“Faithful friend of my girlhood”: the diary of Celestia Lee Barker

“I believe I will write a journal, said sister A. a few days ago,” Celestia Lee wrote in the first entry of her diary on July 5th, 1863. “It will be so novel like, and good to refer to, when I get old. That’s just it; I want to begin now; I will too said I; it will be so nice.”

Barker describes her decision to begin a diary.

First entry in Celestia Lee Barker’s diary, dated Thursday, July 5th 1863

The diary is part of the Celestia Lee Barker Papers (MS-246). Celestia Lee was born April 23, 1846, in Springwater, Livingston County, New York. In April 1855, when she was nine years old, her family moved to Macksburg, Madison County, Iowa. She began writing her diary when she was 17, and so perhaps it is not surprising that within the first few pages, we hear a description of a “beau” of hers:

Wm [William] accompanied me home from church yesterday. He did not come in but said if it was agreeable he would call in the evening. I consented and he went off. …Towards dark I was fixing up a little of course, and E. began about his coming. She had her own fun about it, and said she intended to sit up as long as I did. I told her I did not care, and perhaps C. would come too. She did not think he would; but time proved quite to the contrary, for soon there appeared to [sic] young men who took a beeline for our house….E. and C. were quite bashfull [sic] and did not have  much to say, but Wm. and I had a real time.

E. and C. were quite bashful and did not have much to say, but William and I had a real time. I wonder what A. will say about E's beau.

Barker describes she and her sister “E” meeting with their beaux in the evening.

By September, she writes about an unexpected change in her life. She has left home to attend a school (“seminary,” as she calls it) in Indianola. “A., H & [?] had been talking of coming here but I did not think as I could come till ma said I could if I wanted to. At first I thought it was impossible for there was so much to do at home but she argued it all away & the consequence was that I am here ready to begin studies,” she writes in her entry for Sept. 15, 1863.

She continues to keep in touch with William. On Sept. 18 she writes, “Rec’d a letter from Wm. this morning. He is most well & will start for the Reg’t before long.” As you might have noticed, she began keeping her diary during the Civil War.

She writes about school… “I like the Teacher very well & the scholars too, & had several new ones this week. One young man named Shepherd. Mattie calls him brother. He is real good looking.” (Sept. 22, 1863)

Have just returned from the Seminary and had very good sessions. I like the Teacher very well and the scholars too, and have several new ones this week. One young man named Shepherd Mattie calls him brother. He is real good looking.

Barker describes her school experiences.

…and social life… “Mat & I called on the other ‘old maids’ the other eve. O we had a splendid time pulling candy.” (Oct. 10, 1863)

…and loneliness… “O why do I feel so lonely & forsaken today as if I was alone from home & among strangers who cared nothing for me nor I for them. My thoughts turn to the past like a troubled dream & then to the future with appears so dark.

“I was out to the [?] last night & that accounts for it. It is the way with me generally after I have been so gay & they had music & dancing there. Farewell to fashionable society. I think I have witnessed you for the last time as a participator. I am sick of it. It is nothing but deceit adorned with gaudy trappings.” (Oct. 21, 1863)

Celestia kept her diary for about four years. In 1866, she got married to her beau William Barker. Her entry of May 10, 1866, begins, “Dear Journal how you are neglected of late & you have been such a faithful friend of my girlhood & these days will soon be over then this volume will be done & another begun then what will be the record.” Further on she continues, “We are to be married the 6th of Sept. & so much to do before that I intend to get the house plastered & things comfortable for ma before I leave her. That is my only grief & fear nothing in the future for myself. Wm. is as devoted as I could wish when we are alone but in public he hardly notices me & I hardly like such a marked difference but it is his way I supposed. He says he can’t understand me yet I am so different from others & I surely don’t understand him but I do not doubt his love.”

Journal entry states that she has neglected her journal lately, that she is looking forward to marriage, but that her fiance neglects her in public but is affectionate in private.

Entry for May 10, 1866 in which she describes her hopes for marriage.

There follows several blank pages before there are some poems.

