Group Meeting July 15

We welcomed Micah Vandergrift from Florida State Uinversity to our meeting. Micah was in residence at Columbia for the week meeting with colleagues in the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) and other units. He expressed interest in our project as a model for involving more librarians in digital scholarship. Micah is Florida State University’s first Scholarly Communication Librarian. He manages the institutional repository, works with faculty and has a strong interest in the future of academic publishing.

At the meeting, Micah discussed his work at Florida State and how they are going about implementing and building services for digital scholarship. He pointed out that his long association with the university has been advantageous for him – he knows the culture, the faculty, and has been successful in anticipating certain needs. He also acknowledged the challenge in getting faculty to think about their own research in new ways and how best to make them aware of what services are available.

The agenda for the meeting focused on updating our project timeline and confirming our meeting schedule through the fall. We granted extensions to several deadlines for the design team and the development team – recognizing busy work schedules. We are hoping to have the logo refined, color selections confirmed, header and footer ready to go by September – which will give the development team the necessary content to begin implementation.

We are planning a few site visits to archives in the fall. We hope the first visit will be to the Municipal Archives to explore original documents that can help inform the history of Morningside Heights.

Design Team: The Steep Learning Curve

The Design Team has been grappling with both design principles and the complexities of Adobe Illustrator. We presented two options for website logos that we created in Adobe Illustrator to the larger group and after a democratic vote, one was chosen.

Before we got to this stage though, we first had to produce both logos in Illustrator. To help us learn the program we were fortunate to have a tutorial with one of our Columbia Libraries colleagues, Jeffrey Lancaster. Jeffrey gave us a tutorial that was perfectly geared to our skill level as well as focusing on our particular issues with each logo. He began by describing the difference between a raster image and a vector image. In the raster image each pixel is a unique color and the image is a grid when looked at up close. The vector image is flat color with points connected by lines. Each image scales differently. The raster image (used in Adobe Photoshop) scales by adding new pixels with new color attributes. The vector image (used in Adobe Illustrator) scales by changing the space between points so the image stays sharp. He also showed us how to manipulate type fonts and spacing. Jeffrey described the various file types for exporting the image and recommended we use .png, portable network graphic, since it preserves transparency.

Our team will be meeting next week to develop headers and footers for the website and to make some color adjustments to our new logo.

Group Meeting July 1, 2014

Our agenda for the July 1 meeting focused on our individual research projects and an update from the research team. Before we began our discussion, we welcomed a visitor — Anna Kijas from the University of Connecticut. Anna is interested in the Developing Librarian Project as a model for UCONN and a new initiative to support digital scholarship projects. We gave Anna the floor to hear more about her interest in our project and how they are moving forward at UCONN. She is involved with the Scholar’s Collaborative which was approved in December 2013 as a permanent service to help faculty and students with digital projects. Most of the projects have been focused in humanities disciplines but they also work with researchers in the social sciences and sciences. Anna helped to to set up a program for subject specialists to learn new skills related to digital scholarship. The format of the program included six workshops throughout the year. We look forward to staying in touch with Anna and sharing developments as we move forward with the Developing Librarian.

We moved to the agenda as planned and presented on our individual research topics.

Mary Cargill: I am researching the Leake and Watts Orphan asylum because I want to find out the criteria for identifying and the treatment of orphans in order for the reader to understand how New York treated the growing populations of needy children.

Nancy Friedland: I am researching St. Luke’s Hospital because I want to find out why it located in Morningside Heights and explore the hospital’s relationship to Columbia University in order for my reader to understand the role of a hospital to a community and development as a teaching hospital.

Alex Gil: I am researching the history of residential and business changes on 110th Street around the turn of the century because I want to find out the impact that Columbia and St. John’s had on southern Morningside Heights in order for my reader to understand to what extent these institutions shaped modern day everyday life in Morningside Heights.

Karen Green: I am researching the Lion Brewery because I want to find out how it operated, for how long, and by whom, as well as how it figured in neighborhood and city life
in order for my reader to understand the role of a major commercial/industrial entity in the development of Morningside Heights.

