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Digital preservation



Microscopy image by Juan G. Cueva and Miriam B. Goodman

For nearly four years, the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) has been home to the research outputs of scientists and scholars from across Stanford’s campus. But while those data files, videos, source code, microscopy images, survey results, maps and more have been discoverable and accessible through the Libraries’ online catalog, SearchWorks, it has been hard to get an overview of all the available data. Until now.

Stanford University Libraries in Redwood City - construction photo

Most of the community is aware of the planned development for Stanford’s Redwood City Campus. What few of you may be aware of is that four departments from the Stanford University Libraries (SUL) moved out to Redwood City three years ago. We have been working out of 425 Broadway which is one of the buildings slated for demolition. The development of the new campus necessitates SUL’s relocation from 425 across the street to 500 Broadway – the former home of AMPEX.

The four units moving are: Stanford University Press, Conservation Services, Stanford Media Preservation Lab, and Technical Services branch of Special Collections. SUL staff in these four units have been working for over a year with SUL’s Facilities Department on planning for this interim space. I say interim, because in another 2.5 years, we’ll be moving back onto the new campus. 

Water jet with x-ray pulse

When Stanford Digital Repository staff found out someone was depositing research data about using x-ray lasers to explode jets of liquid, I have to admit there was a bit of excitement. Researching explosions (even on a small scale) sounds like an immense amount of fun. But Stanford researcher Claudiu Stan and his colleagues were doing way more important things out at SLAC than just having fun. They were performing serious research into fluid dynamics.

PURL page screenshot for Nick Eubank's Zambian 2006 to 2010 Constituency and Ward Boundaries

Inquiry from a hot zone

In late March of 2016, Frederic Ham, a geospatial analyst for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, also know as Doctors Without Borders) contacted Stanford University Libraries (SUL) looking for information. He needed data to help him create maps so that MSF could better plan their response to a current cholera outbreak in Zambia. He’d found what he wanted via SUL’s geospatial data portal, Earthworks, but wasn’t able to access it due to licensing restrictions. Was there any way we could help?

Screenshot of Disputed Boundaries data set

It's one thing to talk about an area of land under dispute, and it's another thing entirely to see it on a map. Professor of Political Science Kenneth Schultz demonstrates the validity of this statement with his recent work, "Mapping Interstate Territorial Conflict," which was published in December in the Journal of Conflict Resolution.

On September 2nd, 2015, I had the great privilege of conducting an oral history interview with John Chowning, Professor Emeritus at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Chowning, a pioneer in the world of computer music, is perhaps best known as the inventor of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. His discovery was eventually licensed to Yamaha who integrated it into a number of instruments, most importantly, the DX7, the world’s first mass-produced digital synthesizer, released in 1983. The DX7 is generally regarded as one of the most important musical instrument inventions of the past 50 years, and was widely adopted by artists across multiple genres in the 1980s. My interview with Chowning is now available via the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). Chowning and I principally sat down to discuss Leon Theremin’s visit to Stanford in 1991, which Chowning organized and oversaw. Stanford University Libraries recently digitize video footage of this visit which included a day long symposium at CCRMA and an evening concert in Frost Amphiteatre at which Theremin, Max Mathews, and many other notable figures from the world of electronic and computer music at the time performed. However, Professor Chowning and I also discussed additional topics including Chowning's background in computer music, his history at Stanford and the inception of CCRMA, and his close personal and professional relationship with Max Mathews. 

A snipped of a The Atlantic article in December 12, 2015 feature a Stanford University Libraries Map of California as an Island

Our maps continued to be used in publications - today, another article featuring a map of California as an Island, was published in the The Atlantic's Citylab edition.

Stanford's Smith Map in the Newspaper

In today's mail, the newspaper arrived. It wasn't the San Francisco Chronicle on the San Jose Mercury News though. It was a copy of the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, published in Turku, Finland. It wasn't until I turned to page 15 that I recognized something - a reproduction of the 1815 William Smith Map that we had scanned. William Smith published a map of Geology of what is now a good part of the UK, and earlier this year, we, along with the British Geological Society, celebrated 200 years since its publication. The map and article, all in Finnish of course, presumeably talks about the story of the man and how William Smith single-handedly authored and published this map. The newspaper used our scan both in the paper version and also in their online version.