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AV Preservation Census

We are pleased to announce that the Cornell AudioVisual Preservation team is launching a campus-wide census which will gather important data regarding our ‘at-risk’ AV formats. We will assess condition, format stability, uniqueness, and scholarly value. This is an important first step in developing a more comprehensive preservation strategy. This pilot initiative is being jointly funded by Cornell University Library and CIT.

The challenges associated with audio-visual (AV) media preservation are significant: important scholarly material is at risk due to physical media degradation; metadata loss; player or format obsolescence; and rights issues. In addition to issues with legacy materials, there is mounting pressure on newly generated AV content, as scholars are now creating large-scale AV collections associated with their research projects. With new government regulations requiring data management plans for all grant-funded initiatives, it is imperative we begin to address the long and short-term needs to preserve and provide access to important audio-visual collections.

In many cases, we may not even be aware of high-value content on campus, as it lives outside of the normal avenues for collection development and maintenance (such as the Library). Instead such material is embedded in departments, in shoe boxes under desks, or as digital files living on isolated desktops. Even within the Library system there are collections that are not sufficiently described or preserved. Hence we are undertaking the census work as a first step to get a handle on the scope of the problem.

Our initial effort will be in the form of a web-survey, with scheduled follow-up site visits from representatives from our team. We hope to have wide-spread input from key stakeholders across campus, and encourage you to share this with your colleagues. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at For more information about our group and charge, go to:

Why I joined the Authors Alliance

(by Peter Hirtle)

Of all the absurdities associated with the Authors Guild suit against Google over the Google Books Project, perhaps the greatest was the Guild’s efforts to make it a class action, with the 8,000 members of the Guild speaking for all authors everywhere in the world.  Most academic authors realize that providing a keyword index to all published literature can only aid scholarship.  At the same time, by making it easier to identify works that might be of interest, Google Books can only increase readership and sales of the original works.  Yet at the time of the lawsuit, there was no organization that could speak for authors motivated by concerns that were not solely commercial.

Now there is.  On 21 May, the Authors Alliance was formally launched in San Francisco.  The Alliance is the brainchild of Pamela Samuelson, one of the foremost copyright experts in the country and an active voice in the Google Books cases.  The Alliance recognizes that the primary motivation for most authors, including many academic authors, is to be read. Digital network technologies present unprecedented opportunities for the creation and distribution of creative works for the public good.  Alliance members are not opposed to authors making money from their works; most of the members of its Advisory Board publish with trade publishers and have works that can only be purchased.  But they recognize that there are some educational uses (including indexing) that do not need to be monetized.  The Alliance will be a voice for moderation.

This is an especially auspicious time for the formation of the organization.  Discussions have started in Congress about reforming copyright law.  What has been a trade regulation for print media no longer works in a digital environment that exists on copying.  A different ethos is needed if copyright is to meet its constitutional mandate “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.”  The Authors Alliance has therefore developed a set of “Principles and Proposals for Copyright Reform” that reflect the interest of authors who write to be read and that will broaden the discussion in Washington.

This is why I was happy to become a Founding Member of the Authors Alliance and make a donation to its work.  I would encourage anyone who is an author (of books or articles or any creative work) to look at the Alliance’s mission statement and goals and to consider joining as well. And if you don’t believe me, see Kevin Smith’s excellent post, “Why I joined the Authors Alliance.”

Recent Collections from DCAPS

DCAPS is pleased to announce these recently launched digital collections:


Mnemosyne Atlas:


The Mnemosyne Atlas explores the complex work of the 20th century scholar, Aby Warburg. A collaboration between DCAPS, the Cornell University Press, the Warburg Institute, and the German Studies Department, the site is a digital corollary to the CU Press publication, Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg’s Atlas of Images, by UCLA professor Christopher D. Johnson.  Drawing off of Johnson’s extensive knowledge and research into the Warburg Atlas, the site allows users to interact with  Warburg’s panels independently or with the guidance of scholars (Johnson has the first “ pathway” mapped, with more coming soon). The site was developed within DCAPS, and funded by the Arts & Sciences grants program as well as the Mellon Foundation.  The development team from Cornell Library consisted of Kizer Walker, Director for Collection Development; Manolo Bevia, Lead Designer; Jen Colt & Melissa Wallace, Designers; Jim Reidy, Programmer; Jason Kovari, Metadata Lead; and Danielle Mericle, Project Manager.


