Thursday, July 31, 2008

Digital Archive of American Popular Music

Project Name, Organization Name and URL

Digital Archive of American Popular Music, University of California at Los Angeles Music Library,


This digital library consists primarily of sheet music, or, in the words of the site, "American popular songs in the form in which they were originally published."  Audio recordings make up a smaller portion of the collection.  The archive describes itself this way on a page called "About the Digital Archive":

"The UCLA Music Library's Archive of American Popular Music is a research collection covering the history of popular music in the United States from 1790 through the present.  The collection, fully accessible at the item level . . . is one of the largest in the country, numbering almost 450,000 pieces of sheet music, anthologies, and arrangements for band and orchestra.  The collection also includes 62,500 recordings on disc, cylinder, and tape.

"Particular strengths within UCLA Music Library's twentieth century holdings include music for the theater, motion pictures, radio and television, as well as general popular music, country, rhythm and blues, and rock songs.

"The Digital Archive of American Popular Music is an initiative to provide access to digital versions of the sheet music, and performances of the songs now in the public domain."

The collection sounds quite comprehensive, and perhaps it is, but a quick search through the catalog reveals a much more limited scope.  For example, I was unable to find any "rock songs" in any form.  It is unclear if this will change as the collection is updated and more items are digitized or if the above description is simply inaccurate.


Students and other researchers are the primary audience for this collection.  In fact, when one chooses to browse the entire digital collection, it becomes obvious that some sub-collections require a password for access.  These are probably reserved for students or specific classes or researchers.

In addition, the site is designed as though it is to be used by those who are familiar with its contents and/or are looking for a specific item.  Searching and browsing functions are abundant, but comparatively little information is provided about the collection, its contents and how to make the most of one's experience with it.  The text quoted above is all that exists to explain this archive to users.  This suggests that it is used primarily by students and professors conducting research with a specific focus.  The design does not appear to welcome the general public or make an effort to appeal to this wider audience and their various needs.  This is consistent with its description of itself as a research collection.  

Background Information

No information is provided about the background of the collection with the exception of what is revealed in the portion of text quoted above.  All that is clear is that the Digital Archive of American Popular Music is part of UCLA's Archive of American Popular American Music.  According to the Archive of Popular Music's home page, the digital archive is currently being developed, expanded, and improved.

What Was Digitized

In addition to the information already provided on the number of materials digitized, the Archive of American Popular Music's home page states that the sheet music is available in PDF form so that it can be quickly downloaded and printed.  This sounds like a decision that was made with the needs of students in mind.

What is strange is that the audio files that are said to exist are effectively inaccessible.  One cannot search by format.  An attempt to browse the entire digital collection reveals a lengthy list of esoterically named sub-collections.  It appears that most of these sub-collections contain only sheet music, so one would have to devote some time to digging through them before finding one of the sound files that are supposedly included.  Therefore one is left to wonder if the digitized sound files are indeed available to users at this point, as well as what format they are in.  Or perhaps there is a system of accessibility with which only students and other researchers are familiar.


This project's description is promising yet somewhat inconsistent with what it currently offers.  This is probably because it is in the process of being improved.  Little information is provided about the digitization process or the future of the collection, so one can only wonder if it will remain as it is or if new materials will be added in digital form, hopefully expanding the scope.  If improvements and progress in this digitization project result in a collection that is more consistent with the description that is currently available, it will be a vast and valuable resource. 

Sounds of Australia

  • Project Name, Organization Name and URL

Sounds of Australia, National Registry of Recorded Sound, National Film and Sound Archive,

  • Overview

Sounds of Australia differs from many audio digitization projects in that its goal is to represent the an entire country's history of recorded sound with a small number of carefully selected recordings of all genres.  This creates a concise summary of Australia's history of recorded sound.  It is presented in a simplistic, accessible format, giving users around the world a brief introduction to the audio history of this country.

Only ten recordings are added to the collection each year.  The site contains a nomination form so that users may recommend recordings that they deem appropriate for the collection.  According to the site, 

"Criteria for selection include artistic excellence, historical relevance, technical or scientific achievement, and prominence in shaping Australia's culture and identity.  To be eligible for inclusion, sound recordings must have been made in Australia, or by Australians, and must be at least 20 years old."

The ten recordings that will be featured in the collection are selected from these nomination by "a panel of experts from the recorded sound industry and cultural institutions."

