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Communal effort creates access to rare ms.

On Friday afternoon, April 7, Transcribathoners gathered in the lecture hall of Cabell Library. A Transcriba-what? 

Transcribathons are organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library: Think of it as crowd-sourcing to decipher the handwriting of early modern manuscripts. Co-sponsored with the Folger Shakespeare Library, the VCU Department of English, the VCU Humanities Research Center and VCU Libraries, the Transcribathon provided hands-on digital humanities work—moving forward the Folger project to provide readable transcriptions of rare manuscripts in their collections via an open-access database for global access by researchers and students of this pivotal era in history (http://emmo.folger.edu/).

Handwriting from this period followed a variety of forms, including the prominent “Secretary’s Hand,” which may seem to our eyes ornate and often somewhat unreadable. And yet this kind of detective work is extremely popular—especially at VCU, which has the honor of being the only university to host a Transcribathon twice!

her photos are available on the library Flickr site.

London Low Life gives “street view”

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BKS_HV4088L8_G74_168A new resource at VCU Libraries provides an almost “street view” of the topsy-turvy world of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes — only it was all too real for those who lived on the margins:  London Low Life.

Through visual records of cartoons, maps, sketches, subversive posters — and the texts of broadsides, “swell’s guides,” chapbooks, ballads, slang dictionaries, and more — researchers can experience the vibrant and illicit culture of London street life.  The brothels, gin houses and East End slums of the 19th century’s greatest city reveal the contradictions of a progressive era marked by the neglect of those consigned to poverty.

Fascinating in its depth of detail, London Low Life illumines the dark, secretive, and dangerous paths of a forgotten history and the lives of those who suffered but also subverted their situation.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image: The Great army of London poor: sketches of life and character in a Thames-side district / by the river-side visitor, The Lilly Library, Indiana University

DARE: U.S. linguistic variation

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linguistic U.S. mpaThe Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a long-running project designed to capture variations in the English language across the United States. It allows scholars and lovers of language to study nuances, geographic spread, and change over time. This resource can be searched, browsed regionally, and offers many useful tools for the study of American English from its beginnings.

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By John Glover, humanities research librarian

Image: Dictionary of American Regional English

VCU Literary Award Winners

awardsVCU serves as the proud home of two major U.S. literary awards, given for book-length works in poetry and fiction. The award-winning titles are available in the collections of the VCU Libraries.

Named for late VCU English faculty member Larry Levis, the Levis Reading Prize has been given annually for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year, beginning in 1997 and continuing to the present. The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award has been given annually to an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year, beginning in 2001 and continuing to the present. (Image: L-R, Larry Levis and James Branch Cabell)

By John Glover, humanities research librarian

Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles

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Advancing our understanding of the history and present of women’s contributions to the literary, cultural and political life of Great Britain, VCU Libraries provides access to the landmark database, Orlando:  Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Orlando exemplifies digital humanities’ efforts to broaden access to little known or studied texts, provide historical and cultural context for authors and their works and inspire transformative ways of reading and understanding women’s literary engagement with their readers and the world through writing. Created at Cambridge University, Orlando is designed with a “unique structure and searchability,” encouraging researchers “to examine its information and critical comment in a wide range of configurations and to re-form this in new and creative ways. Orlando is open to the serendipities of productive browsing,” and fosters in-depth research through cultural, biographical, and textual discovery. More than 1,300 writers are included, and approximately 30,000 items are available for discovery–a growing list of authors and texts. Orlando will greatly enhance teaching and research at VCU, and foster a dynamic and innovative reading experience.

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By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian

Image:  “A Woman Seated at an Organ (or Writing Desk),” Yale University Art Gallery, public domain.

Fiction Connection: Fiction and select nonfiction resource

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Fiction Connection allows users to bring out their inner bookworm.

Fiction Connection allows users to search through works of fiction and select nonfiction books all around the United States. Discover books like Andree Cuenod’s “Awakening” and Nicholas Irving’s “The Reaper.”

Browse through some of the thousands of books that the database has to offer. Users can search through popular tags based on various topics, genres, characters, settings, time frames and locations. There are tags on mothers and daughters, satire and New Orleans. Use the popular tags to get introduced to new works that may not have been found otherwise.

Within a particular book result, there are overviews, publisher information and similar titles. Users can use the database to find the lowest price for a particular book that they are looking for.

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By Katlyn Pierre, public relations intern. For more information about this resource or others

Image: Creative Commons

Directory of Published Proceedings: Paper database

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The Directory of Published Proceedings offers users access to research papers from all over the world. The site provides categories, ranging from science and technology to economics and finance.

Use the Directory of Published Proceedings to find articles on pollution control and ecology or science and technology. There are articles like “Energy, Power & Facility Management Strategies & Technologies 2014-2015” from the United States or “A Real-Time Testbed for Routing Network” from Bulgaria.

