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Author: Richard Naples

Richard works in the Digital Services Division of the Smithsonian Libraries and helps to manage data for Research Online, the bibliography and repository for scholarly output at the Smithsonian Institution.

Designing Women: The Hewitt Sisters and The Remaking of a Modern Museum (Part 1)

This is a two-part series on the Hewitt sisters.

Deep in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library’s collection of rare books, one might be surprised to come across children’s illustrated books by Walter Crane and Beatrix Potter. Even more fascinating might be the origin of these tomes, for in this collection are the very books read by the founding sisters of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum: Sarah (Sallie) and Eleanor (Nellie) Hewitt. These sisters—born of the Gilded Age, granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—would create the first and only museum dedicated to decorative arts in the United States, originally named the Museum for the Arts of Decoration. They were the first women to establish a museum in America.

Women’s History Month: Adelaide Alsop-Robineau and Keramic Studio

Alsop-Robineau & co, from the October 1912 issue of Keramic Studio
Alsop-Robineau & co, from the October 1912 issue of Keramic Studio

Around March, I’ll be forgiven if I start to pay a little more attention to the genders of the people I come across in our digital book and journal collection. After all, it is Women’s History Month. But one journal I keep coming back to is Keramic Studio, a monthly ceramics magazine produced around the turn of the 20th century that we digitized a couple years ago as part of our Books Online collection. Adelaide Alsop-Robineau began the journal in 1899, and it continued to be published into the 1920s. The work featured in the early years of the journal was primarily contributed by women, including Alsop-Robineau herself, along with her co-editor Anna B. Leonard. Both women were well known ceramics painters and designers. I find myself returning to the journal and perusing the many images and illustrations, especially when I need a dose of design inspiration.

GIF IT UP Contest Winners Announced

Fluttering butterfly from Merian's Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium
Here’s the winning GIF for Nature & Environment.

It was a very pleasant day when yours truly, Richard Naples, was announced as one of the winners of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Digital New Zealand (DigitalNZ) GIF IT UP contest. My entry, a flittering butterfly adapted from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, won in the Nature and Environment category of the recent contest. This international competition to find the best GIFs reusing public domain and openly licensed digital video, images, text and other material was a great way for DPLA and DigitalNZ to show off their amazing collections.

Library Hacks: Automate the Web

Computers ready for test and inspection at Computer Research factory Annual Report, The National Cash Register Company, 1953
Bet she’d love some automation.

If you find yourself repeating the same task over and over again while online, then you might benefit from some of these helpful tools! Whether you’d like to automate something between different web services or speed up your routine web duties, there is bound to be something here that could help! Below are three different kinds of services out there to help speed up and automate tasks performed routinely on the web.

Women in Research

Mary Agnes Chase, ca. 1960 from Flickr
Mary Agnes Chase, ca. 1960 from Flickr

As part of my duties in wrangling data for Smithsonian Research Online, I worked on a project to collect and ingest the historic legacy of published scholarship produced by Smithsonian researchers since the Institution’s inception in 1846. The main focus of my participation is cleaning and preparing the data, but I find it hard to resist not paying attention to its historic significance. I’ll admit occasionally getting lost thinking about what it was like to be on the front lines of natural history research, identifying and describing new species.

Library Hacks: Creating Animated GIFs

beating heart animation
From A system of anatomical plates of the human body by John Lizars (1840?)

It might be a sign of a twisted mind, but I can’t help imagining illustrations and pictures from old books coming to life. Lucky for me, we live in a time when tools for making my twisted dreams come true are readily available. Below, I’m going to go through the basic steps I take in order to turn images collected from our digitized books into the animated GIFs the Smithsonian Libraries posts to its Tumblr blog.