Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Our Hogwarts Digital Collection

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

When Hogwarts librarian Irma Pince first appears in book one of the Harry Potter series, published twenty years ago this week, she is brandishing a feather duster and ordering young Harry out of the library where he’s pursing the noble (and ultimately world-saving) task of looking up the alchemist Nicholas Flamel.

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Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.

Pince doesn’t exactly scream poster-child for open access.  And yet, a chance look at our card catalog recently revealed that the Academy Library might have something in common with Hogwarts, aside from its ambiance (The Library’s Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room, nestled on a locked mezzanine level of the Academy that visitors sometimes call its “Hogwarts floor,” frequently invites comparisons.)  That something is our collections.

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The New York Academy of Medicine Library has launched a special digital collection, “How to Pass Your O.W.L.s at Hogwarts: A Prep Course.” Featuring rare books dating back to the fifteenth century, the collection reveals the history behind many of the creatures, plants and other magical elements that appear in the Harry Potter series.

The digital collection is organized as a fictional study aid for Hogwarts students preparing for their important magical exams, the O.W.L.s. The collection is organized into seven Hogwarts courses, featuring historical content related to each area of magical study. For example, the Transfiguration section focuses on alchemy and the work of Nicholas Flamel—a historical figure who is fictionalized in Rowling’s books.  Both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and seventeenth century scientific literature represent Nicholas Flamel as an important alchemist responsible for achieving the philosopher’s stone (the real Flamel was a wealthy manuscript seller, and likely never an alchemist himself).

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Salmon, William. Medicina Practica, or the Practical Physician, 1707, featuring Nicholas Flamel’s Hieroglyphics.

The collection’s Care of Magical Creatures section features spectacular centuries-old drawings of dragons, unicorns and basilisks—plenty of prep material here to keep the attention of young wizards during this third year elective course.

The early naturalists Conrad Gessner and Ulisse Aldrovandi both devoted entire volumes of their encyclopedic works to serpents.   Some illustrations depicted snakes as we might see them in the natural world.  Others celebrated more fantastical serpentine creatures, including a seven headed-hydra and a basilisk.  Said to be the ruler of the serpents, the basilisk (from the Greek, basiliskos, for little king) looks a little like a turtle with a crown on his head.

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Aldrovandi, Ulisse. Serpentum, et draconum historiae libri duo…, 1640, pp. 270-271.

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Aldrovandi, Ulisse. Serpentum, et draconum historiae libri duo…, 1640, p. 363.

Off campus proves to be where the wild (er) things are.  In book one of the series, Voldemort gains strength by ingesting the blood of a unicorn.  Rowling’s unicorns have healing properties and can act as antidotes to poison.  The qualities Rowling assigns to these beautiful and rarest of beasts echo their characterization in early modern natural history texts.  Several of these works —illustrated encyclopedias that depict and describe both real and fantastic animals in the sixteenth century—present the unicorn as powerful healers.

We’ve written already about the French apothecary Pierre Pomet’s illustrations of the five types of unicorns, and his assertion in his 1684 history of drugs that unicorn horns sold in most apothecary shops were actually the horns of narwhals.

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Pomet, Pierre. Histoire generale de drogues, traitant des plantes, des animaux, & des mineraux…., 1694, p. 9.(Click Here for a coloring sheet of this image!)

Conrad Gessner’s 4500 page encyclopedia of animals, the Historia Animalium, also includes a depiction of a unicorn (below). Gessner writes that unicorn horn and wine together can counteract poisons, and assigns it other efficacious properties.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we meet a band of spirited and enigmatic centaurs in the Forbidden Forest.  Centaurs and mer-people fall into a category throughout the series of what Rowling refers to as “half-breeds”:  hybrid creatures who are part man or woman, and part animal. This category of beings is often diminished for being somehow less than fully human.  In the books, half-breeds don’t have the civil rights that other wizarding folk have. Hagrid, Dumbledore, and others are sympathetic to the creatures—In Harry’s fifth year, Dumbledore appoints one as Hogwarts’ Divination Professor.

