The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Wikipedia
Hidden in Plain Sight: Reading Between the Lines with the Smithsonian Transcription Center Volunteers
The Smithsonian Transcription Center volunteers have been busy unlocking the hidden stories from the Smithsonian's collections - including the women in science hiding in plain sight in these digitized pages. From amateur collectors to seasoned gardeners, women made valuable contributions to the Smithsonian's collections. Here's what we're learning and doing together with their information.
Last July, I shared some of the progress of volunteers and their growth as a community. The highlights? Over 450 volunteers transcribed 13,412 pages including 46 different Archives projects. Since then, we have grown our community to over 4,500 volunteers and the completed text of 66,598 pages can now be indexed. This remarkable growth includes 247 completed Archives projects as well.
Updated statistics: Over 450 volunteers at that point had transcribed 46 different Archives projects. That was part of the total 956 volunteers who had completed 13,412 pages by July 2014. Since then, 2,147 volunteers have helped wrap up a whopping 247 Archives projects! The community has grown to over 4,700 volunteers total; they have worked together to completely transcribe and review 67,205 pages - to make searchable text in Smithsonian's Collections Search Center.
Through mysteries, connections, and achievements, the Archives continue to recognize the women in science in their collections. The Archives also shares field notes and books in the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where we have fully transcribed field notes and photo albums from women scientists including Doris Cochran, Cléofe Caldéron, Florence Bailey, and Mary Agnes Chase. Volunteers - whom we call #volunpeers - have also been able to identify at least 25 women who contributed specimens and were recorded in field notes by Joseph Nelson Rose.
Rose was a botanist with the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Smithsonian Institution; his work was prolific and highlighted his great commitment to botanical work and cooperative discovery. How fitting that by transcribing his detailed notes, volunpeers would open a window: private citizens and researchers alike sharing specimens with the Smithsonian Institution. Many of the women in science we've uncovered in the pages were involved in science with informal work or non-institutional roles. The collectors in Rose's pages were professional botanists, and collecting sisters, wives, and amateurs.
In addition to notes on women cultivating botanical collections, we also see women in science in the entomological specimens labels and botanical specimens sheets that volunpeers transcribe. One challenge emerges: what can we do with the knowledge that emerges from the digitized pages? How can we acknowledge the effort of all of the collectors and honor the work of volunteers?
As Smithsonian staff begin to incorporate that information into official records and institutional narrative, we can discuss the challenges openly - in Google Hangouts, blogposts, and social media. By working with volunpeers and others, we might open the problem to group solutions. We can also acknowledge the scientific work in spaces like Wikipedia where challenges remain with representation of women. In this way, the knowledge generated from the Archives' and other Smithsonian collections can be shared with the public. As we approach Women's History Month, we have another opportunity to connect the women in science in these pages to the body of knowledge held at the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the energy of Wikipedia editors.
You can let science talk and help the stories of these women unfold in two ways: by joining the Archives in a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on March 27, 10:00-4:00 pm EST. Here is the running list of women from Joseph Nelson Rose’s field notes:
Women Without Wikipedia Representation
- Wilmatte Porter Cockerell
- Helen S. Conant
- Grace M. Cole
- Mrs. Anna W Kidder
- Miss Jesse P Rose
- Ruth C. Ross
- Miss Gertrude Sinscheimer
- Sister Mary Regina of St. Mary’s Convent (NY)
- Elsie McElroy Slater
- Mrs. Florence A Standley
- Miss Nellie Standley
- Miss V. Tasker of Pennsylvania
- Miss F. N. Vasey
- Mrs. Irene Vera
Women With Articles in Wikipedia
Women Currently Identified by Names Other Than Their Own
- Mrs. Charles Bly
- Mrs. D. D. Gaillard
- Lady Hanbury
- Mrs. Dan Hansen
- Mrs. Eugene A Harris
- Mrs. S. L. Pattison
- Mrs. L. L. Roller
- Mrs. G. M. Wolfe
Or you can share your passion for Smithsonian collections by transcribing with other volunpeers in the Transcription Center.
Join us online on Tuesday, March 18th, from 3-6pm EST for our second Wikipedia edit-a-thon focused on women in science. Our goal is to increase the representation of women on Wikipedia. There are several important women scientists who to date have no Wikipedia page. Take for example, Dr. Christine Jones Forman, Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian's Center for Astrophysics whose research focuses on the structure and growth of clusters of galaxies and feedback from supermassive black holes in galaxies and clusters. She is the group leader for Chandra calibration, vice president of the American Astronomical Society and the president of Division XI Investigator for the Center for Astrophysics Research Experiences for Undergraduates. Incredible, right? But, no English Wikipedia page.
If you join us as an online participant, you will have access to a live stream of a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archives with Head Reference Archivist, Ellen Alers, as well as a discussion on the portrayal of women in the media by Archives' research fellow, Marcel LaFollette. LaFollette is the author of Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Television and Science on American Television: A History.Here is a WIKIPRES.pdf by LaFollette.