She took up her diary again with an entry from April 23, 1881, that begins, “Well well here I am 35 ys. old today. What an old lady I am to be sure but don’t know as I feel any older than I did at 20 & people do say I have not changed much in looks. I do believe a great deal depends on keeping the heart young to keep our looks young & my life seems such a happy one with such a good man & 4 good smart children.”

Well well here I am 35 years old today. What an old lady I am to be sure, but don't know as I feel any older than I did at 20 and people do say I have not changed much in looks.

Entry dated April 23, 1881 on her 35th birthday.

Further pages include pasted clippings of poems and periodic diary entries. Her final entry is dated Apr 23d 1904, and begins, “Dear old journal it has been long long since I have written & now this is my 58 birthday & how busy I have been.” She writes that they now live in Denver, Colorado, “& have a beautiful home far nicer than I ever dreamed of having.” She reflects back on her life, noting,

How much I have to be thankful for & how often I have proved the old song I have always loved, ‘Ever down to old age all my people shall prove my sovereign eternal unchangeable love And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.’ Blessed promise blessed hope but it seems as if I am getting only as I look in the glass for I am most always so old.”

Celestia Lee Barker diary 0006

Barker’s final entry dated April 23, 1904, in which she looks back on her marriage and thinks about aging.

A bittersweet reflection for one who was only (at least from a modern perspective) 41 years old. But all-in-all this diary presents a remarkable look at the life and reflections of a 19th century Iowa woman from youth through adulthood.

This diary can be viewed online in Digital Collections.

 

 


#TBT New School Wardrobe

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University Photos, box 454, n.d.

For today’s Throwback Thursday post, we see some students showing off their new school wardrobes.  Styles may change, but the tradition of getting new clothes for a new school year remains.

I hope everyone has had a great first week of classes! Need a break during your busy week? Stop by Special Collections and University Archives and browse other pictures of student life from days gone by; we are open 9-5, Monday-Friday.


Artifacts in the Archives: School Days Memories

This collaborative post is about artifacts that remind Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) staff of their school days. Welcome back to school Cyclones!

Marching Band Uniform Jacket

Heavy white jacket for marching band uniform. It has a white overlay on front with a red strip that has "Cyclones" embroidered in white. On the red cuffs are embroidered "Iowa State" in white thread. The collar and shoulders are red. Underneath the overlay are 6 gold embroidered bars with 2 gold buttons on each bar. On back of jacket is embroidered "ISU" in red and gold.

Artifact # 2012-010.002

Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator

This marching band uniform jacket reminds me of school (and particularly of the start of a fresh school year), because I remember hearing my high school’s marching band practice in the early hours before school started.  Now I get to hear the band after work!

 

Marching Band Uniform Jacket

 is maroon wool jacket with gold collar, trim, and stripe on sleeve. Embroidery on collar spells "I.S.C." in maroon thread.

Artifact # 2008-094.006

Laura Sullivan, Collections Archivist

The marching band uniforms always remind me of school, and one of my favorite aspects of high school, in fact, when I was in the marching band.  However…the heavy, wool uniforms (as this one is), were not my favorite.  I learned later that wool was considered far better than acrylic because of its breathability, and ability to theoretically keep you cool in the hot summers and warm when fall came around.  Despite the crowds and long lines for coffee, I love when fall semester comes around and I’m reminded of the beginning of school – the excitement and expectation of new classes, seeing fellow classmates again, and band practices preparing for upcoming football games.

 

Pencil

Artifact # 2005-095

Amy Bishop, Rare Books & Manuscript Archivist

“Don’t you love New York in the fall?” Joe Fox writes to Kathleen Kelly in the movie You’ve Got Mail. “It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

I’ve always agreed that fall weather and fresh, new school supplies go together, and there is something about the crisp, cool days of early fall that makes me feel a nerdy anticipation of a new year of learning. So, although we are still enjoying the warmth of summer, I reveled this morning to feel a cool hint of autumn in the air this morning, fitting for our first week of fall classes.

 

3-ring binder

Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

3-ring binders remind me of school when I was a kid. I had a backpack filled with a binder or two, usually I could fit up to 3 subjects in a binder. I had lockers in Jr. High and High School so could swap text books in between classes but always had my binders in my backpack. When I processed collections, I had a love-hate relationship with binders. I usually appreciated the organization within the binders, but they took up much needed space within a box.

