Results tagged “#CLIRWater”

Level three!

I've begun metadata on the Chaffey Letters, Book I! I've never been into video games much but I assume that the feeling of passing a level you tried over and over to pass is the same feeling I've felt these past two days. I suppose I should clarify what level one and two were, as well. 

Level One: Scanning. The Chaffey Letters (Book I and II) took an extremely long time to scan. Each book had such a large number of extremely thin and fragile paper. 

chaffey bhs.jpg

Level Two: Breaking up the letters. Along with the Chaffey Letters, Ontario City Library provided us with transcripts for each letter. The past few weeks I have been breaking apart the letters, from one large pdf with all the letters into individual pdfs for each letter (as well as individual pdfs for each transcript).
Level Three: METADATA! Now that the sources are scanned and separated I have begun metadata so the hundreds of Chaffey Letters we have can go live (that's how you win this video game, in case you were wondering). With the letters we have to attach their transcripts and process them as 'compound objects,' so the letters will be able to be viewed on the Claremont Colleges Digital Library with the transcripts.

Here's to many more hours on metadata!

till next time, 

Learning Through Osmosis

I'm becoming a historian through osmosis. After a couple of weeks of creating metadata, I have an increasing understanding of the documents and the context in which they exist. I already knew some things from scanning documents and looking for interesting tidbits for social media and blog posts.

Now that I'm creating metadata, my understanding of the topics in our collection has increased tenfold. This is the nature of creating metadata, I am trying to synthesize information contained in the document so that when it is uploaded researchers browsing our collection will be able to filter through the material.

It is obviously interesting to learn about major historical events like the construction of the Hoover Dam, but it may be more surprising to hear that my favorite things to learn about are the less significant narratives. This week, for example, I created metadata for a series of letters written between 1935 and 1938 between the City of Ontario and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

During this time the Colorado River was seen as the solution to the water scarcity problem in Southern California. Increasing numbers of people settling in the area meant increasing amounts of water was required for both agricultural and domestic use. Southern Californians looked east to the Colorado River, one of the largest rivers in the United States for assistance.

A dam in the Boulder Canyon was proposed and subsequently an aqueduct leading to Southern California. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California was responsible for the building of the Colorado River Aqueduct. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California originally encompassed Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Compton, Fullerton, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Marino, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, and Torrance. Later on it would include dozens of Southern Californian cities including Ontario.

This series of letters, however, gives a smaller, more intimate, and incredibly interesting history of this time. According to letters from the City of Ontario, several city streets had been damaged by the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct. The letters addressed to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California requested that they cover the cost required to repair the city streets. This correspondence continues with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's denial of responsibility of the damage. Between 1935 and 1938, the City of Ontario and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California send letter after letter until a conclusion is made. According to one of the final letters, an Ontario City Council meeting passed a resolution that freed the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from liability for the damage done during the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct.

As I created metadata for these items, I was intrigued by this story. Although it is not a major event in the history of Southern California, it is an interesting narrative that could very easily have been lost to time. Instead I am able to make these letters available to researchers through the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.

Social Media, but like from the past?

Inspired by Kiera's blog about social media, I began to think of the Chaffey brothers and their use of advertisement and marketing in order to attract attention to their "Colony." As we saw in a past blog of mine, the Chaffey brothers had produced pamphlets about their "City that Charms." They truly created a sort of paradise area for people to come, to live and to prosper. "It's like Social Media, but old." *said in a high pitched voice*
They really did have their own forms of social media, their own forms of putting information out there. Nowadays if we have an idea we have an immediate outlet, but it wasn't always that easy.
In the letter below one can see how advertising was very important to the Chaffey brothers.


They had advertisements all around the area, and even in Canada. In another letter you can see the amount of people from Canada interested in the Colony the Chaffey Brothers created.


they really had a vision!

Until next time,

Social Media and Accessibility

One important aspect of archival work is making information from primary sources accessible to people. For the most part this priority manifests through the creation of finding aids, the opening of reading rooms, and the establishment of digital libraries. The Honnold Mudd Library implements all these features in order to invite scholars to use the Special Collections. However, there is another way to make primary sources accessible to potential users: through the use of social media.

