Tuesday, February 4, 2020

New display asks, "where would you go when you don’t have a place to sleep?"

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Where would you go if you didn’t have a place to sleep? Sadly, this is a problem that approximately 70,000 post-secondary students across Canada face (Weissman et. al, 2019). When we think of homelessness, many of us picture someone living on the street or relying on public shelters for a safe haven, but many people without permanent residence make up the hidden homeless population. Those who find themselves among the hidden homeless rely on other means for shelter, like living in their car, couch surfing, or sleeping in public spaces (libraries or locker rooms). To avoid being without shelter, those with precarious housing situations will sometimes even remain in abusive relationships or rely on dangerous means (the sex trade or dealing drugs). As you can imagine, the added stress of worrying about where you’ll sleep tonight makes it difficult to concentrate on school work.

This February, in the lead-up to World Social Justice Day on February 20, the University of Alberta’s Days of Action (DOA) committee is shining a spotlight on post-secondary student homelessness. For the first half of February, various public spaces across the University will be displaying parts of a house where people are invited to respond to the question, “Where would you go when you don’t have a place to sleep?” The house pieces will be on display at the following locations from February 1-15:
  • Augustana Library
  • Cameron Library
  • H.T. Coutts Library   
  • John W. Scott Health Sciences Library
  • Van Vliet Social Street
  • Winspear Business Library

On the week of February 17, the pieces will be on display at Bibliothèque Saint-Jean for members of the Campus Saint-Jean community to add their input. On February 27, the completed house will be displayed in the atrium in the Student Union Building (SUB).

Responses to this question can also be anonymously shared through this form.

If you or someone you know is experiencing insecure housing there are supports available:

You can also visit the Days of Action website for information on other support services.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Living Colours: A Story of Structural Colour in Nature, Science, and Within an Online Database

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In this unique exhibition, you will learn about the phenomena of structural colour and use microscopes to experience how it works in nature. This exhibit highlights how structural colour connects the latest research in science, art and design.

It runs from January 30 to March 27, 2020 at the Augustana Library.

Agrias narcissus, photo by T. Terzin
Structural colouration is a phenomena in nature in which colour is obtained through microscopically structured surfaces of living organisms and their connection with the available light. It can be found in tens of thousands of different species. Bacteria, algae, fungi, plants, and animals all have species with structural colouration.

As research into using nature's models to solve human problems and designing better, more sustainable technologies is gaining more attention, structural colour phenomena are finding their place in our society.

Dr. Carlos Fiorentino, a researcher at UAlberta and co-creator of this exhibit explains, “Even though its implementation is still in the early stages, we can already see the ways structural colouration will be developing for technology.” These opportunities include a wide range such as, screen display technologies, printing and coloring industries, signalling and communications, and photonic computing.

The Living Colours exhibition presents examples of structural colour in nature and highlights examples and ideas on how the knowledge of this phenomena could be organized in an online database system, called StC. After developing a basic understanding of structural colour and the science behind it, visitors will have a chance to see how structural colour appears in some species both with the naked eye and under the microscope.

In an exciting partnership between PhD student and researcher, Dr. Fiorentino and Dr. Tomislav Terzin from Augustana’s Department of Science will present part of the robust Augustana Tropical Insects Research Studio entomology collection.

A large wasp species from the deserts of Asia,
photo by T. Terzin
There will be two stereo microscope stations, “which will allow visitors to have a first hand experience with the complexity and beauty of structural colours on micro scale. While the beauty of human art fades when observed under the microscope, the beauty of the natural world is even more astonishing,” says Professor Terzin.

At the exhibition, visitors will have a chance to see “eight drawers with stunning examples of structurally coloured insects, including blue Morpho butterflies, Chrysina ‘golden’ and ‘silver’ beetles, but also many other examples from around the world. Beside insects, there will be some examples of structural colours in sea shells, spiders and even minerals” adds Professor Terzin.

Urania sloanus, aka Augustana Moth,
photo by T. Terzin
Examples of structural colour in these species are stunning, but the jewel of the exhibition surely is a unique day-flying moth called the Urania sloanus, an extinct species from Jamaica. Besides its beautiful structural colouration, this moth (Urania sloanus) has an amazing story behind how it got to Augustana. The last time it was spotted alive was in 1895. In 2012, Professor Terzin found an opportunity to purchase this rare and unique specimen for Augustana’s collection. He shared this exciting discovery with his colleagues immediately, without intention to buy it. Faculty and staff responded spontaneously by creating a crowdfunding campaign and $6000 was donated in less than 24 hours and purchased for the collection.