Meredith Levin: I am researching the history of Riverside Church, focusing especially on its visual culture, the Weekday School, and its involvement in WWII because I want to find out how the church’s relationship with the Morningside Heights community has evolved over time in order for my reader to understand how diverse groups of people are connected to the daily activities of Riverside Church, which has been important presence in the neighborhood since it was founded 80 years ago.

Anice Mills: I am researching the history of Riverside Park because I want to find out how the value of public parks (as sanctuary, open space) influenced urban culture in order for my reader to understand the development of the Morningside Heights community within the larger urban environment.

Nick Patterson: I am researching the IRT subway line’s history, because I want to find out about its history and development in Morningside Heights, from inception to 1950, in order for my reader to understand how this development impacted Morningside Heights, through a focus on the subway stops at 110th, 116th, and 125th streets.

Bob Scott: I am researching the history of the Bloomingdale Asylum, focusing especially on the positive and negative elements in its functioning as one of the leading psychiatric institutions in 19th-century America and on its role in shaping the early environment of Morningside Heights in order to give readers a clearer and more lively picture of this neighborhood in the “pre-Columbian” era.

John Tofanelli: I am researching the history of the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine because I want to find out how the significance of the cathedral was described and how its design was envisioned and realized from 1892 (when its cornerstone was laid) through 1946 (when Bishop William Thomas Manning retired) in order for my reader to understand how the cathedral was variously envisioned during the period in which most of its building was completed.

Sarah Witte: I am researching the Croton Aqueduct 113th Street gatehouse (1876) and the adjacent Engine Company No. 47 firehouse(1890) to learn more about the infrastructure development in the 19th century that supported the growth of our neighborhood in order for my reader to understand the the role that the aqueduct and the fire department played in the early development of the neighborhood. I am also very interested in learning how to parse census data for our neighborhood, so may also look at census data for the entire block of 113th Street from Amsterdam to Broadway before 1900.

Next on the agenda, Mary Cargill reported for the Research Team. She is available to meet with anyone as a consultation to review the literature in our individual subjects. She came prepared with excellent resources for everyone in attendance. She reported that she met with Anice to discuss Riverside Park and reported on a productive research session.

Mary will meet with Bob, Nancy and John to review Zotero as the best citation management system for arranging the bibliography for the final project.

Research and editorial team

The research and editorial process is ongoing.  We have developed a working bibliography included below.  In addition,  we are available to help members of the team focus on their individual work in the broader context of the project.

For instance, we met with one of our participants to discuss and consult on sources in depth about Riverside Park.  The issues that we identified were:

1. the development of city parks in general: who they were for, how they were laid out, how they fit into the city landscape, etc.;

2. we located sources on the history of Riverside Park, specifically, including histories,  documents related to Park, contemporary discussions of it, pictures of it, etc.;

3. the focus has been to put the selected items in the context of city planning, public services, and clientele.

Mary and Elizabeth

Suggested Sources for Morningside Heights

Reference Sources

Civic bibliography for Greater New York, ed. by James Bronson Reynolds for the New York research council. New York, Charities Publication Committee, 1911.
Also at the Reference Desk R016.352 N48

French, John Homer. Gazetteer of the state of New York: embracing a comprehensive view of the geography, geology, and general history of the state, and a complete history and description of every county, city, town, village and locality : with full tables of statistics. Syracuse, R.P. Smith, 1860.
Also in Butler Reference R978 F88
Has a section on New York County (p. 418-448) with a lot of statistics and information about services.

Report on the social statistics of cities. New York, N.Y.  Norman Ross Pub., Year: 1991, 1886.  Issued as part of the 10th census.  New York is in part 1, p. 531-597.
Butler Stacks  HA201 1880 v. 18-19.


New York City, New York Online Historical Directories – Online Historical Directories List of New York city directories by decade.  Lists freely available sources as well as commercial ones (mainly

“Check List of World Relating to the Social History of the City of New York__its clubs, charities, hospitals, etc., etc.,__in the New York Public Library”  Bulletin of the New York Public Library, vol. V, no. 6, June 1901.
Reference Desk  R016.978N48 N4
The Bulletin is online in Hathi and Google Books

The New York charities directory. New York, Charity Organization Society in the City of New York, 1888-1920.
Most editions are in the stacks at HV99.N59 N5

This was also known for some years as the Directory of social and health agencies of New York City  Community Council of Greater New York. Welfare Council of New York City.  Hathi has both titles, but the years don’t always overlap.
Hathi has most volumes from 1890-1921.

