LOTW 19: Then and Now

by Lindsey Irvin and Chelsea Risley

I am always amazed by the amount of money people have sent to the Berry Schools. I recently read many documents from 1928 recording $150 donations. Considering that these were made over 80 years ago and that it then cost nearly that much to go to Berry for a year, $150 is an impressive contribution.

I’ve read letters from individuals who gave as much as $250, which is a generous sum in the year before the Great Depression. But, for the most part, the donations I’ve seen were in the $100 -$150 range, and Berry was always very grateful for that support.

Recently I ran across a December 1928 donation of $1,000 from Albert Shaw and his family. This generous contribution paid for almost 7 students to go to school for a year. Out of curiosity, I decided to determine what the Shaw family’s donation would be worth today. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1 in 1928 had about the same buying power as $13.68 today. That means the Shaw family’s donation would be worth about $13,677.02 in 2013. Even more curious, I looked at Berry’s tuition for a student in 2013. One year’s tuition is $29,090, and that is just tuition. It does not include board and food plans, which, depending on what year you are, can be close to $13,000. So that generous donation that the Shaw Family gave in 1928 is worth less than a semester here at Berry College now.

Then I began thinking about other differences between The Berry Schools during Martha Berry’s time and Berry College today. One huge difference is the work program. During the early twentieth century, students at The Berry Schools worked because they had to – now the work program is optional (but highly encouraged). Back then, students worked on the farm in the fields or with the animals, at the dairy, in the kitchens, making handicrafts and weaving in Sunshine Cottage, and doing construction on campus. Students could also be employed by faculty as domestic help for the same rate that they would be paid if they were employed by the school. Today, Berry has tons of work options. Some students still work at the dairy, but there are jobs like teacher assistants, working at the Berry College Elementary & Middle School, working and doing research in all the departments on campus, plumbing, masonry, library, computer labs, Berry Information Technology Students – the list goes on and on and on.

Students at Berry College in 2013 wake up (or don’t) whenever they choose, they go to classes that they choose and can even select the time of their classes and for the most part are able to choose their work times. They also choose what to do in their free time and when their free time is, as well as when they go to bed at night. Under Martha Berry’s time as founder of The Berry Schools, the students had a rigid schedule. Their wake-up bells were at 5:45 am, and the whole campus had scheduled meal times. The student body was divided into three parts that rotated duties. Each day two-thirds of the students would go to classes while the other third worked. They also had a specified block of “free time,” a bed time and “Silent Time” at 9:10 pm.

It’s fascinating to see how much Berry has changed over the years, and how much has stayed the same. There’s still a fantastic and very unique work program. The faculty and staff are still interested in giving the students the best educational and living experience they can offer. They are also still interested in the student as an individual human being. The school’s motto of an education of the “head heard and hands” as phrased by Martha Berry herself is still very much in place, and her desire to grow children into well-rounded, experienced, hard-working and intelligent human beings is still being accomplished.

new directions and next steps

This semester, MBDA begins the sprint toward our April publication date. We’ve upgraded our Omeka instance, have developed new editing features, and are finally beginning to think about site aesthetics, as well as content.

Chelsea, Meg, and Kasey continue to make significant contributions to MBDA through their work on the project at Berry, and this term we welcome Bloomsburg University student Angela McCavera to the project.

MBDA remains open throughout development, and progress is accelerating as we expand geolocation data, move the completion-meter (affectionately known internally as the Berry-ometer) a little farther out of the red, and recognize editorial achievements:




Finally, we extend thanks and good luck to image-master John, who is participating in a psychology internship this semester as he advances toward graduation in May. We’ll miss you, scan man!

MBDA has a lot to be thankful for this year —

  • A corp of talented and dedicated students (who continue to captivate and surprise with fascinating LOTWs and who have earned a permanent place in the mythical Archive Hall of Fame for document joining)
  • A programmer willing to code through some of the most challenging digital archive issues (whether at 8:45 am, 11:13 pm, or any of the hours in between)
  • A collaborative, interdisciplinary project community with a shared passion for our subject
  • Twitter Bootstrap, a front-end framework par excellence
  • Omeka, ‘serious web publishing’ made seriously accessible (we’re eagerly anticipating the release of 2.0 and the promise of ‘what comes next’)
  • Tags that enable us to find at least one Thanksgiving letter among the thousands already published in MBDA
  • A dev environment that expands to meet our growth and keeps us running (despite an unprecedented flood and Hurricane Sandy)

…there’s more, undoubtedly, but as I consider where we started (with a word doc and over 200 fileboxes of fragile, crumbling documents) and how much we’ve learned along the way, even if I could somehow list all the details I’ve missed, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!


