Sarah Burke Cahalan

Outreach, Special Collections, Digital Projects


I am a professional librarian with reference, outreach, and access responsibilities for special collections.  In spring 2015, after many years in academic libraries, I decided to try public librarianship. I look forward to reporting on this change.

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 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. I am currently co-editing the volume, which means trying to read Latour while I am nursing my son.
  • 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.

Older projects:

  • 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 to create a lively visual record of an interdisciplinary institution. It was also an opportunity to share images of our special collections materials with the wider world.
  • Library Exhibits at Dumbarton Oaks: Take a look at DO’s online exhibits, some built in Omeka, others in Plone.  I developed the content type for rare books in Plone, the institutional Content Management System.  I designed and implemented templates for online exhibits, and streamlined the workflow for developing physical and online exhibits.
  • 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.