  • Audience

The intended audience is clearly an International one, considering that this project presents a sort of condensed national history to users all over the world.  Sound files are readily available online in a streaming audio format.  Each entry is accompanied by a short description of the recording and its significance as well as a visual image,  typically the sheet music for the song or a photograph of its author.  This evidence suggests that the collection is aimed at a very broad audience.  English-speaking people from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, and geographical locations could easily access and learn from this collection.

  • Background Information

The collection was created in February of 2007 with "a foundation list of 10 [recordings]."  Evidently, ten more recordings were added that year because there are now a total of thirty recordings in the collection.  2008 additions are showcased, and the 2009 nomination process is underway.

  • What Was Digitized

The chronological scope of the collection (1896 - 1983) obviates that early sound recordings in a variety of formats were digitized.  However, no information on the digitization process itself is readily available.  It is also clear that old photographs, sheet music, and other material were digitized to compliment the sound recordings.  It is possible that the later recordings in the collection, specifically the three from the 1980's, may not have been digitized at all.  They may be already been available in a digital format.  One assumes that the lack of detailed information available on this site is connected to its effort to reach a broad audience; it is clearly not  designed specifically for those with an interest in digitization or the information sciences.  However, those in search of information beyond what is presented on the site are encouraged to contact a staff member for what amounts to virtual reference services.  It is possible that if one were to take advantage of this service to inquire about digitization, more details would emerge.  This collection appears to take itself quite seriously, and by inference, this is likely to apply to the digitization process. 

  • Conclusion

This collection is of interest because of its unique type of focus, combining the narrow with the broad.  It is represents an area of overlap between digital libraries and digital museums.  This is somewhat unusual among current digital sound archives.  Perhaps it represents a new trend that will be followed by digitization projects with similar goals.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

  • Project Name, Organization Name and URL

Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, Baylor University,

  • Overview

I heard about this project for the first time last year when its director, Robert Darden, was interviewed on National Public Radio.  I listened with great interest because his vast knowledge and intense enthusiasm for this music and its preservation was captivating.

According to the site's home page,

"The purpose of this project is to identify, acquire, preserve, record and catalogue the most at-risk music from the black gospel music tradition.  This will primarily include 78s, 45s, LPs, and the various tape formats issued in the United States and abroad between 1945 and and 1970. . . .  The ultimate goal is to preserve and store a digital copy of the audio long term, and to provide standards-based discovery tools through an online interface into a full catalog of materials, along with 30-second samples of all tracks from the audio archive."

The text on the home page goes on to explain the history of the project and its broader significance as a cultural and historical record.

  • Audience

As part of Baylor University's library collection and audio archive specifically, students are a natural target audience for the project.  However, this digitization project seems to be future-oriented, focused on preserving gospel music for future generations.  Part of its goal is to showcase the beauty and significance of this music, influencing its prominence in the historical record.  From this, one can infer that this project actively seeks to increase the size of its audience both in the present and in the future.  The audience consists of everyone with who is interested in or curious about gospel music, and it is hoped that the project itself will increase the size of this audience by spreading the information and access that will allow people to better understand and appreciate gospel music.

  • Background Information

Some background information is available in the project's blog.  The blog and home page indicate that this project was started recently yet has been the fortunate recipient of generous publicity and donations (including a two-year grant of $347, 175).  Therefore it is progressing quickly compared to similar projects.  In February of 2007, a sound isolation booth necessary for the digitization process was installed.  A whole page is devoted to a collection of photos of the Wenger sound isolation booth and its installation, which present an intriguing visual timeline of this aspect of the project.  

  • Description of Materials Digitized

As stated in the quote above, this is primarily an audio archive.  The digital audio files are complimented by relevant materials in other forms, as the home page explains:

"Additionally, any ephemera that may be of use to scholars - including PR photos and press packets, taped interviews, informal photographs, tour books and programs, newspaper and magazine clippings, and sheet music - will also be acquired as it becomes available.  The ultimate goal is to have a copy of every song released by every black gospel artist or group during that time period."

The time period to which that quote refers is, of course, 1945 through 1970.  

It sounds as though this ambitious and important digitization project is off to a good start!