While the History of Magic taught at Hogwarts is largely fictional, the Academy Library contains books in the real-life history of magic, including the 1658 manual Natural Magick by Giovanni Battista della Porta and a manual for witch-hunters by della Porta’s rival, Jean Bodin—two highlights of the digital collection. Another featured treasure is an actual bezoar (ours comes from the stomach of a cow, ca. 1862), and is used as a key potions ingredient by Hogwarts’ students.

As Hermione Granger says, “When in doubt, go to the library.” We hope you’ll heed her advice and check out our new digital collection, “How to Pass Your O.W.L.s at Hogwarts: A Prep Course.”

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Launched? Check! Library’s New Digital Collections & Exhibits Website

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

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Content inventory complete? Check.

New and enhanced scans created?  Check.

Content migration complete? Check.

All collections uploaded to repository? Check.

All metadata confirmed? Check.

Backend infrastructure secured? Check.

Design complete?  Check.

Quality assurance complete? Check.

Sign-off? Check.

Then, we’re ready for take-off.

Let’s launch!

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new digital collections and exhibits website.

Starting in 2016, we began working with Islandora, an open-source framework that provides a robust infrastructure for digital collection development.  Our goal was to migrate old collections and develop new digital collections.  Islandora offered a solution that was extensible, easy to use, and built on a foundation that included a preservation-quality repository (Fedora), one of the most extensible content management systems (Drupal), and a fast search (Solr).   With this base, we set about designing the interface, migrating and developing collections, and working to build a digital collection website that would make it easy for the public to explore the amazing collections available at the Library.

You can find us at digitalcollections.nyam.org

The homepage of the website will be your guide to our collections.  There you will find a showcase of our treasures from rare medieval manuscripts to 19th century advertising cards.  From the homepage, you can access a collection by clicking on the image for that collection, search for particular terms using the search box on the right, and browse recently added collections just below the search.  As you explore a collection, you will find that some use the Internet Archive BookReader to provide the experience of turning the pages of a book, while others appear similar to image galleries.  Regardless of the collection design, you can learn more from the descriptive metadata below the object, zoom in on a specific area, and download a copy of the image.

William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards

The William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards was donated to the Library between 1986 and 1992 by Mr. Helfand, a leading collector of medical ephemera.  The collection includes approximately 300 colored cards produced in the United States and France in the mid-nineteenth century that advertised a variety of goods. For example, if you’d like a cure for your corns and bunions, then “Ask Your Druggist for Hanson’s Magic Corn Salve.”  Maybe you’d like a solution that will work for multiple ailments such as “Ayer’s Cathartic Pills: the Country Doctor.”   Whatever your ailment, chances are pretty good you will find something in this collection that offers a solution.

As part of the Library’s early digitization efforts and grant funding in the early 2000s, half of the collection was digitized.  This project digitized the rest of the collection.  For the first time, the complete collection, duplicates and all, is available to the public.  Researchers and the general public can explore these trade cards in new and novel ways to gain an understanding of the collection as a whole.

The majority of the metadata on the cards are hyperlinked so that users can easily find information.  For example, if you were interested in a particular manufacturer such as “D. Jayne and Son,” then you can click on that manufacturer’s name to find all the cards associated with that manufacturer.  Also, if you’re curious about all the cards with cats or dogs, then you can search the collection for “cats” to see how many cats appear on trade cards or “dogs” for the number of dogs in our collections.  Let us know how many cats or dogs you find!

Rare and Historical Collections

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The website includes a glimpse into our rare and historical collections material.   In one day, high-end photographer, Ardon Bar-Hama, courtesy of George Blumenthal, took photos of a subset of the Library’s treasures.  For example, if you’re interested in cookery, you can page through our Apicius manuscript with 500 Greek and Roman recipes from the 4th and 5th centuries.  Maybe you’re interested in Aristotle’s Masterpiece, or you just want to see the most beautiful anatomical images from Andreas Vesalius’s De Humani corporis Fabrica, or a skunk-cabbage (Symplocarpus Fœtida) hand-colored plate from William P. C. Barton’s Vegetable Materia Medica.  Whatever the interest, this collection offers a broad range of materials from the Library.

Launched? Check!

