Feature Story

Mining historical glass slides for astronomical data

A collection of 175,000 images of astronomical objects on photographic glass plate slides at Yerkes Observatory offers tremendous potential for both historians of science and astronomers and astrophysicists doing cutting-edge research today. These photographic images, taken over the last 120 years, document historical or periodic events such as novae or comets, as well as providing a basis for studying changes in the night sky. If converted into a usable digital format, they can not only provide more easily accessible glimpses into the scientific heritage of the past but also serve as a treasure trove of valuable information that astronomers can use to make new scientific discoveries.

n astronomical image with handwriting beneath dated Oct. 26, 1901.

A test image from the pilot study on mining astronomical data from historical glass slides.

The University of Chicago Library is partnering with faculty and students in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics to run a pilot study to determine how to scan these slides in a way that will facilitate meaningful scientific inquiry. Significant work has been done in this area by colleagues at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory working with their own 500,000-plate collection, with custom-built equipment. Chicago is now exploring the feasibility of using off-the-shelf digitization technologies by analyzing the level of scientific detail that can be captured and balancing that with the scanning time and resulting data sizes.

Some of the earliest systematic photographic atlases of the sky (more specifically, the region along the Milky Way) were undertaken at Yerkes Observatory and published as paper-print copies of the original negatives. One of these, the Barnard-Calvert atlas was done in 1905, and the other, from 1933, the Ross-Calvert atlas, was a deliberate repeat to track stars changing in position or brightness. An even earlier series of plates of well-known star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae, from 1901 to 1904, was done by George Ritchey with the revolutionary 24-inch telescope that he built in Chicago. All of these individuals—Edward Emerson Barnard, Mary Ross Calvert, Frank Elmore Ross, and George Willis Ritchey—have strong associations with the University of Chicago, specifically Yerkes Observatory, where they all spent portions of their careers and made significant contributions to the field.

Students working with telescope and glass plate

UChicago students Buduka Ogonor (left), Yingyi Liang (right), and Jorge Sanchez (in back) at Yerkes Observatory take an image using the same glass-plate method being studied in the pilot. (Photo by Richard Kron)

Thanks to support from the Kathleen and Howard Zar Science Library Fund and the College and Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, we have engaged a group of seven undergraduate students on the project. In addition to working on the feasibility testing of scanning methods, the students have had a chance to engage with the historical significance of the collections and to get a glimpse into how astronomy was practiced in the past.

An astronomical image with handwriting beneath, dated Sept 19, 1903

A test image from the pilot study on mining astronomical data from historical glass slides.

Since Winter Quarter 2019, Professor Richard Kron has led regular expeditions to Yerkes Observatory. On these trips, Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology and Digital Scholarship and Barbara Kern, Director of the Science Libraries, have shared their expertise in digital scholarship and science librarianship with the students, working together with them to understand the collections and identify sample slides for digitization testing. At the same time, the students have been able to learn how to use the historic telescopes at Yerkes to make observations, to utilize the darkrooms to reproduce some of the significant images, and to use modern tools such as nova.astrometry.net to analyze our testbed images and compare them to the data captured in modern sky surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

For the Library, making the data available for research as well as historical memory are top priorities. Dan Meyer, Director, Special Collections, and University Archivist; and Eileen Ielmini, Assistant University Archivist, are helping to identify glass plates that are representative of the University’s cultural history and should be rehoused on campus in the Special Collections Research Center. Sherry Byrne, Preservation Librarian, and Christina Miranda-Izguerra, Digitization Manager in the Library’s Preservation Department are working with them on digitization sampling. The findings of the pilot will be translated into a workable project plan that can be used to seek funding for a larger scale project.  

Refractor telescope under dome

This refractor telescope at Yerkes Observatory was used to make some of the historical images. (Photo by Elisabeth Long)

UChicago Library receives 2,700 vintage photos by Vivian Maier

Gift creates largest institutional collection of acclaimed photographer’s prints

A person smiling

Photo by Vivian Maier. Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.

The University of Chicago Library has received more than 2,700 vintage prints by celebrated photographer Vivian Maier, few of which have ever been published or displayed.

Collector John Maloof made the donation to the UChicago Library, where they will be preserved and made accessible to researchers in the Special Collections Research Center. The gift includes more than 1,200 black-and-white and 1,400 color prints that Maier made, ranging from her travels around the world to her street photography in Chicago that has received widespread critical acclaim. Because Maier chose to make the prints herself, the collection provides a rare glimpse into her creative process and the photos to which she was drawn.