Board game

Wooden board with 18 wooden pegs, three circles and 3 triangles each with three holes for pegs

Artifact # 2001-220.002

Chris Anderson, Descriptive Records Project Archivist

Our files describe this artifact as a board game, but I’m not so sure. What would the rules be? In any case, it reminds me of preschool or kindergarten. I majored in Shapes with a minor in Colors. That’s a joke, but there’s an element of truth to it. When I went to school, I resisted learning to read. My mother read books to me in the early years, and I guess that reading in school seemed less appealing than quality time with mom. She said that I didn’t see the point, at first. Once I tried reading for myself, it became clear that I already knew how to do it at the first or second grade level.

 

Bag

red Iowa State Cyclones drawstring bag that has Cy at center & Iowa State Cyclones printed around Cy.

Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

I chose a red Iowa State Cyclones drawstring bag that is handed out to students during summer orientation. The bags are easily recognizable and seeing a student wearing one, which some do during the beginning of fall semester, almost instantly identifies the student as a freshman. Seeing them reminds me of a tradition from a century ago when freshman students wore beanies. Fortunately, freshman today are not required to wear the drawstring bags nor is there a special bonfire at the end of the year to burn the bags as happened with beanies all those years ago. When I see those bags start to appear, I know a new schoolyear is just right around the corner!

 


Rare Book Highlights: Eclipse!

Do you have plans to watch the eclipse today? I do! As you read this, imagine me already stationed within the path of totality.

If you are experiencing eclipse fever, you may be interested, like I was, to know what books we have in Special Collections related to eclipses. A quick search of the library’s catalog brought back the following book with the subject heading, “Solar eclipses — Mathematics”:

Petrus Elvius. Exercitium mathematicum eclipsiographiam solis leviter adumbrans… Upsaliæ : Literis Wernerianis, 1710. Call number: QB541 E48x 1710.

Checking the shelves I found a small pamphlet bound in blue paper wrappers that have become entirely detached. It is kept in this protective four-flap binder:

The Elvius pamphlet in its four-flap binder. Written on the front cover is “Elvius et Milberg 1710”.

The title page begins with the line, “Auspice DEO!” (Under the auspices of God!). Although this was published early during the Age of Enlightenment, we can surmise that it took some time for the influence of religion on science to recede.

Auspice Deo! Exercitium Mathematicum Eclipsiographiam solis leviter adumbrans, quod consentiente ampliss. Facult. Philos. in Regia Academia Upsaliensi, Praeside viro celberrimo, Mag. Petro Elfvio, Math. Super. Profesi. Reg. & h. t. Fac. Phil. Decano Spectabili, Aequitori Bonorum Censurae modeste submittit

Elvius pamphlet title page.

Written in Latin, the Eclipsographia solis, as it is also known, contains an explanation of the mathematical calculations of eclipses, including their duration. At the beginning, after the dedication, there is this delightful fold-out set of diagrams:

Four black ink diagrams showing various angles across portions of a spear labelled with numbers and letters. One diagram includes a sun with a nose and mouth.

Diagrams in Elvius pamphlet.

What did people know about eclipses, or even the solar system in general, when this pamphlet was published in 1710? People have been awed by–and therefore have studied–the phenomenon of eclipses for millennia. The astronomer Gerald Hawkins contended in the 1960s that Stonehenge was used to predict eclipses. Eclipses were studied by the ancient Babylonian, Chinese, Arabic, and Greek astronomers. Anthony Aveni writes in his book In the Shadow of the Moon, “Beginning about the sixteenth century, eclipse observations of a scientific nature begin to enter historical records on the European continent” (p. 137). In 1543, with the publication of his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), Nicholas Copernicus revolutionized European astronomy by demonstrating mathematically that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was at the center of the universe. Galileo later defended the Copernican system in his 1632 publication Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), which got him in trouble with Pope Urban VIII and led to his house arrest. Johannes Kepler improved on the work of Copernicus with his work on the laws of planetary motion, elucidated in his Astronomia nova (New Astronomy) published in 1609. Isaac Newton in 1687 published his Principia, in which he stated his laws of motion and universal gravitation. He also showed how Kepler’s laws followed the same principles as his law of gravity, proving that the same laws of motion govern objects both on the earth and in space.

