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Month Five Recap: Increments and Jumps

Feels like the clock is ticking faster and faster. Month five hallmarked a few significant accomplishments, small changes and challenges, and a huge gain: Nick Allred, who has been working on this project in various ways since 2015 is able to dedicate more time to the Alcohol Archives in the summer. Thanks to CAS, he was back to the project as a consultant by the time his expertise was needed the most, before the Drupal site went live. He hit the ground running mid-May, and the first results of his hands-on work and contributions are already tangible.

Graduate project assistant Kate Greenberg will switch to her summer internship in June, but will be back in September. Gaining experience with archives with us should be helpful for her next assignment, which then she can translate into this project. (Yes, I secretly hope we can continue to add to this collection after my sabbatical is over.)


Getting closer and closer to the magic 1000 items in RUcore is the biggest achievement in terms of quantity. It’s a number that tells us the number of individual documents and images, but has no information about the actual volume: an item can be a single document, OCR-ed, and as such searchable, or a collection of multiple, related texts, up to 150 pages, still fairly easy to process with metadata. Image files usually contain a single picture, one that might have been scanned and rescanned, manipulated with some image editing application or converted from one format to the other. Image descriptions can be tricky and often need background research, comparison, and imagination.

The homepage features the iconic CAS bridge.

The most exciting accomplishment of the month was, by all means, the deployment of the live front end of the Drupal page on May 24, ahead of schedule and before the big symposium hosted by CAS mid-June. It means that our poster will feature all the right QR codes, along with any other promotional material I’m planning to put together. The image on the home page is the artistic rendition of the iconic bridge at CAS created by our own Debbie Fanslow, among other images, in 2014.

Two smaller but equally important achievements, sooner than I planned, should also be remembered. While at CAS to sort Summer School collectible t-shirts and other memorabilia, some locked up in the display cabinets as parts of the physical exhibit in Room 200, I couldn’t help and fixed every little thing that needed attention. Designed in 2013, the  exhibit aged really well, there was no need to discard or replace anything!

 The second daunting task was to consolidate all unprocessed and “stray” materials moved from the Alcohol Archives to Annex: locate and collect them, then find a new, more logical place for them, which can be added to the Drupal site as Annex sublocation. With Jamey’s help, this was completed on the same day when the site went live!

New discoveries

Image editing still continues to be time consuming, but some new discoveries couldn’t be ignored, such as the collectible Summer School t-shirts, discovered in a box at CAS.

I have taken nearly 100 pictures of the t-shirt collection going back to decades to be uploaded to RUcore as part of the Alcohol Archives. There are two types of images: the shirt itself, back or front or both, and the logo on the shirt. As the examples show, the design provides quite a lot of details (name variations of the Summer School confusing the newer staff at the Center), so they’re worth preserving. But I believe that’s my call and I’d like to do it, if there’s a way. After editing and converting them, I will need some guidance from my cataloger friends, because I only vaguely remember how to catalog objects. However, I’m so tempted to put together an Omeka exhibit too!


I found other objects too: four magnets that feature famous images from the collection each, Keller’s silver (or so I think) plate his colleagues gave him for his retirement, and more plaques with names of recipients.


Man with book

Images remained on the top of the list of concerns! The professional photographer who put together the image collection after  Mark Keller’s Recognition Dinner in 1977 did a fantastic job. A piece of art, the album contains pictures of celebrities in the field then and now, but it’s nearly impossible to digitize them without causing damage. Solution: only a handful photos have been selected, already loose and fairly easy to remove.

Next, a short description about the Alcohol Archives necessary for the RUL Digital Collections page was more difficult to craft than most of our pages! Length, content, complexity, language, details, and more – we tried several versions, the winner is:

Founded at Yale before moving to Rutgers in the 1960s, the Center of Alcohol Studies has been a leader in research, publishing, education, and training on alcohol and other drugs. This collection drawn from the CAS archive illuminates the history of Center and the field as a whole.

The “Scrapbook Dilemma” troubled me during the entire month. Harold W. Demone donated some of his papers to the CAS library, among them two giant scrapbooks, full of newspaper clippings related to his role as alcohol commissioner in the 1950s. They were already falling apart when a patient undergraduate assistant digitized the salvageable portions in 2014. The clippings represent an era, and I decided to upload them, even though the conditions are not ideal to include them. With the physical items gone, this was the best way to share what my predecessors preserved.

To do

Print material

  • Review docs and images from my last CAS visit for same
  • Done in Annex for now! Assess and select more later?
  • Create finding aid for small collections in Annex: Blume, Milgram, Strachan
  • Print labels for their boxes
  • Check duplicates in office for worthwhile content, if any

Digital files

  • Add outliers to RUcore, such as audiovisual materials (already with Isaiah)
  • Figure out Omeka missing image issue on exhibit opening pages
  • Decide what to upload from folders marked “pending” in each of the five subcollections
  • Add a few samples from CARRF (all digitized, but usefulness is questionable)


  • Finish and print conference poster
  • Create promotional material to hand out: QR codes on printouts, a zine, buttons?
  • Expand above material for broader promotion, including social media
  • Replace content on CAS site about library resources
  • Update LibGuides with new resources
  • Start drafting report on sabbatical (due August 10)
  • Pitch article idea on the digital collection (inspired by documents proving attention to library resources by researchers of the past)


Progress is incremental, such as adding items to RUcore painstakingly, one by one, day after day. But then there’s a big jump, such as the Drupal site suddenly out in the open, which puts the project to a whole new perspective.


Number of files uploaded so far
  • Omeka: 170 files, 4 exhibits
  • RUcore: 976 files (251 images, 725 text documents)
Pages and posts created so far
  • Drupal: 22 pages, 32 media items
  • WordPress: 49 pages, 73 posts, 404 images