New Acquisition: Walter Raleigh’s Essays

title page walter raleigh

Title page from Walter Raleigh’s Judicious and select essayes and observations…..

One of our new summer acquisitions is this lovely octavo volume of Walter Raleigh’s essays, Judicious and Select Essays and Observations.  A collection of four essays authored by Raleigh, this first edition, first issue volume was the first to bring together all four essays into a single volume.  Two of the essays, “Excellent observations and notes, concerning the Royall navy and sea-service” and “Sir Walter Rawleigh his apologie for his voyage to Guiana,” had been published separately the same year, but the other two, “The first invention of shipping” and “The misery of invasive warre,” were printed for the first time in this collection.  As indicated by the titles, Raleigh’s knowledge of maritime and military activity was central in this set of essays, covering his experience with ships and the Royal Navy as well as a discourse on his voyage to the northeast coast of South America in an attempt to seek the renewed favor of Queen Elizabeth I.  Some historians suspect several of these essays were composed during his long imprisonment in the Tower of London.

The volume itself carries two bookplates documenting previous ownership, the first noting “Ex Libris: Richard Chase Sidney” and the second from the “Scott Library Collection at the Institution of Naval Architects.” Additionally, there is an inscription from John Hunt on the title page.  The engraved portrait of Raleigh is signed by Ro. Vaughn.  Each of the 4 essays has its own separate title page.  Overall, the volume is in good condition for its age, with minimal wear showing on its cover of half-morocco over boards as would be expected.

On its way to cataloging, the book will soon join many others in our growing collection of maritime adventures and tales across the centuries in the Galvin Rare Book Room.  All of the rare book room materials can be searched in the library catalog and viewed during our research open hours.


New Open Hours – Fall 2019

Door to Galvin Rare Book Reading RoomFall semester 2019 brings some new things to Rare Book & Special Collections.  We are trying out different open hours for research this fall as well as having new ways to schedule materials and appointments and to schedule instruction sessions.

When classes are in session, our Fall 2019 open hours are:

Sundays & Mondays: 2-6pm

Tuesdays & Wednesdays: 11am – 3pm

If you would like to set an appointment outside of those hours or have specific materials you would like us to have ready for your visit, please submit your request through this form.  If you would like to schedule an instruction session or class visit, please submit the request via this form.  Finally, if you are interested in learning more about our Books Arts program or scheduling a consultation or instruction session with our Book Arts Studio director, Jen Thomas, check out the Book Arts page or send a request through this form.

We look forward to working with you this fall!

90th Birthday of Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker

A black and white photograph of Dr. Walker leaning over a pulpit and pointing out while speaking.

Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, August 16, 1929 – January 23, 2018.

Today, August 16th, 2019, would have been Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker’s 90th birthday. It seems an appropriate moment to pause in our work and reflect on Dr. Walker’s life and legacy.

How do we honor the life of Dr. Walker? How are great men generally honored? These are questions I think of whenever I am working with the collection of such a momentous figure. Dr. Walker has had a long lasting impact on America and the world. His work with SCLC deeply affected the political and cultural life of this country, and his continued civil rights work affected the world at large. His work as a Baptist minister impacted not only those communities he served but the many places he traveled to in his ministry. His work on gospel music and the roots of American musical traditions stemming from the music of enslaved peoples has changed the way we think about our music, its history, and its place in our culture and worship.

How, then, can we honor such an important life and its deep legacy? Dr. Walker was certainly honored during his life; the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection includes hundreds of awards, citations, and other official forms of recognition highlighting the work he did. Maintaining this collection and making it accessible for future generations to learn and continue his legacy is perhaps the most direct way for the University of Richmond to honor that life, preserving as much of who he was and what he did as possible.

For historians, scholars, and other researchers looking at American history, religious life, music, international civil rights, or a thousand other topics Dr. Walker touched on in his life, using the collection and writing about Dr. Walker is a wonderful way to keep his memory alive. Students, community members, and those with an interest in his life can come learn about his life and honor him by remembering his life and his work. In these ways, many great men are remembered. And in these ways, we should always remember Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker.