“This exceptional collection will give researchers and students a more complex understanding of Vivian Maier as a unique figure in 20th-century photography,” said Brenda L. Johnson, library director and University librarian. “We are so pleased that, with the receipt of this magnificent gift from John Maloof, the UChicago Library has the largest collection of Maier photographs held by any museum or library—and the only large collection of Maier’s work that is open to all interested researchers.”

Man working on billboard featuring woman

Photo by Vivian Maier. Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.

Maloof first discovered the significance of Vivian Maier’s work after purchasing the contents of several storage lockers in 2008 from an auction house, eventually building a collection of more than 100,000 of Maier’s negatives and prints. The Academy Award-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier, which Maloof co-wrote and co-directed, depicts his exploration of Maier’s life and work.

Maier was born in New York City in 1926. She spent much of her early life traveling the world before finding a home in 1956 in Chicago, where she worked as a nanny to support her photography. It was only after her death in 2009 that Maier’s work was displayed in museums and galleries to widespread acclaim.

New window into Maier’s creative process

The photo shows a standing man with a cane and another man's face through a window

Photo by Vivian Maier. Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.

While six major photography books and two biographies about Maier have been published in recent years, much of her work remains unknown. Whereas most recent prints of her work have been made by collectors, Maloof’s gift offers a more direct and personal glimpse into the photographer’s work.

Capturing everything from landscapes to still lifes to candid shots of actors and actresses, the vintage prints demonstrate a variety of subjects and compositional approaches that show the breadth of Maier’s interests. In addition to the prints—which range in size from 2 by 2.5 inches to 11 by 14 inches—the collection also includes cameras, papers and other personal items.

“The vintage prints John donated to the Library were made by Vivian Maier herself in her own darkroom, or printed for her by photo processors at her direction,” said Daniel Meyer, director of the Special Collections Research Center. “Researchers examining the collection will be able to see some examples of how she evaluated and edited her own work, which images she decided to enlarge or reprint, and which ones she chose to crop.”

The prints will provide researchers an opportunity to consider what makes Maier’s work distinctive, said Prof. Laura Letinsky, a photographer who teaches in UChicago’s Department of Visual Arts and serves as its director of graduate studies. She added the collection provides an opportunity to think in depth both about Maier’s influences and her point of view. For example, her depiction of women was one aspect that immediately stood out to Letinsky: “Street photographer Garry Winogrand’s pictures of women are sexy—Maier’s are not.”

People sitting in front of Tailleur

Photo by Vivian Maier. Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.

Seeing a concentrated group of Maier’s works rather than a small curated selection, Letinsky said, will help students better understand the level of commitment required in photography, as well as how the medium has evolved since the mid-20th century.

“I would talk about the difference in the way people see the world in this era versus our Instagram era now,” Letinsky said. “I’d want them to see the physicality of it.”

The archive also includes examples of items Maier collected: seven still cameras and three movie cameras, plus a variety of lenses, attachments and cases; ring binders and plastic display holders filled with newspaper and magazine clippings; luggage, a travel itinerary, postcards, address books and other ephemera.

This is the second gift Maloof has given to the UChicago Library, following his 2017 donation of 500 Maier prints. After seeing the interest those prints generated among scholars, students and the public, Maloof realized that he needed to give more to build an “effective study collection.”

Maier’s work joins collections of a range of female photographers held by the UChicago Library, including photo-secessionist Eva Watson-Schütze, documentary photographer Mildred Mead, anthropologist Joan Eggan and literary photographer Layle Silbert.



The copyrights in the photography contained in this press release are owned by the Estate of Vivian Maier. The Estate grants a limited license to media and press to reproduce the attached images in articles concerning Vivian Maier and/or John Maloof’s donation of vintage prints of Vivian Maier’s work to the University of Chicago.  Hi-resolution versions of images may be used in connection with print versions of articles only.  For electronic and online publications, the reproduced images may not exceed 1500 pixels on the longest side and 72 dpi.  Unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or exhibition could result in liability under the Copyright Act.  Publication of any of these images requires accompanying use of this notice: “Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.”

Media contact: Colleen Mastony, cmastony@uchicago.edu, (773) 702-4254

This story is published on the University of Chicago News site.

Photograph of part of a face (including an eye with glasses) behind part of a stop sign

Photo by Vivian Maier. Unpublished work © 2017 The Estate of Vivian Maier. All rights reserved.

The cartoonists’ guide to law

The D’Angelo Law Library’s new collection of illustrated legal codes offers insight into statutes and society

Lyonette Louis-Jacques examining "Code pénal"

Lyonette Louis-Jacques examining “Code pénal”

At first glance, the cartoon in the French law book on Lyonette Louis-Jacques’ desk in the D’Angelo Law Library seems almost funny, in a banana-peel-pratfall kind of way.