Social media makes archival and special collections accessible not only practically but also intellectually. In a practical sense, social media accounts can help promote repositories and encourage use by scholars and other individuals through the more traditional means listed above. However, it also allows social media users to engage with primary sources intellectually. The social media presence of a repository can be a direct way of disseminating easily digestible pieces of information taken from primary sources. By offering this engagement with primary sources, social media makes these sources more accessible to an increasingly wide audience.

Social media is a great way to share fun facts, short stories, images, and developments--this is how many individuals use accounts like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Special collections libraries and archival repositories can use social media in similar ways. In the case of the Honnold Mudd Library and Special Collections we use our social media accounts to share images and videos of the collection, interesting information found in certain documents, and new development for projects like the CLIR Water Project. In this way, social media users engage with the collection much as how they would use a finding aid, visit a reading room, or browse a digital library.

There are two social media projects I have been developing since becoming a CLIR CCEPS fellow: #TypographyTuesday and #WaterWednesday. These hashtags are used by our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. #TypographyTuesday and #WaterWednesday usually include an image from the collection paired with a little background information. I like to take advantage of the visual elements of the documents I come across in the Caldifornia Water Documents collection when I post to social media so that my posts are eye-catching. If this blog post caught your eye and you would like to follow #TypographyTuesday and #WaterWednesday here are links to our social media accounts.




Preperations for Metadata!

As of late I have been separating the Chaffey Letters Book I as well as the transcript for each of the letters. Chaffey Letters Book I is finished and is ready for metadata. The transcripts have opened my eyes to many insights about the Chaffey brothers. It's very interesting to read what they had to say and understand more and more about them and their dream "colony" from 135 years ago. After I separate Chaffey Letters Book II as well I will be able to, one by one, work on metadata and let them go live on the Claremont Digital Library. We shall see how soon that day comes.

chaff letters-transcript.jpg

till then,


One Word

This week I was asked how I would describe my fellowship in one word. It took me a while to think about just one word that encapsulates my entire experience working on the CLIR Water Project. Each day is a little different, and since I still consider myself new to this position, I am still learning new skills all the time. For example, just this week I have learned how to create metadata in CONTENTdm and how to upload items onto the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. With this in mind, how could I narrow down my experience into one word?

In the end, I came up with "detail-oriented," which is not even technically a single word. However, it seemed to best fit my feelings about everything I do here. Whether it is how you handle fragile documents or how you create comprehensive metadata, it is important to be detail-oriented. At every step of the digitization process, it is of utmost importance to take your time and pay attention. Every detail matters.

Consequently, many of my tasks feel a bit like mental juggling. However, I enjoy this element of multitasking while working as a CLIR CCEPS Fellow. Although it might not look or sound that exciting to digitize documents and create metadata for them, my mind is always whirring with a thousand factors to make sure every detail is perfect.

The Building of an Empire

The Chaffey brothers and their letters are still in my life and I see no separation from them anytime soon. I am still scanning the second Chaffey letters book but, as I have mentioned in a blog before, I also have access to the transcripts of the letters and have been using them to prepare for the Chaffey letters metadata. The transcripts help in understanding the purpose of each letter. If I am able to identify the main subjects of each letter I am able to tag those subjects when the sources go live. Similarly, if I can properly summarize each letter it makes those who may be looking for resources such as the Chaffey letters more easily accessible. Each letter will be separated so it may be quite a while until each of the letters from Book I and II will be in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library but it will happen, I promise you that!