It would seem by 1710, when our pamphlet was written, that European astronomers knew quite a bit about the solar system and the movement of the planets. In reality, it took some time for the new ideas about the solar system to be fully accepted. (Remember the “Auspice DEO!” of the title page?) Petrus Elvius, the author of our pamphlet, was a Swedish professor of astronomy at Uppsala University and lived from 1660 to 1718. According to his entry in the Swedish Biographical Dictionary (Svenskt biografiskt lexikon), his position on the Copernican system was not clear, and he expressed doubt over the validity of Newton’s law of universal gravitation in a letter 1711 letter to Emanuel Swedenborg, calling it “abstraction” and not physics.

Interestingly, this book was published 5 years before the May 3, 1715 total solar eclipse that crossed central England and Northern Europe. Edmond Halley, famous for calculating the orbit of the eponymously named Halley’s Comet, predicted the path of the eclipse with a very high degree of accuracy (within 4 minutes) and drew a map of its path across England. This map helped to promote popular interest in eclipse-watching (much like today), and it also set off a period of increasingly accurate eclipse mapping.

Happy eclipse day, everyone!

Work Cited

Aveni, Anthony. In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses. Yale University Press, 2017.


Domestic Economy Class #TBT

The first day of school is Monday, August 21. We are so excited! The students pictured below seem a little less enthused about being in class. Perhaps the absence of smiles was merely a convention of their time and not a reflection on how they felt about class. This article in Time provides possible reasons why people didn’t smile in earlier photographs.

Domestic Economy Sewing Class. Short Course. 1910 Iowa State College (University Photographs, box 981).

Want to see more photographs that document the history of Iowa State University? Drop by our reading room. We’re open 9-5, Monday through Friday.


Archival Research: Managua, Nicaragua versus Ames, Iowa

Today’s blog post was written by Sydney Marshall, one of our student workers and a graduate student here at Iowa State University (ISU).

Young woman in purple dress with straw hat, view behind her is coast:; "cristo de la misericordia" (Christ of the Merdy) on the coast of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua.

Sydney Marshall at the “cristo de la misericordia” (Christ of the Mercy) on the coast of San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. Photograph by Jaqueline Mendoza.

My name is Sydney Marshall and I am one of the student workers for the Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at ISU. During this summer, I traveled abroad to Managua, Nicaragua for archival research at the Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamerica (Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History, IHNCA) at the Universidad de Centroamericana (University of Central America, UCA). My research project concerns women during the Nicaraguan revolutionary era. I found that IHNCA had a vast array of information regarding this time period.

UCA campus view. Photograph by Sydney Marshall.

Conducting historical research in both the United States and in Central America, I found that there are some surprising similarities to the research process. For one thing, entering a new archive and introducing yourself to the archivist is somewhat terrifying, no matter the country or language! For any archival research, I found that it is best practice to contact the archivist at the desired location to plan one’s research trip (i.e. Dates, times, materials, questions). The primary difference in this initial phase was that I needed permission from my department of study (ISU) in order to gain access to the archives in Nicaragua. Additionally, at IHNCA I had to pay a one-time fee for entrance into the archives, whereas at SCUA, admission is free.

At both SCUA and IHNCA, I was met with friendly staff that helped me with my research project. Both places required me to sign in and read (SCUA) or listen (IHNCA) to the reading room rules. Personal items were kept at the front desk, either in a locker (SCUA) or cubby (IHNCA). Food and drink were not allowed near the documents, however, water was permitted in the reading room at IHNCA. I used the reading room computer to go online and find the materials I wanted an archivist to retrieve (both links can be found below). Each archive had me complete an “out slip” with my name, date, title, and call number for each individual item (the only difference being that I had to state my research topic each time for IHNCA, which I only had to do once for SCUA).

Front desk for IHNCA reading room. Photograph by Sydney Marshall.