Cornell Collection of Antiquities:


This website is home to a number of collections revolving around the Ancient Mediterranean, including the Cornell Cast Collection, the Cornell Coin Collection, and the soon-to-be-developed Monumentum Ancyranum Squeeze Collection, and AD White Gem & Amulet Collection.  Digitized from the analog collections dispersed across campus, the website pulls together these resources into an integrated platform so that users may discover these rare and precious resources in a unified fashion.  Funding for the site was provided by the College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Grants Program, and multiple units, faculty members, and graduate students contributed to the creation of the digital collections.     The development team from DCAPS consisted of Rhea Garen, digitization; Jason Kovari and Hannah Marshall, Metadata Design; Melissa Wallace, Designer; and Danielle Mericle, Project Management.


Efraim Racker, Scientist & Artist:


This fascinating site was a collaboration between the Department of Molecular Biology, the Racker family, and DCAPS. Originally a small effort to digitize a handful of VHS tapes from the Racker Lecture Series, the project quickly grew into a full-blown website with accompanying lectures (most of which are fully transcribed and searchable); historical information about Efraim Racker, and access to his extensive artistic output (in the form of journals and paintings).   The DCAPS team consisted of Melissa Wallace, Designer; James Reidy, Programmer; Mira Basara, Luna Programmer and PDF support; Tre Berney and Madelaine Casad, Video digitization; Jason Kovari, Metadata; and Danielle Mericle, project manager.

Updating Our Images: Page Insertion and Correction

A new workflow has made it possible for us to attend to quality issues within our Google-digitized books.  As reported a few years ago, Cornell digitizes books by the thousands with our partners at Google, and the resulting digital books are deposited into the HathiTrust Digital Library.  Google has many methods to maintain and even improve the quality of individual page scans it makes, but occasionally something goes awry.    The vast majority of the time the errors are detected and corrected before the book shows up in Google Books and before it is released for the ingest into HathiTrust, but occasionally errors are missed.  (The article by Kenneth Goldsmith “The Art of Google Books Scans” might serve as sampler of various types of things that can go amiss with scanned images:  everything from images taken while pages are still moving, to the capture of the hands that are, quite literally, in the process of making our Google-digitized books.)  Processes to correct our Google-digitized pages have long been cumbersome, requiring extensive decoding and analysis on the part of staff at Cornell, and so were considered not worth the disproportionate resources they required.  The effective result has been that over the past three years I have been collecting reports of images in need of correction from HathiTrust that I could do little more for than apologetically acknowledge.

However, recent changes at Google have tipped the balance of resources required to engage the image correction process.  Google has provided a web form for library partners to create an easier way to engage corrections.  More importantly, Google now has staff resources that perform much of the interpretation required to appropriately name the pages for insertion, appreciably lowering the barrier for our participation in the process.  There were still some workings on our end to figure out how to engage local staff expertise at the Digital Management Group (DMG) for scanning, while keeping our internal process as simple and easy as possible.  There is also still plenty for me to manage – coordinating across three systems (Voyager, Google and HathiTrust) to make sure we all correct the right pages from the right book.  But as we practice in our initial tentative experiments (we have had five to date, and all of them have been successful) we are learning how to cross reference our communications with each other to make this easier.  It is important to note that the successful process is due to this large cooperative effort that includes staff at Google, HathiTrust, and Cornell.  (Here I note a special thanks to Danielle Mericle, who is contributing DMG resources to this effort, and Bronwyn Mohlke who is contributing her scanning expertise.)  Together, we have all begun to chip away at the backlog of HathiTrust tickets reporting images for correction, improving those pages and closing those tickets, one by one.