As I read through these transcripts I continue to see the dreams of the Chaffey brothers in purchasing the land that is today known as the Inland Empire. Another CLIR CCEPS fellow had in the past, worked with a brochure style document that was advertising Ontario, CA, "The City That Charms." As I discover more and more about the Chaffey brothers, I realize the almost utopia of an empire they wanted to build, dare I even say a sort of elite (or elitist) community. In modern day, it would most likely resemble a fancy gated community in a suburban neighborhood. In a letter dated February 28th, 1882 George Chaffey writes, "Our intention is to sell to our immediate friends and those recommended by them, hoping by this means to make a first class colony." This one sentence brings up two interesting topics. The first involves the use of the word colony. The Chaffey brothers and most other historical/biographical information about the Chaffey brothers and the Inland Empire continuously use the word 'colony,' and it is interesting to ponder on why they might use the word, but that is for another time. The second is the obvious intent of the Chaffey brothers to build an empire of perfection, a place where "the aged may rest and the young grow strong." That quote is from a page of the Ontario brochure (pictured below). It is incredibly more interesting that the Chaffey brothers found this land, mostly desert and lacking water sources, and saw beyond that. They saw possibility and they banked on that possibility.

Ontario the city that charms.jpg

In that same letter George Chaffey also writes, "There is no better land in the state, it all lies to the sun and the water right is perfect, we have however absolute control of the water. Thus avoiding any chance of dispute," and in another dated September 10th, 1882 writes, "The land is very even of excellent quality. The elevation is above the Frost Belt, the situation commands a view of the valley. The water is pure mountain water which together with the healthy climate must make it all that can be desired for a home." The Chaffey brothers may have found land that seemed by most undesirable but they looked further. They saw the landscape as a view to die for, they saw the mountains of Southern California as a source to build an irrigation haven, and saw the climate ("sunny California" as it is most known today) as more than desirable. Perhaps that is why we call it the Inland Empire.

Technology and Libraries

It's easy to think of libraries simply as repositories full of books, but did you know there is actually a lot of technology that is involved as well? Technology is an important part of every library, and here at special collections we use technology every day. As a CLIR CCEPS fellow I am not just working with books and documents, I have to use a variety of technology. It's easy to imagine the kinds of technology that the CLIR Water Project uses in digitizing documents and publishing them on the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. In fact, many of us have written about our experiences using technology to scan documents, create metadata, and upload documents.

Still, I think it is important to recognize the hardware and software that is a vital part of our daily lives here at special collections. Thinking about the technology we use is also a good way of breaking down the entire process we go through to get documents onto the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.

The first step is to find and check out a document we want to digitize. Each document or book in special collections has a call number, and just like in the rest of the library, we use the call number to locate and check out an item. CLIR CCEPS fellows use Aeon just like any special collections user. If you are interested in getting access to an item from special collections you can create an Aeon account here:

Next we have to digitize the document. As we've previously written about, there are three kinds of hardware we use to capture a digital image of the document: the flat scanner, the book scanner, and the camera. However, to digitize the items we also need software. When using the flat scanner or book scanner we use Adobe Acrobat and the scanner's software to create PDFs. When using the camera we have to use a variety of software including Capture One, Adobe Photoshop, and finally Adobe Acrobat to convert the photograph to a PDF. We use Capture One and Adobe Photoshop to adjust white balance and generally ensure that the image properly represents the original physical document.

Then we must create metadata before we upload the item to the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. To do this we use the software CONTENTdm, which I learned how to use this week. So far it is an easy way to track metadata for single documents as well as commonly used terms in particular collections to help guide users. After the metadata for the item is completed it is ready to be uploaded, but don't ask me what technology is required for that step because I haven't learned how to do that yet!

Creating Metadata

Today I spent the day learning how to create metadata for all the documents I've scanned in the past month.  Like the assessment I made last week when I discussed digitizing the Frankish copy book, I'll never look at metadata the same! It's surprisingly difficult to whittle down a pamphlet or document to the right key words and subjects that will lead researches to the materials they seek.  I hope my first attempt at creating metadata (which I probably spent way too much time overthinking it) proves fruitful for future researches hoping to learn more about the Etiwanda Water Company!

minutes books - ps.jpg

In a Relationship with Water Documents?

