Thursday, September 29, 2016

Building a Historical Shareholder Database

In 1731, Ben Franklin and a group of fifty of his fellow Junto members agreed to pay a yearly subscription fee to form the Library we all know and love.  These were our first shareholders.  Originally, only shareholders in the Library could take books out of collections, and their yearly subscriptions helped to buy the many texts that we still own today.  In the present, shareholding is still an honored tradition.  However, we do not issue new share numbers anymore; instead, our members own shares going back as far as our 1731 origins, with impressive provenance attached to the names that came before.

In an effort to make information about our shareholders available to all, we are in the process of creating an indexed, searchable database of all 9,717 shareholders to date!  During this project, we have had to overcome some major hurdles.  First, we had to combine information collected over many years in all different formats into one standardized document.  Including both paper and digital files, we found many biographies of past shareholders already written.  We also had to check, and often correct, every name and date of each shareholder in our register book with what we had in our spreadsheet.  This spreadsheet was made by digitizing our register book, and so some transcription issues were inevitable.  We have also had to do a lot of “de-duping;” sometime in the 1930’s, the Library Company reissued previous shares under new numbers, and then in the 1980’s put the original shares back into circulation.  This meant that two people could theoretically hold the same share!  In order to get rid of duplicates, we had to trace back each number to its original entry and make notes of what shares belonged where.

Thankfully, we have made significant progress. To date, we have 1,578 shareholders that have some biographical history attached to them. (16% of our total shareholders!) We have also added searchable subject terms to all of our shareholders to help us find shares for prospective shareholders.  For example, we now know that at least 22 of our shareholders were abolitionists, 87 served in the armed forces, 19 were Jewish, and 2,423 were women (almost a quarter of our total).  This sort of information helps us link new shareholders with our historic shareholders in meaningful ways; a doctor can own the share of other doctors, a Penn graduate can own the share of another Penn graduate, and so forth.  As this project progresses, we will be making this information accessible, and searchable, to everyone online.  We also hope to continue adding biographical information to our shareholders.  When buying a share today, our members can see exactly who owned this share in the past, and learn a little about those who came before them as well.  We are very excited to be bringing this information to the public.  Stay tuned in future E-News for samples from our database!

Emma Ricciardi

Project Cataloger 

LCP Digital Humanities News

The Library Company of Philadelphia is always looking for opportunities to promote the creation of compelling and ramifying digital content. A particular collection near and dear to my heart is the Library’s holdings of knitting and crochet books, trade cards, prints, and photographs. Many of these were featured in my 2001 exhibition “The Hook and the Book.” In an effort to make these collections and ones like them available to a wider audience I became a founding board member of the Center for Knit and Crochet .

The Center for Knit and Crochet, (“CKC”), was established in 2012 to “preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts.” To achieve these goals, CKC plans to establish an online museum, study center, and social networking environment enhanced by exhibitions, access to current scholarship, and educational programs. To reach these aspiring goals it became evident that an international collection survey of holdings is necessary for planning, outreach, partnerships, and data retrieval to drive the online database for the digital museum.

The CKC online museum will be an international clearing house of data and images aggregated from partner GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives Museums) institutions' online repositories identified in the collections survey. It will also provide the opportunity to standardize and expand collection data. Ultimately this resource will expand to allow for the CKC community to share personal collections and histories creating a complete view of our knitting and crochet cultural heritage.

This summer the Library Company and CKC joined forces to offer a digital humanities internship opportunity to begin the enormous task of building a comprehensive survey of knitting and crochet collections around the world. While CKC provided the internship stipend, the Library Company provided the office space and technology. This survey required particular focus on the availability or potential for digitized material and its corresponding metadata. The call for applicants resulted in nearly thirty interested students and recent graduates eager to contribute their time and expertise. We were thrilled to offer the position to Kelly Helm who had recently earned her MLS from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Manhattan NYU. She was very enthusiastic to begin and in her own words: ”My friends all know that I’m an avid knitter and crocheter, and so as soon as they saw this post, it was forwarded on to me with subject lines like, “Look! It’s Summer Camp for You!” and “Kelly’s Dream Job!”. I knew right away that this was the position for me, and I couldn’t wait to get started.”
Kelly was asked to survey collections using qualitative and quantitative measures to rank each collection’s research value as well as the state of the collection’s intellectual access, physical access, housing, and physical condition.
“Over the course of my internship, I looked at websites for over 3500 repositories worldwide, hoping to find knit or crochet materials in their collections. I e-mailed, filled out contact forms, searched databases, ran websites through Google Translate—and came up with a wide assortment of items. For me, the most interesting part was sending off emails to small town historical societies, then going and exploring the databases for some of the world’s most prestigious collections.  I found personal inspiration in the intricacies of Victorian lacework, the tiny stitches in stockings, and seeing woolen caps from the 16th century. I was able to immerse myself in the history of a craft I love, and at the same time be involved at the ground level with a project working to preserve the future of knitting and crochet. Having the opportunity to work with the CKC at LCP gave me the chance to grow my skills as a metadata librarian, and I am so grateful to have had this internship.” ~ Kelly Helm
We are thrilled that Kelly will continue to volunteer with CKC to continue this great work beyond her the short time at the Library Company.

