The Creation of the Challenger Collection, Pt. 3

This is the last of a three part series describing the creation of the Challenger collection, a project to digitize and make available primary source materials related to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.

The collection can be accessed here.

 

The final step in creating the Challenger collection was to upload the material to the repository.  We first needed to create the appropriate structures on the repository to hold the material.  Each type of material required a slightly different structure.  Once the structures were created we began to make the material available to the public.

Our repository is hierarchical.  The Challenger collection is under the larger heading of “Centers” (for the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Challenger Center for Education and Teaching Excellence.  Other headings include, for example, the Henry Whittemore Library, and the Academic Affairs Office.  The Challenger collections itself is broken down into two categories, called series.  We created one series for the images and one series for everything else, which we titled “Documents”.  The Document series was further broken down into three series: Correspondence, Ephemera, and Reports.

There were two methods to upload the items to the repository: individual or batch.  Individual uploading involved fewer steps but was more time consuming.  We chose this method for the correspondence, of which there were three, and the governmental reports, of which there were two.  The second method, a batch upload, allowed for multiple items to be sent to the repository at once, but required more steps.  The first step was to store the material where it could be downloaded to the repository (in contrast to the individual method, where the material could be uploaded directly, the batch-uploaded material needed to be hosted elsewhere.  We chose Dropbox for this purpose).  The next step was to download a spreadsheet specifically created for the task of a batch-upload, populate it appropriately, and re-upload the spreadsheet to the repository.  If all was done correctly a confirmation email would arrive once the material was successfully sent to the repository.

In order to make sure the material is findable to the public, we had to ensure the correct metadata was associated with each item.  Unfortunately the batch-upload method was not very efficient for doing this.  While the batch-upload spreadsheet contained cells for metadata, with larger sets of files it became difficult to associate the correct metadata with each file.  For this reason we chose to individually add the appropriate metadata to each batch-uploaded item after it had been posted to the repository.  The process of adding metadata was time consuming but indispensable to a functioning repository.

 

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Humans (not robots) digitize newspapers

Here at the library’s Digital Commons team, we are building a digital version of The Gatepost student newspaper collection. (The print version lives in our Archives and Special Collections, as always.)

Doesn’t Google do that?

No. Actually, humans put newspapers on the internet. Sure, we use computers and cameras, and lots of software tools. But overall, the process of digitization is more manual than automatic. It involves a lot of planning and prioritizing as a team.

Human eyeballs, hands, and good judgement are required every step of the way.

Essentially, we are stitching together searchable PDF documents of each issue from hundreds of scanned images, organizing them, adding background information, and finally serving documents up on the internet, such that Google can crawl and index them, and users can find what they want.

We will publish the finished product on our repository website, DigitalCommons@Framingham, so that anyone can search the FSU student newspaper back issues for names and events of the past. We plan to roll out a decade or two of the paper at a time: the Thirties, the Forties, etc. For each volume, we will highlight some notable campus events, personalities, or artwork on the website so that the high points don’t get lost among the dozens of issues.

 

What’s the benefit of digitizing newspapers?

We can never quite anticipate who might find our treasures useful, but we believe that open access to our collections will enrich intellectual and artistic work of the future. It’s vital for us to share the collection to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in the content.  I hope that the digital newspaper archives will be valuable to all sorts of users.

Possible users of the collection:

  • Explorers of the history of journalism, teacher education, and 20th century collegiate life
  • Nostalgia-seekers
  • Current campus group officers who want to read up on the group’s past adventures, successes, and follies
  • Genealogists and descendants of Framingham community members

 

We look forward to sharing our history with you! We will keep you updated with more Gatepost digitization news as it happens.

 

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Remembering Challenger: 30 Years (and 73 Seconds) Later – The Christa McAuliffe Collection at Framingham State University

In 1984, when Ronald Regan announced that the first citizen to go to space would be “one of America’s finest: a teacher,” Christa McAuliffe was teaching social studies at Concord High School. She was one of the 11,500 applicants reviewed by NASA, but after rigorous tests and examinations, she was chosen to be the first teacher to fly into space.

On her application to NASA Christa wrote, “I watched the Space Age begin and I would like to participate.” With a teacher making the journey into space, NASA hoped to revive public interest in the space program, an interest that had never faded from Christa’s own thoughts. Space-bound and ready to teach the first lessons from the skies, Christa was an example for teachers, children, and hopeful dreamers all across the United States.