Richmond, John Francis. New York and its institutions, 1609-1873: the bright side of New York. New York, E.B. Treat, 1872.  From the description: “A library of information pertaining to the great metropolis, past and present, with historic sketches of its churches, schools, public buildings, parks and cemeteries, of its police, fire, health and quarantine departments, of its prisons, hospitals, homes, asylums, dispensaries and morgue and all municipal and private charitable institutions.”

The charities of New York, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. By Henry J. Cammann and Hugh N. Camp. New York, Hurd and Houghton, 1868.

Other Online Sources; I found some material searching under “Morningside Heights” as well as more specific topics.  I didn’t list the standard full text sources like Historical newspapers and APS.

GoogleBooks, limiting the search to specific years.

HarpWeekHarper’s Weekly from 1857-1912.  It has a lot of illustrations

Group Meeting June 17, 2014

The Design Team had done additional work on proposed logo designs for our Morningside History Project site. Two designs were presented to the group for a vote and one was chosen. Both designs demonstrated considerable ingenuity. One key consideration in logo selection was scalability. Would the key idea of logo remain clear in small, medium, and larger versions?

The Development Team reported on its progress. In a phase of initial enthusiasm, more than one team member would work on the same file in GitHub. They discovered, however, that this was not the best approach. Files in GitHub are not like documents in Google Docs, which can easily accommodate collaborative contributions. Multiple contributions to the same file from different users in GitHub actually creates conflicts. Older versions are not overwritten, but users are alerted to differences. The team decided it will take a more coordinated approach to files in GitHub, assigning responsibilities for specific files to specific individuals.

In the open forum phase of meeting, it was suggested that the group revisit the project time line. Corrections and clarifications were made there. A question arose around individual research for our Morningside History project. How do you determine the scope of your research and exhibits? The amount of potential information available regarding any given location, building, or individual can be daunting. All agreed to devote a significant portion of our next group meeting to discussing such questions. Barbara proposed as an assignment for each of us the simple topic definition exercise that some of us use for students of the University Writing Program:

I am researching __________________________
because I want to find out ___________________________
in order for my reader to understand ________________________________

In preparation for our next group meeting, on July 1, everyone should have completed this exercise.

Group Meeting June 3, 2014

Our Design Team has been learning Adobe Illustrator and has been working in Illustrator on the creation of two logo options for our Morningside Heights history site. Today both logos were presented. One was relatively complete and the other was complete as a concept but had not yet been fully executed. The Design Team talked a bit about their process. They worked with guidance from Alex Gil; and when they encountered a question about how to accomplish something in Illustrator, they would typically enter the question in natural language in Google to see how it was answered in online forums concerning Illustrator.

The potential drawbacks of the online forum approach were discussed. It can take an expert eye sometimes to recognize when a solution presented for a problem is the most efficient option. Other approaches to learning Illustrator were also discussed. The program on Illustrator lasts 12 hours, and can seem at times too detailed and exhaustive. Bob has ordered a book on Illustrator to offer another learning option. Issues relevant to the presentation and/or stability of logo designs were also discussed. A logo designed in Illustrator 5 on a PC looks different when presented in Illustrator 6 on a Mac. (Does this mean perhaps that we should try out how the logo appears on different devices?)

Why did the Design Team choose to use Illustrator rather than the more accessible Photoshop?
1. Illustrator is grounded in mathematical approaches to images. Thus once a design is completed it can be easily and precisely scaled for different uses.
2. The point of our project is to learn new tools that library users working in the digital humanities might want to use.

Anice presented one design and Karen another. Both designs made nods to the historical past in their visual elements. The group was impressed by both. Rather than making a final vote today it was decided that the Design Team would aim to have both logos complete for our next meeting on June 17. Due to the inordinate amount of time involved in working in Illustrator, the Design Team is planning to recruit someone in the Libraries with Illustrator expertise to assist them in bringing both logos to a state of completion. The group as a whole will then vote on which of the logo designs will be used for the project site. The timeline of tasks for the Design Team can accommodate this extension. After the logos they will turn their attention to their next projects: the design of header and footer for project site.