Let’s Digitize! Building the Library’s Digital Lab

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

If your materials cannot take a trip to an external digitization lab to be converted from analog to digital, then you do what all aspiring DIYers do: you bring the lab to your materials. The New York Academy of Medicine Library has an amazing and significant collection of rare and unique materials that will benefit both researchers and the general public once digitized.  Thus, our goal is to develop a robust digital infrastructure to support the creation and preservation of our digital assets internally, particularly rare, fragile and unique materials.

The Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), a collaborative started in 2007 to create sustainable guidelines for digitization, is the gold standard for cultural heritage digitization. In 2016, FADGI’s Still Image Working group released an updated “Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials,” which updates the specifications for being FADGI compliant.  Establishing a robust digital infrastructure means being FADGI compliant while integrating the needs of our users and the strategic goals of the Library.

Inventory & Solution

We began the process by conducting an inventory of our resources.  The Library has multiple scanner setups and each is good for its purpose.  However, no setup was best for digitizing rare materials.

  • Flatbed Scanner: Our Epson Perfection v700 Photo flatbed scanner, used in earlier digitization projects, was good for small flat materials. Prior to our digital setup, we used it to digitize additional items for our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards.
  • Book Scanners: We have two Bookeye scanners: a Bookeye 3 and a Bookeye 4.  Our Bookeye scanners were used to create images for patrons, but posed complications when thinking about scanning rare books. Our Bookeye 3 scanner with a glass platen is best for large flat materials. Our Bookeye 4 scanner with v-cradle is a workhorse, but posed problems for items with tight bindings that were unable to open 90 degrees. Our Konica Minolta Scan Diva scanner stopped working due to a problem with the software and the company was unable to replace it.  As a result, the scanner was no longer usable.

The inventory revealed the need for a solution that followed FADGI guidelines for digitizing rare materials, considered the binding of the item, made sure digitization would not damage the item, and used equipment that could be easily maintained.

Library Digital Lab

Thanks to the generous support of the Gladys Brooks Foundation, we created a digital lab that combined the old and the new.

The digital lab is illuminated by two Profoto strobe lights that flank an old copy stand sitting on a production workbench. Attached to the copy stand is a refurbished Phase One 645DF camera with 80mm lens, and a Mamiya Leaf 50 megapixel digital back.  Just off to the right is the digital workstation, which includes a Mac Pro, Eizo monitor, and Capture One Cultural Heritage (CH) software used in the digitization process.

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Photos courtesy of the Library’s Digital Team.

 

Discussion with our digitization working group and other cultural heritage organizations with digitization labs led to the digital camera setup that was modular and best for digitizing rare materials. Modularity offered the opportunity to grow and develop as the technology changed while making it easy to replace parts as necessary. Thus, if the lights needed to be replaced, we would not need to replace the entire setup, but rather just the lights.  The digital camera setup also offered flexibility because there was no set angle at which to open an item.  Using book cradles, we can adjust the angles based on the object for best shooting and handling.

A recent report from the Library of Congress, “Library of Congress Lab: Library of Congress Digital Scholars Lab Pilot Project” provides great recommendations for digital lab design.  The research conducted and the recommendations from the report are a model for a digital lab that can benefit us all in our own efforts to digitize and make rare materials accessible to a wider audience.

This blog post is the first of series of post from the digital lab.  We will share our process and activities, so stay tuned.

Aldrovandi’s Quadrupeds, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 4

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It’s the fourth day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. Check out all the coloring books at colorourcollections.org.

A set of charming four-footed beasts from the quadrupeds volume of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522-1605) multi-volume  natural history encyclopedia is our choice for today’s coloring sheets.

Aldrovandi grew up in Bologna as the privileged son of a noble family.  His father, Teseo Aldrovandi, served as secretary for the Senate of Bologna and his mother was a first cousin of Pope Gregory XIII.  From an early age, Aldrovandi displayed a restless intelligence, studying mathematics, law and philosophy before finally earning a degree in medicine and philosophy from the University of Padua in 1553.

