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.

Rare book room

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for their important magical exams, the O.W.L.s. The collection is organized into seven Hogwarts courses, featuring historical content related to each area of magical study.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).

Nicolas Flamel's Hieroglyphicks_watermark

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.

Aldrovandi's Snakes_watermark

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

Aldrovandi's Basilisk_watermark

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.

Pomet's Unicorns_watermark

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

VESALIUS_ICONES_SUITE_005_watermark

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

IslandoraCollections

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.

Digitizing Medical Journals of State Societies

By Robin Naughton, Ph.D., Head of Digital

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL consortium.

The New York Academy of Medicine Library is digitizing state society medical journals as part of a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium. The Academy Library is one of five collaborators on the project, along with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia; the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland; the Founding Campus; and the University of California at San Francisco.

Together, the MHL team is actively working to digitize 48 state society journals, more than 3,800 volumes that span much of the 20th century. Digitizing the state medical journals will provide open access to quality historical resources in medicine for researchers and the general public, letting them explore connections between medicine and society.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

State medical journals digitized for the MHL collective project.

Evenly splitting the volumes among the MHL team makes the process of mass digitization more manageable and very collaborative. The Academy Library has already digitized almost 50% of the state medical journals assigned to it since Fall 2015. The journals are scanned by the Internet Archive (IA) and are publicly available as part of the Library’s and MHL’s collections on the IA site. Our digitized assets are open for anyone to access and use. Thus far, we have digitized journals representing 24 states and almost 238, 000 images.

The volumes are digitized in their entirety, showing the journals’ articles and  advertising. For example, in Alaska Medicine (vol. 29, 1987), as you read the article “Alaska State Hepatitis B Program – Past, Present and Future” by Elizabeth A. Tower, you can’t help but notice the advertisement for medical transcription. It is hard to resist the “Hello …. Museum of Primitive Civilizations and Hieroglyphs?”

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

Scan from Alaska Medicine, vol. 29, 1987.

State medical journals are valuable resources that should lead to many new and novel projects for researchers in the history of medicine. Look for more on the project as it progresses.

Explore our collection.

View our Cartes-de-Visite

By Robin Naughton, Digital Systems Manager

Through the Culture in Transit: Digitizing and Democratizing New York’s Cultural Heritage grant, the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) sent a mobile scanning unit to the New York Academy of Medicine Library to digitize our collection of cartes de visite, small inexpensive photographs mounted on cards that became popular during the second part of the 19th century.

Carte-de-visite of Emily Blackwell (1826-1910), English born physician. Photograph by W. Kurtz.

Carte-de-visite of Emily Blackwell (1826-1910), English born physician. Photograph by W. Kurtz.

Our collection consists of 223 late 19th– and early 20th-century photographs of national and international figures in medicine and public health (individuals on three cartes remain unidentified).

This collection contains portraits both of lesser-known individuals and of famous New York physicians, such as Abraham Jacobi, Lewis Albert Sayre, Willard Parker, Stephen Smith, Emily Blackwell, and Valentine Mott. It also includes many with international reputations: Robert Koch, Louis Pasteur, Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Virchow, and others. New York photographers took a number of the photographs; others were created by the New York offices of such establishments as Mathew Brady, as well as by photographers in Paris, Berlin, and London.

We are thrilled to share our entire collection on the Digital Culture website. You can view the front and back of each carte, and find out brief information about the physicians and scientists pictured. View all of the Library’s digitized collections.

Do You Recognize These Men? Help Us Identify 19th-century Carte de Visite Photographs

By Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian, and Robin Naughton, Digital Systems Manager

The Project

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO), Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library received a collaborative Knight New Challenge on Libraries grant, Culture in Transit: Digitizing and Democratizing New York’s Cultural Heritage. The grant allows METRO to send a mobile scanning unit to libraries and cultural institutions around the city to digitize small collections and make them available through METRO’s digital portal and the Digital Public Library of America.

