Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Charles E. Bracker Collection Acquired

Thirty Thousand Digital Photographs of Orchids at Ball State University Libraries

The Ball State University Libraries are now the proud home of a collection of more than 30,000 digital photographs and nearly 2,000 prints of orchids. These outstandingly beautiful photographs are the work of Charles E. Bracker, retired professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University.

The collection of digital photographs is being made available to students, researchers, and orchid-enthusiasts around the world through the Ball State Digital Media Repository (DMR),, a project of the University Libraries.

Dr. Bracker’s wife Anri began their personal collection of orchids in the late 1980s after purchasing two plants on a trip to Hawaii. After his wife passed away in 2001, Dr. Bracker wanted to keep her collection alive and thriving. He installed a basement greenhouse in his home and began adding orchids to the collection. He combined his passion for orchids and photography to create more than 30,000 stunning photographs of orchids.

In 2008, Professor Bracker donated 1,000 orchids to Ball State University’s nationally renowned Wheeler Orchid Collection and Species Bank. Recently, he also decided to give his collection of orchid photographs to Ball State University.

According to Cheryl M. LeBlanc, Wheeler Collection curator, “The combination of the plants and the photographs brings Ball State University to the forefront as having the largest university-based orchid collection in the country.”

The collection of prints and digital images are housed in the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections. More than 300 of the images are now in the Charles E. Bracker Orchid Photographs collection in the DMR,, and the remainder of the 30,000 images are being added to the collection.

The Bracker Orchid Photographs join a collection of rare orchid books held by Archives and Special Collections. One particularly interesting title is the four-volume set, Reichenbachia, a nineteenth century work containing magnificent color prints of orchids. The title comes from orchidologist Heinrich Gustave Reichenbach.

Bound in leather with marbled end pages, these large books were published in two series with each volume dedicated to a queen or empress: Queen Victoria, the Empress of Germany and Queen of Persia, the Empress of Russia, and the Queen of Belgium. Each book includes color lithography, notes on the orchid’s history and cultures, and structural drawings of each flower. For more information, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections,, 765-285-5078.

Orchid Photographs on Exhibit

A selection of 60 Charles E. Bracker Orchid Photographs are on exhibit outside of the Archives and Special Collections, Bracken Library BL-210, and in exhibit cases on first floor east through December 2009.

The exhibit illustrates the diversity of orchids captured in Dr. Bracker’s superb photography. In a 2006 article in Purdue Agriculture Connections Magazine, Bracker was quoted as saying, “When I take pictures, I take a lot of them.” He said he typically took about 20 exposures for each flower.

Viewers of the exhibit will see that, as a rule, the flowers were only photographed when they were in full bloom. Dr. Bracker’s orchid photographs have been on exhibit in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and various other places in the past. For more information on the exhibit, contact Lajmar D. Anderson, Archives and Special Collections Supervisor,, 765-285-5078.

Russ Vernon to Speak on Orchid Art and Conservation at Library Friends Program

In conjunction with the Bracker Orchid Photographs exhibit, internationally recognized orchid horticulturalist Mr. Russ Vernon will present a program on “Orchid Art and Conservation” on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. in Bracken Library BL-104. Sponsored by the Friends of the Alexander M. Bracken Library, the presentation is free and open to the public.

Mr. Vernon is a 1972 graduate of the Ohio State University where he majored in horticulture/floriculture. He has worked for Orchids by Hausermann, A & P Orchids, and Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield the cat. In 2004, he and his wife Anita started New Vision Orchids, a company specializing in Phalaenopsis, Odontoglossums and their intergenerics, Miltoniopsis and Lycastes. Their focus is on hybridizing and wholesale and retail sales. He is a judge for the American Orchid Society (AOS) and is currently the president of the International Phalaenopsis Alliance.

Earlier in the day on October 20, free tours of the Wheeler Orchid Collection at the Greenhouse in Christy Woods will be offered from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. From 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., University Libraries personnel will present a demonstration of the Bracker Orchid Photographs Digital Collection in the Helen B. and Martin D. Schwartz Special Collections and Digital Complex on the first floor of Bracken Library.

University Development will provide free shuttle service from the Wheeler Collection to Bracken Library between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. Tours of the Charles E. Bracker Orchid Photographs Exhibit in the Archives and Special Collections will be offered prior to, and immediately following, all of the events.

For more information on the Friends program or any of these events, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, and Executive Secretary of the Friends of Bracken Library,, 765-285-5078.

Bracken Library Hosts Grand Opening of The Schwartz Digital Complex

The grand opening of the Helen B. and Martin D. Schwartz Special Collections and Digital Complex was the focus of this year’s first Tech4U held on September 17, 2009, in Bracken Library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Vice President’s Office for Information Technology, Tech4U is an information technology showcase of emerging media and other cutting-edge technologies.

