Pulling Teeth


In the medical section of our rare books collection is a wonderful little book titled The Illustrated Practical Mesmerist, Curative and Scientific, 3rd edition by William Davey.

On the hunt to create a spooky gif, our student worker, Chad, found this great illustration. Despite being Mesmerized, the patient did feel a bit of pain.


KTRU Tuesdays: Moral Majority and Politics

In our continuing coverage of elections of yore, this October 31, 1980 KTRU clip comes from the radio show, “To the Point.” Thad Pugh interviews Dr. Niels Nielsen about the rise of the moral majority and its effect on politics in 1980.

If you have an interest in this topic, we have a few collections, including the William Martin Religious Right research collection and One Nation Under God? film project interviews and research materials.

Image from: Rice University Photograph Files, 1910-2015, UA 363, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

Memorabilia Monday: Metal Etchings


Among the many items in the vault, there are two metal etchings. Printers used the etchings to create service appreciation certificates. It seems like we only have two out of the three or more pieces.



Wikipedia has a great step by step image of the printing process.

Taking Care of Digital Collections

Last week we covered how we take care of physical collections. This week we’re moving onto digital items and collections.

There are three different scenarios for dealing with digital collections: donors donate analog media that we digitize; donors send us digital files via the internet; donors send us digital files on older media. Let’s explore how we handle each of these scenarios.

Scenario 1: Donors donate analog media that we decide to digitize.


As noted in last week’s post, we take note of the different types of media in a collection. If we find analog items (VHS, reel-to-reel audio, reel-to-reel film, BETA, etc,), then we decide if they are candidates for digitization. If they are, depending on the media type, we either digitize them in-house or send the items to a company like The Media Preserve or Scene Savers.

After the media has been digitized, we follow some standard in-house digital preservation steps.*

  1. We keep high quality master files (.wav, .avi) and lower quality access copies (.mp3, .mp4) that patrons might use.
  2. If possible, we embed metadata in the files. Basically, when you write information on the back of a photograph, you are adding metadata to it. We do something similar, but the metadata is inside the digital file.
  3. We run a variety of reports on these files to extract information from them, like a video’s running time, type of file, creation date, etc.
  4. We bundle up that information in a grouping of folders/files called an AIP (archival information packet). We create two aips: one for the masters and another for the access copies.
  5. We save them on a secure server.

*Note: This is a bird’s eye view of what we do. These steps are much more involved than what you read here.

Scenario 2: Donors send us digital files via the internet.


We receive digital files via email, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

  1. For items donated in this way, we generally save the donation as it was submitted.
  2. We make a copy of the files and start to process them.
    1. For some files, we might need to convert them to a stable format. For example, Microsoft updates Word and sometimes older files can no longer be read. We would convert a Word file to a .pdf, which won’t have readability issues in a few years.
    2. We will look at all of the files and look for duplicates and files that are not relevant to the collection. We will delete these files.
    3. If needed, we organize digital files into folders.
    4. We might also give them new names. A folder filled with .jpgs with the name DSC####, we might give it the name “Paris” + a sequential number. If the photographs are of a trip to Paris, then the file name is a bit more descriptive and the sequential number helps keep them more organized.
    5. After everything is organized we move on to following our steps in scenario 1.

Scenario 3: Donors send us digital files on older media.


When we receive collections, there might be digital files on CDs, thumb drives, hard drives, DVDs, floppy disks, Zip disks, etc. All of these media are fragile and the files on them can become corrupted over time. With these items, we follow another workflow. If there’s a kink in this one, which happens from time to time, then we follow our workflows above.

  1. We use our BitCurator machine to look at the files on the piece of media. This means plugging our floppy disk reader into the computer and placing a floppy disk from the collection in the reader.
  2. If the floppy disk still works, then we create a disk image of the files. Basically, it creates a copy of the files and puts them in a wrapper to protect them for the long term.
  3.  We run reports on the files via BitCurator. These reports are similar to ones run in Scenario 1, but they provide a bit more information.
  4. After that, we make another copy of the files**, and then process them the same way as in Scenario 1 and 2.

**It should be noted that if a floppy disk contains a few Word files that could easily be printed out and added to the physical collection, then we will do that. In that case, from a time perspective, it doesn’t make sense for us to follow digital preservation steps.

We hope all of that makes sense and gives you a better sense of what we do behind the scenes. As with anything digital, over time our workflow will be tweaked and new digital preservation software might come on the scene to make this easier. Digital preservation steps vary institution to institution based on what kinds of software they have and what workflows they have established.

KTRU Tuesdays: Too Early to Call

In the early hours of KTRU’s 1976 election night coverage, Stan Barber, Dr. Gilbert Cuthbertson (Doc C), Joel Laser, and David Butler attempted to interpret the voting returns at Rice. Ultimately, the voting at Rice did not reflect the sentiment of the rest of Texas (Carter won by 51.14% of the vote). He did lose in Harris County, though.

Images from: The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 64, No. 16, Ed. 1 Monday, November 1, 1976

Memorabilia Monday: Dance Tickets


Two couples at the annual Archi-Arts ball, Rice Institute, 1931

Based on all of our dance cards/brochures, it seems like the tradition of recording dance partners’ names in a book started to fade in the early 1930s.

