Category Archives: New Collections

Who’s on first? Keeping track

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[photo credit: bahri altay / shutterstock.com]

We have recently debuted a new internal tracking system for our CPC partners. We have a lot of contacts with people who work in presidential sites and libraries, and while my email is a good way for ME to keep track of conversations and partner activity, it is not so good for other people. So Amber, our web developer, built a tracking system in the back-end of our content management system. Now instead of my email and a spreadsheet that lives only on my desktop, we are tracking our interactions with partners in our CMS, and that means it is available to the whole team at any point in the process.

Recruiting partners, adding metadata into CPC, and finalizing partner information on the CPC website generally takes many steps and a long time. I generally reach out to a potential partner at least three times before we can finalize a partnership, and then it takes many more emails to handle the details such as the partner agreement and the data export of metadata for CPC.

This isn’t a problem—it is just the process that is necessary to build partnerships and grow CPC. In many cases, potential partners don’t know us and need to learn about the Miller Center and CPC before they are willing to consider joining the project.

Then we have many partners that don’t yet have digital items but in many cases they are working on it. So I email a partner and then check back in periodically to find out where they are in their process. One partner that I first reached out to in November 2015 was interested, but they needed to put their items online before they could consider a partnership with CPC. By August 2016 the site was up!

That timetable is actually fast—it normally takes a long time for an organization to put their collections online, and it takes a long time to redesign websites. One partner we work with took more than two years to redesign their website. It takes a long time in part because many partner organizations are beholden to outside web design companies to build their new websites. And honestly, building a new website is detailed and complicated work. It cannot be done on the fly.

I’m excited about our new tracking system because it is one step toward moving CPC past a temporary grant project and into life as a full-fledged program. The IMLS grant continues into 2017 but we are working on building more permanent systems and processes for CPC that can see it into the future. So although it has taken me a long time to put all the partner information into the tracking system, I know that it is effort well spent because it shares and preserves valuable information.

 

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Welcome to the NARA Presidential Collections!

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CPC is thrilled to welcome the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries as partners in CPC. We are excited about this new collection, but really we should call it collections. Although the digital items originate from NARA, within NARA there are many different organizations that hold collections. We have items from all thirteen Presidential Libraries (Hoover through George W. Bush) but we also have items from NARA’s Electronic Records Archive and from its regional offices.

Having NARA as a partner in CPC is hugely important as its Presidential Libraries cover the modern-day presidents. This partnership will give users the chance to search across the NARA digital collections along with our other partners. It helps CPC reach its goal of bringing together a critical mass of materials to be a valuable resource to researchers and educators.

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection

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The Connecting Presidential Collections project is thrilled to announce its newest partner, the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection.  Right now, the collection has more than 3,700 items related to Abraham Lincoln, his family, his presidency, and that era in American history. The collection will continue to grow as new items are gradually added.

When the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1905, the company wanted to use a photograph of President Abraham Lincoln on its letterhead as a way to symbolize the company’s values. Robert Lincoln, the president’s son, sent the company a photograph of his father to use. In appreciation, the company started the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection in 1928, and over many years, it amassed a world-class collection of Lincoln-related material. In 1931, the Lincoln Museum and Library was opened to display the collection to the public. The museum closed in 2008 but the Lincoln Financial Foundation wanted to keep the collection together. Today the collection is managed as a joint venture between the Indiana State Museum and the Allen County Public Library.

The items in CPC include some familiar photographs, such as those by famous  American Civil War photographer, Matthew Brady. The image of President Lincoln sitting in a chair is a print from a Brady negative. The collection also includes an image of Mary Todd Lincoln from Brady’s National Portrait Gallery Negative. There are also less familiar images such as a photograph of Ulysses S. Grant’s three horses–Egypt, Cincinnati, and Jeff Davis. Lincoln’s farewell address is printed below a photograph of Abraham Lincoln with his sons, Tad and Willie, standing in front of their house in Springfield, Illinois, in the summer of 1860.

Welcome to the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection!

Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University

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Connecting Presidential Collections is thrilled to announce a new partner: the G. Robert Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University. The Vincent Voice Library brings a unique collection of audio clips to CPC. Some of the clips are more contemporary such as President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inaugural Address and President George W. Bush’s Address to Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks. But the collection also includes rare gems such as a campaign speech from William Taft in 1912 and a Fourth of July speech by Calvin Coolidge from 1920.

Recordings from Taft, Coolidge along with Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Warren Harding allow CPC users to hear presidents whose voices are unknown to most people. The audio recordings also add a multimedia dimension to CPC that we hope we to expand in the future.

Beyond its presidential selection, the Vincent Voice Library holds more than 100,000 hours of audio recordings. The collection was founded by G. Robert Vincent who began making recordings in 1912 after borrowing a recording device from his friend, Charles, who was Thomas Edison’s son. We are excited to welcome the Vincent Voice Library as a partner to CPC!

New Partners!

Three exciting new partners have joined CPC! They are:

  • Indiana Historical Society
  • The James Monroe Papers
  • The Truman Little White House

We are very excited about these great new partners and their fascinating collections!

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The Indiana Historical Society adds the Harrison presidents to CPC—William Henry Harrison (1841) and Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893). Benjamin was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, who is notable because he was only in office for one month before he died of pneumonia. He served the shortest time of any U.S. president.

The Indiana Historical Society materials include items from William’s time as governor of the Indiana Territory and his service in the War of 1812. On March 27, 1814, Colonel A. Butler wrote to Major General Harrison to report on the current states of British forces along the lake shore in Canada. The Benjamin Harrison collection includes images of President Harrison and his cabinet and Caroline Harrison and their daughter Mary Harrison. First Lady Caroline Harrison died in 1892 while Benjamin Harrison was president. His daughter, Mary (Mrs. J.R. McGee), took over the First Lady duties after her mother’s death.

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The James Monroe Papers are a valuable collection of letters that span across Monroe’s long career in public service. He served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and as a U.S. Senator for Virginia, U.S. minister to France, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war, and U.S. president. On May 10, 1784, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Monroe with a list of books that Jefferson sold to Monroe. The collection also includes the farm manager’s daybook of weather, activities, and accounts at Oak Hill in 1830. Oak Hill was Monroe’s residence in Loudon County, Virginia, where he retired at the end of his presidency in 1825. The Monroe Papers are slightly different than many of the CPC partners as the links to their materials take users to a landing page for the papers project and there are instructions for how to access the materials.

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The Truman Little White House based in Key West, Florida, was the president’s get-away from Washington, D.C., to warmer and sunnier climates. The collection includes the logs kept by the U.S. Navy of President Truman’s visits to Key West. They include specific details such as the members of the president’s party and the maximum and minimum temperatures when Truman was visiting. They also contain the president’s activities each day with amazing particulars. The log from March 7-27, 1952, noted when the President came downstairs each day (at 7:40 a.m. on Saturday, March 8, 1952) to what cars he traveled in (four Mercury sedans for the president and his party and four Ford sedans for the secret service). The Little White House collection also includes a small sampling of photos from Truman’s visits including the president with a six-pound grouper.

We are always looking to add new partners to CPC and to make descriptions about their collections part of the CPC site. So please get in touch with us if you and your institution have digital collections on the U.S. presidents and want to be part of this exciting project. You can email us at presidentialcollections@virginia.edu.

Time for an update

bushIt has been a while since we have given a general update of the Connecting Presidential Collections project and how we are progressing. We are almost half-way through this three-year grant project. I can’t believe how quickly it has gone! Each section of the grant project is going along smoothly.

As Amber wrote in January, we added three great new partners in the fall. Since that time, we have added two more partners with amazing collections: The Papers of Abraham Lincoln and Ohio History Connection, which includes collections from a variety of different presidents such as Grant, McKinley, and Harding. We are very excited to have these partners aboard—welcome!

We are also talking to a variety of possible partners, and we are hopeful that we will have some more exciting partner announcements in the next few weeks.

