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Month Four Reflections

The fourth month came with unexpected challenges. The impending Rutgers-wide strike early in the month urged me to complete any task that would become a major roadblock for my colleagues whether we are on strike or not, such as the Drupal site. On my end, I was aiming to bring it to a “good enough” shape for the developers to take over and prepare it for the rollout. Thanks to our ongoing communication and their strong support and commitment to this project, I was able to get the idea what that means and pass on the baton just in time and then resume working on the missing and added components with little or no disruption.

During the five-day strike I was allowed to continue to conduct research-related tasks and write or edit scholarly articles. As a result, the revised Bacon article was submitted in April to JSAD, along with the final version of Bacon’s critical biblioography. This was one of our many outstanding tasks after the CAS Library closure as a by-product of the digitization project. With items in hand, we were painstakingly going through records, publication lists, and bibliographies for each notable person to curate and publish these. With two previously published (Jellinek and Haggard) bibliographies, Keller or MCarthy are the next candidates. At least, I’ll be looking at the documents to be added to the Notable People Collection in RUcore with an eye to creating their comprehensive bibliographies.


A great sense of achievement was the moment of passing on the Drupal dev site to the expert hands of web developers in a shape that we all deemed “good enough” for them to start the work on their end to turn it into its final online version, leaving only small content changes for me to consider. The search portal is now up and running, although the instructions are yet to be added after I can fully understand the potentials of searching and browsing the collection via its public facing website. Bonus: it provides the most current count for each subcollection and the entire RUcore Alcohol Studies section too.


Reaching 750 items this month was another milestone. Watching the numbers grow is rather inspirational. The focus of the month was supposed to be adding content to the Notable People Collection, which had only nine items at the beginning of the month, however, the newly established Images Collection needed more attention to meet the sustainability requirements of the Drupal site.

The CAS Symposium to be held in June had its poster proposal deadline in April requiring a 1,000-word structured abstract. Our chosen topic, the First Summer School in 1943 felt like a very timely commemoration of the anniversary. Co-authored by the usual Ward-Allred-Bejarano trio, the accepted poster is entitled “Building Communities since 1943: The First Summer School of Alcohol Studies in the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives.”

The Omeka platform migration inspired me to experiment with new exhibits. Adding images based on their RUcore equivalent, i.e., reversing the process, has proven to be a quick method to create more content, whether ephemeral or for prosperity. Brainstorming about the SSAS poster resulted in a revamped Summer School exhibit, and the applying the same tricks Jellinek also got his well-deserved display.


New discoveries

Images take way too longer to process! Not only the selection and conversion, but editing the image and its descriptive metadata often slowed down the workflow. The Alcohol History Database images came with their own set of metadata, including source and description, so Kate was able to lift a lot of the texts and modify most of it to Dublin Core. But many of them still needed some detective work.

Even if digitized properly, images from the print CAS Archive challenge me after so many years. I must admit that I simply didn’t remember or couldn’t find my notes created some time between 2008 and 2015. A lot of my time went into content research related to images this month, which could have been avoided if this Digital Collection had not been suspended. But, that’s out of my hands.

Conference Room Exhibit: Research at CAS

Image formats meant the next challenge, to meet RUcore high-res image requirements. Luckily, I managed to locate sources that I hadn’t expected to, such as a nice collection of tif images created by Debbie Fanslow, our PT librarian and graphic designer by training, in 2014. Among them are parts of posters, CAS conference room decorations, conference flyers, JSAD anniversary promotional material, and content for the new website – 2014 was an extremely busy year, which pays off now. Many of them can also be used for website sustainability, since each jpg on the Drupal site needs a tif equivalent in RUcore, which also means a big fat spreadsheet to record them.

The many tricks of linking content on websites are probably just as challenging. Sustainability can be a huge issue, not for me, but for the web developers. I received a whole list of these current or future issues and soldiered on fixing or improving them throughout the whole month, including the above mentioned image conversion.


In addition to feeling overwhelmed by the volume, another, rather unexpected feeling caused uncomfortable moments for me as I started reviewing and assessing content for the Notable People Collection. The physical Archives had collected a decent amount of personal correspondence of great historical value. Mark Keller’s file folders are extremely rich in semi-scholarly, borderline private letters, notes, drafts, scribbles, and even sketches. I’m yet to decide what to add and whether one can come up with guidelines how to handle these. I’m honored to have experienced addiction studies history researchers to help me if needed.

To do

Print material in Annex

  • consolidate material in Annex: I have a plan, with details yet to be fine tuned
  • Keller Recognition Dinner photo album: a great resource of images in color, with names listed by each photo, need to be reviewed and scanned
  • SCUA seems to have a “RU CAS News,” so it says in the catalog, I’d like to see physical copies
  • SCUA also lists holdings for SSAS Alumni News, scheduling time is next

Outstanding from last month

  • review and scan available images in tif format (one envelope with 15 images)
  • after finishing reviewing all boxes, consolidating all newly discovered content under the same location seems to be in order, which ensures listing all Annex codes properly on the Drupal site
  • the ten large boxes from the backroom might have some more relevant content, it’s worth exploring if there is  time (note: lots of confidential material there)

Digital files

  • check folders to locate more pdfs to be added to Notable People
  • decide on inclusion criteria for potentially sensitive content
  • start developing content for the Special Collection by creating descriptive metadata for files located in categories such as Yale CAS, RU CAS, CAS Library, SALIS, etc (so far this collection has Temperance-related material)
  • finish adding tifs to RUcore
  • finalize exhibits in Omeka

Outstanding from last month

  • list sources for Summer School images using Alumni News
  • add more images (other than Temperance)mto RUcore and use them to create/upgrade exhibits in Omeka

Takeaway: Stop, reflect, regroup, work – da capo al fine

The month brought moments of reflection in many ways. Tied up by external circumstances, inspired by happy accidents, and supported by unexpected sources and events, I am fortunate to have this opportunity to finish something that I couldn’t. So will be the field of alcohol studies, as it was pointed out to me. Accomplishing the most with the resources I have at hand is not foreign to me. Instead of constant lamenting the should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve, stepping back for a moment helps reflect on what has been achieved so far, which then inspires to regroup and soldier on.


Number of files uploaded so far
  • Omeka: 170 items, 4 exhibits (final)
  • RUcore: total 773 (552 pdf + 221 tif)
Pages and posts created so far
  • Drupal: 42 pages, 42 media items
  • WordPress: 54 pages, 70 posts, 400 images
Screenshot of Jellinek exhibit