Fresh Classification Enhances Access to William Gedney’s Work


American photographer William Gedney is known for his documentary style images and intense night studies. He was under appreciated in his life; he taught at Pratt Institute until he was denied tenure in 1987.

Gedney’s work drew acclaim in the decades following his death in 1989. The increased interest strained the resources at the Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In 2014, a project began to remedy the stress and make the archive more meaningful and accessible.

Librarian Paula Jeannet Mangiafico guides us through the process and provides a model approach to evaluating a classification scheme in her  article “Describing a Visual Universe: (Re)building Consistent Metadata Standards for Online Photography” published in Journal of Digital Media Management. 

The Rubenstein team wanted to make the Gedney collection more useful to researchers. In assessing the 29,000-item archive, the challenges emerged (See figures 1 and 2).

  • There was little in the way of controlled vocabulary. Mangiafico offers the example of “Benares, India.” It’s part of the previous scheme’s description of some items, Benares is used rather than the Library of Congress authority file heading, “Varanasi, India.”
  • Metadata was haphazard and lacked a consistent standard. In the earlier scheme, images often didn’t include an exact size. In the description below, the image is simply, “oversized.” Exact dimensions enhanced findability.
  • Subject headings were numerous and mostly local. Over 260 subject headings were used, yet search facets were limited to date, genre (one of three) and 260 subject headings.

Old Screen

Figure 1. Before Mangiafico and her team began, descriptive information lacked a controlled vocabulary, was saddled with haphazard metadata, and too many local subject headings. (Courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. In Figure 2. (below) those issues have been resolved. (; downloaded May 10, 2018).

New Screen

The initial assessment provided a framework for the project. Various teams focused on metadata, technology, and liaising with the broader library staff.

The result is an archive that allows for a rich experience of Gedney’s work. Mangiafico writes that archivists identified evidence pointing to a proposed plan by the photographer to collect images for an automobile monograph. The new scheme means researchers can essentially uncover possible images for the never-realized project and begin to get a sense of Gedney’s fascination with cars.

Throughout the project, the teams made sure that its work would inform and enhance archival practices beyond Gedney, and they succeeded. It fits nicely within Rubenstein and Duke University Libraries. And it’s fully interoperable, so that its next iteration will be somewhat seamless.

Describing a visual universe:(Re) building consistent metadata standards for online photography collections

PJ Mangiafico – Journal of Digital Media Management, 2018 – Henry Stewart Publications.
Lead image is courtesy of the Duke University Libraries Digital Collection.

Margaret Daly LIS 653-02

Posted in Archives, Classification, Libraries, Uncategorized

Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives

Italy - Lux in Arcana - The Vatican Secret Archives Reveals Itself

The Vatican Secret Archives (VSA) collections occupy 53 linear miles of shelving dating back more than 12 centuries. The VSA is so inaccessible to scholars, few pages have been scanned and made available online and even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. A new project known as, In Codice Ratio, combines artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to analyze the Vatican manuscript and have them digitized, making it more widely available.

OCR software can be used to recognize letters in a certain alphabet, picking them out of hardcopy manuscripts, and converting them to searchable text. However, many of the Vatican’s collections are handwritten in different scripts and the noticeable lack of space between letters, making it difficult for such programs to determine the characters. In Codice Ratio has modified the OCR software so that it can identify pen strokes instead of letters. Over time, the software will improve and could easily be adapted to read texts in other languages.

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– Ann Koh, 653-01

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Posted in Archives, Uncategorized

The Prelinger Archives: The Way It Never Was

One of my favorite films is unlikely to screen at a film festival. Joan Avoids a Cold shows the stark and humiliating consequences of sharing food, open-sneezing and neglecting hand-washing. It’s among the approximately 11,000 digitized and videotape titles in The Prelinger Archives, established in 1983.

The archive,  a collection of industrial films dating from 1930s – 1970s, was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. A sizable portion is available for easy viewing on The Internet Archive.

In describing the individual items, Rick Prelinger, the creator of the archive, addressed the challenge of findability in a largely random collection. For the Library of Congress, Prelinger authored The Field Guide to Sponsored Films, a catalog of 452 films. The guide opens a window on the collection’s metadata in the guide and online in The Internet Archive. Prelinger includes descriptive, technical, and administrative metadata as seen in the two entries here.