As you can see, this exhibit is an exciting combination of compelling ideas from researchers and Augustana campus special collections. Stop by and see it for yourself (under the microscopes!).

Agrias narcissus, photo by T. Terzin

Sagra sp, photo by T. Terzin


Dr. Carlos Fiorentino: As part of his PhD thesis, Dr. Fiorentino started the online tool called StrC, whose goal is to make the knowledge of structural colour easily available. One of the ideas is to accelerate its practical usage by bridging the communication gap between scientific language rooted in biology and physics and its understanding by those who would like to use, develop, and implement that knowledge in new ways, such as designers and engineers.

StC Database: According to Dr. Fiorentino, “The StrC is currently at the prototype stage. Future stages of the project involve further development of the interface with all sections and widgets fully developed and functional. It also involves accessing important repositories of scientific information on structural colour, which will complete the current StrC database. The StrC will be used as a template to develop other similar rich-prospect browsing taxonomies, and explored as a research tool for several courses at the University of Alberta during 2020.

Dr. Tomislav Terzin: For more than 10 years, Dr. Terzin has been involved in research on invertebrate colour patterns. The interdisciplinary aspect of his research has involved three graduate students from the Human Ecology department of the University of Alberta such as colours of insect specimens were used as an inspirational source in textile design. The most recent collaboration is with Dr. Carlos Fiorentino with whom I co-author this exhibition. “Carlos has interest in studying structural colours and my research collection was extensively used in his PhD work.” says Dr. Terzin.

Monday, January 27, 2020

New in the Internet Archive: UAlberta's Growing Digital Collection

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Written by Sarah Severson

Did you know that the University of Alberta Library has a huge collection of digitized items, many of them dating back a century or more?

2019 has been a busy year for the University of Alberta Library’s digitization program and has seen us add almost 22,000 new items to our Internet Archive collection.

For several years, we have partnered with Internet Archive as our digitization partner, and this year we expanded our scanning center at the RCRF and opened up a second scanning center on North Campus that can accommodate rare or special materials. In addition to this new digitization capacity, we’ve also started to upload material digitized in the past with other partners, and giving it a new home in the Internet Archive.

We’re adding new things every day, so check back in!

Highlights from the Past Year

Peel’s Prairie Provinces Internet Archive collection holds material related to Western Canadian history and the culture of the Prairie Provinces. For users of our larger Peel’s Prairie Provinces Digital Collection, this new collection provides complementary additions.

The collection includes material such as:
  • 3516 issues of the Gateway newspaper that cover 100 years of student publishing history (1916-2016)

  • French Newspapers: such as the Patriote de L’Ouest, Progrès, Echo de Manitoba, L’union 

Historical Postcard Collection
427 high resolution scans of a variety of historical postcards depicting scenes of life on the prairies in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Many of these were scanned as part of SLIS practicum projects, giving students the opportunity to digitize and describe a small, curated set of materials, and make them available to the public.
"Bear in Mind" We are very much alive at Calgary, Alta.
Playbills Collection
In the fall we digitized 800+ playbills housed at the University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections. These document in detail the casts, contents, dates and prices of the performances staged in major playhouses of the United Kingdom from 1779 though 1949. The playbills also provide a wealth of information and opportunity for research in the study of history, graphic design and linguistics.

This is not all!

In total, we have almost 125,000 thousand items in the Internet Archive and we are actively working on other major projects. Go to:  archive.org/details/university_of_alberta_libraries to explore some of our other collections!

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. With a mission to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge, Internet Archive forms partnerships with institutions like ours to digitize various materials and make them available to anyone, anywhere in the world. Internet Archive is our primary digitization partner.

The Internet Archive interface offers a few key features, including:
  • Full-text search of each item: Internet Archive uses an automated process, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to “transcribe” the text by machine, so it may not be perfect every time, especially for historical items or funky typography! Search each item individually or search the texts of an entire collection.
  • Download high-resolution files: Each item includes the highest resolution files we have that you can download yourself as image files or PDF; see download option the left-hand side of each item.
  • Find something that you need to “Borrow” or “Join Waitlist”? That means it’s still under copyright, so your ability to download & copy the item is limited. Create a free account with Internet Archive to Borrow for 2 weeks at a time or join the waitlist.
  • Need to download a whole collection for your research? You can do that using the Internet Archive’s command-line interface.

