Archives Talk 3/3/17: The History of Higher Education in California: A Big Data Approach

UCSF School of Medicine class of 1964

Date: Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Time: 12 pm – 1:15 pm
Lecturer: Zach Bleemer (UCB)
Location: Lange Room, 5th Floor, UCSF Library – Parnassus
530 Parnassus Ave, SF, CA 94143

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.
REGISTRATION REQUIRED: http://calendars.library.ucsf.edu/event/2941746

In his talk at the UCSF Archives & Special Collections, Zach Bleemer will discuss how he has used data science – thousands of computer-processed versions of annual registers, directories, and catalogs –  to reconstruct a near-complete database of all students, faculty, and courses at four-year universities in California in the first half of the 20th century, including UC San Francisco (which taught both undergraduates and graduate students at the time). Visualizations of this database display the expansion of higher education into rural California communities, the rise and fall of various academic departments and disciplines, and the slow (and still-incomplete) transition towards egalitarian major selection.

Zach will also discuss his recent CSHE Working Paper, in which he uses additional digitized records to analyze the social impact of the early 20th century’s expansion of female high school science teachers and female doctors across rural California communities. He finds that newly-arrived female STEM professionals serve as important role models for young women in these rural communities, causing substantial increases in female college-going. However, these young women are no more likely to study STEM fields or become doctors themselves.

Zach Bleemer

Zach Bleemer

Zach Bleemer is a PhD student in Economics and Digital Humanities Fellow at UC Berkeley, where his research examines the educational and occupational decisions of young Americans. He has previously held senior research analyst positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Mathematica Policy Research, and has published working papers on student debt, parental coresidence, and university attendance. He is also currently a Research Associate at UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education and a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

UCSF Archives & Special Collections launched this lecture series to introduce a wider community to treasures and collections from its holdings, to provide an opportunity for researchers to discuss how they use this material, and to celebrate clinicians, scientists, and health care professionals who donated their papers to the archives.

Highlights from the State Medical Society Journals digitization project

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We’ve become somewhat accustomed to seeing “smoking doctor” pictures, typically the product of tobacco advertising cynically appealing to authority. The above image comes from a naturalistic setting however, depicting pathologist Dr. Harrison Martland (see table of contents below) at work.

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Dr. Martland is featured on the cover of the January 1984 edition of the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey (Vol. 81 no. 1), digitized by the Internet Archive as part of the NEH grant-funded project to digitize many of our state medical society journals.

The journal lacks any commentary on the smoking but does lead us to an article on the analysis of Dr. Martland’s historical autopsy records performed at Newark City Hospital from 1908 to 1911.

The author draws some interesting conclusions about the safety and violence of Newark from Dr. Martland’s records, but perhaps one of the most interesting details is his attempt to record all his findings in Latin! He gave up eventually, doubtless making the author’s analysis that little bit easier.

Check out this and many other journals from our collection and four other libraries at the Internet Archive’s State Medical Society Journals project page. Expect continued updates to the collection throughout the year.

Internet Archive Partners Lunch

Friday the 13th of May was the auspicious date of our visit to one of our partner organizations, the Internet Archive, just across Golden Gate Park in the Richmond District. The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library of millions of freely accessible books, movies, software, music, websites and more. Internet Archive graciously hosts a bi-weekly Partners Lunch, inviting anyone working in partnership with IA to tour the facility (a gorgeous re-purposed Christian Science church), meet staff in person, and participate in a lunchtime roundtable where IA folks and visitors share their projects’ progress, successes and failures. The whole UCSF Archives team, plus UCSF collections staff members Beatrice Mallek and David MacFarland, were in attendance.

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UCSF Archives and Special Collections staff with Internet Archive digitization staff.

We met with our IA liason Jesse Bell, who gave us a look into the progress of some of our projects ongoing at Internet Archive. Here Eliza Zhuang is using a specially designed scanning booth to digitize volumes of bound medical journals for the State Medical Journal project. The “scanner” actually uses two conventional DSLR cameras to simultaneously photograph the pages of the book, optimally positioned by the pedal-operated V-shaped glass plate shown here.

Eliza Zhuang scanning a medical journal from UCSF's collection.

Eliza Zhuang scanning a medical journal from UCSF’s collection.

After photography, the images undergo QA and metadata association before being uploaded to the Internet Archive, where they look like this.

IA’s lobby provides plenty of excitement. A prominently displayed monitor shows the digitization currently underway on a number of different systems. Below, David Uhlich watches as pages from the book scanner are photographed. Immediately behind the monitor is a film scanner that similarly feeds the live-view monitor. The lobby also houses a beautiful antique gramophone near a small listening station that includes an iPad loaded with digitized music and other recorded sound.

David Uhlich observes the progress of digitized images entering the system.

David Uhlich observes the progress of digitized images entering the system.

After lunch, we took a more in depth tour of IA’s facility. We saw an example of IA’s specially designed “portable” book scanner, which is basically a scaled-down version of the one used by IA staff. Approximately $10,000 will get you your own book scanning station, software, and support from IA for your own scanning projects. We also looked inside the refurbished church that, in addition to the pews, now houses some of IA’s servers and digitization equipment.

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Internet Archive servers occupy a niche.

Sculptures of miniature people inhabit the aisles.  Long-term IA staff are thanked for their service with a sculpture of their likeness; many depicted holding an item that reflects their interests or passions.

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Some of Internet Archive’s long-term staff immortalized in figurine form.

It was great to meet the IA team in person. Our partnership with IA continues to provide new opportunities to preserve and make accessible our material. We look forward to exciting projects in the future!