Student Spotlight: Meet Carson

At the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, the staff has continued to share our many collections with Miami students, faculty, staff, and the greater Miami community. The work that is performed with our collections has been recognized by individuals and organizations around the world. Our staff has received many accolades while assisting students who have made discoveries in the classroom or researchers who are seeing our materials for the first time. The work that our student assistants perform allows our staff to do a number of great things. These tasks are different from the tasks the average library student employee. These tasks can involve using specific software such as Adobe Lightroom or researching our catalog by using advanced search strategies. We hire our student assistants based on their skills and interests so that they can only enjoy the work that they are doing and see the impact that their work has had on researchers who use our materials. One example of this, is our Social Media Team.

The Special Collections and University Archives’ Instagram account (@miamioh.spec) started in October 2018 by Rachel Makarowski, our Special Collections Librarian. Although unsure of the results, Rachel forged ahead to ensure that the resources of Special Collections and University Archives were shared amongst a social network of special collections libraries and archival repositories around the world. Cody Sprunger, our Senior Library Technician, began assisting Rachel with social media outreach shortly after joining the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives in January 2019. After a full year of content creation as well as hosting and participating in Instagram challenges with other special collections and archives, Rachel and Cody believed that it was time to look at getting some student involvement in the creation of posts. When the university closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachel and Cody began to envision the role of a Student Content Creator. This student writer is Carson Minter. He is the second student assistant we would like to highlight in our Student Spotlight series.

Carson Minter

Carson is a second year student majoring in Creative Writing from Twinsburg, Ohio. He joined the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives during the 2020 Fall semester. He was initially trained on how to properly retrieve, reshelve, and handle materials by Rachel. He also learned how to search our Digital Collection, which has helped him substantially in identifying, researching, and drafting content for our Instagram account. Given Carson’s skills in creative writing, Rachel and Cody believed that he would be a great addition to the Social Media Team. They both knew that creative writing and writing for a professional social media account would be very different from each other, but they were confident in his ability to adapt. He also has the creative eye that is necessary to photograph the items of his choosing or to choose eye catching digital items from our Digital Collections. Carson states, “I have been able to extend my writing style to more of a professional tone and take agency especially in the materials that I choose to report about which is the most gratifying thing about this work.” In the past 6 months, Carson has managed to create a total of 27 posts for our Instagram account, 9 of which have already been published and 18 of which will be published in the future. His posts contributed to the gain of 92 new followers from January 2021 to present.

Rick Ludwin (MU ’70) holding a video reel of “Studio 14,” a variety-comedy show hosted by Ludwin that aired on Miami’s WMUB-TV station.
© 2013 by Thomas Collins Photography

Carson has also applied his adaptability to the variety of tasks our department completes behind the scenes. He says, “I really do enjoy the variety that comes with the work I am doing. One day I might be drafting Instagram posts, another I may be inventorying DVDs and cassette tapes, and yet another putting together an exhibition for our Reading Room.” Carson has been a part of the team responsible for inventorying and organizing a recent addition to our Rick Ludwin Collection. (For more information on Mr. Ludwin (MU ‘70), please click here.) This is a vital step when working with manuscript collections, as it lays the foundation for how the collection will be processed, arranged, and described in its final state. It takes a very focused and organized person to complete this task.

Not only has Carson helped to pioneer student involvement on the Instagram Account, but he has since become a cornerstone in outreach efforts for the department. As a part of these efforts, Carson has curated 3 mini exhibitions in a few of our Reading Room display cases this semester so far, with another one being planned. These mini exhibitions center around a theme that is chosen by either Carson or Rachel. In order to create these mini exhibitions:

  1. He first searches the library catalog and our archives database using keyword searches to find an initial listing of items.
  2. He then pulls the selected items and inspects the pages or content to see which ones he wants to display. Ones that will not be included are returned to the shelves.
  3. Rachel then works with him to install the items, ensuring that preservation precautions are observed as is appropriate when items are displayed for any amount of time.
  4. Carson then writes up labels for each of the items and ties them all together in the chosen theme when appropriate. Sometimes he also creates a blog post to celebrate the new mini exhibition.

Outside of the department, Carson spends his time as a member of MENtal Health Club, which aims to reduce the stigma of men’s mental illness on campus by bringing attention to men’s mental illness, hosting events, and sharing the on campus resources available for students. He is also a member of the Miami University Fencing Club. After college, Carson plans to choose a path where he can use his skills, pursue his interests, and work with passionate people. Carson says, “I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to try and surround myself with more passionate people. Working in a quiet environment does also put my mind at ease, but once I learned about the passionate individuals at Special Collections, I knew I would learn so much from them.” We have also learned so much from you, Carson. We’re happy that you chose to work with us. Thank you, Carson, for all that you do!

