The Ashes of Waco website Portal page to the digital collection. Includes a transcribed interview with author Dick J. Reavis, and information about the author, the book, the papers, the grant, the digital collection and the Southwestern Writers Collection.
Memorializing Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas Excellent site for photos and descriptions of the Mount Carmel property over the past eight years. Also includes photos of the Mount Carmel building model created by the author of the site, and links to other resources.
Waco Siege entry from Wikipedia Information from various contributors on the raid, including its prelude and aftermath, as well as references and a bibliography.
Waco: A New Revelation 1999 documentary on the incident, which uncovers new evidence. Website includes a link to the Danforth Report. You can watch the entire documentary on the Google videos site (video.google.com).
Waco: Rules of Engagement Probably the most famous and successful of Waco-related documentaries. You can order it from this site or rent/buy it from various sources.
Waco: The Inside Story Website for PBS' Frontline program, with a lot of good resources, including pictures, audio clips, official documents, and a bibliography.
All the audio files currently in the digital collection now play directly in the window, thanks to Todd Peters, who embedded the audio player, and Alan Schaefer, who moved the audio files and updated the metadata.
This works a little differently than the streaming video, which relies on whatever media player you have on your hard drive to play. But both the audio and video files work similarly now, and much more conveniently by not downloading to your hard drive before playing. You can play the file immediately, read the metadata as you watch/listen, and skip around the file at will.
So, we currently have the following audio files available online. Hold your mouse over the link for a brief description, and click on the link to go directly to the record.
As I have help, more audio (and video) files will be added to the digital collection, and I will keep the blog informed when new files are added. However, I may be shifting my focus for the next two months or so, to other aspects of the project, or to other projects altogether.
The twenty videos currently in the digital collection have been moved to our streaming server, meaning they are now accessible without having to download them to your hard drive. Here's what we have so far:
RV022 - failure analysis of final assault on Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,66
RV026 - flyover footage of Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,69
RV028 (two parts) - Bob Kendrick interview by Texas Rangers - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,70
RV078 - home video interviews with children and David Thibodeau during the raid - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,123
RV075 - "smuggled BATF tape" - footage of agents around Mt. Carmel and of Mt. Carmel burning - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,120
I have double checked to make sure these all work, but by all means, please inform me if any do not play on your computer. Next, I'm going to have a student worker here start digitizing more videos (we have about 75 total), and a graduate assistant start converting/moving our mp3 audio files to our streaming server as well. Stay tuned!
I've been working on converting the mp4 video files in the digital collection so they can be streamed using our library server (i.e. they will be stored and accessed locally, not on CONTENTdm's server). This will make playing the videos much more seamless--the file will not download to your computer before playing. Rather, it will stream automatically in whatever default media player you have set up. This also allows me to put up longer videos (i.e. not have to break them up into clips) and prevents easy downloading of the files by end users.
So far I only have a handful converted. Here is the link to one of them, a "failure analysis" video from 1995 regarding the 4/19 tank and gas assault: http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,66
For anyone interested, here are the basic steps I take for each video.
In iMovie (or in Final Cut Express) I export the mp4 file using Quicktime conversion, selecting the Enable Streaming option in the process.
I move the new file to the designated folder on the streaming server.
In CONTENTdm I find and download into the Project Client the record with the video I will replace. Then I choose the "replace item with URL item," and make any necessary changes to the metadata.
I upload the new record with the URL item, approve and index it using CONTENTdm Administration, and viola, it's there.
Lastly, I need to delete any of the records with clips and/or records of the VHS tapes themselves, since in most cases I can now put the whole video up and only need one record to reflect that.
While streaming a video makes watching the whole thing much more manageable and less time-consuming, I still am limiting them at around one hour. For the videos longer than that, I'm going to split them into two (or three) parts. This adds extra steps to the beginning of the process, but worth it, I think. There are limits to what most people will watch/listen to/read online at one time.
This is all slow-going, as I am just fitting it in as I have time, but I am making it a short-term priority, so check back on the videos in the digital collection soon (by the end of the month, say) to see more. I also plan on streaming the audio files after I complete the videos.
The past couple weeks have made me feel hopeful about the website portal and the digital collection. First, regarding the digital collection, Todd Peters, our Computer Information Services Librarian, fixed the banner display issue. Then, he was able to get rid of the funky formatting and error-message issues. Now he is working on getting our media to stream through the library's streaming server, rather than through Quicktime.
If this works, almost everyone should be able to stream the audio and video in the collection, and skip around quickly to different parts of the file--thus making it more feasible to put up entire a/v files, rather than sample clips. I might have to convert all the current mp4 files to Flash, but it will probably be worth the effort. Anyway, Todd's been and continues to be a huge help lately in getting CONTENTdm customization under control.