By the time he earned his degree, Aldrovandi had already developed a passionate interest in natural history.  A popular teacher, he taught philosophy and other subjects at the University of Bologna before he was appointed the first professor of natural sciences in 1561.  Aldrovandi’s interest was sparked by personal encounters with other major figures in the world of 16th century natural history, including the ichthyologist Guillaume Rondelet and the botanist Luca Ghini. While Ghini failed in his attempts to garner support for the establishment of a botanical garden in Bologna, Aldrovandi was successful, founding the garden with the support of the Senate in 1568 and serving as its director for almost 40 years.  He also travelled widely, often with students, to collect plants  and natural history specimens.

Over the course of his lifetime, Aldrovandi assembled a natural history museum of 18,000 specimens, as well as an extensive herbarium.  Only four of the thirteen volumes of his magisterial Storia Naturale were published during his lifetime; the others appeared posthumously over a period of decades.  He left the museum collections, his library, his unpublished manuscripts, drawings, water colors and the wood blocks that were meant to be used to illustrate the encyclopedia volumes to the city of Bologna when he died.  A portion of the specimen collections can be visited today in the Istituto delle scienze at the Palazzo Poggi, while the manuscripts, watercolors, and wood blocks are available for study in the library at the University of Bologna.

If you like Aldrovandi’s majestic beasts, you’ll love the following coloring pages from our participating institutions.

We’re mesmerized by Dittrick Medical History Center‘s beautiful Anatomy of an Horse (1683) by Andrew Snape.

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Enjoy coloring the many details of University of Strathclyde Glasgow‘s regal lion from Michael Maire’s Atalanta Fugiens (1618).

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Finally, here is the legendary manticore for your coloring delight. The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History adds a bit of whimsy with Historie of foure-footed beastes(1658) by Edward Topsell.

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Check back in tomorrow for the last day of #ColorOurCollections!

 

Hebra’s Atlas of Skin Diseases, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 3

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It’s the third day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest organized on social media. Every day on our blog, we will feature #ColorOurCollections coloring sheets from our library, along with content from participants worldwide.

Today’s Academy coloring sheets come from the works of Ferdinand von Hebra  (1816- 1880), a significant figure in the influential Vienna school of dermatology. Dermatology emerged as a clinical specialty in the early to mid-19th century, and in 1849, Hebra was appointed the first German language professor in the subject, at Vienna General Hospital.[i]

Hebra’s Atlas of Skin Diseases (1856 – 76) was a monumental work printed in 10 installments, with mostly life-sized illustrations, using the new technique of chromolithography, which allowed the artist to draw directly onto the lithographic stone and print in color. The illustrations were created by two Viennese painter physicians, Anton Elfinger and Carl Heitzmann. Each issue of the Atlas was dedicated to a group of disorders which affected the skin.

The “tattooed man” is an unusual addition to the Atlas, being presented as of cultural rather than the clinical interest. Unusually, the tattooed man is also identified by name, as Georg Constantin, a circus performer from Albania. Constantin was a well-known circus performer, who traveled extensively in Europe and North America. He spent time with Barnum’s Circus as “Prince Constantine,” where he also sold pamphlets describing his tattoos (which are variously described as Chinese and Burmese in origin).[ii] Constantin’s body was covered with 388 tattoos of animals and symbols in red and blue. As was Hebra’s habit, Constantin was depicted twice in the Atlas, once in full color and once as the outline drawing presented here.[iii]

Itching to color the tattooed man? Some of these intricate patterns from participating institutions may also be your groove.

From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Health Science Library: Adam Lonicer, Naturalis historiae opus novum (1551).
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From Amguedddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales: Benjamin Wilkes, Twelve new designs of English Butterflies (1742).

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We’re also loving Muhlenberg College Trexler Library‘s maps coloring book.  Check out this detailed world map of Johann Baptist Hormann’s Planiglobii terrestris cum utroq hemisphærio cælesti generalis repræsentatio (1720).muhlenbergcollege_colorourcollections_maps

References:

[i] Holubar, K. (1981), Ferdinand von Hebra 1816–1880: On the Occasion of the Centenary of His Death. International Journal of Dermatology, 20: 291–295. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4362.1981.tb04341.x

[ii] Margo DeMello, Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community (Duke University press, 2000), p56. DeMello states that Constantin sold pamphlets describing the “Chinese cannibal natives” who had forced his tattooing on him. In Hebra’s Atlas the tattoos are identified as being Burmese. There is also a suggestion that Constantin had himself tattooed with an eye to displaying himself as a circus attraction.