Hello all,

This week, just like Marissa, I learned about metadata and uploaded my very first item on to the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, California Water Documents. I must admit, for some odd reason, I had not completely thought through the idea that the scanning I do and all the metadata information I find and I identify would be directly placed on the big world-wide net for all to use. As I sat down Thursday afternoon in front of my computer with Tanya by my side looking at my very first uploaded document (titled Preliminary Report upon the American States Water Service Company of California and Bear Valley Utility Company and which you can find here *wink wink*: I could not help but feel slightly nervous and profoundly conscious of my scanned images (were they too uneven? were they all the same size? were they all rotated correctly?) and especially the metadata I had entered (was it all correct? was it all completely certified by the Library of Congress despite having gone through with Tanya to assure that it was? Is there more I should add? More that could be useful to someone looking up information on the business growth and water rates of a water-supply company from the 1800s??). The information must be precise, even the slightest errors such as an unneeded space or whether a letter is capitalized must be found and fixed. Those attention to detail skills are extremely necessary right now.

Simultaneously I felt a sense of accomplishment for having been responsible for providing this sort of information now accessible to so many people. I mentioned in some of my very first blog posts of how important and incredible it was to make these historical documents easily accessible to such a wide audience and this has just reinforced that feeling inside me. I must also admit that doing metadata allows a different yet deeper understanding of the documents I have been working with. Often in scanning so many pages in a day, sometimes up to 60, 80, or 100 pages, I begin to mechanically scan without taking time to read the page I am scanning let alone take the time to admire the page(s). But, five more documents uploaded (here's the link to the Claremont College Digital Library, California Water Documents so you can check them out *wink wink wink*: and I can conclude that metadata is a nice break from scanning as well as an opportunity for my relationship with these documents to deepen. I think I can officially say I have spent more time on this relationship than any other...

until next time!


Oversized Adventures

This week I tackled a stack of oversized maps I have been accumulating. In the process of digitizing documents, I have been using a flat scanner and a book scanner for the most part. The flat scanner is familiar to most people; the document is laid flat on a glass screen, the lid is shut, and the user presses go. For fragile books unable to lay flat or documents that would be damaged by being squished under the lid of a flat scanner, a book scanner is more appropriate. The book scanner lights and captures the image of the document from above, so the book or document can be propped up into a safe position to be scanned. You can see and use book scanners in the special collections reading room. However, there are size limitations for both of these machines. For oversized documents we need to head to the photography room downstairs.

The photography room has two methods of capturing large documents. The camera can be mounted on a tripod facing a magnetic whiteboard and the document can be attached to the whiteboard with a series of magnets. This method is best for large, flat, single documents that are relatively durable. Maps, posters, and similar documents are captured best using this method. However, sometimes documents are unable to be hung up on the whiteboard. Perhaps they are very fragile and might rip with the force of gravity or perhaps they are attached to a larger volume and cannot be removed. In these cases the camera can be mounted on a large vertical arm above a table where the document can be placed. This method is similar to the book scanner, but on a larger scale.

This week I used both methods to photograph oversized maps of Southern California, in particular Ontario and the greater San Bernardino County area. A few of the maps were glued into a volume full of land deeds and folded out of the book. Because they could not be removed, I unfolded the maps on the table and photographed them from above using the vertical arm. This was difficult because a couple of these maps were huge and even the standard oversized methods had trouble capturing the entirety of the document. The vertical arm holding the camera is quite tall, and although I'm quite tall I eventually had to use a step stool to reach the camera. Even still I couldn't capture the entirety of one of these maps! I couldn't believe it. However, after some maneuvering I was finally able to get a clear image of the large maps.

Next I used the tripod and magnetic whiteboard to photograph some of the single maps. As you can imagine, this process is much easier and faster than using the vertical arm. After I finished photographing the maps I used software to edit, crop and convert the image into a usable document. Eventually these images will be uploaded to the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. Keep an eye out for these maps, as some of them are quite intricate!

The Wet Letter Book (continued - for another eight weeks)

I'm finishing my second week of scanning the 500-page Charles Frankish copy book. At 150 pages per week, I expect to be working on the book for the remainder of my fellowship. That's right! It will likely be seven to eight weeks before I finish scanning the book in its entirety because once I scan through the whole right-side of the book, I'll begin on the left. Now that I know how much time goes into digitizing whole books, I will read them with a new appreciation!