From The Internet Archive

Ask Me_Internet Archive

From The Field Guide to Sponsored Films

Ask Me_Field Guide

Many of the films, like my favorite Joan Avoids a Cold, are oppressive in the instruction and righteousness of the cause promoted. It’s apparent, too, in Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me, instructing adults on how to tame teen gang tendencies. Additional metadata can be add by reviewers.

Margaret Daly LIS 653-02

Ask Me_Gangs

Posted in Archives, Cataloging, Classification, Preservation, Uncategorized

Say Goodbye To The Information Age: It’s All About Reputation Now

There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it. What makes this paradoxical is that the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced.

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Origgi, G. (2018, April 27). Say Goodbye To The Information Age: It’s All About Reputation Now.

—Victoria Sciancalepore, LIS-653-01

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Posted in Knowledge and Truth

The Web Archive at The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC)



The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) is comprised of the research libraries and archives of three leading museums in New York: the Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art. The stated mission of the consortium is to improve access to art-historical research materials through technology, to advance the scholarly, educational, and cultural missions of all three museums, and to provide leadership in the development of innovative information services. The consortium has a variety of initiatives or projects such as “The Gilded Age” and the Frick PhotoArchive, along with many other interesting endeavors. A particularly exciting project NYARC is undertaking is their web archive initiative. This initiative archives websites of art historical relevance through web archiving techniques, including the use of Archive-It, a tool created by the Internet Archive. The websites that are currently being archived by NYARC include, but are not limited to, the institutional websites of the museums they represent, New York galleries, artist webpages, and online auction catalogues, just to name a few.

-Genevieve Milliken, LIS 653-02

Posted in Uncategorized

Crowd-sourcing challenges to the LCSH

Cataloging Lab

As I was conducting research on alternative cataloging practices, I came across a project by Violet Fox, a librarian and cataloger in central Michigan.  Fox was inspired to develop a website aimed at crowd sourcing challenges to the notoriously static Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) following the recent efforts to replace “illegal aliens” as a subject heading.

Fox knew from her work in cataloging that many people are frustrated with the LCSH, but few outside of the profession were aware of how to challenge the system.  In the 1980s, the Library of Congress made some effort to bring more people into the fold by forming the Subject Authority Cooperative Program (SACO). This program was intended to help librarians at member institutions more easily submit changes to subject headings. However, this effort has been largely unsuccessful, as most librarians do not have the extra time or support from their institutions to engage in this work.  

So, with the intention of expanding the number of people involved in proposing changes to LCSH, Fox created the Cataloging Lab in January 2018.  Her idea is for information professionals to provide technical information about MARC and the process of submitting changes to LCSH to help empower people knowledgeable about the areas being classified suggest changes.  In encouraging non-information professionals’ involvement in the process, Fox hopes to move towards subject headings more representative of the preferred terms in the communities they attempt to describe. Once a proposed change has been thoroughly researched and justified, the person who initiated the discussion emails the change to the Library of Congress, which decides whether or not to accept it.  

As of now, the Cataloging Lab has several lively discussions around subject headings, names for people and organizations, classification numbers, and subjects specifically related to indigenous and Latin American communities.  Fox points out one example of success through this process, wherein “gender non-conforming people” was accepted by LC as a subject heading in December 2017. Still, it is hard to find when the site was last accessed, and given the amount of activity on the site it seems doubtful many people are aware of it.  Without the consistent participation of at least a small group of people, the crowdsourcing model loses any power. However, with some level of outreach about the site, it seems like collective work to challenge the LCSH could both relieve pressure on the catalogers who presently take on much of this work, as well as impress upon LC that many people want these changes to occur.

Emily Ordway, LIS 653-02



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Posted in Cataloging

Artifex Press and the Digital Catalogue Raisonné

The catalogue raisonné is a staple of the art world. Within galleries and museums, securing proof of provenance is integral in establishing a piece’s authenticity. These publications present a complete, cataloged collection of an artist’s verified output. For established, prolific artists, a complete collection of catalogues raisonnés may be over a dozen volumes long. Issues may arise if new works are found or verified after publication, and a practicing artist’s ouvre will continue to grow.