Amber and I are also thinking about trips to take to visit presidential sites and libraries in the spring. We are talking with potential partners about challenges they are facing and barriers they need to overcome to help inform the educational materials that we will create. We plan to make it up to DC and the Boston area (once winter is over), and possibly down south to Tennessee. If you are near those areas and you want to talk about presidential digital collections, please let us know!

The microfilm project is making good progress. The team has just begun breaking the ribbons of images from the reels into individual images. Matt is working with an intern to go through the reel ribbons, check on contrast and focus, make any adjustments, and cut them into individual images. This part of the project will take some time as there are 385 reels of microfilm to go through.

We plan to make the catalog publicly available sometime later this year, maybe this summer. The catalog will help researchers and those interested in presidential collections and sites find the many, many places in the country where you can go to learn more about the U.S. presidents.

spotlightAnd speaking of the U.S. presidents, as I’m sure you know, President’s Day is coming up soon. In honor of President’s Day, the Miller Center home page (millercenter.org) is featuring a spotlight on a different president every day this month. It is not part of the CPC project but a neat feature with great photographs that you might want to check out.

“President Warren Harding may not have been the most popular president, but he sure knew how to write a love letter.”

That was one editor’s headline on one media outlet’s report on the Library of Congress’ publication of Harding’s private correspondence with Carrie Fulton Phillips, evidence of an oft-rumored extramarital affair. Political satirists including John Oliver have poked fun at Harding for his unrestrained prose, and the archival community is generally abuzz as these interesting materials resurface after a fifty-year embargo, coming into public view for the first time.

Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, at Elks’ National Home, Bedford, Va.
Copyright by F.H. Richardson (expired). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The letters, their survival until the present day, and the story of how they were sealed until July 29th, 2014, are all of interest to historians and curators of our cultural heritage. The New York Times has a good account of how the letters came to be in the public domain.

It is particularly interesting to read how Harding’s correspondence with Mrs. Phillips included major political topics of the day, such as U.S. entry in World War One (Harding was in the Senate in 1917, and voted in favor of declaring war.) Mrs. Phillips was pro-German, and Harding warned her to avoid public statements in favor of the German Empire, lest she attract the attention of federal investigators.

Harding’s presidency was, of course, cut short by his untimely death in 1923, and his reputation is largely colored by the scandals surrounding his time in the Oval Office. Collections such as these letters can help us understand Harding’s life and work, by adding perspective on, not to mention detail into, his thoughts and actions at a given time. Hopefully, the emphasis on the ‘steamy’ nature of the letters will pass, and students and researchers can use these materials to learn more about the milieu that directly proceeded Harding’s rise to the Presidency.

News of the impending release of the letters prompted us here at the Miller Center to turn to one of our on-line exhibits, made a few years ago. Thanks to some diligent research, and preservation work, from Harding’s nephew, Dr. George Harding, III, we have copies of President Harding’s recorded speeches, something of a rarity for the time period. A newspaper editor by trade, Warren G. Harding showed a keen interest in the then-new technology of analog recording, and he recorded excerpts of his popular speeches for pressing and distribution as phonographs.

In 1921, President Warren Harding spoke into a recording
apparatus to create a phonographic copy of one of his speeches.

You can read about these recordings at the exhibit’s home page. Transcripts and MP3 audio of the individual speeches can also be found here.

The Harding family deserves praise for the efforts to preserve these recordings and make them of greater use today. Dr. Harding supervised, in the 1970s, the re-recording of the original discs as they were converted from their original 78-rpm format to the more common 33 & 1/3 rpm. Then, in 2004, Dr. Harding’s son, Warren G. Harding, III, saw that the recordings were digitized and issued on Compact Disc. Just as the letters made their way through various hands and venues to make it to 2014, so the recordings of Harding’s orations have had a circuitous journey to the Web.

Given what seems to be an unusually-high amount in interest in Harding, we took the opportunity to update our catalog records for these items, and have decided to add the collection to CPC. This marks the first batch of material pertaining to Harding, and adds one more presidency to our list (with more to come soon!)

Here’s a quick link to our site, presidentialcollections.org, with the Harding speeches highlighted.