If you notice pages in HathiTrust that need improvement, please use the feedback link in the footer of the page in the HathiTrust interface.  This automatically opens a form that will ask for information helpful to resolving the problem.  Submission of the form opens a tracking ticket, and often HathiTrust can resolve these issues with Google directly.  When necessary, HathiTrust staff will escalate to the appropriate library partner for the correction process.

Project Euclid Launches New Website

Project Euclid launched a new website in early January. Planning, design, and development of the site took place over 18 months, and included discussions with numerous researchers, publishers, and librarians. The new site maintains what people liked about the previous site, its performance and clean appearance, while incorporating many new tools and features.

Project Euclid is a not-for-profit, academically owned and operated initiative that provides electronic hosting, marketing, and sales services to publishers of mathematics and statistics literature. CUL conceived of and began developing Project Euclid in 1999-2000, and the Library ran the system for eight years on its own. Since 2008, Project Euclid has been jointly operated by Cornell University Library and Duke University Press. CUL maintains the technical infrastructure, and DUP handles customer-facing services like marketing and sales. Project Euclid currently hosts some 80 international publications, most of which are journals but with a growing book and conference series component. The initiative is completely self-supporting.

Project Euclid benefits greatly from other CUL activities, and this was especially true of the site redesign. Melissa Wallace, a DSPS web designer, designed the new site and brought to it many of the design considerations learned from CUL’s Discovery and Access efforts over the last several years. Shinwoo Kim and Martin Lessmeister, CUL-IT developers, helped implement new technologies in Euclid that are also being incorporated into the new Library discovery environment, as well as lessons learned from running Both Martin and Shinwoo also bring along years of experience with the system behind Euclid.

What are some of the new features of the redesigned Project Euclid website?

A new search and discovery tool. With this version of the website, Project Euclid introduced faceted searching. While research libraries are increasingly implementing this technology, it is still relatively new to academic content sites. Its use in Project Euclid represents a powerful new tool for navigating over 1.7 million pages of scholarship.

Table of contents (TOC) alerts. Project Euclid has offered RSS alerting services for several years, but users can now register to receive an email with the table of contents of a journal issue when that issue appears on the website. Users manage their TOC alerts through personal MyEuclid accounts, easily created by anyone.

Citation export. On TOC and search results pages, users may select one or more articles and export citation information in BibTeX, RIS, or a printer-ready format. RIS is a bibliographic format that many citation management tools are capable of importing (e.g., EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero, and others).euclid-phone

Mobile interface. The new website implements responsive design, which automatically optimizes the site appropriately for a variety of mobile devices. This allows users to read and work on Project Euclid more comfortably and effectively as they access content from multiple devices.

Top downloads. We now display a list of top downloaded documents on a number of Project Euclid pages. The lists are calculated in the same manner throughout the site: the top five downloaded articles or chapters over the previous seven days. These lists attempt to give some sense of user download trends and are recalculated every day. Any particular list displayed is appropriate for the viewer’s context within the website. On a journal home page, the top downloads are all from that journal. On a publisher’s page, they could be from any publication of that publisher. On the Project Euclid home page, the top downloads are measured across all content in the system.

“More like this.” When a user views an article or chapter page, Project Euclid presents a list of similar documents, using the viewed item as the basis for evaluating similarity.

Other changes and added features to the new Project Euclid website include: wider implementation of MathJax (a display technology for mathematical expressions); branded publisher landing pages; links to social media; access indicators for all content; extended print-on-demand offerings; and remote login (via Shibboleth), for off-campus access.

Project Euclid welcomes your feedback on the new site and suggestions for further improvement. All pages have a “site feedback” link in the lower right.

–David Ruddy

Reception for the Grants Program for Digital Collections

Faculty from across the College of Arts and Sciences braved frigid temperatures on Feb. 27 to attend the first reception in support of the Grants Program for Digital Collections.

The program — now in its fifth year —has funded more than 20 incredible projects  Funded by the College of Arts of Sciences and coordinated by Cornell University Library, the Grants Program for Digital Collections in Arts and Sciences aims to support collaborative and creative use of resources through the creation of digital content of enduring value to the Cornell community and scholarship.