In conjunction with the Archives' "Women in Science Wednesday" series, one of my responsibilities this summer was to make sure that women featured on the Archives' Facebook page were also represented on Wikipedia, either through beefing up existing wiki pages or creating pages from scratch. Often times, women in our Science Service collection (Accession 90-105) are only identified on the web and on Wikipedia by name and notable accomplishments, and that's it. (Some exceptions include writer Betty Freiden and pilot Jacqueline Cochran who already have pretty extensive wiki pages.)
For example, Josephine G. Fountain was the inventor – the inventor! – of the direct suction tracheotomy tube and holds it patent – its patent! – yet there is no mention of her on the tracheotomy tube's wiki page nor is there any substantial information on Fountain through a basic internet search (including her background or birthdate). What happened to make Fountain’s accomplishments basically disappear – especially since the trach tube is something used in hospitals every day?
Frederica de Laguna, on the other hand, was much easier to research. Although she is identified in the photograph on the left and featured on collaborator Kaj Birket-Smith's wiki, her own page wasn't linked from it - and was so under-promoted that I actually created a new page before realizing a page already existed. Why does information for de Laguna exist where none does for Fountain and other female scientists like Jane Blankenship, Kathleen Beyer, or Matilda Moldenhauer Brooks? Both de Laguna and Brooks published. Brooks discovered the antidote to carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning; like Fountain, she's responsible for something still in use today. Beyer discovered that plants contain sex chromosomes. And Blankenship was a spectroscopist in an era when women in science was rare. All of these accomplishments are notable and interesting – but these women are almost totally absent from the web.
While I found my (lack of) online discoveries incredibly disappointing, there were also a few cases when doing a simple web search actually did prove beneficial. A previous Archives intern, Mary Tressider, made a webpage on five women in science – Jane Stafford, Marjorie Van de Water, Frances Densmore, Emma Reh, and Marjorie MacDill Breit – which helped me add invaluable information to the wikis of both Stafford and Reh. Also, searching for Mary Blade led me to two unlikely sources: a tumblr entry by Blade's grand nephew and a design blog, both of which featured posts on Blade's involvement with a 1978 book on chair design and ergodynamics – and included some great pictures of Blade posing!
Although it's not surprising that wiki pages sometimes don't exist for science professionals (or else don't expound on one's professional career), it's still more common for women science professionals to suffer these consequences over men doing the same work. Part of the need for (and appeal of) the Archives' "Women in Science" campaign is to highlight the many varied and fascinating accomplishments women make to scientific disciplines. And the beauty of the web (especially a website like Wikipedia that is explicitly reliant on user-generated content) is that it allows anyone the ability to contribute information and ensure these great women get the same exposure and recognition on social communities as their male counterparts
- Meet Sarah Stierch: The Archives’ Wikipedian in Residence, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Women and Science at Science Service, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- This past week the Nationa Postal Museum celebrated its 20th Anniversary. [via Pushing the Envelope, NPM]
- Out and about this weekend? If you happen to be in Winchester, Virginia stop by the Cat Tail Run School for Bookbinding Arts to learn about how books are made and how to preserve them. [via Washington Post]
- The Library of Congress holds many rare books, of particular interest to some may be Otieno, by Barack H. Obama, President Obama's father. [via Library of Congress blog]
- The Wikipedia edit-a-thons continue, this one was at the Smithsonia American Art Museum. [via The New York Times]
- This past week the National Archives released the 2012 Records Management Self-Assessment (4th annual) report which presents the results of the annual records management self-assessment (RMSA) taken by Federal agencies. [via InfoDocket]
- A couple of projects work checking out: Chicago Collections Consortium and Exploring the Vilnius Ghetto: A Digital Monument. [via Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig and Jennifer Wright]
- Not just a car guy, Chris Wilson at the National Museum of American History, shares about a lesser known side of Henry Ford. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- Staff at the National Zoological Park are on watch as female giant panda Mei Xiang may be pregnant. [via National Zoological Park]
- As born digital media continues to make up more of what archives collect, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group at the Library of Congress, has awarded its inaugural set of awards to recognize innovative work in digital preservation. Here is an interview with one of its awardees, Bradley Daigle, Director of Digital Curation Services and Digital Strategist for Special Collections at the University of Virginia. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- The future of data storage? DNA? [via ExtremeTech and Carl Schaefer, SIA]
- Congratulations to the Field Book Project for reaching 6000 catalogued field books! [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Also from the Field Book Project, SIA's own Tammy Peters discusses the developing archival standard, EAC-CPF, which primarily addresses the description of individuals, families and corporate bodies that create and/or are associated with records in a variety of ways. [via Field Book Project Blog]
- Sometimes we can lose our purpose among the rules we set up. Case in point, the difficulties author Philip Roth ran into when trying to update a Wikipedia article about one of the books he wrote. [via InfoDocket]
- More often than not, when processing the personal papers of an individual, archivists come to a better understanding of that person than what is more widely known by the public. Such was the case for an intern at the New York Public Library while processing the papers of Timothy Leary. [via NYPL]
- Open Data - Europeana announces the release of its cultural dataset of some 20 million cultural objects under the CC0 public domain license. [via InfoDocket]
- An exciting oral history project coming out of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library, the Speaking of Dancing Project is composed of a series of interviews with prominent figures in the field that explores the role of interpretation in dancing. [via NYPL]
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