[iii] Mechthild Fend, “Skin portraiture ‘painted from nature’: Ferdinand Hebra’s Atlas of Skin Diseases (1856-76)”, in Hidden Treasure, Michael Sappol (ed), New York: Blast Books, 2012, pp. 122-26.

Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 2

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Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal has quite a curious publication story.  We’ve transformed six images from this stunning eighteenth-century botanical first published in 1737 in London into coloring sheets.

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Blackwell’s melon, colored by library staff member, Emily Miranker.

Aberdeen-born Elizabeth Blackwell (1700-1758), the daughter of a successful merchant, married her cousin Alexander Blackwell at age 28.  Though trained in reading Greek and Latin, Alexander practiced as a physician in Aberdeen, without appropriate permissions. The couple relocated to London when his right to practice medicine in Aberdeen was challenged.  In London, Blackwell opened a printing shop—again without the proper credentials, and again with less than stellar results.  When he couldn’t pay his business debts, he was installed at the city’s Highgate Prison.

Elizabeth, by then a mother, needed to find a way to support her family.  The printer’s shop she operated with her husband had made her a savvy observer of the book marketplace.  She realized that a new high quality herbal including New World species didn’t yet exist.  She took a room next to the Chelsea Physic Gardens, which exhibited some of the new American plants.  Later, she ferried the finished drawings to the prison at Highgate, where her husband supplied the Latin and Greek names of the plants and their uses. Some American plants, like sassafras, native to Virginia, were given only the English and Latin names.

Alexander also offered counsel on the plants’ medicinal uses.  The text accompanying sweet gum, here, “sweet cistus of candy” attests that it “Stays Vomiting” and that “the Fume of it Comforts the Brain” (we’re hoping that these same effects can be said about the practice of coloring these images).

blackwell_watermarkblackwell3Elizabeth was not only responsible for the drawings themselves, but did the engravings of the drawings on copper plates for printing.  In many copies, she hand-colored every single plate.  The images were first published at a rate of four a week, beginning in 1737, but through her own connections and market-savvy, she soon secured a book deal.  With the profits, Elizabeth was able to secure Alexander’s release from Highgate Prison, though their reunion was temporary (later he was put to death in Sweden for treason, though that is another story).

This week, we’re grateful that our own copy of Blackwell’s Curious Herbal is gloriously pristine so that we could transform them into a bouquet of coloring sheets.

In need of color specifics?  Blackwell’s text gives vivid, precise descriptions of the hues of her selected plants.  Great Bindweed (v.1, plate 38), which blooms in the late summer, has leaves that are “a willow green” with “Flowers white,” while her Female Piony possesses “leaves a grass green and flowers a fire crimson.”

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We leave it to you imaginative colorists to fill in these pages in any range of glorious hues you like!

While we’re on a plant theme, let’s take a look at some beautiful coloring pages from participating institutions.

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New York Botanical Garden includes this lovely sunflower in their coloring book. Source: Basillius Besler, Hortus Eystettensis (1613).

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Williams College Libraries includes this ready-to-color image from Leonhart Fuchs’ De historia stirpium (1542).

Don’t forget to check out more coloring books at colorourcollections.org!

#ColorOurCollections 2017: Day 1

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The second annual #ColorOurCollections week has officially begun! From February 6th through 10th, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions are showcasing their collections in the form of free coloring sheets. Follow the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to be introduced to new library collections, find out more about your favorites, and have some fun. Throughout the week, we will be featuring new coloring books from other institutions on the blog, and be sure to visit the #ColorOurCollections website for the list of participants and a collection of coloring books created for the campaign.

We also plan to showcase the work of the talented colorists out there! Share your filled-in sheets on social media with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections for a chance to get featured on our blog.

Our coloring book this year features hooved creatures from Ulisse Aldrovani’s Qvadrvpedvm omniv bisvlcorv historia, 1621; beautiful botanicals from Elizabeth Blackwell’s A curious herbal, 1739; and a dashing tattooed fellow from Ferdinand Hebra’s Atlas der Hautkrankheiten, 1856-1876. Download our full coloring book and check back throughout the week for background on our sources.

