1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition: Stories through Photographs

A guest posting by Seamus Howard, Student Archival Processing Assistant in the Pictorial Unit, Bancroft Library

What makes a photograph good?

As a student working in the Bancroft Pictorial Unit, I’ve been going through hundreds and hundreds of photographs daily. I’ve seen my share of good and bad photos.

One might stand out as “good” due to the lighting, crisp focus, correct staging, and exposure — good cropping perhaps, or just clarity of subject. Ultimately, the answer is a combination of factors, and can be completely subjective.

For me, the most important factor is moment.

The 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition was full of special moments captured in photographs which continue to shed light on the character and tone of the United States during the early 20th century.

One special moment was former President William Howard Taft visiting the P.P.I.E.

Working to re-house and inventory about 6,700 photographic prints in large, brittle ledger books, I’ve encountered numerous shots of this visit, thoroughly recorded by the Cardinell-Vincent Company, the exposition’s official photographers.

President Taft was an early supporter of the exposition, declaring in early 1911 that San Francisco would be the official home of the fair. He attended the groundbreaking eight months later and returned to San Francisco in 1915 to see the fair in all its glory.

 

Ex-President Taft and other men on the speakers' platform, PPIE
Figure 1: President Taft addressing a crowd on “Taft Day”, September 2, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)

 

Taft’s visit to the fair was seemingly a large event. He was accompanied wherever he went, soldiers or guards escorting him from building to building. Taft continued to be a very important person at this time. He had lost his reelection to Wilson in 1912, and returned to Yale as a professor of law and government.

 

Ex-President Taft giving speech at P.P.I.E.
Figure 2: President Taft giving speech at P.P.I.E. on “Taft Day”, September 2, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)

 

Taft visited many of the fair’s popular buildings and exhibits, including the Japanese Pavilion, Swedish Building, Norway Building, and the art gallery and courtyard of the French Pavilion. He met foreign representatives, fair officials, and experienced much of what the fair had to offer.

 

President Taft and entourage leaving a building at the PPIE
Figure 3: President Taft leaving building, September 2 or 3?, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)
President Taft viewing busts in Swedish Building of the Panama Pacific International Exposition
Figure 4: President Taft viewing busts in Swedish Building, September 3?, 1915. Photograph, approximately 4.75 inches x 6.75 inches. (Reference snapshot from the Edward A. Rogers Panama Pacific International Exposition photograph collection, BANC PIC 2015.013: v.4, pt.2, The Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.)

 

And President Taft experienced the unique blend of cultures and stories the fair provided. Here, in my favorite photograph of Taft’s time at the fair, he walks through a hall lined with busts in the Swedish building, flanked by guards. Taft seems enveloped by the art and is perfectly framed between his escorts and the lines of busts, drawing your eye towards Taft at the center. This moment makes a great photograph.

The Bancroft Pictorial team continues to house and describe the collection, and will update this blog with more photographs and details as we progress. Stay tuned!

 


BANCROFT SUMMER ARCHIVAL INTERNSHIP 2015


The Bancroft Library University of California Berkeley

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SUMMER ARCHIVAL INTERNSHIP 2015


Who is Eligible to Apply

Graduate students currently attending an ALA accredited library and information science program who have taken coursework in archival administration and/or digital libraries.

Born-Digital Processing Internship Duties

The Born-Digital Processing Intern will be involved with all aspects of digital collections work, including inventory control of digital accessions, collection appraisal, processing, description, preservation, and provisioning for access. Under the supervision of the Digital Archivist, the intern will analyze the status of a born-digital manuscript or photograph collection and propose and carry out a processing plan to arrange and provide access to the collection. The intern will gain experience in appraisal, arrangement, and description of born-digital materials. She/he will use digital forensics software and hardware to work with disk images and execute processes to identify duplicate files and sensitive/confidential material. The intern will create an access copy of the collection and, if necessary, normalize access files to a standard format. The intern will generate an EAD-encoded finding aid in The Bancroft Library’s instance of ArchivesSpace for presentation on the Online Archive of California (OAC). Lastly, the intern will complete a full collection-level MARC catalog record for the collection using the University Library’s Millennium cataloging system. All work will occur in the Bancroft Technical Services Department, and interns will attend relevant staff meetings.

Duration:

6 weeks (minimum 120 hours), June 29 – August 7, 2015 (dates are somewhat flexible)

NOTE: The internship is not funded, however, it may be possible to arrange for course credit for the internship. Interns will be responsible for living expenses related to the internship (housing, transportation, food, etc.).