Right now this process simply involves the scanning of each delicate page. My attempts at producing meaning out of the handwritten letters have mostly been futile as the ink is blurred due to the copying process and is often quite faint. However, in the coming weeks we will receive printed transcripts of the letters produced by a handwriting expert. The metadata that I will create when I finish scanning the copy book will come from these transcripts, which I now look forward to having just read Alfonso's post on how the letters from the Chaffey brothers reveal their contrasting personalities. For now however the contents of what I'm scanning will remain a mystery.

I've had a chance to work on other materials as well. In between scans of the Frankish book, I've begun scanning a pamphlet published by The Ontario Land & Improvement Company in 1909. Falling under what Kiera describes as ephemeral materials in her latest post, the pamphlet serves as an advertisement seeking to persuade Americans to come west and live and invest in the newly established "City That Charms" - Ontario, California. 

Ontario booklet.jpg

Chaffey? Chaffey Who?


For the last few blog entries I have been working on the Chaffey Letters, a book comprised of letters written by two brothers who I mentioned in my last blog, William and George Chaffey. If you're from the Inland Empire you might know of the Chaffey Brothers, but I'm sure for many, including a SoCal student such as myself, you might be asking, Chaffey? Chaffey who? You might not know the Chaffey Brothers let alone their life's work.

I found, after a bit of research, that the Canadian born brothers are known to have developed the cities we today know as Ontario, Upland and Etiwanda (among many). I must admit that it blew. my. mind. finding out that the letters I have been reading and scanning were written by two men known not only for developing these cities, but two brothers known as making Los Angeles the first "all-electricity-lit-city" as well as introducing irrigation and thus agriculture production (specifically, fruit-farming) to the Southern California desert aka the modern day Inland Empire. Understanding California as the number one agricultural producing state in the United States and that the entire state remains almost completely dependent on irrigation, it is profound to know that the Chaffey Brothers introduced irrigation to such a large area of Southern California. According to a website called Inside the Inland Empire, a website in part dedicated to the history of the Inland Empire, the Chaffey brothers are described as having started the Inland Empire Land Boom.

      (George Chaffey)                          (William Chaffey)

(photos from:

Purchasing the land in 1881, the Chaffey Brothers would, in a span of just four years, create the Etiwanda Water Company, the San Antonio Water Company, open Chaffey Jr. High and make an estimated 1 million dollars (both would die very, very wealthy). Today, the Chaffey Brothers have both a high school (Chaffey High School) and a community college (Chaffey College) named after them, as well as many cities both named by them and functioning in present day because of them.

Originally, before it was the Inland empire, much of the land was in the hands of a Captain by the name of Joseph Garcia. Before Captain Garcia and before European and Spanish colonization, the land belonged to American Indians Tongva, Serrano, and Cahuillia.

Since then, the Inland Empire became the major center of agriculture production in the late 1800s and early 1900s and then, as can be seen today, into a large residential, industrial and commercial area with an estimated 4 million people populating the area.

The more you know!

till next time,



Ephemeral Advertisements

'Ephemera' is a term used by archivists to describe written or printed materials that were not created to be preserved. Unlike official legal documents or important personal papers, the importance and relevance of ephemera is considered short-term. This includes items like tickets, correspondence, flyers, posters and more. Nevertheless, most archival collections include ephemera in their collections. This might sound odd if you consider that we have already deemed these documents as having temporary importance. However, how many of you have held onto concert tickets, birthday cards, or fortunes from a fortune cookie? It turns out that ephemera is really interesting and quite telling--whether it is used to examine a time in a person's life or a wider societal trend.

This week I have been scanning some very interesting ephemera for the CLIR Water Project. I wanted to share some of what I have found that I thought was interesting. These examples were all taken from a single Municipal League of Los Angeles Bulletin from December 1, 1929. The bulletin details several issues related to the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley, Flood Control programs, and upcoming elections. Additionally, within the bulletin there are several advertisements I found particularly interesting.

