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The art and science of letterlocking

Posted April 24th, 2014 by Heather Denny

Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries’ Thomas F. Peterson Conservator
(Photo: L. Barry Hetherington)

Long before email, text, and instant message, important words were passed discreetly from closed palm to palm with a knowing glance and nod. These hand-written notes were often elaborately folded, sealed with wax, and rigged with anti-tamper devices to ensure their protection and authenticity.

The technique of “locking” letters involves folding the parchment, papyrus, or paper securely so that the letter functions as its own envelope. Well-known historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth I of England, Marie Antoinette, and even MIT’s founder, William Barton Rogers, used locked letters for their private communications.

“Letterlocking has been around for centuries, and has been used by prominent figures as well as everyday people,” says Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries’ Thomas F. Peterson Conservator. “Some of the earliest examples on paper are found in the Vatican Secret Archives and date back to 1494.”

Dambrogio, who is the conservator of MIT’s rare books, archives, and manuscripts, will demonstrate the technique of locking letters in two upcoming events at MIT: Historic Letterlocking: the Art, Technology and Secrecy of Letter Writing on April 23 during the Cambridge Science Festival, and April 29 during MIT Libraries’ Preservation Week. Read the full article on MIT News.

Cambridge Science Festival: Letterlocking at MIT

Posted April 24th, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

Many thanks to the 100+participants including families, students, colleagues, faculty, and staff members who visited the MIT Libraries letterlocking table in Lobby 10 yesterday during the events in celebration of the Cambridge Science Festival. “This is just like a quill that Harry Potter would have used to write,” one MIT student squealed after using a peacock feather quill to write her message on the super-sized sheet of handmade paper. The tips of the iridescent plumes tickled the noses of participants, putting smiles on their faces, while they stood next to others who were completely focused on the letter before it was locked shut into a pleated letter format used by Queen Elizabeth I.

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Oh, so hard to choose which gigantic writing implement to record a secret message. We say: why choose?

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One left-handed participant pointed out how hard it was to write with the quill since right-handed scribes get to guide the quill tip across the paper and lefty’s need to push the quill. We’ll have to ask our calligrapher friends like Betty Sweren and paleography experts like Heather Wolfe what people did back in the day to prevent their ink from splattering all over the page.

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Colleagues from the Boston Athenaeum came out to join the fun.

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Before and after locking shots.

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Thanks to MIT Department of Material Science and Engineering faculty member Mike Tarkanian, for giving us a MIT bronze medallion to authenticate while sealing this letter shut. What do we do with the letter? Send it through the mail? Perhaps we should open it next week at the Preservation Week talks? Let us know what you think! Stay tuned for the movie showing how the letter was locked shut!

 

Cite your data sources!

Posted April 23rd, 2014 by Katherine McNeill

citation needed sign    data

You’re familiar with the importance of citing the literature that you use in your paper.  But did you know that it’s equally important to cite the sources of the data that you use?

Authors don’t always rigorously cite their data sources—have you ever had a hard time finding the data underlying a publication?—but citing data is equally important in order to:

  • Give the data producer appropriate credit
  • Enable readers of your work to access the data, for their own use and to replicate your results
  • Fulfill publisher requirements

Need guidance and examples?  See the Libraries guide to citing data.  For help in citing data—or in identifying sources of data behind publications—contact Katherine McNeill, Social Science Data Services Librarian, mcneillh@mit.edu.

Want to know more about improved standards and practices in the field for data citation?  See:

Image credits: futureatlas.com [CC-BY-2.0], infocux Technologies [CC-BY-NC-2.0]

Discovering the Libraries: Enriching and simplifying research

Posted April 23rd, 2014 by Pritee Tembhekar
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Priya Kalluri, ’16, doing research on several generations of Frankenstein adaptations, using MIT Libraries’ resources.

By MIT Libraries’ student blogger, Pri Tembhekar

Hello everyone! It is research season! Well at least many of us have design projects, theses, or final reports that require significant research. This week I’ll be highlighting some of the Libraries’ resources for research. You probably already know about finding print resources, such as books owned by the MIT Libraries. While this is a good first step, there are many additional sources of information that can add depth and breadth to your findings.

Subject matter experts are part of the Libraries’ staff and have specialized knowledge about subjects ranging from accounting to women’s and gender studies. These experts can provide research consultations for courses, theses, and other in-depth research. These consultations can be very valuable if you come prepared, and with a project that isn’t due in the next two hours. In case you are facing an impending deadline, these subject matter experts have kindly put together subject matter guides. For an example of how these can be used, take the one on energy. The experts have provided a list of easily accessible databases and journals along with short descriptions of their contents. This enables students to produce higher quality research than Google alone can facilitate. The guides are also a direct way to utilize MIT-only resources without much research into which resources are available and relevant. In short, some of the leg work has been done for you! For a particularly fun research guide, check out the one on designing and making stuff.