– Stephanie A. Schlitz, MBDA Editor and Project Director


Fall Meeting Update

Thanks to our colleagues at the Berry College Library for hosting Garrick and me for a day of meetings late in September. From the tech meeting where we reviewed migration plans and site aesthetics, to exploration of dissemination and collaborative editing with key stakeholders from the Martha Berry Museum, Alumni Affairs, and academic departments, to discussions of editing and LOTWs during the student meeting, the day was both packed and productive, and it was excellent to be back on campus.

I’m delighted to announce that in addition to editing, imaging, and other tasks, the following new roles have been undertaken by our students:

  • LOTW Series Editor: Chelsea Fryar
  • ‘About Martha Berry’ Author: Kasey Haessler
  • Video Tutorials Coordinator: John Holland
  • History Dept. Exhibit / Collections Coordinator: Meg Ratliff

As of today, MBDA boasts 9901 items, the LOTW Series has remained on schedule, and file joining and tagging are progressing at an exceptional pace. ‘About MBDA’ and ‘Getting Started’ are taking shape on the dev site. ‘About Martha Berry’ is in-progress, and we’re currently hiring a Bloomsburg University student editor (I look forward to introducing our new collaborator soon).

November initiates a serious front-end test cycle, and this is very good news as we look ahead and begin the countdown to our April 18, 2013 launch date. Just 166 days remaining!

Welcome back!

Fall semester has begun at Bloomsburg and Berry, and MBDA development, editing and imaging have resumed. Thanks to some minor revisions in our document upload routine, we now include year in DC metadata as we upload new documents to the digital archive —

Sure, this is a minor upgrade, but the automated addition of year to DC metadata for documents will enable search and sort  by year even before documents in the collection have been edited, and this is an important step toward increasing MBDA utility. We’re also beginning to add more tags as we join and edit documents, and this too will facilitate searching.

As we continue to add documents to MBDA, I have renewed appreciation for the time and care taken by Spring 12 intern Becca Howells, who joined thousands of documents, and, in doing so, ensured that – though orphaned during the imaging process – multiple child pages of a single parent document were reunited in the virtual world. Accurate joining ensures that we can proceed with editing as well as development and test of our crowdsourcing plug-in, and it ensures that archive users can access a complete document. (you’re missed Becca!)

It’s great to be back into the collection! I’ve especially been enjoying letters from the 1926-27 holiday season, which document gifts of ‘cotton bolls’ from Berry to Berry School supporters across the U.S. What a wonderful gift and what a surprise to recipients, many of whom have never seen a cotton plant.

Spring Milestones

We’ve recently reached some significant milestones at MBDA. To date, we’ve uploaded more than five thousand images to the dev site. If this were a race, the Berry imaging team would be winning because they’re scanning documents even faster than we’ve been uploading them (and they’re beating us by a margin of nearly 2 to 1).

MBDA Bloomsburg intern Becca Howells has spent countless hours on digital editing, matching orphaned documents with their parents to ensure that – despite the fact that every scanned image is mogrified and then batch uploaded as an individual document – multiple pages of the same document are reunited in the virtual world.

Hundreds of MBDA documents have been described using the Dublin Core metadata guidelines; MBDA is OAI-PMH compliant, and thousands of lines of programming code have been written for the digital archive and the Crowd-Ed plugin.

Our continued growth and development can also be measured in gigabytes. That we just requested a bump to 80 GB (we were nearing 50) on the dev server at Bloomsburg is another revealing indicator of progress (thanks Bloomsburg Univ. networking staff for keeping us running and for the bump to 120 GB!).

In blog terms, collectively, we’ve authored 21 posts on Crowd-Ed (22 counting this one); in the aggregate, that’s an average of more than two per month between August 2011 and April 3, 2012. But eleven of these posts were actually published between February and March 2012 – by students – another sign that we’ve been making great strides.

Steph Mihalik (Bloomsburg) parlayed her MBDA experience into a spring 2012 internship with Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in DC; Meg R (Berry) recently authored an article about her work on MBDA for the History Department’s newsletter. Students in my History of the English Language class have transcribed MBDA documents and have explored MBDA to learn about manuscripts, language and culture, and historical language description. I’m wrapping up an article about digital archive development and will  be speaking about the technological innovations underpinning our Crowd-Ed plugin at an academic conference later this month. During spring 2013, we expect MBDA to be featured in an article in Berry Magazine.

