This online exhibit was created by me, April Lynne Earle, for a graduate project done through the Public History Program at St. John’s University in New York. It is focused on a scrapbook found in the College Archives at Farmingdale State College (State University of New York) where I am a member of the Library faculty. The scrapbook was created by Mr. C. V. Boller between 1883 and 1906. The College is unaware of how this remarkable resource was acquired.
A biography on Mr. Boller can be found within the online exhibit but, in brief, Claude Villette Boller was a tailor by trade who by 1899 had risen to the rank of manager for the clothing and tailoring division of Montgomery Ward & Co. in Chicago. In December 1904 events occurred in the fabric cutting room that lead to one of the bloodiest labor strikes in U.S. history; the 1905 Chicago Teamsters’ Strike.
This section details the process I employed to create this online exhibit.
Part 1: The Research Questions
After leisurely browsing through the scrapbook I immediately arrived at these two research questions; 1. Who was Mr. Boller? And 2. How did the College Archives acquire this resource?
Part 2: The Research
Even before considering this as an independent study project for my graduate degree in Public History, I began to research Mr. Boller by conducting a search of genealogical records through Ancestry.com.
I discovered that Mr. Boller died in Freeport, NY; a town less than 20 miles southwest of Farmingdale State College. This does not answer how the College Archives acquired the scrapbook but it does mean he lived closer to the college than the “Chicago” label inscribed on the first page of the scrapbook suggests. It also hints at the possibility that his descendants may still live near the College.
At this point I knew I wanted to use genealogical resources to flesh out the story of Mr. Boller’s life and to possibly help track down a descendant who may be able to tell me how the College Archives acquired the scrapbook.
Part 3: The Resources
I put approximately 40 hours of the 150 hours of work done on this project thus far, went into researching the history of scrapbooking, individual scraps within the scrapbook, scrapbook preservation, and the Boller family.
The first step in my research, as mentioned above was genealogical research. I put approximately 7 hours over the course of the 15 week semester working on researching Mr. Boller’s parents, siblings, and offspring. After a cursory search of census records on Ancestry.com, I reached out to the Freeport Memorial Library to see what resources they might have on Mr. Boller as he was a local businessman and resident of Freeport from about 1913 until his death in 1951. Librarian, Regina Feeney, sent me Mr. Boller’s obituary which was digitally available through the Long Island Memories Project. Long Island Memories is a regional digitization project done through the Long Island Library Resource Council (LILRC) consortium. The project has recently been absorbed by The New York Heritage Digital Collections Project of which Farmingdale State College is an active member having contributed our student newspapers to the collection. To participate in the collaboration though, individual librarians must participate in a two-day training program before obtaining access to ContentDM, the software which facilitates the digitization and contribution of resources to the State database. I received this training at the earliest opportunity which came late in the semester. Mr. Boller’s Scrapbook has not yet been added to New York Heritage but it is my hope that it will be added in spring 2016.
My genealogical research was done in part with the hope of tracking down a living descendant of Mr. Boller who might be able to enlighten me as to how Farmingdale State College Archives obtained the resource. Moving towards this end, I built a family tree on Ancestry.com and emailed some Ancestry member who used the same genealogical documents in their research. I had some communication with distant relatives but no one directly descended from or knowledgeable about Mr. Boller specifically.
I then set about to research Mr. Boller’s children who were named in his obituary. I used FultonHistory.com, a website devoted to the digitization of New York State Newspapers, to search for wedding announcements for Mr. Boller’s four daughters. The results allowed me to included his son-in-laws’ names on my Boller family tree. His obituary states that at the time of his death he had 11 grandchildren; others may have been born after his passing. I was also able to determine some of 11 grandchildren’s names and was able to find information a potential address for one of them. I wrote him a letter explaining my project but to date, I have not received a response. My search will continue with the hope of finding some relative who knows something about the College’s acquisition of this scrapbook. I plan to create a fuller family history next semester by bringing into the website resources from outside the scrapbook; specifically census records and city directories.
B. History of Scrapbooking
Taking a step back from researching Mr. Boller, I began to look at the history of scrapbooking in America. The results of this research are evidenced on the section of the website labeled “The Scrapbook.” In addition to several books and articles on the topic of scrapbooks, I found an online video from C-Span by author Ellen Garvey on “The History of Scrapbooking in America” which I have provided a link for on the website.
I feel scrapbooking can be paralleled in many ways to the present day phenomenon of social media use. One article I found to support my conclusion was “From scrapbook to Facebook: A history of personal media assemblage and archives” by Katie Day Good published in New Media & Society in June of 2013. I think this type of resource, a scrapbook, is something high school and undergraduate students experiencing their first foray into research can relate to very well. This scrapbook, in a way, is Mr. Boller’s Facebook or Pinterest page. He has pulled together media (newspapers) and disparate resources (ephemera) that once assembled, helped him, and continues to help us, make meaning of his lifetime and experiences. In addition to using the scrapbook to document relationships and communicate his taste in arts and culture of his time, he also uses it to navigate the abundance of new media - namely newspaper articles about the assassination of President McKinley and his own involvement with the 1905 Chicago Teamsters’ Strike. These functions are very similar to those of today’s social media phenomenon.
