Sarah Burke Cahalan

Special Collections, Rare Books, Digital Projects


I am a professional librarian with reference, outreach, and access responsibilities for special collections.  Here are some quick examples of my current projects:

  • The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century: This project was designed to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Rare Book Reading Room at Dumbarton Oaks.  It culminated in a symposium in October 2013 (with a volume forthcoming) and an exhibit, both on-site and online, of rare book materials.  I co-organized the symposium.  I also curated the exhibit with the assistance of two wonderful interns.
  • S. Fred Prince: I am collaborating with my colleague Jason W. Dean to gather information and develop publications on this little-known artist, who worked primarily in the Ozarks in the early twentieth century.
  • DO Conversations Blog: I created this blog to supplement an ongoing series of events for Fellows & Staff at Dumbarton Oaks.  Librarians use it to post images to pique interest in upcoming events and, we hope, to create a lively visual record of our interdisciplinary institution. It is also an opportunity to share images of our special collections materials with the wider world.
  • Library Exhibits at Dumbarton Oaks: Take a look at our online exhibits, some built in Omeka, others in Plone.  I developed the content type for rare books in Plone, our institutional Content Management System.  I’ve designed and implemented templates for online exhibits, and streamlined the workflow for developing physical and online exhibits.

Older projects:

  • History of Library Preservation at Harvard: In 2009 and 2010 I conducted research for the Weissman Preservation Center on the history of library preservation at Harvard, a project which covered the earliest days of the university to some of the most recent developments in collections care, including audiovisual preservation and offsite storage.
  • Daisie Miller Helyar Digital Scrapbook: In fall 2009 I was a member of Candy Schwartz’s Digital Libraries class, a project-based class that involved hands-on creation of digital images, metadata, and a website.  The source of our content was a scrapbook kept by a Simmons student, Daisie Miller Helyar, in the early 20th century.  I was a member of the Digital Preservation Committee and I chaired the Content Committee.  I frequently liaised with the Database, Web, and Marketing Committees regarding organization and presentation of information.  I conducted original research on Daisie’s life and I also created the website’s lesson plans for teachers, which adhere to the MA curriculum frameworks.  Our website is available from
  • “Variety is the very principle,” Thomas Gambier Parry’s Decorative Arts: In 2006-2007, while working for the Research Forum of the Courtauld Institute of Art, I processed the archival records of Thomas Gambier Parry, a Victorian collector and artist.

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