In short: A lot is happening! Though MBDA won’t go live (i.e. be publicly launched) until fall 2012 spring 2013, we’re making tremendous progress.
As inspired as I was by Martha Berry when I was a student at Berry College (every time I passed the Gate of Opportunity, I silently thanked MB), thanks to our work with MBDA, I know more today about Martha Berry and her extraordinary life and work than I ever did then. As an alma mater, MB has never failed to impress or to inspire. Getting to know her first-hand through MBDA: an honor and a privilege.
– Stephanie A. Schlitz, MBDA Editor and Project Director

Bringing Communication Skills to MBDA

As a communication studies major I wondered what I could bring to the table regarding MBDA. After getting familiar with the project, I realized I could combine my love of history and writing with the skills I’ve learned in the communication field to help build on what was already there.

I plan on spending my time working on editing documents as well as learning a way to properly teach others digital editing. I will also be creating blog posts regarding the project and blog posts that relate to the documents themselves. I will assist in the creation of curricula for middle and high school students. I will also be researching and creating informative articles, brochures, letters, emails, etc.

I look forward to working on MBDA and with the other people involved for multiple reasons. I am eager to learn more about digital editing, HTML, TEI-XML, and Dublin Core. I also enjoy the fact that I am working with historically important documents. Some of the documents that I’ve come across already are intimate and enjoyable (though others may be more generic). They’re an inside look at the life and work of Martha Berry and I find that intriguing.

The technical and communication skills I will learn from this internship will remain with me long after I graduate, and I appreciate the opportunity to work with everyone!

a quiet hive of activity

The programmer, Garrick, and I sat down for a few hours today to review and update project plans for spring 2012. We have lots yet to accomplish, yes, but many critical, foundational aspects of the project are now in place. Thanks to ongoing scanning by Berry students John, Melissa, and Chelsea, who are working closely with Berry College Archivist Michael O’Malley and Library Technical Asst. Cheryl Hawkins, imaging is progressing. Given the size of the MB Collection, this aspect of digitization is time-consuming, but  it is immeasurably important not only to our dissemination and community editing goals, but also to document preservation.

The digital archive is in active development. Garrick and I have been accessing image files remotely, creating derivatives, and uploading them to the development site for editing as well as for dev/test purposes. Although the front-end still looks and feels very much like a black and white abstract, behind the scenes we’re actively developing a searchable, interactive infrastructure – color & graphics coming soon too!

Leaving us at the end of fall term is Bloomsburg student and digital editor extraordinaire Steph Mihalik. Though she’ll be MISSED, I am happy to report that in part due to her wonderful work for MBDA, she’ll be interning with the Smithsonian in DC this spring – Congratulations and good luck, Steph! Bloomsburg student Becca Howells will be increasing her work this spring; in addition to editing, she’ll be taking on a very active – and much needed – role as our intern and communications coordinator.

Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to lay the foundation this term. Your work has helped make it possible for us to ramp up the pace in 2012 and to begin making the transition from a quiet hive of activity to a prominent public presence.

“Everyone matters…”

“…in an organization.”

A few weeks ago, my Public Personnel Management professor taught us about being an effective supervisor and how to motivate employees. He said that every employee matters to an organization because everyone, no matter what your position, is necessary for success. He called it “Total Quality Management”. That same week I began to edit a set of letters between Martha Berry and Grady Hamrick, who was the groundskeeper on the “Mountain”. It was pretty much a one-sided correspondence because Berry sent numerous notes and letters to Grady asking him to fix a pipe, or plant more trees, or take care of a peafowl she received as a gift. At first I didn’t understand why this correspondence was so important to the overall collection. But then I remembered what I learned in class and thought about the hundreds of men and women who work at Bloomsburg as maintenance workers, groundskeepers, bus drivers, electricians, etc. Each Thursday and Friday before Open Houses, you see the groundskeeper pruning shrubs and replanting the beds and pots. The Academic Quad is mowed and the millions of leaves that fall from the trees around campus are raked. This is especially true the week before Graduation. Without a beautiful and inviting campus, no 12th grader will ever decide to come to Bloom. Without clean bathrooms and trash-free hallways, students living in the dorm would not have a suitable living experience.

Without Grady’s help, and the countless other Berry employees, Martha Berry’s dream and life’s work would not have been successful. So the statement that everyone matters is completely true.