Along the same lines as the research guides, the Libraries provide class guides. Certain classes require substantial outside material and/or research from students. The professors can work with librarians to put together class guides especially usefully for that class. If your research is for a class, it is worth checking if there is a class guide for it. In my case, the guide for 10.27 (Energy Projects Lab) along with the Energy guide mentioned above and the Chemical Engineering guide were the foundation for preparing a meaty introduction to my final report in 10.27.

Finally, one of the simplest resources is a class textbook. The Libraries provide access to select textbooks online. I never thought to search for textbooks in the library until a friend mentioned last year that he wasn’t buying the textbook because he could access it through the Libraries. This is also useful if you find that you need a textbook for a class you aren’t taking or would like to peruse the textbook for a class you might take. Never hurts to look before you buy!

Last open mic this semester – Friday, May 2

Posted April 23rd, 2014 by Christie Moore

pianoJoin us for the final open mic this semester in the Lewis Music Library, one last chance to try out the new piano. Come jam, perform, or just listen. Everyone welcome. Bring your own music or use the library’s (we’ve got lots!).

Date: Friday, May 2, 2014
Place: Lewis Music Library, Bldg. 14E-109
Time: noon- 1 pm
Refreshments provided

Composer Florian Hollerweger: Thursday, May 1

Posted April 23rd, 2014 by Christie Moore

Composer forum series: Florian Hollerweger

revolution_florianThe Revolution is Hear! Sound Art, the Everyday, and Aural Awareness.

Date: Thursday, May 1, 2014
Place: Lewis Music Library, Bldg. 14E-109
Time: 5-6 pm
Reception follows
Free and open to the public

Sponsored by MIT Music and Theater Arts.

Giant letter to be locked shut April 23, Lobby 10, 12:30pm

Posted April 22nd, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

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Come celebrate the Cambridge Science Festival with the MIT Libraries. Visit our table in Lobby 10 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23 to learn about the 4,000-year-old tradition of writing a letter on papyrus, parchment, or paper and folding it to function as its own envelope.  Hear about historic letter locking, discover the collections here at MIT, unlock some facsimile letters written by William Barton Rogers, and sign this enormous letter before it’s locked shut at 12:30pm.

Try your hand at writing with a peacock quill and other proportionally large writing instruments. Craft your mood with our Letter+Lock playlist we put together expressly for you on Spotify!

Thanks to master papermakers Tom Balbo at the Morgan Conservatory and Julie McLaughlin for making this seven foot long sheet of handmade paper so that we can transform it into a giant locked letter.

See more information.

MIT Earth Week: The Clean Bin Project Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Posted April 18th, 2014 by Heather McCann

 

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Time: Thursday, April 24th, 6-8:30 pm

Location: 3-270

Is it possible to live completely waste free? In this multi-award winning, festival favorite, partners Jen and Grant go head to head in a competition to see who can swear off consumerism and produce the least garbage Their light-hearted competition is set against a darker examination of the problem waste.

Afterwards, join MIT community members for a discussion of living waste free.

Snacks will be provided.

Sponsored by MIT Libraries and the Earth Day Collaborative

Books & Beasts: Parchment Identification from Animal Protein Analysis

Posted April 17th, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

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Rare Book Program Manager Stephen Skuce (left) discusses the illuminated parchment pages of MIT’s 15th century manuscript Book of Hours with visitors Stephen J. Milner (Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Manchester) and scientist Sarah Fiddyment (University of York).

Milner and Fiddyment and their colleagues Caroline Checkley-Scott (Collections Conservator at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library) and Professor Matthew Collins (University of York) gave a wonderful presentation on their groundbreaking work. Their collaboration involves sampling of centuries-old parchment (used in books and documents) to determine the species of animal used in the parchment’s manufacture. The collagen molecules are gathered through a novel, non-invasive technique: a plastic eraser, via minimal, gentle contact with the parchment, attracts collagen molecules from its surface, and the eraser “crumbs” are harvested: no abrasion or cutting required, and the sample can then be sent to the research team for analysis. This technique, developed by Fiddyment, gathers ample collagen molecules for investigation (sequencing through protein mass spectrometry), providing invaluable evidence for identification of the materials used to create our cultural heritage. The resulting data has numerous and exciting implications for various fields in both the humanities and the sciences.

 

Learn more about Mendeley–with pizza!

Posted April 17th, 2014 by Katherine McNeill

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Meet Mendeley Representatives–Refreshments served!

