Data Collection

The data collected for this project came from the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry at Florida State University’s Special Collections and Archives. Before looking at any bindings, I created a spreadsheet with the information that I wanted to collect from each binding. For instance, I had columns for general information such as the title of the book, its year of publication, location of publication, publisher, dimensions, and genre of the book; this information was the basis of my spreadsheet and helped me figure out exactly what other data I wanted to collect in the spreadsheet. The more specific binding information that I collected was the images seen on the cover, binding material, binding style, the use of gold, and if the book was unbound. Through the use of general data about the book and specific data about the binding, I was able to get a better sense of bookbinding trends and come to concrete conclusions based on these trends.

I went into the Special Collections reading room at Strozier Library once a week, every week, for 10 weeks; during each visit, I pulled ten to fifteen books from the Shaw Collection and filled out my spreadsheet with the data. While I did use DigiNole, the FSU Digital Repository, to figure out which books I wanted to pull, it was beneficial to be able to see the books in person. By seeing the books and their bindings in person, I was able to record data like the binding style because I could see if the binding was debossed (“the process of stamping a design or lettering into the surface of an object…so that the lettering or design becomes indented permanently on the object’s surface”), embossed (“the opposite of debossing i.e. a process which makes a logo, lettering or design literally stand out in relief”), or just a printed image (The Document Centre). I was also able to see the true size of the books and understand their dimensions and the implications of those dimensions. Overall, I collected data from one hundred and two bindings. 

I plugged in all of the data I collected into my spreadsheet and then inputted it into Omeka, a website platform for digital collections as metadata. I also included images of some of the bindings in my metadata after downloading the binding images from DigiNole. One of the exciting challenges of my digital humanities project is that I am not only doing primary research on the bindings, but I am also having to learn how to use Omeka. Before inputting my data into Omeka, I had to translate some of my data in order to make it fit into the data information set by Omeka. For instance, I had a column on my spreadsheet labeled ‘location’ but, Omeka does not have any data labeled information so I had to input my ‘location’ data into Omeka’s ‘coverage’ data box; I had to do this for most of my data in order for it to be imported into Omeka and for the metadata to reflect the data I collected on my own. 

I had to create a balance between carrying out my bookbinding research and learning the digital tools I used for my project. It was good to do these two things simultaneously because, through my bookbinding research, I was able to figure out what I wanted to present on my website and what kind of data I wanted to collect. Once I figured out how I wanted to display my data on my website, I had to learn how to use the themes section of Omeka, which is where all of the visual aspects of the website are configured. I looked at YouTube videos on Omeka and met with experts on the platform in order to learn how to properly use this software. Dealing with the visual aspects of the website was very difficult and I had to learn how to create exhibits and pages within my website in order to have my text show up on my public page. I also had to learn certain codes to embed images into my text. Throughout the building of my website, I had to constantly check the public page in order to make sure that it looked good as a public user and as an admin.