But these actions are in some way passive. While they remember the man, they do not apply his teachings or continue his legacy. Throughout his life, Dr. Walker stood up for what he believed in, often risking serious injury or death to fight for what he believed was right. While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. swayed Dr. Walker to his approach of nonviolent, direct action, Dr. Walker never stepped down. Even in his oral history recorded less than three years before his death, Dr. Walker passionately spoke on contemporary topics, wielding a keen mind and impressive insight. These are his true legacy: the ability to discern what is right and to defend it at all costs.

I believe that the greatest way to honor Dr. Walker is to continue his legacy. Rather than just reading about the man, remembering him in literature, and memorializing his impact on America and the world, we should strive to follow in his footsteps and continue that impact. Do not let the work of Dr. Walker pass into history, but rather keep it alive in the present and moving forward into the future. Remember the man, hold him in your heart, and do as he did: stand up for what you believe, fight for it with everything you have, and never stop trying to change the world.

Preservation, Physical and Digital

Happy #WyattWalkerWednesday, and welcome to another post on the Something Uncommon blog. This week, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss a question some of our readers have asked me about the audio cassette tapes in the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection. I’ll give a bit of background to the question and then we’ll dive right in!

Some of you have picked up on how often I discuss the preservation of physical materials, including the longevity of certain formats. I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, for instance, that audio cassette tapes are generally expected to hold their recording for 20-50 years, depending on how often they are played and the environment they’re stored in. This was part of the reason we digitized the cassette tapes as quickly as we did: many of them are well past that initial 20 years, so we knew we could be losing data every minute we waited.

This brings us to the question some of our readers have asked: how long will the digital formats last? Will we be back here in 20 years changing the format of these recordings to avoid data loss? The Walker collection will certainly still be here in 20 years, and it is the duty of archivists everywhere to think about the long term (think “forever”), so how long will digitized material last?

Data loss in the digital world is colloquially known as bit rot, and it’s actually much closer to how cassette tapes lose data than you might guess. Hard drives and cassette tapes record data in similar but different ways: both use magnetic charges to store the data, but how they use the charges is different. Hard drives use a positive or negative magnetic charge to store data in binary, the coding language that is the basis for all computer work. As you might guess from the name, binary has two “letters” in the language: 1 and 0. Using positive and negative charges for the 1 and 0, computers magnetically store information on hard drives. Every file on every computer is a series of 1s and 0s strung together, much the way that a cassette tape is a series of magnetic data stored along the magnetic tape itself.

Since both formats store data magnetically, data loss is surprisingly similar: the storage medium, whether it be the magnetic tape in a cassette or the hard drive of a computer, loses that charge – or switches it. With a cassette tape, there’s not much you can do about this except copy it onto a new tape before it starts to happen, thereby restarting that 20-year countdown to data loss. An archives would maintain an appropriate storage environment for cassettes, extending that 20 years as long as possible, but eventually the physical preservation would require what archivists called migration. Migration can occur from one physical format to another, called format migration (such as from a wax cylinder to a vinyl LP to a cassette), or it can be a migration from one instance of a format to another instance of the same format (an old cassette to a new cassette). There is a lot of discussion in the archives profession about format migration and the loss of contextual information (what does it tell you about a recording that it is on vinyl instead of a cassette, and how do we ensure that information is included if we change formats?), but format migration is recognized as necessary to preserve material indefinitely.

You may recall that I’ve mentioned that the Birmingham Campaign recordings we have were recorded onto cassette in the early ’90s, so this material had actually undergone one migration before they came into our possession (and were also 25+ years old). Since audio cassettes weren’t commercially available in the U.S. in 1963, I can be fairly confident in calling this a format migration – probably from audio reel to cassette tape, although we can’t be certain without doing some investigation.

With computers, the answer isn’t much different – but it is much easier. If you’ve ever moved a file from one computer to another, or uploaded it into the cloud, or sent it in an email to yourself or someone else, then you might have performed a basic function of digital preservation. Data migration is obviously much easier on a computer than a cassette – all you have to do is copy and paste the file, and you’ve created a new, second copy. Many computers have the ability to hold multiple hard drives, so as one hard drive ages a newer one can be installed and the files can be copied over, ensuring that the information is safe.

To make copying a file actual preservation, you need to do more than just put it on a new hard drive. Digital archivists function under a basic principle, called LOCKSS. LOCKSS stands for Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. Essentially, if you have three or more copies, you can be certain that bit rot won’t get all of them – and if it does, it won’t get all of them at the same time, allowing you to make three new copies of whichever version survived. Once cloud services became a thing in the 2000s, LOCKSS became very easy to handle: just keep a file on your hard drive and upload another copy onto a cloud service.