In announcements and updates, Meredith mentioned that she had taken a tour of Riverside Church during which she had met a Columbia art history professor. He took an interest in our Morningside project when she described it, since he is having his students for a course this fall study two of the sites covered by our project: Riverside Church and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Lessons in Project Management

For our project we have a small but highly capable project management team–myself and Nancy Friedland. A number of our team’s meetings have also included Alex Gil, our Digital Scholarship Coordinator, who is something of an ex officio member.

Initially, I viewed the role of project manager with some misgivings. Does this person go around when elements of the project are due, knocking on people’s doors, and saying (like T.S. Eliot’s anonymous pub keeper) “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME”?

Happily, our experience has been quite different from that. Each team has embraced its tasks with energy and true inventiveness. A real synergy has developed to the point at which I feel qualified to sketch out four lessons in project management.

1. Think carefully about what needs to be accomplished for the initial launch of the project. Make sure that all of these tasks (and nothing more) are covered in the timeline of task deadlines. Devote time, thought, and expertise to considering how tasks relate to one another (for example, does one necessarily precede another, does one need to be accomplished along with another) and which tasks belong to which teams.

2. Open up the project timeline to a group discussion with all project participants. Be open to adding, redefining, or reordering tasks as needed. Let participants develop a sense of ownership in the project timeline.

3. Listen, observe, encourage. It is key that teams meet on their own time in order to accomplish tasks. Nevertheless, a regular schedule of group meetings with all participants remains essential. This is where teams can report on their progress, listen to one another, ask for feedback from the group, and demonstrate accomplishments.

4. Facilitate synergy.

Merging Paths

Meredith Levin, Nick Patterson, and Bob Scott in the Studio@Butler

Meredith Levin, Nick Patterson, Bob Scott and Sarah Witte (photographer) in the Studio@Butler

The developers had a great meeting this morning.  We went through Alex’s assignments, and are all up to speed on the first two, and close on the third.   It has been a month since we’ve all met; it was good to be together again.

Assignment 1:

  • You should have a working version of Omeka running on your virtual servers independent of the one on GitHub. This includes a working MAMP or LAMP, a database, omeka software install, db.ini file configured.
  • Your git should be working and you should be able to synch with

Assignment 2:

  • Someone change the page to reflect our project (rather than the Omeka boilerplate) and push it to github. Everyone else should pull it.
  • Someone create a branch named design and push it. Everyone should pull it.
  • Working on the design branch, someone change the background color on the style.css. Remember we are working with the default theme, called Thanks, Roy, so far. The style.css folder is to be found there. Push it. The rest pull.
  • This is a good opportunity for you to start understand how Omeka works in the back end. You can start by understanding Default Theme Files and Theme Writing Best Practices.

Assignment 3:

  • Put in an ‘issue’ on github. It doesn’t have to be real, but extra cookies for putting something down that we actually need to do eventually.
  • Create an item on your individual installations. Then backup the database.
  • Create a branch called playground, and break the site. Yes. Break it. Whoever breaks it first wins.

I am slowly getting a feel for Git.  At first, it was hard for me to parse the error messages.  I would search them verbatim on the internet, but then felt I was blindly typing in the suggested commands without understanding what I was doing.  The error messages and the excellent help pages on the Github site are now starting to make sense.   This morning we were all editing our style.css files pretty much at the same time, so I understand why I got error messages when trying to pull from the design branch.   I still need to work out the git sequences (add, commit, push, -m) to avoid the error messages, but I feel that it is coming.

unmerged paths

Touring Riverside Church

This Sunday, I took the first of what will probably be many tours of the Riverside Church. I’ve been trying to think about what my three exhibits will be and it has been difficult to decide what to focus on since so many aspects of the church’s history are rich and fascinating. John D. Rockefeller’s money and vision, Harry Emerson Fosdick’s controversial ecumenical beliefs, and the architects’ Gothic design hiding a modern steel framework all deserve extensive treatment. Because these have already been well-documented (in Dolkart and elsewhere), I’m leaning instead toward focusing on the details that most interest me: its visual culture, including stained glass windows, paintings, and sculptures, especially the impressive chancel screen and building facade; the evolution of its Weekday School for young children; and its role in the community during World War II.