C. Scrapbook Preservation
Scrapbooks poses a challenge to even the most experienced archivist. I am not an archivist, but rather a librarian and historian in an academic library setting where, although it is a 100+ year-old institution, does not now and has never had an archivist. Still this resource deserves proper care and attention. Part of the challenge of preserving a scrapbook is that it contents contain a wide variety of materials; not just papers with various degrees of acid and lignin content but also photos, metal 3-dimensional objects, foliage, etc., which have been secure in place by unknown adhesives.
One option to preserve a scrapbook, and probably the best practice in most cases, is to dismantle it and encapsulate each page inside a mylar sleeve.This, however, changes the scrapbook in that it can dislodge the juxtaposition of two pages side by side. I do not feel this is an appropriate solution for Mr. Boller’s Scrapbook for a few reasons. First, there are so many objects in the scrapbook that open and expand that researchers would still need to remove the pages from the mylar sleeves to examine the contents in their entirety. Foremost though, the pages are so brittle that, even with the greatest of care, they are crumbling as I turn them. Therefore, it has been my prerogative to digitize the pages using a handheld digital camera. Placing the pages online through my Omeka site and the New York Heritage Digital Collections will make the scrapbook discoverable. More about the digitization process and the Omeka site will be described below but for the time being it is my plan to keep Mr. Boller’s scrapbook intact.
D. Sections of the Website
With hundreds of scraps contained within Mr. Boller’s Scrapbook it was necessary for me to select a few quintessential items to focus on; items that highlight key topics related to Mr. Boller’s life experience and character. Below are explanations as to how and why I chose to create the various webpages on this site.
1. Biography: Perhaps it is goes without saying but I felt it essential to create a biography page with basic facts about Mr. Boller’s life.
2. Dance Cards: Mr. Boller has 28 dance cards in his scrapbook. All of the resources I looked at regarding dance cards, their history and usage, stated that dance cards were for women but obviously that is untrue, otherwise why would Mr. Boller have any. That certainly made this a type of material culture worth exploring here.
3. Family: Mr. Boller included many items in the scrapbook that came from various Boller family members; his father, mother, wife, siblings, and at least one niece. One of the items I settled on highlighting is a program from a piano recital that Mr. Boller’s sister Ada held for her students at the Ryder Memorial Church on Kimbark Ave. in Chicago. Curious if this church was the family’s place of worship, I searched online for any reference I could find to it. Several churches are currently located along those streets in Chicago but none with that name. Therefore, I contacted the Chicago Public Library. They confirmed for me that the Church no longer exists. Next semester I hope to explore other venues to determine if membership lists and/or photos of the Church exist in some other city archives.
4. 1888 Republican National Convention Ticket: On page 9 of Mr. Boller's scrapbook is his admission ticket to the1888 Republican National Convention. The reason I chose to highlight this item is because I feel political affiliation tells a lot about a person and their character. There is also a large portion of the scrapbook devoted to newspaper clippings about the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 who was also a Republican. This section focuses more on the experience Mr. Boller must have had on that day in the newly constructed Auditorium Building rather than on politics of the time, though. I hope to revisit the subject of politics next semester.
5. McKinley Assassination: As mentioned above, a large portion of the scrapbook contains newspaper clippings about the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 making it an obvious subject to include on the website.
6. Montgomery Ward & Co.: After reading through the newspaper clippings towards the end of Mr. Boller’s scrapbook, I learned that the 1905 Teamsters' Strike in Chicago, one of the bloodiest strikes in American history, started right in the Montgomery Ward & Co. cutting room where Mr. Boller was the manager. It seemed therefore necessary to include a section about Mr. Boller’s employment at Montgomery Ward & Co. Through Google Books I was able to read through the company’s internal newsletters, Among Ourselves, from 1904 and 1905 through which I learned a great deal about Mr. Boller’s character as an employee and manager. It was also there that I discovered a photo of Mr. Boller. It was nice to see the face of the man I had spent so much time reading over the shoulder of.
7. 1905 Chicago Teamsters’ Strike: Learning that the 1905 Teamsters' Strike in Chicago began because of incidents which occurred in the Montgomery Ward & Co. cutting room where Mr. Boller was the manager, intensified my research into the event and stressed the need for me to include and transcribe some of the sources included in the scrapbook. Much of my time was spent studying this event.