A series of five Tech4U events this academic year will highlight different aspects of technology for teaching, learning, and research. The Schwartz Digital Complex is a high-tech facility located on the first floor of Bracken Library. It is a resource designed to support collaboration and innovation through digital technology. This facility has been made possible by a financial gift from local businessman and philanthropist Mr. Martin Schwartz in honor of his late wife Helen.

The September 17 opening event included two keynote sessions that highlighted the advanced technology of the Schwartz Digital Complex. The first session, “Avatars in the Library: The Opening of the Virtual Alexander M. Bracken Library,” focused on the new virtual Bracken Library in the 3-D world of Second Life.

Dr. James Connolly, Director of the Center for Middletown Studies; Dr. John Fillwalk, Director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts; Maren Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections; and John Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, gave presentations on the construction of the virtual library and its resources, the potential academic uses, and the future plans for further development of this virtual learning environment. The virtual Bracken Library project was funded by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Innovative Library Program Grant received by the University Libraries for 2008-2009.

The second keynote session, “A Collaboration in Architecture: Virtual Design Studios,” featured Dean Guillermo Vasquez de Valasco and Associate Professor Antonieta Angulo of the College of Architecture and Planning, along with students from Professor Angulo’s studio class. Dean Vasquez de Velasco gave an interactive presentation on the Las Americas Virtual Design Studio in the Schwartz Complex Viewing Room while Professor

Angulo conducted her studio class in the Schwartz Complex Learning Pods. The simultaneity demonstrated the collaborative nature of virtual studios and the versatile capabilities of the new facility. Students used SMART AirLiner wireless slates and Second Life, Skype to work with the architectural firm NBBJ in London, and video conferencing technologies to collaborate with BSA LifeStructures students and instructors in Indianapolis.

Throughout the Tech4U event, attendees were able to interact with educational partners AT&T, Apple, Lenovo, and Roscor to learn about their latest products. Information tables and demonstrations were available through United Technology Services, Infocaster, WIPB TV, IPR Radio, Emerging Media Initiatives, Virtual Studio, the University Libraries’ Digital Initiatives, Emerging Technologies and the Digital Corps, Journalistic Games, and Modern Languages’ Second Life Project. In addition, tours and demonstrations of the Schwartz Digital Complex were offered during the day.

Microsoft Surface, a multi-user, multi-touch computer that looks like a table and works without a mouse or keyboard, was a big hit again this year. The University Libraries now have a Surface in the Schwartz Digital Complex, and it attracted a large audience of students and others throughout the day. University Computing Services and Department of Computer Science personnel worked with University Libraries personnel to create three new applications that are available on the Libraries’ Surface unit: interactive campus maps and photographs that show the development of Ball State through the years, a sampling of digital images of orchids from the Charles E. Bracker Photographs Collection (described in earlier posting), and a collection of College of Architecture and Planning students’ work from the Las Americas Virtual Design Studio.

In addition to the individuals mentioned above, several other University Libraries personnel participated in the planning, set-up, and events of Tech4U, including Alex Amira, James A. Bradley, Dixie D. DeWitt, Bradley D. Faust, Angie S. Gibson, Amanda A. Hurford, Bobbie J. Pearson, Carolyn F. Runyon, Blake R. Stiener, and Budi Wibowo.

The next Tech4U will be held in Bracken Library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., October 15, 2009. Others will follow on November 19, 2009, March 25, 2010, and April 15, 2010. All events are free and open to the public. To learn more, visit

Springsteen and Steinbeck Subjects of Steinbeck Lecture by Dr. Lauren Onkey of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

More than eighty students, faculty, and community members attended the 2009 Steinbeck Lecture given by Dr. Lauren Onkey, Vice President for Education and Public Programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio.

Her topic was “Bruce Springsteen’s John Steinbeck.” The event took place on October 12, 2009 in Bracken Library. Dr. Onkey taught post-colonial literature and cultural studies in Ball State’s Department of English. She has published essays and book chapters on Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, U2, and Bruce Springsteen. Her book Celtic Soul Brothers: Blackness and Transatlantic Irish Identity will be published by Routledge Press later this year.

The Steinbeck Lecture Series was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Tetsumaro Hayashi in honor of Dr. Richard W. and Mrs. Dorothy Burkhardt and Dr. John J. and Mrs. Angeline R. Pruis, whose generosity has helped Ball State University to honor internationally prominent Steinbeck scholars and educators for nearly 30 years. Dr. Hayashi is a noted Steinbeck scholar, past president of the Steinbeck Society of America, and the founder of the Steinbeck Research Institute at Ball State University. Dr. Robert D. Habich, Professor of English, and Mr. John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections in the University Libraries, serve as coorganizers for the Steinbeck Lecture Series. For more information, contact John B. Straw, JStraw@bsu.ed
u, 765-285-5078, or Dr. Robert Habich,, 765-285-8407.