LCP Digital Humanities News

Link to Exhibit, The Hook and the Book: The Emergence of Crochet and Knitting in Early American Popular CultureThe Library Company of Philadelphia is always looking for opportunities to promote the creation of compelling and ramifying digital content. A particular collection near and dear to my heart is the Library’s holdings of knitting and crochet books, trade cards, prints, and photographs. Many of these were featured in my 2001 exhibition “The Hook and the Book.” In an effort to make these collections and ones like them available to a wider audience I became a founding board member of the Center for Knit and Crochet .

The Center for Knit and Crochet, (“CKC”), was established in 2012 to “preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts.” To achieve these goals, CKC plans to establish an online museum, study center, and social networking environment enhanced by exhibitions, access to current scholarship, and educational programs. To reach these aspiring goals it became evident that an international collection survey of holdings is necessary for planning, outreach, partnerships, and data retrieval to drive the online database for the digital museum.

The CKC online museum will be an international clearing house of data and images aggregated from partner GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives Museums) institutions’ online repositories identified in the collections survey. It will also provide the opportunity to standardize and expand collection data. Ultimately this resource will expand to allow for the CKC community to share personal collections and histories creating a complete view of our knitting and crochet cultural heritage.

This summer the Library Company and CKC joined forces to offer a digital humanities internship opportunity to begin the enormous task of building a comprehensive survey of knitting and crochet collections around the world. While CKC provided the internship stipend, the Library Company provided the office space and technology. This survey required particular focus on the availability or potential for digitized material and its corresponding metadata. The call for applicants resulted in nearly thirty interested students and recent graduates eager to contribute their time and expertise. We were thrilled to offer the position to Kelly Helm who had recently earned her MLS from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Manhattan NYU.

She was very enthusiastic to begin and in her own words: ”My friends all know that I’m an avid knitter and crocheter, and so as soon as they saw this post, it was forwarded on to me with subject lines like, “Look! It’s Summer Camp for You!” and “Kelly’s Dream Job!”. I knew right away that this was the position for me, and I couldn’t wait to get started.”

Kelly was asked to survey collections using qualitative and quantitative measures to rank each collection’s research value as well as the state of the collection’s intellectual access, physical access, housing, and physical condition.

“Over the course of my internship, I looked at websites for over 3500 repositories worldwide, hoping to find knit or crochet materials in their collections. I e-mailed, filled out contact forms, searched databases, ran websites through Google Translate—and came up with a wide assortment of items. For me, the most interesting part was sending off emails to small town historical societies, then going and exploring the databases for some of the world’s most prestigious collections.  I found personal inspiration in the intricacies of Victorian lacework, the tiny stitches in stockings, and seeing woolen caps from the 16th century. I was able to immerse myself in the history of a craft I love, and at the same time be involved at the ground level with a project working to preserve the future of knitting and crochet. Having the opportunity to work with the CKC at LCP gave me the chance to grow my skills as a metadata librarian, and I am so grateful to have had this internship.” ~ Kelly Helm

We are thrilled that Kelly will continue to volunteer with CKC to continue this great work beyond her the short time at the Library Company.

Image: Detail from frontispiece. Charles Butler. The American Lady. Philadelphia: Hogan and Thompson, 1836.

Nicole H. Scalessa
IT Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator & CKC Vice President