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Documenting Ferguson receives a 2015 NSDA Innovation Award

4 Nov
Photo by Mark Regester from the Documenting Ferguson Digital Repository.

Photo by Mark Regester from the Documenting Ferguson Digital Repository.

Congratulations to the Documenting Ferguson team for receiving the 2015 NSDA Innovation Award! From the press release, “Awardees were selected based on how their work or their project’s whose goals or outcomes represent an inventive, meaningful addition to the understanding or processes required for successful, sustainable digital preservation stewardship.”

The Documenting Ferguson Project is on-going and the project has the ultimate goal of providing diverse perspectives on the events in Ferguson and the resulting social dialogue. Contribute your voice to the discussion by adding your images, videos or personal stories to the collection.


Collaboration with the National Civil Rights Museum

4 Apr

The Film & Media Archive has collaborated with the National Civil Rights Museum to add film and audio from the Henry Hampton Collection to the museum’s permanent collection.

The newly renovated National Civil Rights Museum will re-open on April 5, one day after the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. To mark the re-opening the museum will hold a forum hosted by Tavis Smiley that will feature panelists including Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Attorney Barry Goldstein, among others. The re-design of the museum sought to feature more multi-media and interactive exhibits to help visitors experience and understand more of the history of the civil rights movement.

As Executive director Beverly Robertson said in a story from NPR,

It was time to take a fresh look at the civil rights movement through the eyes of the people who gave it life…We had to blend history, technology, information boards, artifacts, audio, video to create what we believe is an engaging museum.”

Visitors can sit at a segregated lunch counter or on a segregated bus while they listen to audio of the speech Martin Luther King gave at the Holt Street Baptist Church at the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This focus on multi-media exhibits and displays featuring audio and video of primary source material made the Film & Media Archive a great partner for the  National Civil Rights Museum. Henry Hampton, creator of Eyes on the Prize, shared similar goals for his series and wanted to highlight the accomplishments, actions, and leadership of people who were not famous but who made up the movement and made its success possible.

Sections and excerpts of the interviews from the Henry Hampton Collection now on permanent exhibition at the museum include ones with people who had never been publicly interviewed before Eyes on the Prize, such as Jo Ann Robinson, one of the leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Josephine Mayes, a voting rights activist, and William O’Neal, an FBI informant from Chicago.

Other video and audio footage of interviewees will be on permanent display including sections from the following interviews: Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine; E.D. Nixon, civil rights leader from Montgomery; Diane Nash, student leader in the Nashville movement; James Farmer (audio only), national civil rights leader and one of the organizers of the 1961 Freedom Rides; Victoria Gray Adams (audio only), a founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic PartyJohn Hulett, voting rights activist in Lowndes County, Alabama; and Huey Newton, Black Panther activist.

The full text of all of these interviews are available on the Eyes on the Prize Interviews digital project site which also contains complete transcripts for all the interviews from Eyes on the Prize.



Dorothy Height and The Great Depression

28 Mar

Dorothy Height, an activist for civil rights as well as women’s rights, was celebrated on Google’s front page on what would have been her 102nd birthday. Height’s name is not as well-known as some other figures that were prominent in the civil rights movement, but she was one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.

Height was interviewed for the Blackside series, The Great Depression, and spoke about her early life as an activist in New York and her work with the organizer and politician, Adam Powell, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Her interview is part of the newly digitized collection, The Great Depression Interviews, where researchers can watch and read the entire transcript of the interviews conducted for the series. In her interview, Height described how she worked to fight what she described as a slave market, a system of labor where people from the suburbs of New York would drive in and pick out domestic workers from a street corner. This was an exploitative system where workers would work long hours for very little pay and no benefits or any way to negotiate or improve their working conditions. Height said,

What had happened was that as more and more women came from the South, and they were in need of work, and they didn’t have references, and they didn’t have jobs, what developed what was called the Bronx Slave Market. And that meant that the women went to certain corners, and employers would come, and just as in slavery, they would look and choose the one that looked the strongest or the healthiest, take that person home with them to get their work done, and then sometimes they would turn the clock back. I got into this because at the Harlem YWCA so many girls and women, coming from the South especially, came to us with these stories of desperation, how it was they went home with the women at eight o’clock in the morning and they left their house at midnight, and she turned back the clock and said to them it was only six o’ clock, and they didn’t know until they got out into the streets. And she would only pay them what she wanted. And then, if she went to the police, they would, this woman would say, “I don’t even know this girl. She tried to get into my house,” so that we had young teenagers as well as older women who were just desperately looking for work. One time, I went before the city council, because we were protesting this. We had a small committee that was trying to see what could be done. And I’ll never forget saying to them that it was called, that it was known as the Bronx Slave Market. And the Bronx councilman didn’t want to hear that, and he said, “Well, how could you call it that?” I said, “Well, it’s not only in the Bronx, it’s in Brooklyn, too.” It was all over the city. Desperate domestic workers were simply being exploited.

Interview with Dorothy Height , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on February 25, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

The entire transcript is available, as well as the video above. More information on the project can be found here.