Application Procedure:

The competitive selection process is based on an evaluation of the following application materials:

Cover letter & Resume
Current graduate school transcript (unofficial)
Photocopy of driver’s license (proof of residency if out-of-state school)
Letter of recommendation from a graduate school faculty member
Sample of the applicant’s academic writing or a completed finding aid

All application materials must be postmarked on or before Friday, April 17, 2015 and either mailed to:

Mary Elings
Head of Digital Collections
The Bancroft Library
University of California Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720.

or emailed to melings [at] library.berkeley.edu, with “Born Digital Processing Internship” in the subject line.

Selected candidates will be notified of decisions by May 1, 2015.


Bancroft Library Processes First Born-Digital Collection

The Bancroft Library’s Digital Collections Unit recently finished a pilot project to process its first born-digital archival collection: the Ladies’ Relief Society records, 1999-2004. Based on earlier work and recommendations by the Bancroft Digital Curation Committee (Mary Elings, Amy Croft, Margo Padilla, Josh Schneider, and David Uhlich) we’re implementing best-practice procedures for acquiring, preserving, surveying, and describing born-digital files for discovery and use.

Read more about our efforts below, and check back soon for further updates on born-digital collections.

State of the Digital Archives: Processing Born-Digital Collections at the Bancroft Library (PDF)

Abstract: 

This paper provides an overview of work currently being done in the Bancroft’s Digital Collections Unit to preserve, process, and provide access to born-digital collections. It includes background information about the Bancroft’s Born Digital Curation Program and discusses the development of workflows and strategies for processing born-digital content, including disk imaging, media inventories, hardware and software needs and support, arrangement, screening for sensitive content, and description. The paper also describes DCU’s pilot processing project of the born-digital files from the Ladies’ Relief Society records.


Bancroft to Explore Text Analysis as Aid in Analyzing, Processing, and Providing Access to Text-based Archival Collections

Mary W. Elings, Head of Digital Collections, The Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library recently began testing a theory discussed at the Radcliffe Workshop on Technology & Archival Processing held at Harvard’s Radcliffe College in early April 2014. The theory suggested that archives can use text analysis tools and topic modelling — a type of statistical model for discovering the abstract “topics” that occur in a collection of documents — to analyze text-based archival collections in order to aid in analyzing, processing and describing collections, as well as improving access.

Helping us to test this theory, the Bancroft welcomed summer intern Janine Heiser from the UC Berkeley School of Information. Over the summer, supported by an ISchool Summer Non-profit Internship Grant, Ms. Heiser worked with digitized analog archival materials to test this theory, answer specific research questions, and define use cases that will help us determine if text analysis and topic modelling are viable technologies to aid us in our archival work. Based on her work over the summer, the Bancroft has recently awarded Ms. Heiser an Archival Technologies Fellowship for 2015 so that she can continue the work she began in the summer and further develop and test her work.

                During her summer internship, Ms. Heiser created a web-based application, called “ArchExtract” that extracts topics and named entities (people, places, subjects, dates, etc.) from a given collection. This application implements and extends various natural language processing software tools such as MALLET and the Stanford Core NLP toolkit. To test and refine this web application, Ms. Heiser used collections with an existing catalog record and/or finding aid, namely the John Muir Correspondence collection, which was digitized in 2009.

                For a given collection, an archivist can compare the topics and named entities that ArchExtract outputs to the topics found in the extant descriptive information, looking at the similarities and differences between the two in order to verify ArchExtract’s accuracy. After evaluating the accuracy, the ArchExtract application can be improved and/or refined.

                Ms. Heiser also worked with collections that either have minimal description or no extant description in order to further explore this theory as we test the tool further. Working with Bancroft archivists, Ms. Heiser will determine if the web application is successful, where it falls short, and what the next steps might be in exploring this and other text analysis tools to aid in processing collections.

                The hope is that automated text analysis will be a way for libraries and archives to use this technology to readily identify the major topics found in a collection, and potentially identify named entities found in the text, and their frequency, thus giving archivists a good understanding of the scope and content of a collection before it is processed. This could help in identifying processing priorities, funding opportunities, and ultimately helping users identify what is found in the collection.

               Ms. Heiser is a second year masters’ student at the UC Berkeley School of Information where she is learning the theory and practice of storing, retrieving and analyzing digital information in a variety of contexts and is currently taking coursework in natural language processing with Marti Hearst. Prior to the ISchool, Ms. Heiser worked at several companies where she helped develop database systems and software for political parties, non-profits organizations, and an online music distributor. In her free time, she likes to go running and hiking around the bay area. Ms. Heiser was also one of our participants in the #HackFSM hackathon! She was awarded an ISchool Summer Non-profit Internship Grant to support her work at Bancroft this summer and has been awarded an Archival Technologies Fellowship at Bancroft for 2015.