Here in the Library, we know that digital collections are powerful. They remove barriers of access to unique, previously unavailable material to aid scholars and students alike in research exploration and the joy of unearthing interdisciplinary connections.

Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, warmly opened the reception at the History of Art Gallery, describing the strong interdisciplinary collaborations that the grants program fosters. And Anne Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, noted the importance that access to curated digital collections offers to students, researchers and faculty worldwide.

Annetta Alexandridis and Cheryl Finley — both previous grant awardees and History of Art faculty members — presented as well. Dr. Alexandridis, who was awarded a 2010 grant to photograph deconstructed plaster casts from the Cornell Plaster casts collection, noted that access to those digital images has provided her students with investigative research possibilities that have spurred hands-on opportunities to reconstruct plaster casts. Although technically “copies,” many of the casts represent the most authoritative version now available, the original having been destroyed by war or poor environmental conditions.  These materials are frequently on display in the History of Art gallery.

Dr. Finley, whose 2012 grant provided support to digitize images from the Lowentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, described the importance this rare collection has for scholars and students of visual arts everywhere, but particularly students and scholars of African American and American studies.  The kinds of images represented in this collection – including portraits of known and unknown sitters, landscapes of the antebellum and postbellum south, brutal images of racial torture and domination, documents of civil rights protest, portraits of black leaders, writers and intellectuals, and images of everyday African American life – reveal volumes about black life and struggle in uncommonly rare photographs. Having these available in digital form will impact learning and teaching worldwide and across a wide range of disciplines.

Grant applications for this year are due on March 15. For more information, including the grant application proposal, please visit







Invitation to Apply for DSPS Fellowship

We are getting ready to invite applications for the Digital Scholarship Fellowship position. Hosted by the DSPS unit the fellowship program aims to provide opportunities for CUL staff to expand their skills and experiences in developing, delivering, and assessing digital scholarship services. It supports the CUL objectives of “empowering staff to explore gaps in their areas of expertise” and “promoting flexible staffing among the units.”  This will be the third year of the program.

DSPS Fellowship Ideas

Here are some examples of fellowship projects to consider:

  • Work with a campus-wide group to survey AV preservation needs across the University system.  Conduct stakeholder interviews and gather critical data with regard to number of items, condition, value.  Contribute to pilot project to digitize/preserve small number of AV items at high risk. Contribute to report/recommendations to Executive team.
  • Sharpen your user experience (UX) assessment skills by contributing to the evaluation of CUL’s digital collection and repositories (e.g., eCommons, visual resources, etc.) to review their practical aspects such as utility, ease of use, and efficiency.  How are such services and systems meeting the actual needs of our faculty and students? How do they fit in their daily work flows to support their research and studies
  • arXiv’s operation depends upon intensive, daily interaction with over 130 subject experts around the world. We would like to begin re-thinking this interaction and design new and/or improved tools for our subject experts to use and need a coordinator to manage the requirements gathering phase of this effort (analyze current processes and test ideas with subject experts and local arXiv administrators).
  • There are many CU publications that have been scanned by HathiTrust, but they cannot be made open access until the departments that created and published them agree to a release and specify what CC license should be used. We need someone to shepherd through the process of talking to departments about opening their publications.
  • Collaborating with the Graduate School, help us address issues and policies related to the collection, management and dissemination of Cornell graduate student theses and dissertations (including increasing the awareness of graduate students and faculty on open access issues).
  • Design and conduct a comprehensive survey of CUL digital assets – characterizing them in terms of aggregate size, content type, basic preservation need, and stakeholder requirements (access, discovery, rights, etc.)  The intent would be to triage these towards various preservation solutions as needed based on the needs of the materials involved.
  • Join the DSPS staff in a NEH-funded project to create a preservation and access framework for the complex born-digital media art objects in the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. Assist in creating informed use-case scenarios for interactive media artworks, based in a broad investigation media art archives’ current users and their research needs.