Regarding the website, I met today with John Powell, an assistant professor of communication design at Texas State, who has volunteered to revamp it into a more dynamic website, and transition to a content management system (like Drupal) to better manage the content and design. This would also allow the addition of more seamless interactive features, like a blog or a discussion forum, and site searching.
John and I seem to be on the same page, wanting to utilize one another's strengths (his knowledge of web design and mine of the subject matter and research methods) in this endeavor. He's also interested in learning more about the subject, in order to provide better ideas for me. He's going to find out some technical information from our IT guys, then come up with a "wire frame" proposal for the new design.
Lately I've been looking at the CONTENTdm digital collection on different browsers (at least the major ones: Firefox, IE, Safari) because I've heard there are some display issues with IE and because I ran into problems last weekend when I presented on a project to a visiting group.
It looks like there are two major issues right now: the banner at the top does not display in Internet Explorer; and the way files open is inconsistent between browsers and computers. The way I want it to work is, audio and video files will stream in the window with the metadata (or, it opens a new tab or window to stream so a person can have both the file and the metadata open at once), and documents like PDF and visual images like JPEG open in the same window as their metadata, as well.
Regarding the first issue, I have our computer services information librarian looking into it (he's the one who noticed it in the first place). It's strange because there is no error message where the banner should be. Regarding the second issue, it seems to be so random: some files will open/stream and some won't, browser by browser. I don't see a setting to fix it, either. And when I used Safari on a different machine last weekend, it acted differently than the Safari on my computer.
I think it's time to ask for help from the CONTENTdm listserv and/or customer support. I apologize for the inconvenience, and if anyone knows the setting that will fix the open/stream problem, please let me know. In related news, next week I'm meeting with an assistant professor of communication design here on campus. He might be able and willing to spruce up the website...and possibly give me advice on the CONTENTdm/browser issues.
Funny what can happen in a couple weeks. In late September I was corresponding with Matthew Wittmer, an artist and librarian living in Los Angeles, whom I've gotten to know well over the past year because of this project, and mentioned in passing that he should donate his model of Mt. Carmel to us. Turns out, it currently didn't have a home (beyond his closet), and he was willing to consider it. He had thought about Baylor's The Texas Collection in the past, but they have a policy against acquiring artwork. He said he hadn't even thought about donating it to us before, since we're a writers' collection.
But, as various acquisition efforts, including the Lee Hancock Collection, have shown, Waco has taken on a life of its own around here. I ran the idea by our curators and got the green light. Then, this past Monday morning I received an e-mail from Matthew, saying his parents were visiting him in L.A. and could drive across I-10 on their way to Houston and deliver the model (in three specially-made crates) free of charge. Next thing I knew, they were at my doorstep with the crates!
"Through developing observational drawings from video footage and photos of the complex, I constructed a model of the building to better understand the layout and function it provided the community, which is the model pictured in the photos on this web page. I also designed it to serve as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the events of 1993. The model was eventually installed on the Mt. Carmel property where a Visitor’s Center Museum was created and in operation between 1998 and 2006. The Visitor's Center Museum was managed by the survivors and a local supporter up until March of 2006. During that time it exhibited artifacts from the building, surviving photos of the life at the center prior to the siege, donated photos from family and friends of residents who belonged to the community, and defense exhibit photographs of the property and events/agents present throughout the siege. Tens of thousands of people traveling through the area have visited the property since 1993 and continue to visit to this day. My model served the survivors as a historical aid on the property from December of 2000 to September of 2006, much to the thanks of Clive and Edna Doyle who lived on the property at the time (Edna passed away in the summer of 2001) and expressed their desire for a model in their center. A mutual friend, Rollin, graciously helped in coordinating the installation process."
We're very excited Matthew has trusted us with his artistic and accurate rendering of Mt. Carmel, especially since the model has that connection to the visitor's center there. Also, in the Reavis Papers there is a postcard that Matthew made with a picture of the model on it, as well as a copy of line etchings of the model. You can view both of those in the digital collection. And Matt said he has old correspondence from Reavis, who initially gave Matt Clive's contact information. See, it all ties together!
Arguably the biggest informational treasures in the Dick J. Reavis Papers is the collection of negotiation transcripts. From the first 911 call made by Branch Davidian Wayne Martin during the height of the Feb. 28 shootout, to FBI negotiator Byron Sage's loudspeaker instructions during the fiery chaos of April 19, the drama is captured in these transcribed conversations between the adversaries.
I believe we have the full set of transcripts, which were procured by Reavis during his investigation from defense attorneys. Technically one can get them from the FBI with a Freedom of
Information Act request, but from what I hear, one will have to wait a while.