Student Spotlight: Meet Alex

At the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, the staff has continued to share our many collections with Miami students, faculty, staff, and the greater Miami community. We are home to a number of prominent collections and archives such as the Cradle of Coaches Archive, Freedom Summer Collection, and our ever growing collection of postcards, just to name a few. The work that is performed with our collections has been recognized by individuals and organizations around the world. Our staff has received many accolades while assisting students who have made discoveries in the classroom or researchers who are seeing our materials for the first time. The people who allow our staff to do a number of great things have been our students. 

Our student assistants perform tasks that are different from the tasks the average library student employee. We hire our student assistants based on their skills and interests so that they can not only enjoy the work that they are doing, but see the impact that their work has had on all who use us as a resource. It is because of that our staff would like to highlight the work that our students are doing and how it has helped our department and researchers and share this with the Miami Community. Our first student assistant we would like to highlight is Alex Cox.

Alex is a Second Year student double majoring in Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning from Jeffersonville, Indiana. He joined the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives during the 2019 Fall semester as a First Year student. He was initially trained to work with Rachel Makarowski, our Special Collections Librarian. During that semester, he learned how to be a Reading Room attendant and how to properly retrieve, re-shelve, and handle materials. He has also assisted with instruction by helping to set up classroom spaces, properly lay out materials, and even acting as an assistant in the classroom with larger classes. One of his biggest accomplishments while working with Rachel and Cody Sprunger, our Senior Library Technician, is the creation of our new pull list system. Alex explains that, “Creating these pull lists, that we’re talking about, used to be a completely handwritten process. It took a really long time to generate them and then you could use them once and then you had to archive the pull slips once you use them.” It uses an Excel spreadsheet for the user to input information on the material to be pulled, such as title, author, call number, etc. The information auto-populates into the respective fields on the pull slips. These slips are used as a placeholder on the shelf in the stacks for easier re-shelving, as well as keeping item use statistics and item tracking to keep our collections secure. Once the list is done, all of the slips are printed with ease. This definitely has served a time saver and has made us more efficient as these pull slips created by digital pull lists are able to be saved, edited, and printed repeatedly.

Interview with Alex Cox and Rachel Makarowski

During the 2020 Spring semester, Alex began training with Kim Hoffman, our Preservation Librarian, while still completing tasks with Rachel. The pandemic hit the department hard when we had to close in mid-March 2020. His work with Kim continued when the campus reopened during the 2020 Fall semester. He was trained to make protective boxes and labels for books along with learning how to sew protective covers onto thin paperbacks known as pamphlets. This has been a great help as, about once a month, numerous materials come to the Preservation department from the entire Miami University library system, including from our branch campuses. With the ever growing number of materials that had preservation and conservation needs, we quickly realized that social distancing was going to be a challenge in our compact spaces. Using his skills in design and space planning, Alex helped Kim reimagine the space along with helping her move student stations around. He also worked with her to create an inventory of what tools each student station had and still needed. Once divided up, Kim was able to envision additional equipment that could be purchased in the future to use updated techniques to preserve and conserve our materials.

Interview with Alex Cox and Kim Hoffman

Alex is a very well rounded student and is heavily involved on campus. You can find him writing for The Miami Student (campus and community section), serving on the Dean’s Student Library Advisory Council, and helping coordinate the U-Lead Pre-Semester Program. He started his Miami career as a Presidential Fellow and is now also a tour guide for the Department of Architecture + Interior Design. His career goal is working on contextualized architecture. When asked what contextualized architecture is, he replies that “the intersection between Urban Planning and Architecture is, in my opinion, understudied and largely ignored in the design field, and I would like to change this.” When he’s not working with us, he loves to bake, talk about “brilliant architecture and urban design”, and study and play strategy games with friends. When asked why he chose to work with us, he answered, “I worked at my high school library, and loved the work I did there! I was very excited to learn more about Library Science at Miami, and Special Collections and University Archives sounded like the best of the library jobs!” We are so happy that he chose us to work with. Thank you, Alex, for all that you do!

Digital Preservation and the Documenting the COVID-19 Pandemic Project

Happy World Digital Preservation Day!

“Organised by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and supported by digital preservation networks across the globe, World Digital Preservation Day is open to participation from anyone interested in securing our digital legacy” (DPC). Each year, we celebrate World Digital Preservation day on the first Thursday of November. This year, following the “Digits for Good” theme, we think about the ways in which digital preservation can have a lasting, positive impact.  For a brief primer on digital preservation, see our blog post, Preserving Your Digital Archives.

Here at the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and Archives, we are using the principles of digital preservation to support the Documenting the COVID-19 Pandemic Project. We welcome new journal submissions documenting your COVID-19 experience, so please consider volunteering!