8. Reference, Process, and Contact and Use of Content: These are webpages about the website itself and not about the content of the scrapbook. Like any academic work, a list of the resources I used is provided on the References page. This process paper is intended inform users looking to create similar websites about the time, effort, and work that went into this project. Lastly, the Contact and Use of Content page is present so that those interested in using this website or Mr. Boller’s scrapbook know who to contact and how to cite the webpages.
Part 4: Digitization
A solid 30 hours went into the digitization of Mr. Boller’s Scrapbook. Due to the condition of the scrapbook, scanning simply was not an option. The mere turning of a page causes the very brittle pages to crumble. At first I secured a document camera which would have been ideal because it would have allowed me to leave the book under the camera and simply turn one page at a time to take photos; it would have kept the camera at a consistent distance from the book. However, the time spent installing software and configuring lighting did not make the resolution of the images suitable for online viewing. When zoomed in, none of the text was legible and the color was far too yellow. My only option was to use a handheld digital camera.
Nearly 300 images were taken of the 130 page scrapbook. I did full spread shots in order to retain the juxtaposition of the contents on facing pages. I also photographed each page individually for better clarity. Additionally, I photographed some objects individually close up for higher resolution.It took me far more time to upload the images from my camera to my computer than I had hoped. Once downloaded I took time to organize and label the images for clarity of order within the scrapbook. I also worked in Photoshop to enhance some of the photos. I only had to return to the scrapbook to take more pictures in a few instances when I wanted to open a program or brochure.
Farmingdale State College (State University of New York) is part of the Long Island Library Resource Council (LILRC). LILRC is a participant in The New York Heritage Digital Collections Project. In order to participate in the project and have access to the ContentDM platform, I was required to attend two days’ worth of workshops. Once that was completed, I now have the opportunity to add Mr. Boller’s scrapbook to the project thereby making it possible for those using The New York Heritage Digital Collections Project able to find this resource. I plan to only load the full spread images to The New York Heritage Digital Collections Project of which there are 69. Should a user need more detail of a specific item or want to view the scrapbook in person they would be able to contact me. I hope this will gain the object some attention and be of use to researchers both near and far.
Part 5: Omeka
Omeka.net is web-publishing platform that allows the content creator to display collections and build digital exhibitions. It is a very user-friendly platform that I have prior experience with. Still, it did take some time to familiarize myself with the ins and outs of the interface and in total I spent 35 hours working in the website uploading, transcribing and inputting information.
All of the images on the site are from Mr. Boller’s Scrapbook except for two articles from the Montgomery Ward & Co. newsletter which I found on Google Books, an image of the 1870 census record showing the Boller household, and Mr. Boller’s Obituary which was taken from The Leader a newspaper local to the Freeport, Long Island, New York community where he resided for nearly 40 years.
One of Omeka’s recommendations is to transcribe all text present in images. This facilitates accessibility for those who are visually impaired, however, it is very time consuming. In addition to transcription, Omeka recommends the input of metadata. Metadata are the information fields used to describe a resources. Omeka implements the Dublin Core standard. This standard enable one to consistently classify, identify, and sort the digital resources in the website based on content, format, and administrative details. In laymen’s terms, metadata is the record that describes the resources which on this website are mostly images. I tried to be comprehensive, consistent, and as complete as possible with the input of metadata from the initial upload of an image.
Part 6: Future Plans for this Website
It is my hope to use next semester, Spring 2016, to bring in more resources from outside the scrapbook into the website in order to flesh out the story of Mr. Boller’s life before, during, and after the creation of his scrapbook. Some work has already gone into developing such a section. Online research revealed that the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Special Collections includes in their Lawrence B. Romaine Trade Catalog Collection a catalog from the C. V. Boller Co. in Brooklyn, New York from 1913. I was able to receive a digital copy of the 36 page resource which included more information about Mr. Boller’s career. I also drove around Freeport and photographed the current locations where Mr. Boller lived and worked. Hopefully this website will eventually include a mapping of where Boller lived, worked and attened events. I also plan to include sections called Epilogue (about Boller’s life after the scrapbook was completed), Playbills, and Travel.
In conclusion I would like to state that I have indeed grown to love and admire Mr. Boller and deeply take to heart the advice he shared when quoted in the June, 1904 Montgomery Ward & Co. newsletter, Among Ourselves, “Keep digging: never lay down, or give up, or consider anything not worthwhile.”
Thank you for your interest in this project.
 Katie Day Good, “From Scrapbook to Facebook: A History of Personal Media Assemblage and Archives,” New Media & Society, 15, no. 4 (June 2013): 557.
 Carol Smallwood and Elaine Williams, Preserving Local Writers, Genealogy, Photographs, Newspapers, and Related Materials (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2012).
 Montgomery Ward & Co., "Up From the Ranks," In Among Ourselves, a Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of the Employees of Montgomery Ward & Co., Chicago, 1, no. 9 (June 1904): 435-436. Google Book. https://books.google.com/books?id=bHxIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA435#v=onepage&q=boller&f=false