Students replaced the dance cards with brochures without a dance card page, decorative tickets, and even some early fliers. Below are examples of some 1930s era tickets.


This ticket corresponds to the students in the above photo.



Images from: Rice University Memorabilia Collection, UA 225, Box 27, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Taking Care of Physical Collections


In honor of Ask an Archivist day, we wanted to give you a step by step of how we handle the donation of a physical collection. Now, some collections contain both physical and digital items, but we can handle the more complicated digital donations next week.

Step 1: Get a deed of gift

The donor signs a legal form that transfers ownership to the institution. Within the document, the donor can provide an inventory and show how much copyright control s/he wants to keep.

Why do we do this? It proves that the owner wanted to transfer the materials.

Step 2: Immediately rebox

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We transfer the papers/items into acid-free boxes. Over the years, we have received items kept in acidic boxes and even a mothballed suitcase. Moving these items to an acid-free box ensures that the items will not degrade further and/or bring paper-eating insects into our department.

Step 3: Ascertain what is in the collection

To understand the collection, we need to know what is in it. We spend a bit of time looking through the boxes. We need to know the different formats (paper, photographs, negatives, audio, video, memorabilia). We also check out the condition of everything. For example, is there water damage? Is there rust? Are there any silver fish? This helps us determine what supplies we need, what might need extra attention, and a rough idea of how to organize it.

Step 4: Process the collection


This is when we organize and preserve the collection. Here are a few of the things that we do during the most time-consuming part of this process.


– Remove rubberbands, paper clips, rusty staples.

– Unfold paper.

– Weed the collection of multiple copies, tax information, or items not related to the focus of the collection.

– Place like-minded items in acid-free folders — or, if already well-organized, transfer into an acid-free folder.

– Label the folders.


– Organize photographs.

– Place in protective mylar sleeves if needed, or in acid-free envelopes.

– Place slides and negatives in media-specific mylar sleeves.


-Ascertain if the audio and video are good candidates for digitization. Then, move forward with a digital preservation workflow.


-This requires a digital preservation workflow, which we will address next week.

Step 5: Organize the folders

We organize them into “Series” — in other words, categories. The series can be organized by subject, date, or type of media. Folders within each series can be organized alphabetically by title or subject or arranged chronologically. It depends on the collection and the archivist.

Step 6: Create a finding aid

Now that everything is organized in boxes, we create an inventory down to the folder level. Then, we write other information that spells out if there are any restrictions, who donated it, citation information, among other information, and most importantly a biographical/historical note. All of this information comprises the finding aid. We place our finding aids online, so people can find the our collections.

We use two online platforms to present our findings aids: one is through Texas Archival Resources Online and the other is ArchivesSpace, which is still in Beta testing for us.

Below is what a finding aid looks like in ArchivesSpace.

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That’s our process. Other institutions might have different workflows, but most archival institutions follow the same process for handling physical materials.

KTRU Tuesdays: 1971 Mayoral Election

It’s the last month before the elections. For the next month, KTRU Tuesdays will be reflecting on elections of yore.

This week we’ll look at KTRU’s coverage of the December 7th mayoral runoff  between incumbent Mayor Louie Welch and challenger Fred Hofheinz, as well as voting issues before and during election.

This audio comes from the fall 1971 News Master. There aren’t any introductions to these audio clips, so below is a list. If you recognize any of the voices, please let us know.

(00:01:) Mayor Louie Welch assessment; (00:24) Fred Hofheinz mayoral election prediction; (01:16) Mayoral election prediction; (02:15) Electioneering by precinct judge; (02:38) Fred Hofheinz – fresh look at city hall; (03:10) Election shuttle; (03:56) Students primarily not radicals; (04:33) Conservative voting turnout; (04:54) Complacency reducing voter turnout; (05:15) Mayor Louie Welch angers black community; (05:40) Fred Hofheinz on Mayor Louie Welch’s treatment of black neighborhoods; (06:20) Fred Hofheinz vote for change; (06:54) Problems of younger people voting at precincts.

Image above of Fred Hofheinz from The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 59, No. 8, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 28, 1971.

Memorabilia Monday: Engineers’ Dance Card



We have a whole box in the memorabilia collection filled with dance cards. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring some.

This dance card is unique among the lot. Because of the type of dance, the organizers created a slide rule. The individual dances even play with engineering jargon, “D-Valve Slide” and “Armature Slip.”

Here’s the slide rule in action.


As these things sometimes go, I looked up the name of the donor, which was Florence Powars who went on to marry Fred Stancliff. If you notice, he got a lot of dances on November 10th.

If you want to read more about the romance between Florence and Fred, please see this website created by their granddaughter.

Liberty Hall Oral Histories Online


Back in June, we conducted oral histories with Ryan Trimble and Lynda Herrera, two of the co-owners of Liberty Hall. While this is just the first step in putting these videos online, we’re happy that we made it to this point.

Please enjoy and learn a bit more about Houston’s historic music venue.

Also, thank you to Claire Weddle for your wonderful editing.

Image from: Liberty Hall collection, 1971-1978, MS 658, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University

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