Christa’s passion continues to be an inspiration to incoming students at FSU, not only those attending the University, many with the hope of becoming teachers in the future, but also the visitors who stop by to experience the possibilities of space travel and the thrills of science at the Christa McAuliffe Center

Here at Framingham State University, the Christa McAuliffe collection in the Archives and Special Collections, donated by Christa’s mother, Grace Corrigan, also remains a great source of motivation for students and researchers.

The majority of the collection features photographs and a large number of personal letters; many of these letters were written to the family of Christa McAuliffe with thoughts of sympathy and concern following the 1986 Space Challenger tragedy. The collection also features information collected from the McAuliffe center regarding the work they have been conducting for the past 21 years.

A few other letters amongst the collection were written by Christa herself; in one such letter, a young Christa writes about a visit to the Boston Museum of Science. The highlight of this trip involved a show at the planetarium; as the lights went off, “suddenly the stars and the moon came out.” With her eyes turned skyward, Christa was ready for adventures in space.

The McAuliffe Center, dedicated to keeping Christa’s memory and goals alive, as well as the collection here at FSU, reveal the immediate and lasting impact of Christa’s passionate dedication to teaching and lifelong learning. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Space Challenger disaster this week, and celebrate Christa’s personal goals driven by her own message that “we all have to dream,” we learn by her example that there are greater possibilities made by taking risks and looking forward.

Written by Rebecca Waitt
English Intern 2016

 

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The Creation of the Challenger Collection, Pt. 1

This is the first of a three part series describing the creation of the Challenger collection, a project to digitize and make available primary source materials related to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.

The collection can be accessed here.

 

The process of creating any collection begins with curation.  In the case of the Challenger collection most of the heavy lifting had been done for us already.  Because Christa McAuliffe is an alumna of Framingham State our archives and special collections departments have a trove of primary source materials relating to many aspects of her life.  Our goal is to create a collection that focuses specifically on the Challenger disaster and the lives of the astronauts involved.  We are in a fortunate position to have the physical materials concerning Christa already processed and cataloged.  Our first step was to select which material we planned to digitize for inclusion in our collection.

We combed through the hundreds of photographs in the library’s collection, selecting 53 images appropriate for our project.  We eliminated photographs for a number of reasons, such as poor quality or the inclusion of a visually similar image.  We also eliminated photographs due to ethical considerations; for example, we did not think it appropriate to include images of the explosion itself, or of the wreckage salvaged during the recovery process.

In addition to photographs we also have a large collection of ephemera related to Christa’s training and the launch.  We’ve chosen to include parking passes, press kits, personal guest lists, as well as three personal letters written by Christa while she was training at the Johnson Space Center.  The selection process for these materials was straightforward as most of the items pertained directly to the launch.  We selected only the letters Christa wrote while training.

The final items we’ve chosen to include in the collection are two congressional reports written about the Challenger.  The first report was published by the Senate Committee on Science and Technology on June 9, 1986 and is commonly referred to as the Rogers Commission Report.  The second report, Investigation of the Challenger Accident was published by the House of Representatives on October 26, 1986, and is a detailed investigation into the cause of the accident.  As both of these reports were published by the U.S. government they are in the public domain.

With the items for the collection selected we turned to the process of digitization.

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The Creation of the Challenger Collection, Pt. 2

This is the second of a three part series describing the creation of the Challenger collection, a project to digitize and make available primary source materials related to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.

The collection can be accessed here.

 

Once the items were selected for the collection our attention turned to the digitization process.  Because we had selected such disparate material we had to adopt a number of different strategies to ensure the items were digitized properly.

The most straight-forward items to digitize were the photographs.  They fit neatly on our scanner and transferred well to the electronic medium.  Scanners are in essence made for digitizing photographs, so the process presented few problems.  We chose to scan the photographs at the highest resolution our scanner allows.  This gave us the most freedom to manipulate the image if need be, with the trade-off of increased file size.  Since our collection is relatively small the larger file size was not a problem.  The letters and other more or less standard textual material (press-kits and applications) were similarly easy to digitize.  We chose to render these items at a slightly lower resolution as we saw no significant difference in quality between highest and medium resolutions.  Again the scanner was essentially made for these types of items.

The ephemera — that is, those items which did not readily fit into any other category — were slightly more difficult to digitize.  One item — a bright orange parking pass meant to be left on the dashboard of a vehicle parking at the launch site — was larger than a standard 8” x 11” sheet of paper.  It took a few tries to get the coloring to render faithfully for the digitized version.  Other items underwent a similar trial-and-error process before we were satisfied with the result.

