fellowship update: from the archives to wikipedia

Here at MIT we have a lovely intersession period know as Independent Activities Period (IAP). During the month of January, there are a range of courses or activities available for credit or for fun. Activities can be submitted by staff, faculty, or students. Greta Suiter (MIT’s newly appointed Collections Archivist) and I are teaming up to offer a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon session designed to enhance representation of women on Wikipedia. Our particular focus is women who were associated with MIT at some point during education or career—a list of articles we plan to improve can be found on our meet up page. Some of the women listed are represented in the IASC  collections while others are simply alums.

The preparation for this edit-a-thon has been a great way for me to learn about the IASC collections and women’s history as it pertains to MIT. I’ll provide a recap of the event after it takes place, but for now I wanted to share some anecdotes about MIT women that I’ve learned so far.  The following tidbits come from MIT student Marilynn Bever’s thesis titled “The Women of MIT, 1871 to 1941: Who They Where, What They Achieved” (approved 1976).

  • Alice G. Bryant (class of 1886) was a physician who specialized in the treatment of ear, nose and throat diseases. According to Bever’s thesis, she was the first woman physician to do so.
  • Anne Graham Rockfellow (class of 1889) lived in Arizona and was a well-known architect. She designed the YWCA and the YMCA as well as the El Conquisator Hotel.
  • Hope Wentworth Narey (class of 1899) was a professor of physical education at Mt. Holyoke College.
  • Edith Clarke (class of 1919) worked in the engineering department at General Electric and served as professor of Electrical Engineering at U-Texas-Austin.
  • Dorothy Quiggle (class of 1926) was a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State. In 1939, she was awarded a patent for a solution to rapidly remove free oxygen from gases.
  • Charlotte Winnemore (class of 1930) worked as Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Association in Columbus, Ohio from 1947-1965.
  • Leslie Bradley Cutler (class of 1928) was a politician in Massachusetts. She was the second woman elected to the MA State Senate.

Greta and I have also dipped our toes into creating a few Wikipedia articles. We want our IAP session to focus on adding references and verifying information rather than building articles from scratch, but this has required that we create articles for some women missing from Wikipedia. The following list includes the articles we’ve created in preparation for out event:

  • Dorothy Walcott Weeks – 1st woman to earn MIT PhD in math
  • Lois Howe – said to have been the founder of the first all female architectural firm in Boston and an MIT graduate
  • Emily Wick – first woman to become a tenured MIT faculty member and an advocate for women students at MIT

I’m looking forward to the event and opportunity to help improve representation of women on Wikipedia!


fellow update: what is it… you do here?

What does a MIT Libraries Fellow for Digital Archives do?

This question and similar derivative questions (Digital preservation is what? Digital curation means what?) have been consistent companions since I started graduate school in 2012. Explaining the details of digital curation and preservation is a topic big enough for it’s own post. I’m not going to venture there today, but I would like to highlight what a Digital Archives Fellowship is all about. My quick answer is that the fellowship experience provides built-in mentorship and an opportunity to continue to develop skills that help me wrangle digital content and context. As far as what I do here …

Office Space gif

Office Space gif from http://gph.is/1rZtor0

My official project plan is still in development. As my projects become more defined, I’ll provide updates about my work on this blog. But, essentially, I’m here to help the Digital Archivist in furthering the development of the digital archives program. This means we are working on things like:

  • Workflow analysis and documentation related to transferring, processing and managing digital collections
  • Testing and development of use cases for various digital archives tools that assist or automate processing and management activities (e.g. Archivematica, ArchivesSpace, BitCurator)
  • Enabling access to digital collections in the reading room and online

As a fellow, I also have the luxury of extra time for skill building and professional development. So far, I’ve set aside time each week for this blog as well as for developing programming skills. First up, is Python. I had hopes of taking an edX course in data analysis using Python, but my hopes were dashed quickly (by the second week). I learned the basics of Python in graduate school, but those seven weeks felt like they took place seven years ago! My retention was pretty bad, so I’m back to basics. Through Code Academy and a textbook from graduate school, I’m relearning Python. I’ll provide an update on my progress once I have a better idea of how I might use Python—maybe to analyze digital collections or automate part of a workflow. For now, here is an example of my brilliant Python abilities.

Image of very simple Python code