The New York Academy of Medicine proposed to METRO that we digitize our collection of cartes de visite, small inexpensive photographs mounted on cards that became popular during the second part of the 19th century. Individuals sat for portraits and sent the cards to family members and friends, but photographs of well-known people became popular as souvenirs as well. Their standardized size and the ease with which they could be sent through the mail increased their popularity. Creating souvenir albums of cartes de visite became a popular pastime.

A handwritten note from the box in which our cartes are stored.

A handwritten note from the box in which our cartes are stored.

Our 223 images are portraits of physicians and scientists, both European and American. From a handwritten note in the box in which our cartes are stored, we know that Dr. Edmund Randolph Peaslee collected some of them while he was in Europe in 1867. His son, Dr. Edward Henry Peaslee, presented them to the Academy in 1924. Unfortunately, we do not know which photographs comprised the original gift. Some of the cartes came to the Academy from other donors and do have the donor information on the versos.

The Challenge

We have been able to identify almost all of the individuals pictured on the cartes, but there are four who still puzzle us. In three cases, we have a last name but have not yet found enough information to make a full identification. For one image, we have no information at all.

Do you recognize these men? Information on the cartes tells us that two of the portraits were taken at the same photographic studio in New York and the other two were taken by different photographers in Germany. Your challenge: if you recognize a face or surname, please help us figure out who the portraits depict.

Maus, Ruf & Dilger Atelier für Photographie & Malerei.

Maus, Ruf & Dilger Atelier für Photographie & Malerei.

Dr. McMurray, Rockwood & Co Photographers.

Dr. McMurray, Rockwood & Co Photographers.

Dr. Minor, Rockwood & Co Photographers.

Dr. Minor, Rockwood & Co Photographers.

Unknown man, studio of Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich.

Unknown man, studio of Franz Hanfstaengl, Munich.

The NYAM Lectures: Medical Talks by Eminent Speakers (Items of the Month)

By Latrina Keith, Head of Cataloging

WNYC-LogoThe New York Academy of Medicine and New York Public Radio (NYPR) have digitized and cataloged some 40 radio broadcasts produced by NYAM and originally broadcast over WNYC radio in the 1950s. These lectures are drawn from the more than 1,500 original lacquer discs transferred from NYAM to the NYPR Archives in 2008. The digitization and cataloging resulted from a joint project between NYAM’s Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health and the New York Public Radio (NYPR) Archives, and with a grant from METRO, the New York Metropolitan Library Council.

The New York Academy of Medicine and WNYC-FM began their radio relationship in 1946 with the launch of The Laity Lectures—later to become Lectures to the Laity—a popular series of Academy lectures and talks on culture and medicine that had started in 1935. By mid-1950, this series was joined by For Doctors Only, which aimed to bring “the best of the meetings, conferences, and roundtable discussions held at the academy” to the medical profession and also addressed critical analysis of issues of society and medicine, as well as the application of the social sciences to medicine, and provided academic presentations in the history of medicine.

The current periodicals room of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, circa ____.

The current periodicals room of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, photographed by Irving Underhill, 1872-1960.

Lecture topics include gerontology, aging, nutrition, cancer, public health, heart disease, dermatology, psychiatry, and the role of the physician and the law, among others. Along with such informative topics, there were notable guest lecturers such as American anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ralph Linton; Dr. Sidney Farber, the father of modern chemotherapy and pediatric pathology; noted gerontologist Dr. John Steele Murray; and Dr. Leona Baumgartner, the first female commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health from 1954-1962. Baumgartner will be the focus of the upcoming Iago Galdston Lecture, “Making Public Health Contagious: The Life & Career of Leona Baumgartner, MD, PhD” to be presented by Dr. Hilary Aquino on December 4, 2014 at NYAM.

Making these historical hidden treasures available to all is a great achievement for both NYAM and NYPR. We hope that one day the entire radio broadcasts will be restored for the educational and cultural benefit of all.