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By Katlyn Pierre, public relations intern. For more information about this resource or others 

Image: Creative Commons

Blackbird: Online literature and arts journal

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Blackbird: An Online Journal of Literature and the Arts  contains poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art.

Get lost in the works of Joshua Bennett, David Wojahn and Louis Draper. Blackbird connects users to various works of art, but it gives users in-depth information on the writer. In some instances, it gives “Blackbird’s Notes” in which users can glean background information on the work. Users are also given the option to read reviews of particular works.

Discover works of art in galleries from people like, Sarah Eckhardt and Tony Langston. Blackbird offers scholarly looks into literary and artistic works for users to go through.

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By Katlyn Pierre, public relations intern. For more information about this resource or others 

Image: Clay Bodies, Blackbird

British Periodicals: Hundreds of 17th-20th century titles

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VCU Libraries expanded its British Periodicals series with the acquisition of British Periodicals I and III. This series consists of facsimile page images and searchable text for nearly 500 periodicals published between the 17th and 20th centuries. Topics covered include politics, science, history, literary and creative arts, archaeology and popular culture.

British Periodicals I is the foundation of the series, some 160 journals that comprised the Early British Periodicals microfilm collection. This collection covers topics such as politics, science, history, literary and creative arts, archaeology and popular culture. Titles in this series include the Athenaeum, the Scottish Review and the London Journal.

British Periodicals III extends the scope of the series into the first half of the 20th century. This collection contains illustrated periodicals known as the “Great Eight” in British publishing. These popular periodicals covered news, art, photography and literature of the era. Titles in this series include Britannia and Eve, The Sketch, and The Tatler. Images are in full color when present in the original.

These additions join British Periodicals II, a collection dedicated to the arts, in VCU Libraries electronic resources. Material from these collections is available to download either as PDFs or JPEG images.

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By Emily Davis Winthrop, arts collections librarian

Image: Graphic The Tatler; Jul 9, 1930; 117, 1515; British Periodicals pg. 75

History in Your Hands: A digitized Dickinson letter

Emily_DickinsonFinding aid

A 17-word letter from poet Emily Dickinson to a neighbor is now widely available to researchers through a new “History in Your Hands” exhibit in the online VCU Libraries Gallery.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) lived most of her life in the family home in Amherst, Mass. She lived quietly. While often identified as a recluse, Dickinson kept close relations through correspondence, which often included poems.

The VCU Libraries letter was written to Mrs. Henry F. (Adelaide Spencer) Hills, the wife of  a businessman. The Hills family had their summer home in Amherst. Adelaide was a frequent correspondent with her neighbor, Emily. After Mrs. Hills’ death in 1910, the letter passed into the hands of her children, specifically her daughter Susan Clapp Hills Skillings, and then to Susan’s heirs. The letter was purchased for the VCU Libraries in 1972 by The James Branch Cabell Library Associates Board. It is the only Dickinson letter VCU Libraries holds.

Like much of Dickinson’s correspondence, this letter is a brief note, written in pencil. Thomas H. Johnson, who published the authoritative work of Dickinson letters, identifies this as letter #614 with a possible publication date of 1879. Prior to the letter’s recent digitization and online publication, it was known only to scholars through transcriptions. Because of its fragility, access to the letter is restricted. Permission to view the original must be granted by the head of Special Collections and Archives. Inquire at the reading room desk or send an email to libjbcsca@vcu.edu.

If you’re interested in learning more about the poet and her work, the Emily Dickinson Museum offers many resources related to Emily Dickinson and to Dickinson scholarship. The two major collections for Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts and family papers are Amherst College and Harvard University.

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About the History in Your Hands series of exhibits:

Every archival collection holds a story. Manuscripts and artifacts bear witness to past events, but only a careful researcher can piece together the facts of history and reveal the narrative within the collection. VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives houses many fascinating primary source materials that wait for inquisitive minds to study them. History in Your Hands exhibits present featured manuscript collections that we believe merit further research. Only when you take “history in your hands” can you begin the process that will allow the full story to be shared.

If you have any questions or comments regarding these materials or this exhibition, please contact the Special Collections and Archives staff in James Branch Cabell Library.

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Image:  Emily Dickinson. Daguerreotype. ca. 1847 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. This image is in the public domain. Amherst College Archives & Special Collections is the home of the original.

Journal of Social Theory: Art education resouce

Scholars Compas

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An important publication in the arts world, The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education, now has a new publishing base: Virginia Commonwealth University’s Scholars Compass.

VCU Libraries launched it in mid-summer. Paper proposals for the next thematic issue on “Navigating Divides” will also be managed through Scholars Compass. Deadline for submission is October 15.