The first advertisement offers details on a merchant tailor whose prices range from $60 to $75 for a custom suit. The advertisement states that this tailor "Specializes in Scotch and Irish Tweeds, the Ideal Cloth for Southern California Wear".

The panel below the tailor advertises a sanitarium in Santa Monica that specializes in osteopathy, a type of alternative medicine. This sanitarium promises to care for people with "mental and nervous diseases" and that "in the calm of these quiet gardens patients are finding their way back to normal living." The title of the advertisement is "All's Quiet on the Western Front."

There is an advertisement for the Woodhead Lumber Company that features a mascot by the name of Woody. This advertisement warns that the "winter rains are due," an appropriate advertisement for early December.

The next advertisement is for a bookshop that specializes in rare books. The panel is quite small and includes very few details other than that you can receive "Catalogues on Request."

The last advertisement is the largest in the bulletin and promotes a music store. In particular this advertisement addresses women, stating, "The modern home demands a baby grand piano and every woman is eager to buy one." The advertisement also guarantees that there are pianos available to "fit every income."

Each of these advertisements gives insights to what the commercial life was like in Southern California in December, 1929. Which advertisements did you find interesting?

A Deeper Look


I was recently able to look at the transcripts for the Chaffey Letters Book I and it turns out that all those beautiful pages actually said real stuff! In my last blog post I mentioned the sign off each letter had and found out that it indeed says, "Yours Truly, Chaffey Bros."

The letters in this book are majority written by two brothers, Will Chaffey and George Chaffey (and sometimes an individual by the name of Wm. Henderson writes the letters, but a small portion). The dates for the letters range from 1882-1884. As I read through the transcript, I notice that the letters have different tones depending on the brother as well as the purpose of each letter. I have observed that many of the letters written by George Chaffey have a more serious and dominant tone in comparison to that of Will, who has written more letters with an apologetic tone. It's an interesting game of good cop bad cop between the two and makes one ponder on the relationship between the two brothers. While Will Chaffey often writes letters when something has gone wrong on their end, George Chaffey is often blaming someone else for his problems or confronting someone else for their faults. In one letter, George Chaffey writes, "I think too that you might have had the courtesy to write explaining why you could or could not ship the mould board." It's odd, but pleasant to have a glimpse into the personal life of the Chaffey Bros through some of their letters. For example, I noticed some letters end with a personal message depending on the receiver. In one of the letters, writing to a person by the name of Jim, George ends the letter by stating that,

 "All well. Mrs. Chaffey and children have spent the summer at Santa
Barbara on the cost (sic) but complain of its being too cold there, and
want to get back to a warmer country."

(below is the letter where this is written and the transcript for the letter)


It's hard to believe that one was able to transcribe the original letter considering how difficult it was for me to decipher the words, but understanding what each of these letters say adds a whole new dimension to these documents. In my past blogs, I've talked about the aesthetic value, but the ability to understand the words written on these letters provides a whole heap of new character. The ability to distinguish by the language of the letters George Chaffey from Will Chaffey is both hilarious and, for a lack of a better word, awesome. For myself, it allows me to move towards looking at these letters through the lens of sociology and psychology. The letter pictured above in specific allows the familial workings/relations of this company to sink in; the reader of these documents may witness what could very much have been a mix of business and personal for the Chaffey Bros. Incredible that 130 years could pass, and a student such as myself take a peek inside the life of two brothers.

until next time,


Not All Who Wander The Archives Are Lost

Hello again everyone!

Today is my last day of work with the CLIR CCEPS project. Since May of this year, I have been working on archival projects related to California's water history. Having only had brief experience in archival work prior to this project, I appreciated the exposure to this field of work. I have a deeper appreciation for the time, effort, and meticulousness required in managing archives and preparing items for the public to have access to. My work is only a stepping stone towards a future finished digital collection featuring items from different libraries who are working together. 