When: Friday April 25th 3:30-5pm

Where: 14N-132

Come eat pizza and learn more about Mendeley, a tool that helps you manage and share pdfs and easily generate citations and bibliographies when writing.  Representatives from Mendeley,  MIT Mendeley Advisors and library staff will be on hand to meet you, answer your questions and get feedback on this great tool.

RSVP for the event.

Enhanced Mendeley Access for MIT Users

The MIT Libraries has purchased Mendeley Institutional Edition for the MIT community.  This gives MIT users more personal and shared space than what is available with a free Mendeley account.  To find out more see our Mendeley page.

Questions? Email personal-content@mit.edu

Electroacoustics for lunch – Monday, April 28

Posted April 17th, 2014 by Christie Moore

electroacoustic-flyer_medJoin us for a lunchtime performance by MIT’s Florian Hollerweger (Music and Theater Arts) and Forrest Larson (Lewis Music Library) as they explore acoustic and electronic sounds of ethereal and earthbound origins in a new collaboration.

Date: Monday, April 28, 2014
Place: Lewis Music Library, Bldg. 14E-109
Time: noon – 1 pm
Reception follows
Free and open to the public

Guardians of the MIT Community

Posted April 16th, 2014 by Nora Murphy
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Barbara Haven, Raymond Roberts, and Robert Molino

Security on MIT’s campus has evolved since the 1950s when night watchmen, serving primarily as fire watch, patrolled the campus. The responsibilities, duties, and reporting structure of the police have changed with the times and the needs of the community. Crimes on campus previously handled by Cambridge police were taken on by MIT’s force in 1959. Over the last two decades the MIT Police have worked with students and staff more collaboratively on safety issues. Read more about the history of the MIT Police on the Institute Archives and Special Collections web site.

OA research in the news: Germs that go to great lengths

Posted April 16th, 2014 by Katharine Dunn
by 729:512. CC-BY-NC https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

“Sneeze vector” by 729:512. CC-BY-NC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

A new study by MIT researchers shows that the droplets our noses and mouths release during coughs and sneezes can travel much further than previously thought. John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics, and Lydia Bourouiba, an assistant professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are two of the coauthors on a recent paper, “Violent expiratory events: on coughing and sneezing.”  The researchers directly observed sneezing and coughing, and also simulated it in the lab, and found that coughs and sneezes produce “turbulent buoyant momentum puffs,” or respiratory clouds, that can carry potentially infected droplets five to 200 times further than known before. This could mean airborne pathogens are more easily transmitted through ventilation systems and enclosed spaces.

Explore Professor Bush’s research and Professor Bourouiba’s research in the Open Access Articles collection in DSpace@MIT, where it is openly accessible to the world.

Since the MIT faculty established their Open Access Policy in March 2009 they have made thousands of research papers freely available to the world via DSpace@MIT. To highlight that research, we’re offering a series of blog posts that link news stories about scholars’ work to their open access papers in DSpace.

Patriots’ Day library hours: Monday, April 21

Posted April 16th, 2014 by Grace Mlady

On Monday, April 21, 2014, the following libraries will open at noon (12pm):Small U.S. Flags

All other library locations will be closed for the holiday; the Libraries resume regular hours on Tuesday, April 22.

Have questions? Ask Us!

More E-books now available from Wiley Online Library

Posted April 15th, 2014 by Barbara Williams

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You keep telling us you want more e-books and we aim to please. The Libraries are pleased to announce a cooperative pilot project with Wiley Online Library. Beginning now for one year, about 15,000 electronic books published by Wiley will be available to the MIT community. After this pilot we will purchase perpetual access to books with significant use. (Note some textbooks, extensive encyclopedias and/or handbooks might not be available). This project will also help us determine how to provide access to major STEM e-books in the most cost efficient way.

Soon the links to these books will appear in Barton, but now you may visit the Wiley Online Library.

To read these on your e-book device see our E-reading FAQ.

Happy reading, and Tell Us what you think!

Climate Change volumes now online

Posted April 11th, 2014 by Chris Sherratt

Many will already be aware that Dr. James Hansen, one of the most prominent voices in the climate change conversation, visits our campus next week. In honor of his visit, the Libraries would like to highlight the new, five volume online resource, Climate Vulnerability: understanding and addressing threats to essential resources.

It would be difficult to find an aspect of this challenging topic not addressed in this collection of essays. Well referenced and written by experts, the articles explore the vulnerability of human health, food resources, energy, ecosystems and water to our climate and its changes. They address science, policy, economics and social ramifications of these changes in the world around us.temperature_gis_2012We hope you explore!  Image credit: NASA

 

“Be Thou the Advocate…”

Posted April 10th, 2014 by Nora Murphy

Happy Charter Day, MIT!