For starters, there’s actually a banana peel in the picture, two slippery slivers making their mischief beneath the foot of a well-dressed redhead. She’s knocking her elbow back protectively as she tumbles—skirt lifting, purse flying—into the man beside her. Like a domino, he’s pitching forward, his hands thrust outward and his chapeau tossed upward.

Comedy, right? Except the scene is meant to depict involontairement un homicide, which means that someone is about to die—and someone else is unintentionally at fault. It seems likely that the man is the one mortally doomed; his lurch has propelled him toward a third pedestrian—and directly into the sharp tip of a walking cane. Worse, the instrument has dislodged his eye, which is now impaled on its tip like a campfire marshmallow.

drawing of a man's eye being poked out by another man's cane and a woman falling

“It took me a while to realize that this guy’s cane was poking through this other guy’s eye,” Louis-Jacques, the D’Angelo Law Library’s foreign and international law librarian, said recently, her finger grazing the page. “There’s so much going on here.”

So much, in fact, that the accident’s cause—and the proper distribution of blame—is unclear, which seems both puzzling and appropriate for a drawing that is accompanied by a French description of involuntary manslaughter and the accompanying criminal penalties.

This, of course, is part of the intrigue.

The book, published in Paris in about 1929, is an illustrated copy of the French criminal code by the early-20th-century cartoonist Joseph Hémard, who was popular at the time—and Louis-Jacques, who was drawn to the visual and humorous mode of interpreting law, had worked particularly hard to find it. It now resides in the D’Angelo’s new and growing collection of illustrated law books. The Code pénal, like other Hémard books that she’s acquired—including the Code civil, an illustrated French civil code published in 1925, and the Code général des impôts directs et taxes assimilées, a lengthy, illustrated French tax code published in 1944—is rife with nuance, social commentary, and a depiction of the law that transcends language and culture.

Title page with drawing of woman with tablets“It’s a way of telling stories about the law and opening up people’s minds,” said Louis-Jacques, who became interested in the genre when she saw a rare books display featuring some of Hémard’s work at a conference. “The illustrations are humorous, and sometimes they’re scandalous, and often they’re thought-provoking.”

She loved the idea that the illustrations might start a conversation or pique a student’s interest in an area of law, and she was intrigued by their ability to express both the happenstance of the human condition and the complexity of law.

Take, for instance, the scene with the skewered eye. Assuming the tumbling man is the one to expire, who bears responsibility for his death? The woman, for clumsily pushing him into the cane? An unknown, or unseen, banana-eater, for dropping the peel? The man with the cane, for brandishing his walking aid so recklessly?

“Look at this guy’s nose,” Louis-Jacques said, pointing to the cane-bearer’s flushed face and reddened nose. “Is he drunk? Is that why he’s unaware? And look at the woman—who’s responsible if she dies?”

And what if the scene is meant to be understood in reverse, with the cane, rather than the peel, setting everything in motion? What if the cane has propelled the injured man backward, into the woman and toward the banana peel? And what if the man with the cane is actually drunk? What if he only appears to be drunk? What if they’re all drunk?

“These illustrations do more than show the code,” Louis-Jacques said. “They take it a bit further; they show an understanding of how complicated the law can be.”

Which is what makes them such a welcome addition to the library’s collection, said D’Angelo Law Library Director Sheri Lewis.

“Understanding the story behind a legal question is essential for interpreting and applying the law,” Lewis said. “While law books are filled with such stories, they very rarely include illustrations that depict the legal situations discussed. These rare books offer a unique and colorful way for a reader to connect with the law. We are delighted to have them in our collection.”

So far, the D’Angelo’s collection of cartoon-illustrated law books is small—there are only about a dozen—because finding them isn’t always easy.

“They aren’t always described in a way we can easily call up,” Louis-Jacques said. “They aren’t usually listed as ‘Cartoon-illustrated law codes.’ There is the subheading ‘Caricatures and cartoons’, but that is rarely added to law books in the library catalog unless expressly requested.”

Law books, she added, aren’t generally illustrated so it’s easy to overlook the illustrations unless they are well integrated into the text, as the Hémard books are.

Drawing of one man chasing another

Right now, the collection is anchored by the Hémard volumes, although Louis-Jacques has also acquired a French traffic code, the Code de la route, and a French tax code, the Code des impôts, both published in the late 1950s and illustrated by Albert Dubout, as well as more recent volumes like Le nouveau code pénal illustré (The New Illustrated Penal Code), which was illustrated by Francis Le Gunehec and published in 1996. There’s also a 1944 volume illustrated by Hémard and authored by the celebrated French writer Honoré de Balzac, titled the Code des gens honnêtes, ou l’art de ne pas être dupe des fripons (roughly translated as the Code of Honest People, or The Art of Not Being Tricked By Swindlers).