These are just some examples to illustrate the nature of fellowship projects. Other ideas related to the DSPS programs and goals are welcome. Information about the DSPS program is available at

DSPS Fellows

During the last two years, DSPS has been very fortunate to host four excellent fellows, all very motivated, creative, and resourceful.  We are grateful for their contributions and hope that they found the experience useful and gratifying. They are available to talk with interested parties about their fellowship experiences.

Here is a brief description of their fellowship projects:

Jim DelRosso, Hospitality, Labor, and Management Library

JimDelRosso_headJim’s fellowship  focuses on digital repositories. His primary goal is to work with DSPS and stakeholders around CUL to craft a digital repository policy that addresses questions of software, workflow, collection development, and sustainability, while fulfilling the need for both straightforward access to and robust preservation of the items stored in CUL’s digital repositories.  As a component of his fellowship, he is leading the efforts in creating an agenda for the newly established Repository Executive Group.Jim’s DSPS fellowship is for one year at 0.25 FTE.

Dianne Dietrich, Physical Sciences Library, EMPSL

DianneDianne has joined the team of our NEH-funded project on Preservation and Access for Digital Art Objects as the lead Digital Forensic Analyst. This project represents a collection-wide investigation of preservation and emulation strategies for complex born-digital media. Dianne leads the project’s technical team and helps develop preservation workflows that will be a baseline for CUL digital forensics services in the years to come.  As a part of her fellowship, she has been representing the project at national forums and conferences. Dianne’s fellowship is for two years at 0.5 FTE.

Erin Eldermire, Assessment and Communication Unit

ErinEldermireheadErin’s goals for the DSPS fellowship are to contribute to the development of the library website; to explore assessment-related issues for CUL’s digital collections; and to learn from the members of the DSPS Unit towards her future career as a librarian.  In her recent DSPS Press   blog, she shares her thoughts on how the Library can enable users to employ a simple search box such as Google, while still allowing them to dive into our vast collection. Erin’s fellowship is for six months at 10 hours/week.

Gail Steinhart, Mann Library

GailAs the first DSPS fellow,  over the course of her one year fellowship with DSPS (2012-2013), she chaired a newly formed group to address issues related to the management of Cornell’s electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs), including facilitating discussions with the Graduate School, which led to a revised set of embargo options that will be implemented when upgrades are made to the online submission tool used by graduate students to submit their theses ETDs. She reviewed and reported on the results of a pilot project examining the use of Johns Hopkins’ Data Conservancy to host data sets associated with papers uploaded to arXiv, led the production of a white paper examining current approaches to digital repositories within CUL, and contributed to other DSPS efforts such as educating librarians on current issues in scholarly communication (with particular emphasis on research data management and sharing). Finally, she led the development of a collaborative grant proposal to the Institute for Museum and Library Services with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Columbia University and CalPoly, to develop and share a set of best practices for collecting, documenting and disseminating the research data of faculty nearing retirement.

For More Information About the Program:

  • Interested CUL staff members are encouraged to discuss the fellowship position with their supervisors first.
  • Our current and past interns will be offering a round table discussion during the  upcoming Professional Development week (March 31-April 4) to share their experiences.  We encourage everyone interested in the fellowship program to attend the session and talk with the fellows.
  • If you have questions regarding the HR arrangements and funding please contact Lyndsi Prignon at <>.
  • Issues related to the program areas, potential projects, and the scope of the fellowship should be addressed to Oya Rieger <>.
  • Oya Rieger and Lyndsi Prignon will be glad to talk with interested staff and their supervisors about  logistical details such as making back-up arrangements and ways to accommodate the candidates’ existing responsibilities and goals.