COVID-19 Journals and file formats

A journal can come in many different forms; we are accepting photographs, video, and audio, in addition to both handwritten and born-digital text. If you do choose to volunteer for the journal project, the submission form will walk you through the process of making your final contribution, including a question about the format of your submission.

The material format checklist question from the journal submission form.

You’ll notice from the form that we list specific file formats we would prefer. That’s because even before we started receiving submissions, we started thinking ahead. To assist us in preserving these files for the future, we knew it would be best to restrict the acceptable file formats for entries:

  1. To ensure that we weren’t getting anything that was going to be really difficult for us to either preserve or even potentially access (for example, proprietary formats require specific software). 
  2. To limit the amount of work required in the future to maintain the files (by limiting the number of types of files to consider). 

Standard, widely adopted file formats are best for long-term preservation. If you use a file format that is not very popular, there is a greater risk that it will be abandoned by the people who are maintaining it. This applies whether the maintainers are a company (for a proprietary format) or a user community (for an open source format). Popular file types also tend to have more documentation and resources available for consultation in case of future issues.

Preferred file formats

For this project, we balanced the need for long-term preservation with the need to avoid being overly challenging for volunteers to submit. We never wanted the request that we made for a file format to deter someone from submitting.

Handwritten text

We are happy to receive handwritten text or art. However, if your submission is typed, we would prefer it in a born-digital format.


(Highest resolution available; TFF or JPEG2K preferred)

TIFF has been the standard and is both robust and popular, so we hope this is easy for most volunteers to provide using common software. However, JPEG2K is open source and is gaining in popularity as a digital preservation format.


(AVI, MOV, QT, or motion JPEG2K format preferred)

We offered more options for video because depending on how that video was recorded, it might be more of a challenge for submitters to provide a different file format. Motion JPEG2K would be nice to have, but as this is a relatively new format and not yet as common, we aren’t requiring it.


(WAV format preferred)

WAV is the long-time preservation standard for uncompressed audio and is widely adopted.

Text in a born-digital format

(.pdf, .docx, etc; PDF preferred)

PDF is our true preference, although .docx is widely available and listed for convenience. PDF embeds things like graphics and other elements directly into the document, making it highly suitable for long-term preservation. It is also very widely adopted, despite being a proprietary format.

Looking ahead: Lifecycle of a journal submission

For this project, we gave volunteers the option of keeping their submission closed, or private, for up to 50 years. That’s a really long time for a born-digital file! We don’t have anything currently that has been preserved digitally for 50 years. In spite of our best efforts, it’s hard to predict what the future will hold for these files. In this context, it’s more important than ever that we select file formats that are suitable for long term preservation, migrate them to new formats as necessary, and continue to stay informed about and follow digital preservation best practices. With good management, we plan for these submissions to be accessible and in good condition for the next 50 years, at which point we can make them accessible to the public.


When we developed our formatting guidelines for this project, we relied on the many excellent resources available for learning about preservation-appropriate file formats, including but not limited to those listed below. We highly recommend these sources if you’d like to learn more about digital preservation and file formats. 

Have you thought about your personal digital files lately? If not, today is a great day to plan for the future!

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Preserving Your Digital Archives

Most of us have accumulated many gigabytes of digital files over the years. Whether they are decades-old word processor documents or the hundreds of photographs you took on your last vacation, you know they’re saved… somewhere. You expect them to be accessible anytime you need them in the future, just like a printed report or photo album. Unfortunately, accessing your older files might not be so easy. It takes a little work to be sure that your digital archives are available for long as you want to keep them–but a few simple steps can go a long way.

In honor of Preservation Week, keep reading to learn how you can get started preserving your digital archives!

Why do we need to preserve digital files?

You might be surprised to learn that digital files are extremely vulnerable, even more so than physical papers or photographs. There is an entire discipline devoted to maintaining our digital information for the future. Digital preservation “refers to the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary” (Digital Preservation Coalition).

While the dangers facing your physical files are less familiar than those facing your physical archives, they are no less real. Some of the risks include physical damage to the device storing the data; degradation of the data itself (also known as “bit rot”); and archaic digital or physical formatting (“digital obsolescence”). 

Format matters

Remember ClarisWorks? You might be familiar with this early word processor if you were a Mac user in the 1990s. Whether you’ve heard of it or not, if you found an old .cwk file, you would likely have a hard time opening it with modern software. In fact, since that file was probably saved on a floppy disk, you might have trouble accessing it at all. 

To avoid losing access to your data, make sure your technology keeps up with the times. Choose standard, widely adopted file formats when possible, such as PDFs for documents. Make sure you can still access your files even as you update your technology: for example, floppy disks won’t help you without a floppy drive to read them!

Backing up your files

Today is a great day to back up your digital files! For extra credit, remember the 3-2-1 rule: keep 3 copies of important files, 2 on different storage devices, and 1 of those in a different location.