Artifax Press in New York introduces a new direction digital direction for catalogues raisonnés. These are catalogues raisonnés that may grow and change and that allow the reader, now a user, to interact with their multimedia contents. The collection is available by subscription to institutions and individuals.

Click here for an introduction to the Artifax model with Editor in Chief David Grosz

Through their affiliation with Pace Gallery, Artifax’s first publications have included notable late-career artists/ artists’ estates such as Agnes Martin and Chuck Close.



Editor Carina Evangelista introduces Chuck Close: Paintings, 1967-Present

The Artifax Press’ digital publishing is recontextualizing the catalogue raisonné tradition.


—Kristen Watson, LIS-653-01



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Posted in Archives, Books, Born Digital, Cataloging, Museums

Empty Apartments is a collaborative project between Angeles Cossio and Jeff Thompson, two practicing artists. The pair conceptualized the image collection when skimming Craigslist for apartments for rent. While browsing, both artists recognized interesting (often baffling) visual similarities in the photographs used for the do-it-yourself listings. The photos fell into one of two categories: the amateur photograph, often consisting of obscure angles, reflections, and bad lighting, and the professional photograph, which describes the well-lit spaces with wide-angle and post-processed views.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 9.01.20 PM.png

Cossio and Thompson put together a plan to collect, organize, and re-present these images using computer code and AI. The code, penned by Thompson, scraped Craigslist for all images of apartments for rent on May 20, 2016. The AI then grouped all of the images into a 4D cloud (I’m still struggling with what that means). After reformatting, the “approximately 125,000 photographs” of “Empty Apartments” can be explored as an extensive grid.  (

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 9.01.50 PM

“Empty Apartments” is a fascinating exercise in presenting banal information within a new organizational framework to create something entirely new (and fascinating). While the project comments on artifice, patterns, and the vernacular, it exists as an artifact itself.


— Kristen Watson, LIS 653-01

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Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Research Projects

Joy Reid and the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive Trashes Joy Reid’s Dubious Claim That Hackers Made Her Look Homophobic

While the particulars of this story are convoluted and somewhat baffling, the basics are this: Joy Reid is a host on MSNBC. A decade ago, she was a morning talk show host in south Florida with a political blog called The Reid Report. Over the course of the now-defunct blog’s history, Reid wrote numerous articles filled with homophobic slurs aimed at Florida politicians such as former governor Charlie Crist. In November 2017, a Twitter user brought these hateful and derogatory posts to light, utilizing the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine as proof. Days later, Reid apologized for what she called “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb” posts. She apologized to Crist, who accepted her apology, and defended herself as not homophobic.

However, this past Monday (April 23rd) the same Twitter user posted even more examples of Reid’s homophobic blog posts. More than (admittedly hateful) name calling of politicians on a political blog, these new posts: defended former NBA star Tim Hardaway for saying he hates “gay people”; speculated about which celebrities might be closeted homosexuals; endorsed the old and insidious stereotype that gay men are predators and pedophiles; and posed the question “if you could manipulate the genes of your unborn child to assure that he or she would not be gay, would you?”.

In contrast to last November, however, Reid now claims that an “unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog,” fabricating “offensive and hateful references” in an “an effort to taint my character with false information.” It’s unclear why Reid would now categorically denies writing any of the same kind of material she already apologized (and received forgiveness for) back in November.

However, what makes this a story with a valuable connection to knowledge organization is how it highlights the importance of metadata and how material from the internet is saved and documented. To that end, the Internet Archive wrote a blog post refuting Joy Reid’s claims. After reviewing their archives, they “found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions” of Reid’s blog posts. In fact, they stated that the examples of “allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us [by Reid] had been archived at different dates and by different entities.”

Who knows how this bizarre, confusing situation will play out. However, it’s encouraging to see how digital preservation and archiving, done properly, can be used to hold people to account for such actions.

Theo Walther, LIS 653-02

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Posted in Archives, Preservation

by Hugh McLeod

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