Application Information:

  • We will have 1-2 positions open to CUL staff with a term of 1-2 years at a part-time capacity (0.25 FTE).
  • The successful candidate’s department will be compensated with funds for backfill.
  • Although there are no prerequisite skills required, the candidates need to be familiar with the recent trends and practices in one of the digital scholarship program areas (e.g., repositories, publishing, research data, digital collections, digital preservation, preservation policies, etc.).
  • To apply, send a copy of your CV to with a cover letter describing the program areas of interest and expectations from the fellowship.
  • The applications will be reviewed by a small committee with input from the candidate’s supervisor.
  • The application deadline is April 30, 2014 for fellowship terms starting during August-October 2014 time-frame.

Oya Y. Rieger, February 2014

Strategies for Expanding E-Journal Preservation

Academic libraries are increasingly dependent on commercially-produced, born-digital content that is purchased or licensed. For instance, CUL’s e-journal title count increased by 100% between FY07 and FY13.  As libraries consolidate their print collections in order to open up space for new programs or to downsize physical footprints, users increasingly rely on the digitized versions of historical e-journals.

During the last decade, several e-journal preservation initiatives have been launched to secure the future of this important genre of scholarly and cultural record. For instance, The Keepers Registry is a service to provide information about inclusion of journals in preservation services and highlight those e-journals that have no preservation arrangements in place. It incorporated data from several preservation organizations, the key ones being Portico, CLOCKSS Archive, and the Global LOCKSS Network.

chartEvidence indicates that the extent of e-journal preservation has not kept pace with the growth of electronic publication. Studies comparing the e-journal holdings of major research libraries with the titles currently preserved by the key preservation agencies have consistently found that only 20-25%, at most, of the titles with ISSN’s currently collected have been preserved. In early 2011, the libraries of Cornell and Columbia conducted a study as part of the 2CUL collaboration, and found, for example, that LOCKSS and Portico combine to preserve only a relatively small percentage of these libraries’ e-journal holdings, less than 15% of Cornell’s e-journal titles as a whole.[1] In the fall of 2012, a study using The Keepers Registry comparing the e-journal holdings of Columbia, Cornell, and Duke with the e-journals preserved by seven different agencies, yielded similar results, showing that only 22-27% of the subset of titles with an assigned ISSN had any volumes archived. Furthermore, the extent of volumes archived for any given title varied greatly and was often sparse.[2|

With a recent grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Cornell and Columbia University Libraries are involved in an 18-month project to increase the number and range of e-journals that will be preserved. The key project goals include:

  • Identify important and vulnerable e-journal content from the perspective of the research library through a quantitative and qualitative methodology;
  • Select a set of representative titles from high-priority categories to develop, test, and promote appropriate archival strategies based on content type and origin;
  • Document and share findings to facilitate the continued expansion of e-journal preservation through ongoing assessment of priorities and documented practices;
  • Engage libraries, publishers, societies, and other key stakeholders in analyzing current impediments to securing preservation agreements and test methods of working with appropriate parties (publishers, professional societies, e-journal aggregators, and preservation agencies) to overcome these obstacles;
  • Create forums for exchanging information about relevant preservation strategies and their implications and the roles of libraries in advancing the e-journal preservation front in order to encourage streamlined processes for attending to the archival status of e-journals.

Individual libraries, despite their concern for preservation, often lack effective means for taking action. One of the revealing findings of the initial 2CUL e-journal preservation study was that many staff at Cornell and Columbia only had a superficial understanding of the relevant preservation strategies and their implications – and of the roles of libraries in advancing the e-journal preservation front. Selection and acquisition processes may not involve any direct interaction with the publisher; many titles are acquired as parts of large packages, with no comprehensive provision for preservation. One of the proactive strategies proposed in the current project is developing language for a model license addressing preservation and sharing it with the publishing and library communities to set a timeline for implementation (e.g., in five years, all ARL libraries will aim to use the same licensing language).

As we work to address the archival challenges of traditional e-journals, publishing continues to change rapidly and it includes enriched content that is layered, interactive, and dynamic. We risk falling behind. As our dependency on e-publications increase, it is critical that we conduct in-depth studies to understand and assess the evolving preservation strategies, services, and policies.

More information about the new 2CUL e-journal preservation is available at:

Oya Y. Rieger, February 2014


The Library Search Experience: Embracing Simplicity

How do you find information?