Once the items were brought out to the reading room, I could look at one document at a time. Whereas SCUA brought out the document box containing the desired folder, IHNCA brought out the single folder for me to examine. At IHNCA, I was allowed to bring my own notebook and/or computer to take notes using pencil. At SCUA, I could only take notes using the archives paper and writing utensil. Laptops or other mobile devices are allowed. If I wanted to take a picture of a document, I needed to obtain permission from the archive. SCUA required me to read and fill out the camera use policy form. There is also a KIC scanner in the SCUA reading room that I can use to make copies. For a fee, IHNCA allowed pictures of books and journals to be taken on a specific day at a certain time.

My conclusion after researching in the two archives is that the process for examining historical documents was very similar: ask for the desired item, read the documents, and take notes on what is deemed important. Each archive had a rich collection of materials, from government documents to published books, photos to individual’s recollections.

IHNCA catalogue (in English): https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=es&sp=nmt4&u=http://catalogo.ihnca.edu.ni/&usg=ALkJrhj1wpG4xeh-6qnZBrAXVxRsqhZcyw

SCUA home page: http://archives.lib.iastate.edu


Iowa State University at the Iowa State Fair

During the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will converge on Des Moines for the annual spectacle that is the Iowa State Fair. As usual, there will be all kinds of activities and exhibits at the fair, but the main attraction continues to be Iowa’s agricultural enterprises. Considering the prominence of agriculture at the fair, it probably comes as no surprise that Iowa State University has been participating in the State Fair for well over a century–back when the school was known as the Iowa Agricultural College.

State fair display, 1924

This image shows part of the Iowa State College exhibit at the state fair from 1924. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

In a written account of the 38th annual state fair held in 1891, the exhibit presented by the Iowa Agricultural College highlighted the three departments of entomology, botany, and civil engineering. The purpose of the exhibit was to:

“…acquaint the public with their friends and foes of field and garden, the best methods of preserving and destroying them, the noxious weeds and various diseases of plants, with methods of treatment, and to illustrate some of the work pursued in the college curriculum.” Annual Report of the Board of Directors, Iowa State Agricultural Society, 1891.

Even though members of the college saw the state fair as an opportunity to educate the citizenry about important research going on at the school, it was also clear that they recognized the benefits of advertising at the fair.

Annual Report of the Iowa State Agricutural Society, 1891

Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Iowa State Agriculture Society, 1891. Starting at the bottom of page 140 is the description of the Iowa Agricultural College exhibit.

By the 1920s, Iowa State’s presence at the fair had expanded greatly. Many departments, even those outside of the field of agriculture, were highlighted in the exhibits. Photographs from that era show exhibits sponsored by engineering, home economics, as well as the traditional agriculture programs. One portion of the 1924 exhibit featured a chemical engineering exhibit next to a promotion for a young college radio service called WOI. In 1930, Iowa State’s exhibit included a display from the women’s physical education program featuring two young women demonstrating ping pong on a rather undersized table–at least by today’s standards. You never know what you will see at the fair!

Iowa Stae College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair

Iowa State College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair featuring the Women’s Physical Education program. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

Over the years, the University’s state fair exhibits became more professional-looking and more elaborate. By the 1990s, the Office of University Marketing took charge of planning Iowa State’s exhibit at the fair. University Marketing staff determine a theme for each year’s exhibit emphasizing different aspects of the University. Sadly, visitors are not likely to see college students giving demonstrations as happened in the past, but they are sure to run into the friendly faces of ISU employees, faculty, alumni, and friends that staff the exhibit.

2005 Iowa State University state fair exhibit featuring Reiman Gardens

This image shows part of the Iowa State University state fair exhibit in 2005. This exhibit featured Reiman Gardens. (University Relations images, digital files for the State Fair)

Just as it was in 1891, the Iowa State Fair is still a great opportunity for the University to advertise itself and to share at least part of the story of Iowa State with the tens of thousands of people from around the country that stop by the exhibit. So when you visit the Varied Industries Building to pick up ISU athletics posters and temporary tattoos at this year’s ISU exhibit, take some time to read and learn about some of the great things currently going on at the University. And, of course, if you are more interested in seeing images of the ISU state fair exhibit from years past, stop by Special Collections and University Archives. We would love to see you!


#TBT Registration

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Registration 1946, University Photos box 449

Check out how Iowa State students registered in 1946.  Looks a lot different than signing up on your laptop from the comfort of your apartment or dorm room!