Nicole H. Scalessa
IT Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator& CKC Vice President

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scholar's Corner: Abraham Lincoln and Done Gone

On Saturday, June 28, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln received an unusual delivery. Norman Wiard sent a painting entitled Done Gone to the White House “for the inspection of President Lincoln, and to afford him a laugh.” Wiard later recalled thinking “its grim humor might enliven his careworn spirit if it was presented at the appropriate time, and I had the satisfaction to notice that the great man took great interest in it. He saw speaking points in it not before discovered, and took new hope from it, saying it was prophetic.”[1]

Wiard had purchased the painting from artist William M. Davis, of Long Island, New York. Davis was primarily a painter of landscapes and maritime themes, but in 1862, he received national recognition for three paintings based on the Civil War. In the spring of 1862, Done Gone, the second of the trio, portrayed the “miseries of expiring secessionism,” according to the New York Times.[2]  Edward Anthony of New York City produced photographic copies of Davis’s paintings in carte de visite size, and they sold widely for 25 cents each.

“Done Gone.” ca. 1862. Albumen print carte de visite. 
Part of the Library Company's Prints and Photographs collection

In the spring of 1862, it was easy for northerners to predict the end of the Confederacy. Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers, within miles of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Many expected the war to be over in months; very few suspected the truth that it would last for three more years. Employing his trompe l’oeil style, Davis portrayed in Done Gone a series of objects to symbolize and illustrate the Confederacy’s demise. A frayed Confederate flag drapes a tombstone with the inscription “Hic Jacet Secesh” (Here lies Secesh). Around the tombstone are an empty demijohn labeled “Old Rye,” the “Act of Secession” puncturing a planter’s straw hat, a bare corn cob, a rusty Bowie knife, a bayonet as a candlestick with the wick fizzling out, a toe-less boot, a stump of a cigar, and a letter with the postscript, “Dear Alexander. Don’t forget to kill one Yankee for your affectionate Delilah.” On a couple of playing cards, the ace of spades (an oblique reference to African Americans) trumps King Cotton.

Norman Wiard was born in Canada and became an ordnance expert and inventor. In 1861, he provided the Union army with dozens of semi-steel cannon from a foundry in Pennsylvania. Wiard corresponded frequently with President Lincoln in the latter half of 1864 on political and military matters, but it is unclear whether he had met the President before taking Done Gone to the White House in June 1862. Lincoln’s sense of humor and appreciation for satire were well-known at the time, and Wiard clearly expected Davis’s painting to amuse the President. 

We have no letter from Lincoln reflecting on Done Gone, though one reminiscence reported that the President “could not conceive of its being a painting until he put his hand upon it.”[3] When Wiard donated the painting to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1869, he recalled a conversation with President Lincoln in 1864:  “the war had not ended, and the President seemed so much to enjoy [Done Gone], that I soon took occasion, in the presence of a mutual friend, to ask him to accept it as a present for the decoration of his private office, after he had ceased to be President. He said, ‘No;’ and added, ‘let me keep it here a while—it seems like a friend; and after the war is over, and secession is buried indeed, give it to some soldier who, in your opinion, has done most to put down the rebellion.’”[4]

As late as 1900, Davis’s original Done Gone painting seems to have been hanging at the Grand Army of the Republic’s departmental headquarters in Washington.[5] Unfortunately, whether it has survived and where it is remain a mystery. What has survived are a few of the photographic copies of the painting that held such hope in the spring and summer of 1862 for a speedy conclusion to the American Civil War.

Dr. Daniel W. Stowell
Director and Editor 
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

[1] Robert B. Heath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic (New York: Bryan, Taylor & Co., 1889), 104.
[2] “The Neglected Picture,” New-York Times, 26 April 1862, 8:4.
[3] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), 14 June 1896, 23.
[4] Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 104.
[5] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), 7 July 1900, 17.