Chances are, you probably start with a Google search. Google’s single search box is so easy to use, the results come up in a snap, and the results that it displays are often satisfying, especially for everyday searching. It is no wonder, then, that college students often turn to Google to conduct research for their assignments. Besides, Google is so good at uncovering information about everyday things, why wouldn’t it be good at finding resources for college-level research?

It turns out, though, that even though Google works well for everyday information, its virtues quickly dissipate when you try to find the sort of detailed information that students need for their research.

In part, that’s because Google doesn’t allow access to most newspaper articles or scholarly journals (and for you Cornell students who have accessed articles through Google or Google Scholar, you were probably using the Library’s subscription to get access without realizing it).

Furthermore, Google’s simplicity doesn’t allow for targeted information searching — the type of searching library junkies know well. Librarians love the and, not, or, and near functions that databases allow, because they enable specific searching, like a hot knife through butter. But librarians also have so much practice in finding information that they have developed a deep understanding of how to successfully find what they want. Most college students, on the other hand, don’t typically have the luxury of such practice and understanding, which is one reason why the research process can be daunting for college students at any level.

How, then, can a library such as Cornell University Library — brimming with articles, encyclopedias, books, theses, music, equipment and the like —provide a tool for finding the information it houses without asking people to learn and use a complex search process that library catalogs have historically required?  In other words, how can the Library enable users to employ a simple search, much like they use in Google, while still allowing them to dive into our vast collection and come out with useful information?

Our solution is to flip the research process on its head – that is, to allow a simple search that yields rich results, rather than requiring the use of a complex search to find specific things. Developers at Cornell University Library have been hard at work designing a new library search tool that enables users to powerfully search with a simple, Google-like search box. This new method of searching will eliminate the need to understand conventions and search techniques that library catalogs and databases traditionally require. Once a user enters a search, results will show up in a compartmentalized way. We call the results display a “bento box,” where results are neatly categorized by format type (e.g. article, book, website) so that the results resemble… well, a bento box.

Bento Box, courtesy of Melissa of and shared via Creative Commons

Bento Box, courtesy of Melissa of and shared via Creative Commons license

But this isn’t just an idea that has come from left field. It’s been a long time coming. Besides the need for a better way to search our collections, the reasons for developing this new library website have to do with changing metadata standards and an aging infrastructure of the catalog that we have been using. Other academic libraries have been blazing a path in simplifying the library search experience, and for them it seems to be paying off; North Carolina State University, Stanford, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Columbia, and others have already implemented a single-search interface with success.

Cornell is following in their footsteps, but by using open-source solutions, we are building a nimble and comprehensive searching tool that we can customize to work best for our vast collections. The end result is that we are undertaking the effort that will help you, the user, discover what we have in an intuitive and user-friendly way.

To develop this search tool, we’ve taken advantage of our collective expertise by bringing together library staff, IT staff, catalogers, and many others. The forthcoming tool is the result of continuous research, user testing, and feedback. But we need more. Do you want to be a part of the search experience at Cornell University Library?  Take a look at our beta site here:  Send any feedback to

Epigraphic Squeezes: Part I

by J.M. Iacchei







In a library’s conservation lab, tightly rolled photographs, brittle newspapers, weathered maps, and heavily soiled and torn architectural drawings are fairly common items to come across a conservator’s workbench. Every so often though, an item arrives for treatment that is not so typical. The collection of epigraphic squeezes (paper cast impressions from inscribed surfaces) recently brought to Cornell Library’s conservation lab falls into this category.



“Squeezing” is a method used in the field by archeologists to collect inscriptions from ancient monuments. The “squeeze” is made by laying dampened paper over an incised surface which is then beat with a flat brush and let to dry. Care to remove air bubbles and to capture each area of incision results in a highly accurate reverse relief of the inscription and a negative right-reading impression of the inscription.