To see more about student life throughout Iowa State’s history, stop by the archives from 9-5, Monday-Friday or check out our digitized collection of the Bomb, the ISU yearbook.

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The results are in: Intaglio class final projects

It is not often that I get to see the results of my Special Collections instruction sessions in such a tangible way.  Back in February, I worked with April Katz’s Intaglio class, who came in to view and take photos of examples of intaglio prints from a variety of our rare books to incorporate into their own studio projects. In April I had the pleasure of attending the class’s final critique and seeing the fruits of their labor.

All of the prints were inspiring and beautiful to see. I am highlighting here a few in which I could clearly decipher where the inspiration came from in our collections.

Here, for example, is the work of Jen Wichers, who took as inspiration images from a book on French fashion from the 1780s (Cornu, Paul, et. al. Galerie des Modes et Costumes Francais. Paris: É. Lévy, 1912?. Call number: GT865 G132).

 

Anna Wagner was inspired by images of tools from Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie (Diderot, Denis. Encyclopédie. Paris: Briasson, etc, 1751-65. Call number: AE25 En185) in these prints of hammers with entwined flowers.

One of our botanical books inspired this work by Alexandria Collins, which shows the interplay of the natural and the man-made. (Hooker, William Jackson. Flora boreali-americana. London: H.G. Bohn, 1840. Call  number: QK201 .H764f)

Here is a final set of photos of the work of Jordan Jorgensen, who was also inspired by Diderot. I like the interplay of the hand tool (scissors) and the larger machine (spinning wheel) and the faceless woman running it.

Thank you to April Katz’s ARTIS 357/557, Intaglio & Monotype class for allowing me to attend your final critique and show off your work on our blog. You did great work!

 


Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

 

Video_Preservation_Rack_1
ISU’s Special Collections and University Archives Video Preservation Rack

Hello! My name is Rosie Rowe, and I’m the AV and Film Preservation Specialist for ISU Special Collections and University Archives. This is the first of – hopefully – a series of blog posts related to AV and film preservation from a University Archives perspective. I hope these will be helpful not only for other Universities’ special collections but also for anyone interested in AV and film preservation.

A Common Video Preservation Scenario: A researcher requests a copy of a show held in your special collections. It’s a university production from the 1970s, a unique recording on ¾” tape. This tape is an “at-risk” item, because the inherent vulnerabilities of magnetic based media. What do you do? Do you send it out to a vendor, or do you digitize the tape in-house? Where possible, it’s best to digitize at-risk items in-house. It’s faster, it’s more economical over the long-term, and you can maintain your own quality-control standards.

AV preservationists have spent un-countable hours of our lives discussing the best capture format for analog video preservation. But actually… how you send the signal from the deck to the computer’s capture card is the most important aspect of digitizing analog video. You can capture 10-bit 4:2:2 anything, but the quality of what you’re capturing is linked to the signal you’re sending. So with this fact in mind, this post will describe the necessary equipment and guide you through the basic setup required for digitizing your at-risk analog video in-house.

One of the biggest issues that defines magnetic media as “at-risk” is obsolescence. It’s quite difficult to find and maintain the device needed for analog video playback. Prepare to spend some time digging around online or contacting potential dealers to find a functioning playback device. A good place to start looking for old, obsolete AV equipment is the on-campus video production house. They might have old gear hanging around! Or a local television station may have gear to donate to your archives. Be creative. You need well-maintained, industry-grade equipment with as much related documentation as possible. Those dog-eared operational and service manuals are invaluable for maintaining the functionality of old gear.

Cable - 3

RG-59/U 75 Ohms Broadcast BNC Video Cable

Using correct cables and cabling may be the single most important aspect to setting up a video preservation rack. Know your source signal (composite, component, or Y/C ) and send it out using only the highest-grade shielded cable. Remember: Shielding reduces electrical noise and…its impact on signals and…lowers electromagnetic radiation. Shielding prevents cross-talk between cables… Shielding not only protects cable but… machinery and people as well. [1] http://www.wireandcabletips.com/importance-shielding-cabling/

PRO-TIPS: Cables, Cabling, and Termination
• ALWAYS use broadcast-quality RG59 BNC 75ohm cables for video
• ALWAYS prefer XLR (balanced audio) cables to RCA (unbalanced audio) cables
• ALWAYS terminate open loops with 75ohm terminators at end of signal loops*

*But be careful! Improper termination can affect the video signal. A double termination can cut the video signal in half, while a lack of termination will overload the video signal. This might be where you need professional help.