 “That’s not a law code—it’s a behavior code aimed at gentlemen of the time,” Louis-Jacques said. “Balzac wrote it in 1845 and then Hémard illustrated it in 1944. There were only 800 copies made and the D’Angelo has one of them.”

There are many others Louis-Jacques hopes to acquire—an illustrated Brazilian penal code and an illustrated French tourism code among them—and she enjoys blending her language and research skills to hunt for the volumes, waiting to see if one ends up listed on a library sale or an estate auction.

Eventually, she hopes to create an exhibit that offers additional context for the volumes, including historical information about the illustrators and the time periods in which they were published. She’s curious whether Hémard’s own biases and prior experiences—and even his lack of legal training—might have influenced his interpretation of the law and his artistic choices.

Drawing of man reaching for woman held back by another woman

The works, she notes, make the law accessible by appealing to universal themes. In the Code civil, there’s a cartoon depicting a woman trying hard to keep a man from running toward another woman; one doesn’t need to read French to recognize the depiction of marital infidelity. In the tax code book—the volume for which Hémard was most famous—a worried-looking man runs from a judge.

“This is tax law in France, but there are the same sort of issues and the same sort of attempts to avoid paying taxes,” Louis-Jacques said with a laugh.

And then there’s simply the ability of the books to lure one into thinking about the law.

Louis-Jacques held up a plain book and a copy of the Code pénal, which features on its cover a colorful cartoon of a man with an axe in his head pointing at a man with a smoking gun who appears to be fleeing winged creatures, one of whom is carrying the scales of justice.

“If I showed you both of these,” she said, displaying both, “which one are you more likely to open?”

Originally published by the University of Chicago Law School

Library summer 2019 graduate student fellowship opportunities

Cover of pamphlet for Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site

Digitized pamphlet from the John Crerar Library collections

The University of Chicago Library is offering three fellowships for UChicago graduate students during the summer. The fellowships are designed to give graduate students opportunities to explore alternative scholarly careers and to build skills and knowledge in new areas of scholarship.

Interested graduate students are encouraged to apply by May 30, 2019, for these posted fellowships.

  • John Crerar Foundation History of Science and Medicine Fellow
    The Fellow will focus on materials from the original John Crerar Library collections that were assembled prior to its merger with the University of Chicago.  This includes history of science and technology, especially late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century materials strong in the areas of engineering, manufacturing and applied arts. Activities may include researching historical and current significance of the collections, creating collection descriptions for use on webpages, and a special project focused on digitizing pamphlet materials from the collections.
  • Library Instruction Support Services Fellow
    This fellowship will provide graduate students with hands-on experience in providing library instruction, as well as developing guides and tools to help students learn about the variety of resources available to them at the Library and beyond. In addition, the fellowship will also offer graduate students an opportunity to learn about academic libraries services and collections that may benefit their own research, along with providing an insight into careers in library and information science.
  • University Archives Fellow
    Archives today are a rapidly expanding field with increasingly broad responsibility for preserving and making accessible unique materials in all formats—traditional paper documents, photographs, and analog recordings, as well as a growing array of digital content: email, databases, digital images, audio and video media, and web sites. This fellow will develop skills and expertise in all these areas while contributing to the programs and services of the University of Chicago Archives.

Summer 2019 fellowships come with a stipend of $4000 and typically involve approximately 200 hours of effort (typically 20 hours per week for a period of 10 weeks).

For more information about individual opportunities and how to apply, visit the Library website or contact Andrea Twiss-Brooks at atbrooks@uchicago.edu.

Rafadi Hakim pointing to digital image

A graduate student examines a digitized image. (Photo by John Zich)

 

The Adaptations of Augie March: A Novel by Saul Bellow, A Play by David Auburn, A Production Directed by Charles Newell, An Exhibition by Special Collections and Court Theatre

Exhibition Dates: April 29 — August 30, 2019
Location: Special Collections Research Center Gallery, 1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Rendering of costume for Augie March with blue shirt and blue pants

Sally Dolembo’s costume design for “The Adventures of Augie March,” final rendering of Augie March

Saul Bellow’s 1953 masterpiece, The Adventures of Augie March, launched his reputation as a novelist and established the future Nobel Laureate’s literary renown. In 2015, Court Theatre commissioned the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright David Auburn, AB ’91, to adapt Augie March for the stage. This exhibit showcases treasures from Special Collections Research Center’s Saul Bellow Papers in juxtaposition with materials generated by theatre artists working toward Court’s May 2019 world premiere. On display are early handwritten drafts of Bellow’s novel; the original drafts of David Auburn’s stage adaptation; Charles Newell’s artistic notes and plans for building the world of the play; costume designer Sally Dolembo’s sketches; the mind-bending design work of shadow puppetry collective Manual Cinema; and John Culbert’s minimalist, non-literal design for a set capable of evoking disparate places. The exhibit invites visitors to step into the world of Augie March—as Bellow imagined it, Auburn adapted it, and Newell envisioned it on stage. 

Curator: Nora Titone, Dramaturg at the Court Theatre

Photo of David Auburn

David Auburn

 

Associated Production

The Adventures of Augie March
Court Theatre
May 9 — June 9, 2019

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news. For more information and images, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

Photo of Saul Bellow with his signature in passport

U.S. Passport, 1951, Saul Bellow Papers, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library

The Fetus in Utero: From Mystery to Social Media

Exhibition Dates: January 2–April 12, 2019
Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Diagram of fetus in utero

Du Coudray uses diagrams of the fetus in utero to help midwives-in-training see both the anatomical and emotional factors at play during pregnancy. Detail from Du Coudray, Abrégé de l’art des accouchements dans lequel on donne les préceptes nécessaires pour le mettre heureusement en pratique, 1777. RG93.L45 Rare. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Once restricted to the privacy of the doctor’s office, ultrasound images of the fetus are now immediately recognizable in the public arena through advertisements and social media, where posts tagged “baby’s first pic” are commonplace. Such depictions of the fetus in utero have become iconic and are arguably the most easily recognized medical image. How and why did this happen?

To answer this question, viewers are invited to embark on a 500-year visual journey, from Renaissance woodcuts to modern medical images. Along the way, they will encounter three major shifts in graphic representation. First, from 1450 to 1700, the fetus transformed from divine mystery to a topic deemed worthy of study. Second, from 1700 to 1965, the fetus achieved status as a medicalized subject whose visual ‘home’ was the obstetrical textbook. Third, from 1965 to the present, the fetus has achieved status in popular culture while maintaining its traditional medical role.

Through this rich visual culture, images of the fetus in utero have been used in the service of education, research, political agendas, patient-empowered medicine, and finally, entertainment. The images on view offer historical insights and a sweeping look at how the visual culture of the fetus in utero developed.

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Curators

Brian Callender, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, The University of Chicago; and Margaret Carlyle, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, The University of Chicago

Life-size female manikin with fetus

This life-size female manikin served as a pedagogical tool for turn-of-the-20th-century medical students. Pilz anatomical manikin [female], [19–?]. New York: American Thermo-Ware Co. ffQM25.P545 19— RCASR. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Related Events

Curators’ Tours

Friday, January 4, 4:30–5 pm
Wednesday, January 23, 1:30–2 pm
Friday, February 8, 4-4:30 pm

1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL

Free 30-minute tours by the curators. Please meet in the front lobby of the Regenstein Library at the start time.

Opening Event

Thursday, January 24, 5–7 p.m.
5737 South University Avenue, Chicago, IL
This wine-and-cheese opening reception is hosted by the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge (SIFK).
RSVP required

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news. For more information and images, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

Scientific reproducibility, data management, and inspiration

“Science moves forward by corroboration–when researchers verify others’ results,” the journal Nature states in its July special edition on Challenges in Irreproducible Research.  “There is a growing alarm about results that cannot be reproduced. . . . Journals, scientists, institutions and funders all have a part in tackling reproducibility.”

Stefano Allesina discusses a data management plan with Elisabeth Long, who points sto the plan on screen.

Librarian Elisabeth Long (left) discusses a data management plan with Professor Stefano Allesina. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

Science faculty across the disciplines are increasingly taking up the challenge to publish their research in ways that are more easily reproduced, and librarians are collaborating with these researchers to ensure that rigorously collected data, metadata, and algorithms are preserved and made accessible to the research community.

“Many of these efforts revolve around teaching, planning, and practicing excellent data management throughout the research life cycle, from grant writing to publication,” said Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology and Digital Scholarship.  “The University of Chicago Library is offering a growing set of data management research and teaching services that help UChicago scientists win grants and produce and publish reproducible results that will shape the future of their fields.”

Teaching good data management from the beginning

The UChicago Biological Sciences Division recently played a leading part in improving graduate education in its discipline by developing a National Science Foundation-funded course called Responsible, Rigorous, and Reproducible Conduct of Research: R3CR.  All UChicago first-year BSD graduate students are required to take the course, learning how to use current methods in computational biology in an ethical and reproducible way.  Elisabeth Long has partnered with the course’s creators, Professors Victoria Prince, Stefano Allesina, and Stephanie Palmer, to provide a class session that introduces students to the principles of data management in the lab setting.

“Biology produces a lot of data, and we have seen the kind of mistakes that people can make that are terrifying,” Professor Allesina said. “Elisabeth talked a lot about how you make sure that you’re keeping your data safe throughout your thesis research: how you should name your files, where you should save your files, how you make sure they are saved for posterity, and where there are institutional repositories or online repositories where you can publish your data.”

The Library is partnering with researchers across campus to develop practices and tools that can facilitate the kind of recordkeeping and data curation that is currently demanded of scientists.  Librarians are offering workshops and training sessions that prepare University of Chicago students to graduate with exceptional data management and preservation skills.

Electronic lab notebooks and data management plans

This Autumn Quarter, the Library’s new Center for Digital Scholarship begins offering drop-in consultation hours and customized one-on-one sessions to work with faculty on their data management plans, choosing between the University’s Knowledge@UChicago research repository and disciplinary archives for preserving and sharing research outputs.

The Center will also offer advice on selecting and using research management tools such as electronic lab notebooks and the Open Science Framework.  Research management tools provide platforms where faculty can centralize all their research activities, enabling easy file management, version control, protocol sharing, analysis activities, email, and other interactions between members of a lab. “One challenge confronting researchers is choosing from among the many existing systems,” Long said. “The Center for Digital Scholarship’s consultation services can pair librarians with individual faculty members, or bring sessions to your labs to explore the best solution for your particular research scenario.”

When the data don’t stand alone

Complex research workflows that present particular challenges for reproducibility often occur in fields where data are processed multiple times before final analysis. “In such cases, preserving the data alone is insufficient to support reproducibility,” Long explained. “The computational code for processing the data must also be preserved along with its relation to the data at various stages of processing.”

Marco Govoni, a researcher at the Institute of Molecular Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory, has been developing a tool for mapping and documenting these relationships.  Qresp: Curation and Exploration of Reproducible Scientific Papers (at qresp.org) guides the researchers through the process of documenting the relationship between the datasets, scripts, tools, and notebooks that were used in the creation of a scientific paper. Librarians are working with Govoni to explore ways in which the Library could support his work and potentially integrate it with the Library’s new institutional repository platform.

Data and inspiration

In consulting with librarians, faculty sometimes discover unexpected sources of data, inspiring new research projects.  When Long was talking to the R3CR class about data management and how they will submit their dissertations to ProQuest, a national dissertation repository, Professor Allesina began to consider the value its metadata could provide for the study of careers in science.  “There’s a lot of interest in trying to see if we can improve the situation in the sciences by increasing representations, for example, of women or minorities,” Allesina explained, “but one thing that we lack is some sort of longitudinal analysis, because once PhD students are out the door, it’s very difficult to find them again.”

Librarian Nora Mattern, Professor Stefano Allesina, and a sketch of a computational pipeline. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

At Allesina’s request, Long put him in touch with the Library’s Director of Technical Services, Kristin Martin, who worked with ProQuest to obtain the name, institution, and year of graduation for dissertation authors from the U.S. and Canada from 1993 to 2015.  He is now planning to combine that metadata with publication data from Scopus to track the length and locations of scientists’ careers in academia.

Such a study raises specific reproducibility challenges.  In working on a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation to support this research, Allesina turned to Nora Mattern, Scholarly Communications Librarian, and Debra Werner, Director of Library Research in Medical Education, for advice on how to integrate proprietary data owned by ProQuest and Scopus into the data management plan.  “How much can you share with other scientists?” Allesina asked.  “Can you share some summary statistics of the data?  Can you share de-identified data? If you imagine that someone wants to repeat my analysis of PhD students, will they have sufficient data?” Mattern and Werner helped him to structure the data management plan and to consider the legal implications.

When Allesina came to the United States from Italy, he was surprised at the role he found librarians taking in the digital age.  “Here librarians are thinking forward,” he said.  “Nowadays we have this mass of information. How do we navigate that? How do we organize it? How do we make it searchable? I am always amazed that people can be so helpful. I was dreaming of this data about PhDs, and I talked to Elisabeth, and she said ‘let me look into that.’ After a few weeks, I got gigabytes of data.”

His advice to colleagues: “Run it by a librarian before giving up.”

To consult with a librarian on data management and scientific reproducibility, talk to your Library subject specialist or email data-help@lib.uchicago.edu.

 

Censorship and Information Control

Censorship and Information Control: A Global History from the Inquisition to the Internet

The cover of the "Complete Unabridged" edition of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" with the title and author's name blacked out

In 2002 Penguin released this commemorative edition of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” with the title and Orwell’s name blacked out as if censored, as a tribute to the book’s unique contributions to discourse about censorship. George Orwell. “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” New York: Penguin, 2002. On loan from Ada Palmer.

