June 2021 Archives

June 30, 2021

Image of an illuminated botanical manuscript

Approximately 40 Yale librarians, archivists, and curators have joined forces to nominate objects for an exhibition that will exemplify the diversity of the library’s special collections and illuminate how primary sources inspire exploration and discovery. With the organizing concepts of “points of view” and “points of contact,” the collaboration will culminate in the inaugural exhibition of the new Hanke Exhibition Gallery, now under construction in the Sterling Memorial Library nave. 

“We envision an exhibit that looks across our collections to highlight how they intersect with and complement each other and how they work in tandem to support teaching and research,” said Barbara Rockenbach, Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian. “By drawing on the expertise of a wide range of library staff, we aim to create a context in which to explore a diversity of human experience across time and culture.”

The exhibition, to open in early 2022, will feature about 60 objects drawn from the collections of the Beinecke Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, the Divinity Library, Gilmore Music Library, Haas Arts Library, Lewis Walpole Library, and Manuscripts and Archives, as well as area studies collections. Collection materials that are less well known or that highlight underrepresented voices will be prioritized, and objects that typically reside in different physical locations may be juxtaposed in provocative new ways. A complementary exhibition of audio-visual media from the collections is also being considered at the music library.

The final selection and organization of the objects will be made by three curators: Nancy Kuhl, curator of poetry in the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke; Bill Landis, head of public services at Manuscripts and Archives; and Jae Rossman, director of the Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support, working closely with Kerri Sancomb, exhibition program manager in Preservation and Conservation Services. Rather than fitting the objects into a preconceived exhibition narrative, the curators hope that the objects, individually and in conversation with each other, will inspire visitors to develop their own varied connections, interpretations, and further questions.

“Research is the primary motivation for use of our collections by faculty, staff, students, and visitors to Yale,” said Landis. “We are hoping the exhibit will stimulate engagement with the research process.”

The illuminated botanical manuscript, ca. 1600-1700, pictured above, is one example of the objects being considered. Taken from the medical library’s Arabic and Persian Medical Books and Manuscripts collection, its detailed, multicolored illustrations of animals, birds, plants, stones, and humans highlight the dynamic role that Arabic and Persian societies played in creating, cataloging, assembling, and distributing medical and natural history knowledge in the medieval and early modern worlds. Students and researchers interacting with this manuscript—or others like it—may be inspired to consider the wonder of the world in a time period or culture completely different from their own.

With state-of-the-art security, lighting, and humidity controls, the Hanke Gallery will be uniquely suited to accommodate unique, fragile, and rare primary-source materials. A combination of flat table cases and upright, vertical cases will enable a wide range of materials to be displayed, from three dimensional objects, to large manuscripts, photographs, and rare books. The gallery’s location in one of Yale’s most iconic buildings at the very heart of the campus not only underscores the centrality of the research process at Yale, but affirms the critical role of the library in making primacy sources accessible to students, faculty, and other researchers.

Designed by Apicella+Bunton Architects, the new exhibition area is scheduled for completion by the end of 2021. Construction has been funded by a gift from Lynn Hanke, a member of the University Library Council, and her husband, Robert Hanke ’60.

—Amanda Patrick

Image: Faraḥ nāmah / Abū Bakr al-Muṭahhar ibn Abī al-Qāsim ibn Abī Saʻīd al-Jamālī maʻrūf bih Yazdī.  فرح نامه / أبو بكر المهطر بن أبي القاسم بن أبي سعيد الجمالي المعروف به يزدي. This Persian manuscript from the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library collections has been digitized and is accessible online.

Post on June 30, 2021 - 10:57am |

June 23, 2021

plastic spades and containers in a sandbox

Hear the word “sandbox,” and you might picture children digging in the sand, exercising their creativity with red plastic spades and yellow sand molds. The Emulation as a Service (EaaSI) sandbox is similarly geared for exploration—but the tools for discovery are old computers, software systems, floppy disks, and CD-ROMs.

Emulation refers to the process of recreating obsolete computer hardware with software. Emulation allows users to run old operating systems and applications that would otherwise be incompatible with modern computers. It is a key technology for preserving born-digital and digitized collections and for ensuring that digital content remains accessible to future researchers.

The EaaSI sandbox, created by Yale Library with the non-profit Software Preservation Network, is an online, open-source test environment for librarians, archivists, and others seeking tools to access legacy data, assist researchers with born-digital materials, or even study the evolution of software over time. Sandbox users can dig into 39 emulated operating environments and provide feedback that will shape the service going forward.

Since 2018, Yale Library has received $3.5 million in grants from the Mellon and Sloan Foundations to support the EaaSI project, and the library has successfully applied emulation to a variety of digital collection materials, including CD-ROM textbook supplements, 1980s video games, and architectural plans created with early computer design software. In April, the library launched the Yale Library Emulation Viewer for CD-ROMs.

Seth Anderson, the library’s software preservation manager, compares emulation to a Swiss army knife. “Now that we have demonstrated how versatile emulation can be, we are expanding our efforts through improved metadata and code, emulating computer networks, incorporating support for Android devices, and increasing the program’s automation capability to enable access and preservation activity as the work scales up,” he said.