Most, but not all, of these transcripts are in digital format, and many of those are already included in the digital collection. You can see what's there so far with this link: http://tinyurl.com/yeh2kmk,
or by searching "negotiation transcript" in the search bar of the
I have been working on adding these
lately and will continue to do so until they are all up there. They are one of
the most researcher-requested items in the collection, and I can see why. Now,
they will be fully keyword searchable, making this aspect of research much quicker
and more productive.
The other type of item most
requested are the actual negotiation recordings. Those will all eventually be
in the digital collection too, and when they are, researchers will be able to
find recorded content using the transcripts, all at their own desks at home.
At the April 19 commemoration in Waco this year, I met Catherine Wessinger, Professor of Religious Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. She is co-editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions," the author of two books on Millenialism, and editor of two books by Branch Davidians (Mt. Carmel survivor Sheila Martin and David Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldemann).
Catherine informed me of the Lee Hancock Collection at Loyola--a collection rich with internal government memos, interview reports and expert reports, as well as news articles and FLIR videos, among other items related to the raid, siege, assault and trial of the Branch Davidians. Lee gathered these materials during her numerous years researching the topic as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, and she had access to some government documents that other reporters typically did not have.
Lee, Catherine and the archivists at Loyola were all interested in moving the collection, and after discussions over the ensuing months, we were able to secure acquisition of the collection here at the Southwestern Writers Collection. Although we are a literary manuscripts repository, our collecting scope does include papers from area journalists. We also feel this collection, centered on the government's side, will compliment Reavis' nicely, which focuses more on the Branch Davidian side.
Also, according to Catherine, the Lee Hancock Collection contains photocopies of documents (or detailed notes on classified documents) that have not been or are no longer accessible to the public. Catherine recently wrote an article about the contents of the collection and an article about the startling conclusions she came to as a result of researching the collection. You can read both articles and all the others online in the latest issue of Nova Religio, The entire issue is devoted to the Branch Davidian incident, and will be published in print in October. It also contains an article by Matthew Wittmer, "Traces of the Mount Carmel Community: Documentation and Access," that contains information about the Reavis papers and The Ashes of Waco digital collection.
We're very happy that our work this past year digitizing and providing online access to The Ashes of Waco research materials was instrumental in the future acquisition of the Lee Hancock Collection! We should acquire it around January 2010, and we can definitely see creating a similar digital collection of out of it someday.
Okay, the website went up today: http://ashesofwaco.library.txstate.edu/. Aniket and I will be tweaking it (as well as the digital collection) over the coming weeks and I'll be adding content to the digital collection for the foreseeable future. Although Aniket's official time with us is done, he graciously offered to keep working on the project remotely as needed--namely, making changes that are too complex for me to handle.
As I get the site and collection to where I want it, we at the Wittliff Collections will start planning for our marketing efforts, and I'll keep the blogosphere updated on those developments. In the meantime (or any time, really) please send me comments, questions, suggestions--either via this blog or the website. I'd love to hear what you think.
I just realized I promised more screenshots by the end of the month. Here it is Aug. 31...and the world continues to wait! Well, wait no longer, gentle readers.
Here is the final homepage. We took out the Guestbook page, because users can use this blog to leave comments or e-mail me directly. This way we don't have to keep up a database and worry about monitoring the comments. Eventually we'll have a comments feature implemented within CONTENTdm too, so users can leave them directly connected to an item.
As you may have noticed, we changed the subtitle to "A Digitized Archive" rather than "An Online Exhibit," as we feel that is a better descriptor. Here is About the Project. The links will lead you to the appropriate places on the same page, and "back to top" links will bring you back here.
Author Interview is very similar in look and function. I divided up the interview into subjects and we turned those into links that visitors can use to jump straight there.
Resources is the last page in the portal site. Most of the links are for sites related to the subject, and those are basically the same as I provided in this blog.
When a visitor clicks on Digital Collection, they will go directly to CONTENTdm in a new window. Different users can modify how they want their screen to look, but right now this or something similar is what you'll see when you get there:
We (Aniket and I) are going to be tweaking it over the coming weeks. We're going to try to make it not so black--similar in look to the About the Project or Author Interview page on the portal site--with a lighter background in the middle so everything isn't white-on-black. Also, we're working on getting all the files to embed properly (i.e., the audio/video files to stream). I think we're close, but now Aniket is working pro bono so I hope it doesn't take too much more work.
We're waiting on the University website guys to get us connected to the proper server to we can make the portal site live, and in turn lead people to the CONTENTdm site. They are tied down right now with a project for the University president, but we should be able to get the site up in the next week or two. In the meantime, I keep plugging away on uploading records and entering metadata.
Sorry about the screenshots getting cut off, but if I make them images smaller they're impossible to read.