t all bad either. We have come up with an efficient system of collecting and photographing books while gaining useful experience in how best to photograph the books for maximum clarity and aesthetic quality. Tune in next week for our progress in getting the website up and running with its first entries.

26 January 2014

Week 1

This week was spent finding some stragglers in the Cudahy Library that didn’t end up in the original search list for one reason or another.  While I was able to find the books in my two short lists, the third list, which was supposed to be in the oversized section of the stacks, were completely missing.  Thus began my miniature epic in search of the missing books from Stack Deck C.  The Circulation desk was flummoxed as to the location of these books, and recommended that I try looking in the main stacks for the books.  After a second thorough search of the main stacks and a brief and embarassing unintentional detour into periodicals, I moved on to my last resort: the archives.

The archivist, after searching through the call numbers, uncovered a key clue in my search; the books data hadn’t been updated in over a decade.  It was possible, I was told that the books might not even exist at all anymore, and were just entered into Pegasus during a system update or upgrade.  I was pretty disappointed to hear that these books may not be around anymore, but it was only to be expected.  The library’s system has been changed a number of times since the college was founded, and it should be expected for some books to fall through the cracks.  I expect this to happen again in the work I do this semester.

19 January 2014

Hello World!

Hello readers, my name is Sarah Muenzer and I’ll be spending this semester assisting in the recovery and consolidation of Loyola University Chicago’s original library.  First founded as St Ignatius College in 1870, the college relied heavily on donation from neighboring clergy to build up its library quickly and substantially.  My work over the course of the semester will involve locating any surviving books remain at Loyola’s campus, and uploading pictures that indicate ownership and provenance to a database.  The database will be widely accessible, and go under the name of he “Jesuit LIbraries Provenance Project”.  Hopefully with the help of interested scholars, students, and previous owners alike, we will be able to trace the origins of Loyola’s first library.

This week was my first foray into the project to see what books from the original library were still available in the main stacks of Cudahy Library.  Some of the books I encountered still had their original book plates from the St. Ignatius library, while others seem to have been consolidated with the library when Mundelein College was absorbed into Loyola Chicago.  One set of volumes that was particularly interesting to me was entitled “An Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy” by A. Privat-Deschanel.  Inside the cover was a personal signature of a man named James P Sullivan, who I would guess was a student at the original college, as an Ignatius Book plate was also present.  On the following page, an elaborate signature following the typical “this book belongs to…” inscription” filled half of an empty page.  It gave me the impression that Mr Sullivan wasn’t too fond of natural philosophy, and that he was bored in class one day and succumbed to some doodling.  The fact that he seems to have donated the books to the library enforces my gut feeling.  I’ll be interested to see if any more of Mr Sullivan’s old school books pop up in our project.