I first started my experience here at CCEPS by digitizing Boxes 1 & 3 of the Imperial Valley Records. I am actually quite happy to have scanned items relating to the Imperial Valley--I did not previously know much about this area and its history despite traveling through this region a few times. I actually think I may use some of the items dealing with the creation of the Salton Sea for a graduate school paper. So sometimes in this line of work, you may find something in the archives that you can use for your own research. 

After that, I began working on the metadata for these items. Over the course of managing the metadata for over 100 items, I tried to be thorough, specific, and clear. I wanted to make sure that the metadata reflected the reality of the items, so that future patrons will be able to find what they're interested in with ease. In recent weeks during the Fall semester, I have been consulting the digital libraries and archives of other institutions. As a result, I have been exposed to different "metadata styles." I saw some metadata that was thorough, and some metadata that could have been more "meaty" in terms of subject terms. In previous entries, I have described my metadata creation thought process. Making sure the correct Library of Congress terms are used was part of my mission. I have tried my best to create metadata that will be most helpful to future patrons but also was produced efficiently. 

In the midst of working on the metadata for my items, I took part in a trip to the Metropolitan Water District with my fellow CLIR CCEPS peers. There, we met with the district's archivist and learned about how he handles his archives and how he worked with their social media team to advertise exhibits he created. While there, we also saw their two current exhibits he had worked on: "Turning on the Tap: 75 Years of Water Delivery to Southern California," and "From the Archives Reaching for Water - Rex Brandt and Metropolitan." Learning about how they handled social media to advertise their 75th anniversary exhibit has helped us at CLIR CCEPS figure out how we should handle social media for the CLIR project. Later, while working on metadata, I realized I had actually scanned one item that relates to the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct: 

Since finishing my metadata, I began working on a land ledger from the Ontario City Library. My fellow CLIR CCEPS fellows will soon begin working on metadata for these items and uploading them on behalf of the Ontario City Library. 

The CLIRWater project has given me the opportunity to explore archives from a different perspective, and this experience is one that I will carry with me moving forward in my master's program at Claremont Graduate University. 

The Wet Letter Book

Before the photocopier, companies and businesses had to handwrite copies for their records. By the end of the 19th century, businesses were using a "copy book" or "wet letter book" which consisted of sometimes a 1000 pages of razor thin tissue paper bound in a hard cover.

How the copy book worked is that the letter to be copied would be placed under the right-hand page, while the left-hand page would be dampened with water in order to make the copy.  The book was then closed and squeezed in a copy or letter press. When the book was opened, the letter would be taken out to dry and its copy would remain on the right-hand side of the book. When the Ontario Land & Improvement Co. was conducting business in the 1880s, the use of such copy books would have been standard practice in their offices.

whole copy book 2 (adobe 2).jpg

whole copy book (adobe).jpg

This week, I've been scanning the pages of a copy book consisting of letters written by the Manager of the Ontario Land & Improvement Co., Charles Frankish. The dates in the copy book range from April 4, 1886 to June 11, 1888, ranging in legibility due to age and perhaps even the quality of the print made by the individual making the copies. The ink in some letters is prominent and clear, while in others it is faded due to natural age or blurred during the copying process.  

It's interesting to think about how the technology used to make the copies in the copy book were made with technology that was just as innovative as the book scanner I'm using to make digital copies of that 19th century wet letter copy book.  How will we be making copies of our digital copies 150 years from now?

Below are photographs of individual letters from the Frankish wet letter book.

letter with image (adobe for post).jpg

close-up of opy book (adobe).jpg

Ontario: Then and Now

Anyone who has read my past blog posts knows that one of my biggest priorities with this project is making information accessible to researchers. This week I came across a map of Ontario from the late nineteenth century that intrigued me because I could imagine researchers using this map to look at the development of Ontario, CA.

Map of Ontario.jpg

This map was made in 1883 and was found in a series of documents pertaining to land and title companies in San Bernardino County during the late nineteenth century.

 Map of Ontario Today.jpg

Although Ontario has changed a lot in the last 134 years, some of the streets labeled on the map still exist today. I couldn't resist looking up this area of Ontario on Google Maps to see how things have changed.