1907 Cornell expedition team taking a squeeze at Quru Bel, Arslan Tash

Brush used to beat the dampened paper into the incised surface

Cornell expedition: Paper squeeze drying on stone monument













Squeezes are an incredibly valuable resource to scholars of epigraphy for a number of reasons:

1) Many monuments reside in distant locations; access often requires expensive and timely travel. Squeezes are lightweight and portable.

2) The squeeze allows for comparison to and revision of existing interpretations, as well as potential for fragmentary inscriptions to be pieced together. This is especially useful in reconstructing the topography of antiquity. The congruity of a text was often disrupted in times of conquest or political changes as it was common for monuments to be moved from their original locations and re-purposed for building materials.

3) Many monuments have become the casualties of time, man, and natural disasters. It is likely that they are in poorer condition today than they were at the time the squeeze was collected. Photographs are of value, yes, but, their accuracy depends heavily upon the light in which they were captured. A squeeze often provides the most complete, accurate and accessible copy of the text available to date.









These particular squeezes were collected as part of an archeological expedition to the Assyro-Babylonian orient organized by Cornell professor J.R.S. Sterrett in 1907. Following their use by Professor Sterrett in the early 20th century, these 200 or so items have been stored in an attic of the Goldwin Smith building in cardboard boxes. The roughly 90 that have been selected for treatment at this time were collected from the Res Gestae in Ankara of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Inscribed in both Latin and Greek, they contain a text central to the study of Roman history.



The squeezes arrived to the lab heavily coated with surface soil – dust, and dirt; maybe even a little inactive mold. Due to the topographic nature of the squeezes the surface soil is heavily ingrained, especially in the curves and angles of the raised impressions. The squeezes are composed of multiple layers of paper which have begun to delaminate and have become creased with folds from previous storage and handling.

The objective of conservation treatment is to: 1) clean and stabilize the squeezes prior to scanning and digitization and 2) provide a permanent storage solution taking into consideration size, quantity, topographic nature, and spatial limitations.

During Treatment, cleaning: The right half of this image has been vacuumed, the left has been both vacuumed sponge cleaned










Cleaning: The squeezes were vacuumed with a NILFISK Hepa vacuum, and cleaned once with absorene sponge erasers and again with latex free cosmetic sponges. Each cleaning method contributed to reducing the buildup of dirt and dust on the surface.

Stabilization: Local humidification was used to reduce folds and creases that were not part of the inherent nature of the items topography. Areas that had begun to delaminate were generally left alone unless they were at risk of becoming torn or presented potential for loss. In these instances, Japanese tissue and/or wheat starch paste was used to stabilize the area.

The study of epigraphy takes into account not only the incised impressions, but also the surface of the monument on which it is inscribed. The squeezes capture these characteristics showing cracks and dents, as well as areas where the stone was not carved or perhaps smoothed over for correction or reuse. They lend a great deal of information to the epigraphist looking to piece together the story of earlier times.

A puncture made during the beating stage, we believe.










This project is part of a larger initiative funded by the Grants Program for Digital Collection in Arts and Sciences to preserve and promote accessibility for research, study, and dissemination. The scope extends beyond the lab and has called upon the collaboration of conservators, curators, faculty, and imaging specialists. Once cleaned and stabilized, the squeezes will be digitally imaged using different lighting at different angles. These images will then be given to a group at Florida State University where algorithms will be applied to render 3-D reconstructions that will in turn be studied by graduate students of the Cornell University’s Classics department.


Many thanks to Professors Eric Rebillard and Ben Anderson for their insights into the significance of these items, and to Rhea Garen who will be capturing the images. It is the collaborative efforts that make projects such as this one possible.

More to come. Epigraphic Squeezes: Part II and III. Fiber Analysis and Exploration in Squeeze Making is in progress.



McLean, B. H. An introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign if Constantine (323 B.C.-A.D. 337). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Olmstead, A.T., B.B. Charter, and J.E. Wrench. The Cornell Expedition to Asia Minor and the Assyro-Babylonian Orient, Travels and Studies in the Nearer East, Volume 1 Part II: Hittite Inscriptions. Ithaca, NY, 1911.


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