Letter from Governor Andrew to William Barton Rogers, 9 March 1861

On this day, 153 years ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed, and Governor John Andrew approved, legislation that established MIT.

On March 9, 1861, Governor Andrew had written to William Barton Rogers that a meeting had been scheduled with the State Board of Education to afford an opportunity for proponents of the plan to explain its advantages for education and industry. The letter reproduced here expresses the governor’s confidence in Rogers’s dynamic personality and powers of persuasion.

Rogers had worked long and hard to establish a polytechnic school in Boston, spending years sharing his vision and soliciting support. Two days later the U.S. Civil War began when Confederate soldiers fired upon Fort Sumter. MIT’s first classes were not held until 1865, shortly before the end of the war.

More information about the establishment of MIT is available on the  Institute Archives and Special Collections web site. MIT’s original charter is housed at the Massachusetts Archives among the acts and resolves of the Commonwealth.

Help identify MIT Banjo Club of ca.1893

Posted April 10th, 2014 by Christie Moore

Is one of these players your ancestor? Help identify members of MIT’s Banjo Club of ca.1893, the picture hanging outside the Lewis Music Library!

BanjoClub_1893webFrom yearbooks in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, we have made some tentative IDs. Left to right, standing: Nathan Cheney ’94; possibly Floyd Frazier ’96; Winthrop Tracy Case ’94; possibly Edwin Francis Hicks ’94; possibly F.S.V. Sias ’95. Sitting: possibly Lucius Spaulding Tyler ’96; Albert William Thompson ’95 or ’96; George Frederic Shepard, Jr., ’95.

Post a comment on the Lewis Music Library Facebook page if you can help!

 

Find business case studies

Posted April 8th, 2014 by Katherine McNeill

Need business case studies for a course? There’s no shortage of sources — a Google search turns up hundreds of distributors of business cases. Here are our top picks for cases on any subject within business and management.

Sloan LearningEdge
A collection of cases from Sloan in entrepreneurship, leadership, ethics, operations management, strategy, sustainability and system dynamics.

MIT Center for Information Systems Research
To find business cases on the CISR website, go to Publication Search and select Working Paper (case studies are found in this category).

Harvard Business School case studies
Harvard Business Publishing has thousands of business cases available. Our interlibrary borrowing service can obtain cases needed for your MIT-related coursework or research. Abstracts of HBS cases can also be found in Business Source Complete. Enter “Harvard Business School cases” in the SO Publication Name field.

ABI/Inform Global and Business Source Complete are Libraries databases covering scholarly articles and other types of literature in business and management. To find case studies, use the Document Type limiter in Advanced Search.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is resource for working papers in management and other social sciences. Use Title/Abstract search and include “case study” (in quotes) in your search.

Many websites list cases available for purchase. Here are some of the best-known distributors:

  • The Aspen Institute sponsors CasePlace.org, a distributor of cases and other teaching resources from a variety of publishers. Use Advanced Search and select Product Type: cases.
  • The China Europe International Business School provides access to cases through its China Case Clearing House. Although it distributes cases from schools worldwide, the emphasis is on China-related enterprises.
  • The Case Centre is an independent, non-profit organization focused on promoting the case method in business education.
  • The Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario, distributes cases from business schools worldwide through Ivey Publishing.

Have questions about business case studies? Ask Us!

New journal on urbanism & an Aga Khan AKPIA symposium, 4/11-12

Posted April 8th, 2014 by Patsy Baudoin

nullThe MIT Libraries, through the Aga Khan Documentation Center, now receives Portal 9, a journal of stories and critical writing about urbanism and the city. Two issues, in both English and Arabic, are published each year, each focused on a unique topic and addressing “the need for a conscientious debate about architecture, planning, culture, and society in urban contexts across the Middle East and the rest of the world.” Portal 9 can be found in Rotch Library’s Limited Access collection, beginning with issue #1 (Autumn 2012).

Readers concerned with issues of urbanism and the city might also be interested in the Aga Khan Program at MIT’s upcoming symposium, “The Orangi Pilot Project & the Legacy of Architect Perween Rehman,” taking place this Friday and Saturday (April 11 & 12) at MIT. The program includes a keynote address by architect Arif Hasan, and papers on topics in the areas of Land & Housing; Planning, Politics & Conflict; Community-based Planning & Professional Choices; Gender, Development & Finance; and Documentation, Knowledge & Evaluation. Sharon Smith, the Libraries’ Aga Khan Documentation Center Program Head, will be speaking at the symposium. More information can be found on the event’s website.