75ohms_1

BNC 75 Ohms Terminator

CONGRATULATIONS!! You have managed to acquire a professional-grade BVU U-matic deck that supports machine control input. Now you are able to control the deck from a computer via a RS-422 cable, not missing any information at the beginning of the tape. This is good. This is why the RS-422 cable is included on the equipment list.

RS-422 - 2

Deck Control RS-422 cable

Now what about the capture card and computer? I like the AJA KONA LHi capture card and AJA KONA KLHi-Box. Together, these will allow for seamless capture of composite, component, and Y/C (for analog signals) and SDI or HDMI (for digital signals). The KONA LHi works well with Premiere CS6, but it also has its own software that captures SD analog video as 10-bit 4:2:2 uncompressed v210. The Kona LHi is also able to capture closed captioning and timecode information. All of these are required metadata for video preservation. The preservation master could have up to five streams of data per file: a video stream, two audio streams, timecode, and closed captioning CEA-608. With newer computers, you’ll have to place the AJA Kona Li capture card in a thunderbolt expansion case and send the digital video signal from the expansion case to computer‘s thunderbolt in.

Now. It’s very important to place a Time Base Corrector between the deck and the capture card. You also need waveform and vector scope connected post-TBC, so you can monitor and adjust the video signal, using the scopes as your measurement tools. For example, if color bars are in front of the program, you can adjust the luma, chroma, black (set up), and hue (NTSC only) levels to get the best possible signal from the tape. Also, I recommend having all equipment ‘genlocked’ to the same reference to ensure picture stability. For SD composite video, it’s called blackburst – a composite signal of black with no picture data. With all pieces of equipment timed and in-sync, or locked to master sync, you increase the stability of your capture.

My preference for signal monitoring is viewing the signal directly off the deck, as well as post capture card. This helps pinpoint where any problems might occur in the signal. For example, if there is visible signal error on the monitor connected at the end of the chain (post capture), but the video looks good coming straight out of the deck, you can focus your troubleshooting on the cables, settings, and equipment either at or after the TBC point. It’s also important to have a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor in order to view the video signal as it was originally intended. AND it’s best to have a CRT with blue-only, underscan, and H-V delay features. ‘Blue only’ allows you to calibrate your reference monitor with color bars and monitor your VTR noise. ‘Underscan’ allows you to see every scan line in the video signal, and ‘H-V delay’ allows you to check vertical and horizontal sync. These features will help you get the best signal out of your deck and troubleshoot any signal errors.

This brings me to the last piece of gear to install in your AV Rack: a test pattern generator. A test generator helps you check proper signal flow by sending a test pattern, like color bars, through the signal path. You can also use the color bar test pattern to set display levels – like brightness – and contrast to ensure your monitor is properly calibrated.

Colorbars - 2

Video Preservation Rack

YOUR EQUIPMENT LIST
• Professional rack*
• Professional-grade decks for each format (U-maticSP, BetaSp, VHS, SVHS, Digibeta, etc.)
• RG59 BNC 75 Ohm cables
• 75 Ohm BNC terminations
• XLR cables
• RS-422 cable
• Time Base Corrector/Proc Amp
• Test generator
• Sync generator
• Patch bay
• AJA Kona capture card
• AJA Breakout box and cable
• Sonnet Echo Express SE I Thunderbolt 3 to full-height/half-length PCIe card
• Waveform and vector scope monitors
• CRT monitor**
• Computer***
• Calibrated computer monitors
* sturdy, does not wobble, and allows decks to be pulled out easily and safely
** preferably one that has underscan, blue-only, and H/V delay
*** preferably with a high-speed processor, minimum 16GB memory and 1TB storage

Well, I hope this was helpful for anyone wanting to build an AV preservation rack for their special collections. In the next issue of AV Club, I’ll be discussing best practice for embedding technical metadata into files for future digital preservation conservators. Cheers!