Some cloud services take an extra step, backing up data in the cloud to three servers. Some go even further, checking the files periodically to ensure that none of them have suffered bit rot. If one version of a file has been damaged, it can be restored using the other two. Cloud services that perform this sort of automated maintenance on files are very helpful for archives, assuring that digitized material will survive as long as the service is available. So to answer the question “how long will the digitized versions of the cassette tapes last,” I can confidently say “for the foreseeable future.”

Things get much more complicated than just ensuring a file’s integrity using LOCKSS, including different ways to verify a file’s integrity. There are also concerns about file format obsolescence, and because of this digital format migration is also a practice in archives. I can address these questions at a later date, but for now we can all rest easy knowing that, by being digitized and properly safeguarded, the Birmingham mass meetings and other recordings will be safely preserved and accessible well into the future.

As always, thanks for checking in on the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection this #WyattWalkerWednesday. Feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments you have, and follow Boatwright Library’s other social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Walker Sermons Available On-site

Welcome to another #WyattWalkerWednesday post! This week, I have another big announcement to make: all 800+ audio cassettes included in the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection have been successfully digitized and are available to listen to here at the University of Richmond.

Longtime readers may recall that the Birmingham Campaign recordings that I discussed and linked to last week were part of a much larger number of audio cassettes, roughly 835 in total. The Birmingham Campaign recordings were digitized first as a test batch, sent to the vendor while the remaining 825 were being prepared for digitization. These were selected as the test batch primarily because of their extreme age: although the cassettes turned out to have been recorded in 1991, their labels listed the dates of the original recordings, 1963, making them the oldest cassettes in the collection.

Another distinction between the Birmingham Campaign recordings and the remainder of the cassettes was their content. While Dr. Walker speaks at most of the mass meetings, the remaining cassettes are almost exclusively sermons preached by Dr. Walker during his time at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. These provide an amazingly rich resource for research on a variety of topics, including Baptist theology, the ongoing national and international civil rights movements, and current events in Harlem from 1980 through 2002.

While the test batch of materials was sent out much earlier in 2018, preparing the remaining 800+ cassettes took much more time, so they were sent out for digitization much later. Luckily, the vendor moved through them quickly and returned them to us recently. I’ve been hard at work doing what’s called fixity checks to ensure the files were not damaged or corrupted during delivery and transfer, but this work is finishing up and everything has checked out (so far).

If you read last week’s entry, you know that it takes additional work to have files prepared for online access. The first step is usually to get the recordings transcribed, which not only creates easier access but also helps with our metadata work with the files. Due to the magnitude of the project, this work won’t be done anytime soon. While we’ll be posting the files in batches as the work is completed, I wanted to make sure people who are interested in the cassettes knew that they are accessible on-site as soon as possible.

Let me explain what I mean by “accessible on-site.” As part of the preparation for digitization, these cassettes were inventoried and given filenames for their digital file counterparts. This means that, even though we don’t have full metadata and therefore can’t put the files up online, we do know the title of all the labeled cassettes and which files that cassette turned into. With this information, a researcher can come to the library, look through the inventory, and ask to listen to specific files. While we can’t guarantee that the recording will match the label, it at least gives basic access to this amazing resource.

As always, keep an eye on this blog and the library’s social media feeds for further updates!

Birmingham Recordings Available

Hi all! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update on the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection, but don’t worry – we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes getting a number of things ready to go public. One of these is the set of cassette tapes containing recordings of mass meetings held during the Birmingham Campaign in 1963.

These tapes are actually re-recordings of the original audio reels, a fact I suspected when I did some research into audio cassettes and discovered that they weren’t commercially available until a few years later. Luckily, the man in charge of transferring the recordings onto cassette annotated the recordings, which lets us know who did the originals and the transfer, as well as some basic information about the recordings – namely when and where they were recorded.

The original recordings were done by C. Herbert Oliver, who is also working on the cassette recordings alongside Charles H. Oliver II. C. Herbert Oliver annotates each recording, usually giving a date and where each recording was made, which is often the 6th Avenue Baptist Church. The recordings date from April 9 through May 10, which spans almost the entire length of the Birmingham Campaign.