Published annually since 1980, and currently edited by a VCU faculty member, The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (JSTAE) serves as an alternative voice in art education. It showcases research that addresses social issues, action and transformation as well as creative methods of research and writing. JSTAE is the official journal of the Caucus of Social Theory in Art Education, an issues group of theNAEA National Art Education Association.

“We were founded to represent points of view that have not always been embraced or accepted by mainstream journals,” said Editor Melanie Buffington, Ph.D., an associate professor of Art Education at VCUArts. “As a journal, we are open to a range of article formats and different points of view. There are numerous traditional journals in the field. We co-exist alongside them and present a range of voices.”

The intersection of arts and society provides a broad canvas for JSTAE. Recent article topics include craft as activism, feminist zines, religion and visual culture, freedom of speech and censorship, and public monuments and memorials. Many of the ideas explored and theories investigated have immediate real-world applications in schools, non-profits, galleries, public art offices and other community resources that generally lack access to scholarly journals.

“Anyone who is interested in the content, anywhere in the world can now access it,” Buffington said. “The theories our members and authors embrace often address underserved populations, so making these ideas freely available to a wider audience is appropriate for our mission.”

Outreach beyond academic circles was appealing to Buffington, who particularly wants teachers to have access to these ideas that can translate to classroom use. For the first time, the peer-reviewed journal’s full archives, from the first issue in 1980 to the present, are openly available online.

An additional appeal to Scholars Compass, she said, is posting contributions that go beyond text and include robust images, video, audio and interactive components. “Contemporary artists expand the limits of works of art. It is fitting that an art education journal expands the limits of what is an article.”

JSTAE is a sound example of the kind of journal that is well suited to open-access publishing. It serves the public and also serves scholarship. Its content has public-serving purposes and fulfills VCU’s mission of translational research–moving findings and ideas from the academy quickly into the public realm, where scholarship can improve quality of life and society.

“Given the international prominence of VCU’s School of the Arts and the established reputation of JSTAE, this is a great fit for Scholars Compass,” said Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Digital

Technologies for VCU Libraries. “We expect the journal to continue to grow in exposure and gain readership through our search engine optimization. We are also very excited that the journal embraces open-access publishing as a way to share its content as widely as possible. This is especially rewarding to me in a field like art education, where many of the practitioners do not have access to high priced subscription journals.”

“This is our first full peer-reviewed open access journal in Scholars Compass since we launched less than one year ago,” said Sam Byrd, Digital Collections Systems Librarian at VCU Libraries. “We invite more faculty to bring their projects to VCU Libraries. We’re here to help.”  Byrd can be contacted at sbyrd2@vcu.edu.

About Scholars Compass

Academic journals are at the foundation of scholarship. As digital access becomes more the norm and prices of printed or electronic journals continue to rise unchecked, academic libraries nationwide are providing affordable avenues for easier publication online and management of the peer-review process. Run by VCU Libraries, Scholars Compass provides technical support and training to faculty who want to manage journals, peer-review processes, conferences, conference proceedings and reports and much more. Have a project to discuss? Contact: Sam Byrd, sbyrd2@vcu.edu.

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Image: Illustration of an article on assessment by Sharif Bey, Syracuse UniversityThe Journal of Social Theory in Art Education, Cover, No. 34

Oral History Online: 2,700-plus collection of text, audio, video

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Oral History Online takes pride in being a landmark database of English language oral history. It offers more than 30,000 pages of full text.

The materials are divided into several categories, including repositories, collections, interviews, places and historical events and are in alphabetical order. More than 2,700 collections are offered. Interviews date back to the 1930s and can be accessed through full text, audio or video.  Information on historical events range from the American Revolution to the Iraq War. The database offers information on a wide variety of places.

Access this information in the form of audio, video and text. There are almost 19,000 bibliographic records to choose from.

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By Katlyn Pierre, public relations intern. For more information about this resource or others

Image: Creative Commons

Book Citation Index: Books and publications connections

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A powerful new tool allows researchers and scholars to identify connections between books and other forms of scholarly publications. The Book Citation Index (BCI) is now part of  VCU Libraries’ subscription to Web of Science and includes information on more than 30,000 books in the social sciences, humanities and sciences.

BCI tracks the number of times books and book chapters are cited by journals, conference proceedings and other books. It also includes the cited references of the original book or chapter.

Users can click the Get It@VCU button to search for a book at VCU Libraries. Books from a variety of commercial and university presses, including Wiley, University of Chicago and Oxford University Press, start with publication year 2005.  More than 10,000 books are selectively added each year based on well-defined criteria.

Authors from VCU have over 700 items already included in BCI. Alerts can be created to track VCU authors or analyze custom data based on a search set. Explore the Book Citation Index and learn more about this tool.

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By Sue Robinson, director of communication and public relations. For more information about this resource or others

Image: Book Citation Index Website