The team and the project are highly collaborative, involving many partners beyond Yale. With support from OpenSLX, DataCurrent, PortalMedia, and Educopia as well as the Software Preservation Network, they have implemented an intuitive user interface, developed a growing network of partners and staff, and installed and configured hundreds of new software applications. The project’s institutional partners now include Notre Dame University, the University of Virginia, the University of California in San Diego, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Georgia Tech.

“A key goal of the EaaSI program of work is to increase access to emulation and, in turn, the content made accessible using emulation,” said Euan Cochrane, the library’s digital preservation manager. “By partnering with other organizations, we’re expanding the reach of the emulation technology we’re building and helping many other organizations open access to their valuable born-digital archives and collections.”

—By Amanda Patrick

Post on June 23, 2021 - 9:53am |

June 17, 2021

Image of Alexis Krasilovsky (center) with other Yale filmmakers

The Yale Film Archive in Sterling Memorial Library has been awarded a $17,000 grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve End of the Art World, the first film made by an undergraduate woman at Yale. Created by Alexis Krasilovsky ’71—a member of Yale’s first coed graduating class and pioneering film director and screenwriter—the 1971 film was groundbreaking in an era when women filmmakers were rare and the practice of filmmaking was yet to be embraced as an art form at Yale and in many other higher education institutions. This will be the fifteenth film preserved by the Film Archive since 2008 through grants from the foundation.

While enrolled at Yale, Krasilovsky did an independent study at the Whitney Museum in New York City. Escaping from Yale’s male-dominated environment, she came into contact with Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Michael Snow, and many other prominent avant-garde artists. She interviewed them all in End of the Art World using a variety of 16mm cameras, including a Bolex—a legendary hand-held motion picture camera—which she purchased with money her grandmother gave her to buy clothes for Yale. She was one of the only camerapersons, male or female, allowed to film Warhol at the opening of his retrospective at the Whitney. Her unprecedented access not only revealed aspects of the artists’ lives, but also the cultural and political climate in which they worked.

What started out as Krasilovsky's senior capstone project led to a prolific filmmaking career. In 1973, her film was included in the Whitney Museum’s first festival of films by women directors, overseen by curator David Bienstock. She went on to produce many other successful films including Let Them Eat Cake, about the pleasures and perils of pastries; and Exile, set in Czechoslovakia before the fall of the Iron Curtain and shown nationally on PBS. She donated her entire film collection to Yale in 2019 and gave an in-person interview as part of the WomenAtYale150 celebration.

The original negatives of the film were lost in a laboratory so all that exists is the original 1971 16mm print. A team of film preservation experts will scan this print, frame by frame, to produce a high resolution digital copy, which will then be digitally “cleaned” to remove scratches and dirt accumulated over the years. A film recorder will convert the digital file to a new 16mm negative which can then be used to make new film prints. Audio experts will remove pops and clicks and other age-induced wear and damage from the soundtrack, and create a digital file, from which a new 16mm optical soundtrack will be created. All these elements will ultimately be combined to create new 16mm screening prints and a digital master. Brian Meacham, the Film Archive's managing archivist who will oversee the project, said he is "excited to be able to preserve and safeguard the film for future generations."

Krasilovsky, now 70, is “overjoyed to know that the film which was such a challenge for me to make at the age of twenty is being preserved and is likely to outlive me.” She credits Yale professors Murray Lerner and Jay Leyda as being among those who encouraged her to create art at a time when the art history department was almost exclusively geared towards art made by men. She is also grateful to Meacham “without whom my 16mm footage might be destined for a garage crawling with rats.”

Krasilovsky recently completed a novel which fictionalizes the entire process of making End of the Art World from its conception through its premiere. Sex and the Cyborg Goddess, published under the pseudonym Alexis Rafael, tells the tale of a young woman determined to become a filmmaker despite the obstacles.

When the preservation project is completed a year from now, researchers will be able to view the film in the archive’s brand new screening room—which has the capability to screen 16mm films—or in one of the individual viewing booths. There are also plans for a public screening of the film with an in-person Q&A to follow with Alexis Krasilovsky, Professor Charles Musser (who helped make the film), and a curator from the Yale University Art Gallery.

View the National Film Preservation Foundation announcement.

—By Amanda Patrick

The Yale Film Archive, housed in a newly-renovated 3,200-square-foot space on the seventh floor of Sterling Memorial Library, offers a 23-seat screening room, customized viewing booths with clip-capture capability, video collection stacks, and a film preservation suite with cold storage. The heart of film culture on the Yale campus, it provides a passionate commitment to the preservation of—and access to—resources for the scholarly study and appreciation of cinema, and a dedication to excellence in support of teaching, learning, and research. Home to a collection of more than 7,000 films and 50,000 titles on DVD, Blu-ray, and VHS, it offers a diverse collection of 35mm and 16mm prints, with strengths in African-American cinema, newsreels, silent comedies, and documentaries. View the Yale Film Archive website.

Photo: Alexis Krasilovsky (center) with other Yale filmmakers

Post on June 17, 2021 - 4:57pm |