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The coloring content shared by collections so far tell us we are in for an incredible week! We’re particularly taken with Europeana’s Art Nouveau coloring book. The style lends itself beautifully to coloring sheets and we cannot wait to get started on the nasturtium design.

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The Biodiversity Heritage Library’s new coloring book features the work of great naturalists such Pierre Belon, Mark Catesby, and John Gould.

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We’re excited to see some new participants this year! The Rosenbach created several coloring sheets based on bookplates from their exhibition The Art of Ownership.

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Keep following #ColorOurCollections on your favorite social media outlets. Happy coloring!

#ColorOurCollections: February 6-10, 2017

Get your crayons and colored pencils ready, we’re gearing up to #ColorOurCollections again! This year’s library social media coloring extravaganza will happen February 6th-10th. During that week, libraries, archives, special collections, and other cultural institutions around the world will share coloring sheets based on materials in their collections.  You will find these posts on social media with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections, as well as on our new website, colorourcollections.org.

Last year, more than 210 libraries and cultural institutions participated, representing 7 countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand). Institutions, let’s make it even bigger this year. If you work in a library or special collection, join us in this fun initiative! Find out how to participate here.

If you can’t wait and want to sharpen those coloring skills, try your hand at one of our new coloring sheets. This illustration of 26 notable women comes from the pamphlet Famous women of the world published by the Pepsin Syrup Company, circa 1920.

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Discover Grey Literature: Hidden Health and Science Resources

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

This fall, the Academy will host the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature to reveal one of the most valuable hidden resources for students, health professionals, and researchers. This post was originally posted on The New York Academy of Medicine‘s blog, Urban Health Matters.

Where can anyone get access to more than 20,000 expert health and science resources for free? The Grey Literature Report—GreyLit for short. A treasured resource among librarians since 1999, the GreyLit Report also offers students, health sciences researchers and professionals a one-stop-shop for incredibly difficult to find information. Once a quarterly publication, the GreyLit Report became so popular by 2006 that the Academy doubled the number of issues published each year.

greylitscreenshotWhy Grey?

The very title of the report is a clue to why it’s such a valuable tool. The carefully curated resources it provides often exist in a “grey” area between widely distributed peer-reviewed journals and the proprietary research that does not make it into the public sphere.

Grey literature is notoriously hard to find, often buried on the websites of any number of organizations or in the stacks of medical and science libraries. By publishing a categorized, bi-monthly compendium of the top resources in the field, the GreyLit Report does the detective work for thousands of overwhelmed students, scientists and academics that often leads them to the critical information they need to complete their work.

One popular document included in the report, for example, was A closer look at the implementation of taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages: a civil society perspective, published by the government of Barbados. Normally, this study would not land on the desks of American researchers, even those studying nutrition policy. It was nearly impossible to find on Google, prior to its mention in the August 2016 GreyLit newsletter, yet it offers a valuable analysis of the policy implications of attempting to regulate the consumption of unhealthy foods.

I discovered GreyLit long before I came to the Academy to become the editor of the report. In my previous life at AARP, as editor of the AgeLine Database, the premier literature database on aging research, the GreyLit Report became one of my most valuable sources of publications on aging.

I could just glance at the report and find new resources. It also became a way for AARP’s research to be disseminated to a broader audience, as it sometimes included research from other divisions.

Now, 17 years after it was created, the Academy’s GreyLit Report is still the only publication of its type in the United States. This year, as members of GreyNet International, an organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of grey literature, the Academy will be hosting the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature on Nov 28th and 29th, 2016. This year’s topic is Leveraging Diversity because grey literature can play a pivotal role in the search for solutions to urban health challenges here in New York and around the world.

That’s also why we have named the week of Nov 28 as the 1st International Grey Literature Week. We will be holding workshops and events along with the conference in celebration of grey literature. If you are interested in finding the best, hidden resources in your field, join us this November and discover GreyLit!