3 copies of important files

Backing up your files, or keeping multiple copies, provides an extra layer of security against loss or damage. Because digital files are so easily damaged, but also so easily duplicated, making multiple copies is like an insurance policy for your information. 

2 of these copies on different storage devices

A storage device refers to the computer, server, hard drive, or other physical artifact that houses your digital files. A secure storage device is critically important for preserving your files. (Remember the last time your computer died in the middle of a project?)

Even storage devices that appear to be in perfectly good condition can accumulate invisible damage over time. This damage can result in minor failures or errors that gradually corrupt the files on the device. In some cases, the files may eventually become inaccessible. This damage can be random, or it can be due to an inherent fault in the device itself. 

The safest way to avoid device failure is to keep your data on more than one type of device. For example, if one of your copies is on your primary computer, keep another backup on an external hard drive.

1 of those copies is in a different location

Storage devices can be physically damaged or destroyed by unforeseen events: for example, if a pipe bursts in the ceiling over your computer. Spreading out your backups prevents them all from being destroyed in the same disaster. Do the best you can: even keeping your backup device in a different room is a good start. A different building, such as your office or your home, is even better. 

One approach for this type of backup is to use a cloud-based commercial storage solution, such as Dropbox. Depending on your needs, this type of service might also be a good option, but know that you are relinquishing some control over the way your data is stored. Read the terms of service carefully to understand what the company is promising and how your data will be handled. 

Preservation is a journey, not a destination

It would be great if you could back up your files and walk away, knowing they are safe forever. Unfortunately, if you did that, you’d soon be at square one. Preservation is a hands-on process. Check on your files occasionally to make sure you can still access them. Think about the technology you’re using and whether it is likely to become obsolete soon. A little attention on occasion can save you from future disaster!

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Celebrating Women’s History Month – Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins Lecture

March 12, Noon, Rm 320 King Library

The Power of Our Story

In Memoriam: Rick Ludwin

We regret to say that today we learned of the passing of Miami University alumnus, Rick Ludwin. A longtime figure at NBC Television, Ludwin began his career here at Miami. During his time as an undergraduate student, Ludwin hosted “Studio 14,” a variety-comedy show that aired on Miami’s WMUB-TV station. Then, after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970, Ludwin went on to graduate school at Northwestern University, and soon after he began working in broadcasting for stations WXYZ-TV Detroit and WLS-TV Chicago. Eventually, he became a producer on both Bob Kennedy and Mike Douglas’ television talk shows. 

It was during his time working in Chicago television that Ludwin met and impressed Brandon Tartikoff, who soon after was appointed President of NBC Entertainment. Tartikoff then offered Ludwin the position of Director of Variety Programs at NBC in 1980. By 1983 Ludwin had been promoted to Vice President for Specials and Variety Programs. Later, in 1989, he was named the Senior Vice President for Specials, Variety Programs and Late Night, and then in 2005 Ludwin was promoted to Executive Vice President for Late Night and Primetime Series. 

Looking back on his early years with the network Ludwin admits, “I thought I’d be here a year and be fired or would leave out of frustration, and here I am all these years later. It worked out pretty well.”

Things did indeed work out well. As a result of his 32-year career with NBC, Ludwin is credited for the success of series such as “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Unsolved Mysteries” and, most notably, “Seinfeld.” Furthermore, in addition to serving as an executive on numerous successful NBC programs since the 1980s, Ludwin also made cameo appearances on “Seinfeld,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and alongside comedian Bob Hope. Ludwin also supervised numerous landmark primetime specials, including the EMMY Awards, Golden Globe Awards and “Saturday Night Live” primetime specials. Plus, he worked on NBC’s 60th and 75th Anniversary telecasts, and helped to oversee the television special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.”  

Throughout his career, Ludwin maintained strong connections with Miami University. He regularly visited campus to give talks to students and recently, on March 19, 2019, the Williams Hall TV studio located on campus, the place where Ludwin began his career by hosting “Studio 14,” was named the “Rick Ludwin Studio” in his honor. Furthermore, Ludwin was a great friend to the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives. He participated in several special lectures here, and he generously donated many interesting items related to his career in broadcasting to us, all of which can be viewed by anyone who wishes to visit us here in King Library. This includes a small display that is currently up in our reading room, which features items from Ludwin’s career, including several “Seinfeld” scripts, one of which is signed by members of the cast. 

Rick Ludwin passed away after a short illness on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at his home in Los Angeles. He will be missed by many. 

For more about Rick Ludwin: 

Rick Ludwin Collection:

“And Now, Live From Miami…” Exhibit opening reception, featuring Rick Ludwin:

Special Collections Lecture Series – “Studio 14,” featuring Rick Ludwin:

“The Seinfeld Connection” Exhibit:

WMUB Archives: