Take Me to 1911!

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Guys, fantastic news!

The New York Public Library released 180K historic images to a digital archive, and yes, instead of braving the frigging cold of 16 degrees (as it is outside right now), you and I can peruse in our pajamas!

A 1936 pic of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg by Walker Evans. Source: NPR, via the NYPL

A 1936 pic of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg by Walker Evans. Source: NPR, via the NYPL

One very cool feature of the NYPL is this feature: A comparison of 1911 street photos with 2015 Google Street View images. You click on the button, “Take me to 1911!” This is something like an earlier feature I mentioned on the blog, here.

This is part of a move to get library archival holdings out there, and more accessible, to the general public. It’s all about getting information and educational materials OUT to people (of course, the people still have to actually READ and LOOK AT the materials themselves). The NYPL is moving and grooving with digitizing their holdings — this is a great model for other public libraries to emulate; it so appeals to the researcher-teacher in me.

I wish this were a possibility for all libraries with archives. Not to be a downer, but the reality is that it will take years for other library archives to emulate what the NYPL is doing with their holdings.

The problem: Money and time. Digitizing images and holdings takes a lot of time — and I don’t mean sitting at a scanner and digitizing the artifact.

Library archivists spend their days researching the items themselves for inclusion in their holdings (i.e., they don’t simply accept everything given to them, because they don’t have the space to store them), educating the archive’s users on how to handle materials, preserving fragile source materials from decay, assisting other researchers with searches, learning how to save historic printed artifacts from disintegrating in their hands…there’s more, but you get it.

Stetson University Archives has been moving their holdings to digital format. What's nice is that the holdings are also searchable -- a great resource. Source: Stetson University Archives

Stetson University Archives has been moving their holdings to digital format. What’s nice is that the holdings are also searchable — a great resource. Source: Stetson University Archives

Some university archives, such as Stetson University in DeLand (Emmett’s alma mater) are digitizing collections extensively, and using the opportunities to train up-and-coming archivists. For instance,my colleague Angela the Archivist has told me that this is the type of project given to students who are in archival preservation studies at Stetson.

Case-in-point: Over a year ago, I inquired if they had a specific student catalog available for when Emmett was a student there. Angela told me they did; and, they would use my request as ‘project’ to get the catalog digitized. It was assigned to an archive preservation student, and voila, it was done:  The student received academic credit, the archive got a digitized document, and I could search it to my heart’s content in my pajamas.

Win-win.

Most archives in the libraries I use do not have a large staff, nor do they have this kind of program available at their school. Some libraries barely have enough space to keep their holdings on-site.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive specific to Pensacola Hospital.

Holdings at the Provincial Archive in Emmitsburg, Maryland specific to Pensacola Hospital. These are not digitized, but it would be great if they were! It’s a long schlep from Pensacola to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border!

 

Two tables worth of research materials, when I was at the University of West Florida. About half of the artifacts I handled were in good condition. None of these artifacts are digitized.

Two tables worth of research materials, when I was at the University of West Florida. About half of the artifacts I handled were in good condition. None of these artifacts are digitized. There are boxes on the other tables that I was reading, too — these items were in fragile condition.

When your archive belongs to a small, not-nationally-renown university that does not have a bazillion dollars’ worth of endowments, lots of other things get priority for budget dollars: A new HVAC system, for instance will ace a digital scanner, (especially in Florida in August).

Even my colleagues at the National Archives here in DC can attest to the rows and rows of historic documents in the stacks that are not digitized, in fragile condition. I saw them for myself: Literally thousands of books, documents and other artifacts that are well cared-for, but you need to show up in person to see them.

This is what it looks like in the stacks, folks. I wasn't allowed to take a photo while I was in there, but it does look just like this, many rows, many rooms. Most of this is not digitized. Source: LOC

This is what it looks like in the stacks, folks. I wasn’t allowed to take a photo while I was in there, but it does look just like this, many rows, many rooms. Most of this is not digitized. Source: LOC

I’m not sure about doing all of my research in my pajamas on a regular basis — even when I show up to dig around in a dusty archive, I dress professionally (or, at least try to look the part) — but I admit that the idea is appealing, especially when the weather is frigid.

 

Emmettus Wilsonius

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If you recall, last month I had a question for Angela the Archivist at Stetson University about Emmett’s law school diploma; specifically: Was Emmett’s law school diploma in Latin?

She said she’d get back to me after she and another archivist over at the law school dug around a bit more. Angela got back to me yesterday with an update.

The answer: Most likely.

Angela said that in the digital archive, there are several actual diplomas (Bachelor of Law degrees) from the 1920s and 1930s, but they are in English. Although there are some Bachelor of Arts diplomas from the 20s and 30s in Latin, there are no diplomas from Emmett’s time.

However, the law school archivist found something very interesting from the Stetson Weekly Collegiate for April 30, 1904:

The diplomas appear to have been in Latin. Why Latinize a graduate's name and not the entire document?

The diplomas appear to have been in Latin. Why Latinize a graduate’s name and not the entire document?

With this information, I believe the diplomas WERE in Latin. Why go to the trouble to Latinize just the names and not the whole document? It wouldn’t look right. So, I’m going with the idea that Emmett’s diploma was, in fact, in Latin.

The professors identified in this article, by the way, are Edwin G. Baldwin, A.M., professor of Latin (and an avid beekeeper), and Mrs. G. Prentice Carson, instructor in domestic science. They were not Emmett’s professors. I take it these faculty members were drafted to the task.

Mrs. G. Prentice Carson is the first on the left, doing something 'domestic' in the Domestic Science Lab, basement of Flagler Hall, Stetson U. Image source: Florida Memory.com

Mrs. G. Prentice Carson is the first on the left, doing something ‘domestic’ in the Domestic Science Lab, basement of Flagler Hall, Stetson U. Image source: Florida Memory.com

I wondered what name Professors Carson and Baldwin ‘quibbled’ over? Who was the scholasticus ab difficile nomen?

Of course, the professors could have been wrestling with the name of a student graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, but just for the heck of it (and for lack of infinite free time), I focused only on Emmett’s law school graduating class. To start with, I ran the law school graduation class names through the University of Notre Dame’s English to Latin Translator.

Here’s the list of the students that graduated in 1904.

Eight students in Emmett's graduating class. Source: Stetson University Archives.

Eight students in Emmett’s graduating class. Source: Stetson University Archives.

The Latinizer’s results:

J. Hall Brumsey = J. Atrium Brumsey
James Turner Butler = James Turner Promus
William Bloxham Crawford = William Bloxham Crawford
Harold Ernest Merryday = Harold Ernest Merryday
Edward Lee Powe = Edward Faecula Powe
Nicholas G. VanSant = Nicholas G. VanSant
Emmett Wilson = Emmett Wilson
Augustus Spencer Wingood = Augustus Spencer Wingood

As you can see, the translator doesn’t work with proper nouns, unless the names were also regular words, such as ‘butler’ or ‘hall’, which has a Latin equivalent.

So, I went to a second source on translation of proper names into Latin at this site, which clarified how proper names can be translated into Latin.

For example, if you had a name that was commonly used during Roman times, such as John or Mark, your translation is relatively simple: Iohannes and Marcus.

But one of the points made in the discussion is something I’m sure Professors Carson and Baldwin were wrestling over: What if you have an unusual name like “DeShawn”? How would you translate that into Latin?

In general (according to the experts in the Latin discussion thread), the proper noun should fit into a standard Latin declension, and it is best to keep the name as close to the original language as possible (i.e., John Cusack = Iohannes Cusaccus). One of the most common treatments of this is to add -us or -ius to the end of names ending in consonants; but, there are variations to this rule. Oy. Dan Nicholson, author of Orthography of Names and Epithets: Latinization of Personal Names, explains it more at this link.

After this little research side trip into what Emmett’s law school diploma probably looked like, all I have to say is that I can see why there was some quibbling. Latinizing a proper name wasn’t always about slapping a -ius at the end; the rules could vary. This was not an easy task for Professors Baldwin and Carson. I hope they were at least compensated for the effort.

Based on this information, I believe each student’s name was Latinized, and not left alone. For instance, the Latinization of William Bloxham Crawford’s name on his diploma would have been “Willelmus Bloxhamius Crawfordius”.

For Emmett, it was likely Emmettus Wilsonius.

I would love to find Emmett’s diploma. I was secretly hoping it would turn up in Stetson’s archive. 🙂 Maybe it will still turn up.

Thanks very much to Angela and her archival colleagues duPont-Ball Library and Hand Law Library at Stetson University for their help with this question.

PS: I think the student name that Carson and Baldwin had the problem Latinizing was that of Margaretha Elisabeth Duvinage Remmers (Bachelor of Philosophy). It was not only the longest name on the diplomas given that  year, but her third name, “Duvinage,” was unique.