These files were digitized late last year and we’ve been working to get them online ever since. This work has included metadata creation, including description work, as well as getting the recordings professionally transcribed for accessibility. Many folks these days may not have ever heard the unique sound known as “cassette tape hiss,” so transcription can be incredibly useful – not to mention faster for researchers to skim.

Once the transcription was finished, it was easier to do what librarians call subject analysis. For these recordings, that mostly meant reading through the transcriptions to see what the various speakers discussed, who was speaking and who was mentioned, then putting this information into structured subject headings. These subject headings are displayed online, so researchers can get a general idea of what’s being discussed in each recording even before looking at the transcription or listening to the audio.

All ten recordings – each cassette, front and back – are available online through our Digital Collections site, which is also where the oral histories have been put online. Future digital material, including born digital and digitized, will also be made available on this site, so keeping it bookmarked might not be a bad idea. For the Birmingham recordings, however, I recommend going through the library’s Walker Collection Birmingham tapes webpage. The recordings weren’t transferred to cassette in perfect chronological order, so trying to sort through them without any guidance can get a little confusing. To help listeners out, we created the Birmingham tapes page to give direct links to each meeting and its transcription. Feel free to listen and read at your leisure!

I will be back soon with another #WyattWalkerWednesday post, so keep an eye on this spot – and on the library’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds – for more updates!

Remembering the Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker One Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Dr. Walker’s passing. If you’ve been reading the #WyattWalkerWednesday posts over the past year, you’ll have a good idea of some of the progress that’s been made on processing the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection, work that’s been done always with Dr. Walker and his legacy in mind. In order to further honor this momentous figure in American history, the University of Richmond published today an oral history of Dr. Walker and Mrs. Theresa Ann Walker.

Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Walker sitting for the oral history recorded July 29, 2016.

This oral history (available here), believed to be Dr. Walker’s final recorded interview before his passing, was recorded during the summer of 2016. In it, Dr. Walker and his wife cover topics from the Freedom Rides in 1961 and their involvement with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to Dr. Walker’s approach to gospel music and his favorite preachers. The Walkers discuss their opinions and memories of several other major civil rights figures, including Ella Baker, Ralph Abernathy, and Al Sharpton, as well as lesser known names such as Diane Nash, Juanita Abernathy, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. Recorded in two sessions totaling approximately two and a half hours, a transcript is available for each recording is also available at the link above.

The Walkers are interviewed by Dr. Joseph Evans, Dean of Theology at Morehouse School of Religion. Dr. Evans is also connected to Dr. Walker in various ways, and his existing insight into Dr. Walker’s life and work allows the oral history to delve deeper into some of these topics. Dr. Evans was also the keynote speaker at the Walker Symposium held last fall.

This is the first material we’re making publicly available, and we do have plans to release other material soon. Please keep an eye on this blog as well as the library’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds for further announcements!

The Walker Collection in the New Year

Welcome to the first #WyattWalkerWednesday of 2019! This week we’re going to do a quick recap of some of the latest updates on the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection, then talk about plans moving forward into the spring. The library here at the University of Richmond has been coming back to life after our winter break, and work on the collection started right away at full speed.

When last we posted, we had just received the first ten audio cassettes sent out as a test batch to our digitization vendor. While work on these is ongoing, we do hope to have at least the first few up and available online for the public soon! The files were delivered without problem and appear to be whole and complete. Description work is moving forward, and once that is done, we’ll be able to post them online.

While work on these first ten recordings is moving forward, I’m also working on the remaining cassettes! With the help of a student worker, all of these were inventoried for our digitization vendor – we ended up with over our estimate of 800! The total number of audio cassettes sent to the vendor capped out at 834. Included with these was also a single audio reel (a technology used before the audio cassette was introduced to the general public in 1963) and five film reels – you may recall I’ve spoken about the film reels in the past. Overall, 830 items were waiting to be sent along to our vendor after the successful test batch, and I am happy to report that those were shipped out yesterday afternoon! These may take some time to digitize and be returned to us, especially considering the six non-cassette items included, but we’re hoping to have these coming online for public use later in the year.