Visual Culture at Riverside Church

The beauty of the building is undeniable. But what I find so charming about the Riverside Church is the mixture of Old and New World elements, varying styles and themes. It is a Gothic cathedral with clerestory windows and a chancel labyrinth modeled on those in the cathedral in Chartres, France, but its Christ Chapel is built in the Romanesque style, after the 11th-century nave of St. Nazaire in Carcassonne. Much of the stained glass is contemporary, including one window that honors the workers who helped make the church a reality (sculptors, artisans, carpenters), although the narthex features two remarkable 16th-century Flemish windows illustrating events and parables in the life of Christ. The windows are believed to be from a church that had been threatened or destroyed during the French Revolution and were dug up in a field in Bruges in the 19th century!

Narthex windows (Image credit:

altar maze

Chancel floor maze, one of a few such medieval designs in the world! (Image Credit: Meredith Levin)

Riverside church nave

Nave of Riverside Church (Image Credit: Meredith Levin)

The Weekday School

Established in 1930 by Florence Allen Whitney Fosdick, the wife of Riverside’s first pastor, the Weekday School (formerly known as the Nursery-Kindergarten Weekday School) is one of the oldest and most successful early childhood education programs in New York City. Mrs. Fosdick was dedicated to serving the local population of Morningside Heights- upon her death in 1964, it was asked that in lieu of flowers contributions should be made to a fund in her name that would permanently support the school (Miller 300). While the Weekday School’s original purpose was to provide care and education for the young children (ages 2-6) of working women, it is now a prestigious, tuition-based program that can cost upwards of $20,000 a year. The school maintains its original nondenominational and multicultural approach to education but one wonders how Mrs. Fosdick would feel about today’s elite private enterprise.

Riverside Church and World War II

Harry Emerson Fosdick served as the pastor of Riverside Church from 1930-1946, seeing his congregants through much of the Great Depression and World War II, despite his personal beliefs as a pacifist. In May 1935, Fosdick joined 250 ministers and rabbis who met at Riverside Church and recited a pledge that their religious beliefs could not be reconciled with war (Sittser 24). Fosdick often delivered anti-war sermons, and published his famous “Keeping Christ Above the Strife” in January 1941 in response to The Christian Century‘s question, “If America is drawn into war, can you, as a Christian participate in it or support it?” (Loconte 115). But these anti-war sentiments did not stop Fosdick or other church leaders from ministering to those involved in the war effort. In fact, Riverside Church played a significant role in the lives of men and women who were training or stationed in New York during the war. “A notice that ran in the bulletin of the Riverside Church throughout the war years welcomed any military personnel who were worshiping with the congregation, encouraged them to sign a guest register specially designed for them, and informed them of Dr. Fosdick’s willingness to write a personal note to anyone they desired back home, informing that person of their visit to Riverside” (Paris et al. 120). I was particularly struck when wandering through the nave by this inscription thanking the church for its hospitality during the war:


(Image Credit: Meredith Levin)

I have a lot of research ahead of me, including visits to the Riverside Church Archives and to the Special Collections at the Union Theological Seminary’s Burke Library but I am excited at the prospect of uncovering more about art, education, and wartime solidarity at Riverside Church. More to come soon…

Works Cited

The End of Illusions : Religious Leaders Confront Hitler’s Gathering Storm. Ed. Joseph Loconte. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

Miller, Robert Moats. Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Paris, Peter J. et al. The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

Sittser, Gerald Lawson. A Cautious Patriotism: The American Churches and the Second World War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.





Design is hard

As part of the Design team, I am struggling with learning Illustrator. We have been charged with creating a logo for the Developing Librarian Project and the paper and pencil phase was fun. As a team, we agreed on several designs we would like to realize in Illustrator.

Now for Illustrator…it just doesn’t work how I think. I was trained in Photoshop and Illustrator is not Photoshop. The difference between raster and vector  graphics has been a challenge for me. Trained as an art historian, I see everything as an image so having to think about an aesthetic object as a mathematical expression is foreign to me. It has been helpful to me that others on the team have been able to get their head around this concept.

We look forward to sharing our logos soon.