The item that gave the most trouble was a governmental report.  It was a 438 page book that could not be pressed flat enough to be scanned on the flatbed scanner we’d used for the photographs and other items.  In order scan the report we had to use a standing scanner.  The book was laid flat and the scanner lens was positioned over it in such a way as to capture the page as a JPEG.  The page was turned and the next page captured.  In order to save time — and so the book could remain roughly in the same place — the odd pages were scanned first.  The book was then flipped and the even pages were scanned starting at the back of the book.  The pages were then converted to PDFs and oddities — such as a slightly rotated page — were corrected.  A few pages required rescanning.  Once all pages were acceptable they were combined in the correct order into a single file.

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Open Access II: Consider a Move to Open Course Content

By Justin Daras

As a faculty member, it is likely that the cost of textbooks is on your mind when planning your next class. However, the prices students are paying may be higher than you think—leading to academic disengagement and potentially poor learning outcomes.

Inside Higher Ed reported on a 2014 poll that found that 65% of students have forgone purchasing a textbook due to price, and 94% of them “were concerned that their grade would suffer because of it.”[1]

Another 48 percent of students said the cost of textbooks affected how many and which classes they took each semester. At the same time, 82 percent of students said free online access to a textbook (with the option of buying a hard copy) would help them do “significantly better” in a course.[2]

One estimate puts the increase in textbook prices between the years 1978–2014 at 945%, outpacing both the Consumer Price Index (262%), and the cost of medical care (604%) during the same period.[3] In 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an estimate that students “typically [spend] between $600 to $1,200 a year” on textbooks.[4]  The College Board’s Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets for 2015-2016 puts the total cost of books and supplies for students in public colleges at $1,298 for the entire academic year,[5] suggesting that textbook prices are not going down any time soon.

At this point, you might be asking yourself “What can I do?” At the individual level, faculty have few levers to pull with publishers. You cannot prevent them from revising even the most basic texts every year or two; from including single-use electronic content that hinders the reusability of texts; or from simply raising prices yearly at a rate that students are forced to fold into their student loans, and end up paying off over 10 years. The best signal faculty can send to textbook publishers is to stop expecting students to buy textbooks in the first place.

Two major efforts are working to bypass the financial barriers posed by the reliance on commercial textbooks for course content. First, there is the open textbook movement, now sometimes referred to as Open Textbooks 2.0. Open textbooks once had a reputation of being the projects of individual authors, tailored to specific institutions, and even classes—making appropriation time-consuming for faculty hoping for an overlap between the books and their own syllabi.

The contemporary model of open textbooks is collaborative, peer reviewed, and designed to directly substitute for the commercial textbooks traditionally assigned by instructors. Both OpenStax College and The Open Textbook Library are sources of the open textbooks many faculty are using in their classes today. There is significant academic leadership and funding behind these efforts. For example, OpenStax is a product of Rice University, and is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Open Textbook library is a network of universities and libraries that includes the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Temple University.

Second, faculty should be aware of Open Educational Resources (OER), which are freely available digital course content. Open educational resources include OpenStax CNX (Rice University), OER Commons, and Merlot (peer-reviewed). These OER collections include individual webpages, learning exercises, interactive mini-sessions and simulations, and even full university courses from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All are free to use for students and teachers.

As the curator of the university’s physical and digital collections, the Henry Whittemore Library is uniquely suited to helping faculty and departments:

  • Search for and evaluate open textbooks and OER
  • Examine the library’s digital and print collections and integrate them into Blackboard and reserves/e-reserves collections
  • Work with faculty who want to develop their own open textbooks

Commercial textbooks will likely always exist, and publishers can bring to bear a lot of resources to develop content suitable for the university classroom. But, at what price? Open educational content, written by faculty, and peer-reviewed by faculty, puts subject material into your hands to use as you see fit—and into students’ hands without regard to their ability to pay. Open educational content may not be a fit for the course you are designing today, but it can be next semester.

[1] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/28/textbook-prices-still-crippling-students-report-says

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.aei.org/publication/the-new-era-of-the-400-college-textbook-which-is-part-of-the-unsustainable-higher-education-bubble/ Cited in: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/08/04/era-400-college-textbook-affordability-initiatives-take-utilitarian-approach

[4] http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-tough-lesson-for-college-textbook-publishers-1409182139

[5] http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-estimated-undergraduate-budgets-2015-16

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Good luck on your finals and papers!

The library wishes you the best and if you need our assistance please do not hesitate to ask what we can do to help you succeed.

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