While work on the audio cassettes has been moving forward, processing has also of course continued. And one of the greatest benefits of processing the collection is that material that has been processed can be put on exhibition to allow some access to the collection while I finish preparing it for research. To that end, we have two exhibitions here in Richmond that will be using Walker Collection material. One of these opens in January and is hosted at UR Downtown, while the other will be later in the year – more information on that will be coming, too!

Overall, the past few months have been a quite busy time for RBSC and the Walker Collection. We hope to continue having some great news for you as we move through 2019, so keep a close eye on this blog for future announcements!

An Update on the Walker Cassettes

Welcome back to another #WyattWalkerWednesday post! I know it’s been awhile since our last installment, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. Since the library is closed the next two weeks for Winter Break, I wanted to leave you all with at least one more blog post before 2019.

One of the most exciting things that’s been happening behind the scenes here at RBSC with the Walker Collection is the return of the audio cassettes that comprised the test batch for digitization. These ten cassettes were the earliest recordings donated as part of the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection, including some recordings dating to 1963. This year was a momentous one for both the Walkers and the Civil Rights Movement, and is also the year that audio cassettes first hit public retail. Due to some preservation concerns with magnetic tape and its durability over 50 years, we wanted to make sure these tapes got digitized first and any audio left on them could be safely digitized, thereby making these recordings accessible into the future. (Of course, digitization alone isn’t enough to preserve digital files forever – you need digital preservation for that. But that’s a different topic for another day!)

I’m happy to report that all ten of these earliest recordings were salvageable, although the audio isn’t perfect quality by today’s standards. Of the ten cassettes sent as the test batch, eight of them included a total of five recordings from April and early May 1963 – the beginning of Project C, the Birmingham, AL campaign that Dr. Walker was chief strategist for. These are therefore very exciting for a variety of reasons, and we’re working at top speed to make these publicly accessible as soon as possible.

While work on these ten recordings to make them publicly accessible continues, I’m also wrapping up the work necessary to send the remaining cassettes out to our digitization vendor to undergo the same process. Due to the high volume of shipping that happens around the holidays and the library’s closure for the next few weeks, these cassettes will be shipped out in early January. The total number of cassettes in this shipment will be around 750 (some of the remaining cassettes will not be digitized because they are commercial recordings still in their sealed packaging), so the time needed to digitize them all will obviously be much longer. Nonetheless, I hope that work on making these available to the public can begin in the early springtime of 2019.

While this work on the audio cassettes has gone on, I haven’t been ignoring the manuscript portion of the collection, either. As you may recall, our main focus has been on the manuscript material this past year, and work will continue into 2019 until this portion of the collection can be opened for research. RBSC expects at least one more, large-scale donation to the collection, after which a revised timeline can be devised. As always, please check back here for progress on that front as well as any other news on the Walker Collection or other posts about RBSC and our activities!

Dr. Walker and Project “C”

This week’s #WyattWalkerWednesday may have a slightly misleading title. I’ll be talking about Dr. Walker, his work on Project “C”, and materials in the Dr. and Mrs. Wyatt Tee Walker Collection, but it’s important to note that Dr. Walker’s role in Project “C” will not be covered in its entirety. Nonetheless, I’m excited to share some newly discovered materials in the collection that touch on these points!

A recently processed box of materials included a lot of SCLC material that I wasn’t expecting. The importance of much of this material was immediately apparent, as it touched on some of the biggest campaigns SCLC had during Dr. Walker’s tenure as Executive Director. One such campaign was Project “C”, also known as Project Confrontation. This was the code name for the work SCLC did in Birmingham, AL in 1963 and included boycotts, marches, and more. While the collection hasn’t yet shed light on just how integral Dr. Walker was to Project “C”, he has stated in interviews that he was the main organizer and strategist for it.

A document detailing the code used to discuss the organization of Project “C”.

Some of the materials on Project “C” are what you would expect: organizational notes or lists of contacts in the press and local area. Somewhat more unexpected to come across, however, was a list of code names and phrases to discuss Project Confrontation’s ongoing organization. Of particular note is the final two sentences on the page: “Whatever code is decided upon, it must be committed to rote. Should never appear in writing again.” Despite this cautionary statement, Dr. Walker held on to his copy of this code for over 50 years before donating it to the University of Richmond.

As always, this material is closed to researchers until processing has been completed. Check back again next week for another discussion of how that is going! Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.