Internet Archive is one of the many places where we hold U of A’s digitized collections; find more digital collections at: https://library.ualberta.ca/digital-initiatives/digital-collections

Questions? Email us at digitization@ualberta.ca

Monday, January 20, 2020

Two ways to study a mysterious manuscript: new workshop at BPSC

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Written by Hanne Pearce

It is amazing to imagine, but even in the 21st century, there is a book written in a language and script that scholars cannot understand. The Voynitch manuscript is a handwritten illustrated book, dated to the early 1400s. Named for Wilfred Voynitch, a book dealer who acquired the book from Jesuits priests in the early 20th century, the book is now owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. The manuscript is written in an encrypted text in an unknown language and includes illustrations of non-existent plants, astrological charts, and people. I learned about all this when I was invited to the first offering of a new workshop at Bruce Peel Special Collections.

Bruce Peel Special Collections has recently acquired a hand-made replica of the Voynitch Manuscript. According to Special Collections Librarian, Linda Quirk, “The Voynitch is one of the most studied and most mysterious of all manuscripts. There has been a lot of interest in getting a well-made facsimile so that faculty and students around the world can go to their own university library to see and experience it for themselves. Like other good quality facsimiles, this one is designed to replicate the original in every sense. It looks and feels and sounds and smells like the original because it is a full-size and full-colour reproduction, bound in the same manner and printed on the same material at the original, i.e. vellum. Vellum is made from animal skin and was routinely used for manuscripts and early printed books before paper eventually displaced it. Produced by a respected fine-art facsimile publisher in 2018, this one was published in a limited edition of 898 copies.”

This new workshop also offers a unique experience for participants, by presenting two scholar’s perspectives on the manuscript, from very different fields of study. English professor John Considine presented a historical and critical analysis of the provenance and contents of the manuscript. Accepting the 1404-1438 carbon-dating of the vellum pages, Considine looks closer at the illustrations and overall composition of the manuscript to infer potential areas of origin and possible subjects of the work. Comparing illustrations, book genres of the time and known authors who created similar works Considine offers a number of potential purposes.

Bradley Hauer, a Ph.D. student in computing science, and Professor Greg Kondrak of computing science present a second approach to Voynitch. Hauer’s research interests include identifying languages with artificial intelligence. He explained how deciphering the Voynich Manuscript is exponentially challenging. Aside from being unable to read the encrypted script of the manuscript or identify the original language, previous analyses of the Voynitch show that the text must also be intentionally encoded. This means that the script is unknown to us, the language is unknown to us, and the order of the letters in the words have been systematically scrambled in some way. Using the analyses of older European languages, his team used algorithms to analyze the Voynich Manuscript to try and determine its language.

This workshop reveals an intriguing manuscript, that the University community can now engage with better because of our facsimile. It also demonstrates the usefulness of both human reason and artificial intelligence, and how the two working together may be the way to formulating new understandings.

To register for this and other Peel Workshops, find more information here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The 5th Annual Images of Research Competition is Coming : This is What You Need to Know

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The University of Alberta Images of Research Competition & Exhibition is celebrating its 5 year anniversary this year. In addition to University of Alberta graduate students, this year's competition is also open to postdoctoral fellows from all disciplines.

Semifinalists will have their image and description immortalized in the University of Alberta's Education & Research Archive (ERA) Images of Research Collection.

Submissions will be accepted from January 20, 2020 to February 7, 2020 at 5 PM. Visit the competition website for more details uab.ca/ior.

The third and final submission preparation workshop will be on January 29, 2020. This workshop is approved as Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research Professional Development credits. Register for this workshop here.

For inspirational purposes, below are some of the entries from the 2019 competition.

Rutherford Library Galleria is holding an exhibition of past IOR semifinalist for the month of January.

Abundant Recursive Mathematics Curricula Possibilities
Luo, Lixin
First Prize

Girodat, Jamie-Lee

The Importance of Traditional Knowledge in Freshwater and Fish Monitoring
Stenekes, Sydney

The University of Alberta Images of Research Competition & Exhibition is a partnership through the University of Alberta Library, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, and Campus Design and Print Solutions.

Follow competition updates on social media @uofalibrary @UAlbertaFGSR #ualbertaIOR