Out of the Vault

24 Jan

The Visual Media Resource Laboratory (VMRL) and Department of Special Collections hosted an open house Thursday, January 16 in Olin Library. A wide array of print resources and digital collections—many of them new—were on display in various public areas of Level 1. Curators, archivists, and other staff were on hand to discuss the resources, answer questions, or lead activities.

Out of the Vault Event Out of the Vault Event

Some highlights from the event were a photo booth with a green screen where participants could create photos of themselves using images from the Sharepoint database with images from the collections.

Visitors had a chance to access newly digitized resources, now available online, including:

  • Full transcripts and video footage of nearly 150 interviews conducted for The Great Depression, a documentary by the same filmmakers who produced Eyes on the Prize. The documentary featured a tiny fraction of these fascinating interviews with people from all walks of life. This new resource, never before available, offers much more.
  • An extensive digital exhibition about William Gass,celebrated author of fiction and literary criticism and WU professor emeritus of philosophy. The exhibition focuses on his education, military service, teaching career, and literary achievements.
  • A digital exhibition about James Merrill, an influential, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who left his manuscripts and many other personal items to WU.
  • A photo booth, where participants learn about the library’s image database and have a photo taken of themselves in a historic image from our collections.

Displays in the flat cases at the entrance to Olin Library, including:

  • Fashion Design Program Records of WU fashion shows and student designs, now held in University Archives.
  • A sampling of materials from Rare Books and Manuscripts, with more on display in the Department of Special Collections.
  • Samplings of materials from the collections of the Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL), an archive of 19th- and 20th-century illustrations.
  • Giveaways of buttons featuring images from WU’s special collections.
  • World War I posters from the newly acquired Louis and Jodi Atkin collection. Vote to determine which poster will be the first to be displayed for an extended period of time.
  • An exhibition—In Character: The Life and Legacy of Mary Wickes—continues in the Grand Staircase Lobby and Ginkgo Room. Wickes, a famous character actress, was a WU alumna whose scripts, correspondence, photos, and other memorabilia are in University Archives.
  • A continuing exhibit of miniature books from the Julian Edison Collection.
  • The opportunity to visit the Department of Special Collections to view materials on display there.

The Great Depression Interviews

2 Nov

Still from “Interview with Ossie Davis” – The Great Depression

The Film & Media Archive reached a milestone this week in The Great Depression transcript project. All of the original interviews from The Great Depression series are now digitized. There are 148 interviews from the series and the interviewees range from well-known people such as Ossie Davis, Gore Vidal, and Adam Clayton Powell III to previously unknown but important figures—labor organizers, sharecroppers, farmers, political activists, writers, and photographers— who were witnesses to one of the most difficult and political volatile periods in American history. Highlights from the series and interviews include an in-depth look at Henry Ford and his factory, the 1934 Upton Sinclair campaign for governor on the “End Poverty in California” platform, a behind-the-scenes look at New York politics in the 1930s, and many other stories of struggle and eventual success.

Still from “Interview with Paul Boatin” – The Great Depression

This is one phase of a collaborative project between the Film & Media Archive and Digital Library Services. The work of transcribing the interviews and preparing them for the web continues and the goal for the next phase is for all text from the transcripts to be transcribed, edited, and encoded into xml documents that meet TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standards. The end goal is to present an online resource where users can browse the names, or search by keyword across all the interviews. The model for this site is the Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Interviews online resource.

Norma Rydlewski from “Interview with Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh” – The Great Depression

Eventually we hope to make the audio and video available online  allowing researchers the choice to read, listen, or watch the complete interviews. These interviews are a very valuable resource for researchers, and the topic of the series remains relevant today.

Shown here are stills from the interviews. The great actor, Ossie Davis, was interviewed about his experiences as an African-American in the South during the 1930s, and then in New York. Paul Boatin described his experience as a worker at the Ford Motor Factory during the 1920s. Norma Rydlewski was interviewed with her sister, Katherine McIntosh about their mother, Florence Owens Thompson, who was the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic image, “Migrant Mother.”

The Great Depression

26 Oct

The Blackside series, The Great Depression, debuted on PBS on October 25, 1993. After the success of Eyes on the Prize, Henry Hampton set out to tell the history of the turbulent 1930s. As with Eyes on the Prize, Hampton wanted to look beyond the well-worn, familiar stories to find the individuals who were not in history books, but nonetheless could tell the story of that time in a way that had not been heard before.

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange – 1936

Two of the people interviewed for the series were Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh, the daughters of Florence Owens Thompson, who was the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic image, “Migrant Mother.”  In 1936, Dorothea Lange was working as a photographer for the Farm Securities Administration, documenting the devastating effects of the Great Depression. She photographed Thompson and her children at the end of a month-long trip of photographing migratory farm laborers.

Lange later said,

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. (Popular Photography, Feb. 1960)

The other images she took that day are from a further distance and show the tent and surrounding ground, but it is the medium close-up with Thompson in the center of the frame which became the iconic image.

When Blackside interviewed Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh in 1992, they gave a fuller picture of their mother and their transitory life at that time.