Exhibition Dates: September 17 – December 14, 2018
Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL
Associated website: voices.uchicago.edu/censorship

Why do people censor? For ambition? Religion? Profit? Power? Fear? This global history of attempts to control or silence information, from antiquity’s earliest written records to our new digital world, examines how censorship has worked, thrived, or failed in different times and places, and shows how real censorship movements tend to be very different from the centralized, methodical, top-down censorship depicted in Orwell’s 1984, which so dominates how we imagine censorship today. From indexes of forbidden books, to manuscripts with passages inked out by Church Inquisitors, to comics and pornography, to self-censorship and the subtle censorship of manipulating translations or teaching biased histories, the banned and challenged materials in this exhibit will challenge you to answer: how do you define what is and isn’t censorship?

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Free and open to the public.

Curator

Ada Palmer, Associate Professor History, The University of Chicago

Ada Palmer is a historian and novelist, who works on transmission of radical ideas in hostile intellectual environments. She specializes in the Renaissance and Enlightenment, but also looks from antiquity to modernity for patterns in the ways societies respond to unwelcome ideas.  Her publications include work on Lucretius and atomism in the Renaissance, on revivals of Platonism, Pythagoreanism, stoicism, and heterodox ideas about the soul and afterlife, and censorship of comic books in Japan after World War II.  She is also the author of the science fiction series Terra Ignota, which imagines censorship’s evolution into the 25th century.

Related Events

A public dialogue series brings together scholars of print revolutions past and present with practitioners working on the frontiers of today’s information revolution.  Eight dialogues will unite historians, editors, novelists, poets, and activists, and will be filmed and shared online, to let the public enjoy and continue the discussions.

Sessions are open to the public, and will take place Fridays from 1:30 to 4:20 pm on the University of Chicago Campus, in Kent Room 107, on October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2, 9, 16, and 30.

Visit voices.uchicago.edu/censorship/dialogueseries/ for more information.

 

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.

For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

Postcard Collection of Colonial Korea goes live online

A teacher and his students

교사와 학생 (Kyosa wa haksaeng / A teacher and his students). Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum, Japan (1900-1906).

The Postcard Collection of Colonial Korea is now available online. This Collection includes 8,000 postcard images depicting the cultural, industrial, and technological status of Korea from the first half of the 20th century. The Collection is a valuable visual resource for Korean studies at the University and will be a significant primary source for research.

About the collection

Decoration of marriage

신부와 혼례상 (Sinbu wa hollyesang / Decoration of marriage). Busan Museum, Korea.

The Postcard Collection of Colonial Korea includes items created between 1900 and 1945 in Korea or abroad. It is organized into three sub-collections:

  • Busan Museum Collection
  • Saga Prefecture Nagoya Castle Museum Collection
  • Other images in 日本地理風俗大系 and 日本地理大系

With the introduction of photography and the ease of printing in the Western world, the popularity of photo postcards developed quickly in the late 19th century. The emergence of imperialism as a global trend led to a rapid increase in cultural curiosity about colonies which was helped with the production of postcards containing colonial landscapes. As travel became a new consumer culture for the public, buying and selling photo postcards as souvenirs became commonplace, and collecting photo postcards emerged as a new hobby.

With the Japanese advancement in Korea, images of Korea and Koreans were mass produced for Japanese photo shops and souvenir shops in the form of photo albums and postcards. The photo postcards of Korea were made in sets of eight under the name Chosŏn Customs that were continually reproduced during the colonial period. These photo postcards can be broadly classified according to the nature of the photos, such as governance and administration postcards, customs postcards, tourist postcards, and promotional postcards. Each set depicts specific content such as customs, tourism, cities, architecture, people, and statistics.

The South Great Gate in Seoul, Korea

남대문 (Namdaemun / The South Great Gate in Seoul, Korea). Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum, Japan (1933-1945).

The Collection is valuable for its visual images of the cultural, industrial and technological side of Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Also, the first entity to produce photo postcards of colonial Korea was Japan, so the image of Korea portrayed in these late-modern photo postcards is not entirely free from imperialist and colonialist views. Imperial Japan created a specific representation of Korea through selectively chosen images that were presented as a careful overall reflection of the late Chosŏn period.

Creating the online collection

Seven institutions in North America—University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, University of Michigan, Duke, University of Toronto, and UCLA—acquired a copy of the scanned images of the Collection from a South Korean publisher in 2010. The seven institutions then formed a working group and collaboratively worked on metadata development, creating Korean Romanization, verifying Chinese and Japanese characters and adding English keyword search terms for each of the 8,000 postcards.

The University of Chicago’s copy of the Collection is currently stored at the LUNA program in the Visual Resources Center.