Explore the Academy Library Timeline

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital 

The New York Academy of Medicine Library began in 1847 with the intention of serving the Academy fellows, but in 1878, after the collection had expanded to include over 6,000 volumes, Academy President Samuel Purple and the Council voted to open the Library to the public.  It continues to serve both the Academy fellows and the general public, providing an unprecedented level of access to a private medical collection.  Today, the Academy Library is one of the most significant historical libraries in the history of medicine and public health in the world.

The Academy Library’s history spans almost 170 years and a glimpse into this history is documented in this interactive timeline. While the timeline does not represent everything that has occurred in the Library, notable milestones can be seen here. The story starts with the founding of the Library on January 13,1847, with a gift from Isaac Wood of Martyn Payne’s Medical and Physiological Commentaries and continues forward to the recent renovation and naming of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.

 

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Figure 1:  The New York Academy of Medicine Library Timeline (Created using Northwestern University’s Knight Lab Timeline JS).

 

Timeline Highlights


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New York Academy of Medicine, Archives.

 

 

 

Academy’s First Permanent Home: In 1875, the Academy purchased and moved into its first permanent home at 12 west 31st Street. This image of the Academy’s first building will take you back to a different time.

 

 

 

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New York Academy of Medicine, Archives.

 

 

 

 

Academy’s Current Home: In 1926, the Academy moved to its current location on 103rd Street and 5th Avenue. The architectural firm York & Sawyer designed the building.  A 1932 expansion added three new floors on the northeast side of the original structure above the existing floors.  Today, you can visit the Academy at this location and explore the historic building.

 

 

 

 

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Apicius’ de re culinaria, 830 A.D. 

 

 

Cookery Collection: In 1929, Margaret Barclay Wilson gave the Academy her collection of books on food and cookery, which includes a 9th-century manuscript (De re culinaria) attributed to Apicius, and sometimes referred to as the oldest cookbook in the West.

 

 

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George Washington’s lower denture, 1789.

 

 

George Washington’s Teeth:  Yes, that’s right!  In the spring of 1937, the descendants of John Greenwood gave the Academy the lower denture created by New York dentist John Greenwood for Washington in 1789. The denture is just one of the artifacts that the Library owns.

 

 

 

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Librarians Gertrude L. Annan and Janet Doe, both in The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine., vol. 50, no. 10, 1974.

 

 

Honored Librarians: In 1974, the Academy honored Gertrude L. Annan and Janet Doe, long-time librarians for their contributions to the Library.

 

 

 

 

There are many more highlights in the timeline so click through and enjoy.

The Tech


The Academy Library timeline was created using Northwestern University’s Knight Lab open-source timeline tool called TimelineJS. The tool was released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), making it possible for anyone to create timelines to embed and share publicly.

TimelineJS is an easy tool to create a timeline with just a few steps. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a timeline:

Content: Have content ready prior to creating

It’s important to have content ready prior to creating the timeline.  For the Academy Library timeline, there was already a text version of the timeline that could be used to create the interactive timeline. Together Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian and I edited, updated and added images to the timeline. Starting with some content allowed us to devote time to enhancing the timeline by finding and adding associated images.

Media:  Make media publicly available

It is important that the media resources used in the timeline are publicly available.  TimelineJS uses URLs to access and display the media files (images, videos, maps, Wikipedia entries, Twitter, etc.). Thus, items behind firewalls or logins will not be accessible to the public. Make sure to upload images to a publicly available server and use that URL for the timeline.

Google Sheets: Add all content and links into spreadsheet and publish

Google Sheets is the data source for the timeline and this means that all data for the timeline is managed in Google Sheets. Once the Google Sheets file is published, the URL is used by TimelineJS to create the timeline, link to the timeline and embed code for websites.

If you’re familiar with Google Sheets or have used any spreadsheet program, then you know the process of adding content to the spreadsheet. If you haven’t used any spreadsheet program before, think of Google Sheets as a table with multiple columns and rows where you’ll input data for the timeline.

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Figure 2:  TimelineJS Google Sheets Template

To get started, the TimelineJS template and directions provide a good guide to the parameters of the timeline with each row representing a screen and each column a component of that screen. For example, the date structures are very flexible and the timeline can include a full date and time or just a year. Also, in the background column, adding a hex number for color can change the background color or including a link to image will show a background image.