Norma who was the baby shown in her mother’s arms in the photograph, said,

I remember just moving all the time. We moved. Even as a little child I remember we’d load up…the tent or sometimes just a mattress or whatever we had, and we’d load that up and went to the next camp. But I can remember that being really young, and I remember thinking, “We’re not going to be here very long, so we’re going to go on down the road…My mom would talk to the farmers and make the arrangements for us to all go work, and then she’d get us together. We’d get up at like four in the morning. We’d all head out to the field. I always considered my mom very, very strong. Looking at her, in the pictures a lot of times she didn’t look like a beautiful woman, but she really was…We knew that when we got up in the morning that there was going to be work, or there was going to be food, and the reason it was going to be there was because my mom was going to see to it that we were going to be able to survive that day.

Katherine McIntosh, who was four years old at the time of the photograph and is one of the two girls shown leaning against her mother, described their  life and circumstances at that time,

I felt that I had to contribute, all of us did. That was our way of life. If we wanted anything, of course we all hoped out life would get better, which it did when we got older. Anyway we followed the fields…and the story first was told that Mother was selling the tires off our car to buy food, and my mother denied that. My older brother said that the radiator on our car had blew up, and when this picture was made they,him and I guess my two brothers had gone into town to try to get the radiator welded, and that’s what we were doing there. But we were like everyone else. We were looking for work.

In the interview, Norma also revealed that Thompson was an early union organizer,

One thing Mom taught us is that, one of the things that she was involved in is that she was an early union organizer. Katherine remembers that more than I do, but remembers having meetings when we were living even in the fields. Mom was real interested in that because that was our ticket out, to organize the unions.

– All quotes from: Interview with Katherine McIntosh and Norma Rydlewski, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 9, 1992, for The Great Depression. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

The family eventually settled in Modesto, California. At the time, Lange did not record Thompson name and she was only identified as the subject of Lange’s photo in the 1970s by a reporter for the Modesto Bee, Emmett Corrigan. The digitization of Blackside’s transcript is part of a larger project to digitize all the original interviews for The Great Depression series. Digitization of the video interviews is almost complete and the Film & Media Archive is working to have the original transcripts online in the near future, in the model of the Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Series online transcripts.

Episodes in the series covered Henry Ford and political activities by Ford workers, the New Deal, novelist and socialist Upton Sinclair’s 1934 campaign for governor on the “End Poverty in California” platform, union activity, and the build-up to World War II. Other interviewees include Gore Vidal, Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis, Charles Dempsey Floyd (Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s son), Adam Clayton Powell, III, and many others.

Gore Vidal and “The Great Depression”

3 Aug

Photo of Gore Vidal by Carl Van Vechten, 1948

Gore Vidal, celebrated writer and political critic, died on July 31, 2012. Vidal was an essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. In addition to his 26 novels and short story collections, Vidal frequently wrote for major publications such as Vanity Fair, The Nation, The New Yorker, and Esquire.

Gore Vidal appeared in the Blackside series The Great Depression. The series first aired on PBS in 1993 and was a comprehensive history of that turbulent economic and political time. Vidal was interviewed in 1992 and the topics of the discussion included his memories of living in Washington, D.C. during that time, and the impressions he had as a child of his grandfather, Senator Thomas Gore, and his father, Eugene Gore’s role in the Roosevelt administration as director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Air Commerce. Excerpts from the interview are quoted below. The Film & Media Archive is currently in the process of digitizing the interviews from The Great Depression series, and will make these available to the public in the model of the Eyes on the Prize transcript project.

From Interview with Gore Vidal conducted by Blackside for the series, The Great Depression on April 21, 1992:

And my first memory was in the summer of ’32. I went with my grandfather from his house in Rock Creek Park—he had a big, long, black Packard car and a driver called Davis—and I sat in the back of the car. As we drove down Pennsylvania Avenue on both sides were the Bonus Army. Now I thought at six or seven that they were skeletons, like those skeletons you see at Halloween. And I realized that they were not from charnel houses, but they were from poor houses. As we approached the Senate side of the Capitol they recognized Senator Gore, a highly recognizable man as the stock footage will presently show you, and they began to stone the car. And from that moment on, I knew that it could happen here and that one day we might indeed have a revolution, and it would be rich against poor.

Then people like Harry Hopkins, who was a charming man—I remember my father became forty years old as Director of Air Commerce, and they gave a little party for him. It had cabinet rank at that time. It didn’t exist when my father left in ’36. But I remember Harry Hopkins’ gift for my father’s fortieth birthday was a box of dirt, which rather summed their view of politics, since neither one was really a very serious politician…I used to, my role in all of this, I would not say that I made any great contribution to the New Deal. I did fly an airplane at the age of ten for the Pathe Newsreels, and my father as Director of Air Commerce was promoting a flivver plane for every American citizen. We had the cheap automobile that Henry Ford had given us, so my father was working out prototypes of very cheap planes that anybody could afford. So he found one called the Hannon Flivver Plane that any child could fly. So I took it off, flew it around, landed it. Hit all the newsreels. My mother nearly moved out of the family when she found out I’d been flying this. My father was in great trouble over that. That was, my role was in mostly aviation.