Special thanks to Bridget Madden, Associate Director at the Visual Resources Center for handling non-roman characters for the duration of this project and to Nanju Kwon, Korea Foundation Visiting Librarian Intern (2016-2017), who reviewed and corrected each of the 8,000 entries for verification.

For more information, please contact Jee-Young Park, Korean Studies Librarian.

The Governor-General of Korea Library and other buildings

조선총독부도서관 등 (Chosŏn Ch’ongdokpu tosŏgwan / The Governor-General of Korea Library and other buildings). Busan Museum, Korea.

Library receives medals, papers of Nobel laureate James Cronin

The University of Chicago Library has received the medals and academic papers of Nobel-winning physicist James Cronin, SM’53, PhD’55, the late UChicago scientist who made defining contributions to physics and astronomical observation.

James Cronin at chalkboard

James Cronin at the chalkboard. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Cronin’s children, Emily Cronin Grothe and Daniel Cronin, donated six medals that recognize his extraordinary achievements, including the 1980 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics and the 1999 National Medal of Science. His widow, Carol Cronin, donated his professional papers, including lab reports, articles, lectures, speeches, teaching materials, correspondence and other items.

The two gifts join archival collections at the Library’s Special Collections Research Center containing the papers or medals of 20 other Nobel laureates, including UChicago-associated physicists Niels Bohr, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, James Franck, Albert A. Michelson, Yoichiro Nambu and Eugene Wigner.

Nobel Prize medal in a gloved hand

James Cronin’s Nobel Prize Medal. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. The Nobel Prize medal design mark is the registered trademark of the Nobel Foundation. (Photo by Jean Lachat)

“I am deeply grateful to the Cronin family for their invaluable gifts to the Library,” said Brenda Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian. “Making James Cronin’s papers and medals available to researchers and students not only helps us to understand the achievements of the past—it also fuels the rigorous inquiry of faculty and the transformative education we provide students. That is why the University of Chicago Library is committed to being the home of Nobel Prize winners’ research.”

Cronin earned his master’s degree and PhD in physics from UChicago in the 1950s. While conducting research in the 1960s at Brookhaven National Laboratory, he and colleague Val Fitch studied subatomic particles coming off collisions between protons and atom nuclei and found the first example of nature’s preference for matter over antimatter. It was the first observation of a mystery that had baffled scientists for decades, and the breakthrough would earn them the Nobel Prize in 1980.

This finding was later used to provide support for the Big Bang theory, explaining why the explosion would produce more matter than antimatter—leaving remnants that would eventually became stars, planets and human life.

Studying the origin of cosmic rays

Cronin joined the UChicago faculty in 1971 as University Professor of Physics. He soon shifted course to study the origin of cosmic rays: mysterious, highly energetic particles that strike the Earth from elsewhere in the cosmos. To search for them, he co-founded the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina—a massive international collaboration to build a system of giant water tanks spread over an area ten times the size of Paris. It took its first readings in 2005, and just last year discovered extragalactic origins for some of the cosmic rays that strike Earth.

James Cronin (left) with apparatus and colleagues

Photo of James Cronin (left) with apparatus and colleagues. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library.

Cronin saw himself as part of a long lineage of UChicago physicists. In 2001, he organized a symposium marking the 100th anniversary of Fermi’s birth and edited the book Fermi Remembered. Published by the University of Chicago Press in 2004, it explored the enduring significance of Fermi’s work.

“In his first year as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, Cronin studied with Enrico Fermi and developed a great respect for him,” said Daniel Meyer, director of the Special Collections Research Center. “When he was working on the Fermi centennial and publication, Cronin came to Special Collections frequently to do his own research in the Fermi papers. He examined all of Fermi’s original laboratory notebooks and located key letters and documents from Fermi’s career.”

Emily Cronin Grothe, LAB’78, said the University of Chicago Library was the right home for her father’s medals and papers.

“Our family has a long history with the University of Chicago, with my grandfather, father, mother, uncle and daughter all receiving advanced degrees from the institution,” she said. “Given that, and how proud my father was to be associated with the University and its remarkable approach and achievements in science, my brother Dan and I never wavered in our commitment to house my father’s papers and medals with The Library.”

Selected medals, awards and honors of James W. Cronin, including (left to right) the 1976 Franklin Institute John Price Wetherill Medal, the 1977 United States Department of Energy Ernest Orlando Lawrence Memorial Award Medal, the 1999 National Medal of Science, the 1999 Collège de France Service Medal, the 1980 Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, and the 1999 French Légion d’Honneur Chevalier Medal. Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library. Photo by Jean Lachat. The Nobel Prize medal design mark is the registered trademark of the Nobel Foundation.