 Map of Ontario Large.jpg

What is depicted on the map from 1883 is only a portion of the Ontario of today. This is an image of the entirety of Ontario, CA, with a blue box indicating the scope of the nineteenth century map.

Maps are some of the most interesting features I have come across during my time here, especially when I compare them to maps of today. Maps represent tangible evidence of how a place has changed throughout history and it gives a visually striking impression on how times have changed.



So, I've been working on the same piece for a while now (the Chaffey Letters from the Ontario City Library that I mentioned in my last blog post) and I've been thinking about the work we do by digitizing these documents. The Chaffey Letters are composed of very thin and fragile paper that over time have begun to rip and degrade. As you can see in the picture, the paper has ripped in the sections that were written with ink. The ink was perhaps a very potent and thick ink because it has smudged heavily, making the beautiful handwriting a bit unreadable, but it is also the only parts on the paper that have ripped (it makes for quite an interesting image, aesthetically).

 chaffey lettes zoom.jpg

Some of the only words I have been able to distinguish have been the sign off of almost each letter: "Yours Truly, Chaffey" the last word I cannot completely distinguish. I, personally, think it looks as though it says "bro" but considering these are documents from The Ontario Colony Land Company I think I might be just a little off (just a little).

yours truly.jpg

To continue what I first said, I have been thinking about what digitizing does for sources like these and people who access them.

Without the work of the CLIRWater project and those alike, the fast-paced modern world we live in would leave in the dust documents such as these. It may seem a bit sad or odd to think that so many individuals do not access physical sources like these, but expect their presence online. I like to believe that it is a sort of compromise. We allow the people of the ever so quick internet to access hand-written, historical, archival, beautiful documents that have come to shape today, but also we are giving new life to documents that are in many ways, dying. Although many are preserved and treated properly so as to assure that these documents stay intact and useful for year and years to come, they do not have the longevity as physical pieces in comparison to these documents as sources on the net (the internet). It is sort of resurrection. These very documents in specific have affected the very area we students, employees, workers, etc. are in. Seems a bit corny, but it does shed light on the special-ness of these documents and the importance to keep them around and accessible.

till next week,


Greetings with Unexpected Surprises



My name is Marissa Hicks-Alcaraz and I'm the final fellow assigned to the CLIR CCEPS water archival project for the Fall semester. I thought I'd begin my first entry by briefly introducing myself and my interest in the project.


I'm a second-year PhD student in Claremont Graduate University's Cultural Studies program with a focus on the representation of Chicanx/Latinx cultural identity in film and moving image art, as well as its curation by cultural institutions such as film festivals, cinematecs, and museums. I'm also the Programming Director at the Latin American Cinemeteca of Los Angeles, and teach undergraduate courses on Chicanx/Latinx and Middle Eastern cinemas at Cal Poly, Pomona in the Ethnic and Women's Studies Department as an adjunct lecturer.


What initially attracted me to the CLIR project was an opportunity to learn about the collaborative process among various Southern California libraries to digitize a mass collection of archival materials. I'm currently working on a grant to obtain funding for a similar project that would digitize materials across various personal and library collections in Southern California related to Chicanx film and filmmaking. A week in and I've already gained a lot of valuable insights regarding this process, such as the kind of equipment used to digitize archival material and the resources needed to execute such a large project.


I've also come upon some unexpected surprises as well. While reading through the beautifully handwritten notes (nearly a lost art in the 21st century as suggested by Alfonso in his last entry) within a minutes log book from a meeting of the board of directors of the Etiwanda Water Company held in October 1890, I was surprised to come across some juicy drama. While the entry was vague on details, it described what was referred to as a "grave and unprovoked assault" (fist fight perhaps?) committed by a father and son team against the board's Secretary of the Treasury, and also the author of the minutes log book. The board resolved to "take action thereon to vindicate its own respectability as well as to protect its officers in the discharge of their duties." It's fascinating to see how the motivations for taking the issue to court was just as much about defending the company's honor as it was about defending its officer...



I'm looking forward to filling you in on more water drama in the coming weeks!   

2 3 4  



Library Links

Photo of file box

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.38