The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings

The Virtual Gramophone: Canadian Historical Sound Recordings, Library and Archives, Canada,

This multimedia digitization project covers the early history of recorded sound in Canada.  The bulk of the collection is a database of digitized 78-rmp disc recordings and cylinder recordings.  The main page is attractive in its simplicity, but one soon realizes that no information is provided on the size of the collection.  In addition to this disadvantage, one can only browse by title or author; no obvious effort has been made to categorize the recordings by genre, although the advanced search function does offer it as an option.  This is problematic in a world where music is increasingly divided into genres and sub-genres.  Without any semblance of this type of organization, users who do not use the advanced search function to seek a specific recordings may be confused and therefore discouraged.

Fortunately, a detailed and concisely written guide to the database and its cataloging details exists and is easy to find.  Curiously, this page indicates that the recordings are categorized by genre and sub-genre in the database's catalog.  The following are the other database fields listed:

  • Performer 
  • Performer heading 
  • Title 
  • Composer / Lyricist 
  • Larger Work (for songs that are part of an opera, for example) 
  • Album Set Title 
  • Generic Label 
  • Transcribed Label 
  • Sub Label 
  • Issue Number
  • Matrix Number
  • Take Number
  • Side Number
  • Album Number
  • Coupling Number
  • Control Number
  • Miscellaneous Numbers
  • Distributor
  • City
  • Manufacturer
  • Province / Country
  • Date of Recording
  • Recording Location
  • Recording Company
  • Release Date
  • Release Year
  • Issue Type
  • Alternate Issues
  • Comments
  • Authority
  • SMD
  • Dimensions
  • Language
  • Siglum
  • Shelf Number

The cataloging is said to be in accordance with Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed., Ammendments 1993 (AACR2) and the Descriptive Cataloguing Manual, of the National Library of Canada.  

All evidence suggests that detailed bibliographic records were created for these materials before they were digitized.  If the same catalog exists for the digital database, it is not made available to users in an accessible manner.  (Perhaps there is some way to track it down by following a trail of links?)  This may effectively limit the audience to those who are familiar with the collection or are seeking a specific recording or set of recordings.  The site's organization does not seem to have been designed in consideration of the needs of users who wish to increase their knowledge of Canadian music from this time period by browsing.

Upon close inspection, the database of sound recordings turns out to be much larger than one might guess, although its exact size is unknown.  A page on the history of the collection describes a long history, beginning in the summer of 1998 and including nine phases.  Sadly, the final paragraph may explain why the organization seems incomplete and in need of improvement:

"Phase Nine, known as Turning Points, was implemented in June 2006 with the addition of podcasting, videos, an essay and two biographies (Edward Johnson and Florence Easton).  In December 2006, it will include an essay on Columbia Records 78, 45 and 33 RPM discs from 1900 to the 1990s."

The site was last updated on June 29, 2006, and the essay on Columbia Records cannot be found.  So one is left to wonder why this digitization project came to such an abrupt halt and if progress towards its development will begin again at some time, or if it will simply be left as it is and fade into obsoleteness, depriving users of such a unique, extensive, and informative resource.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry

Library of Congress, American Memory Project, Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry,

The digitization project called, "Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry", is a part of the Library of Congress's American Memory Project, whose scope is so broad as to be nearly incomprehensible and certainly not fit for sufficient coverage in a blog entry of this length.  This specific collection, made up of approximately 400 text items and 108 sound recordings in addition to some image files, draws from the Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.  This division of the Library of Congress continues to position itself at forefront of the current mass-effort to digitize analog sound recordings with experimental projects such as the Digital Audio-Visual Prototyping Projects, whose purpose is to analytically compare and contrast methods for digitizing analog materials.

Emile Berliner's life and work are showcased in this digital collection because, according to the collection description, he was, "a prominent inventor at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.  Overlooked by today's historians, Berliner's creative genius rivaled that of his better-known contemporaries Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, and, like the works of these two inventors, Berliner's innovations helped shape the modern American way of life."

The Berliner Collection was established as a part of the Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound division before its materials were digitized.  Unfortunately, the website does not offer much information about the history of the collection and the timeline of its digitization, focusing instead on the life of Berliner himself and the legacy he left to the recording industry.  It does contain a narrative on the development of the digital collection, but from an information science perspective, it could be more informative.  

This indicates that the intended audience for this digital collection is made up of those who are interested in the history of the recording industry, excepting those who are also interested in digitization.  This is ironic because digitization is so central to the present and future of the recording industry that one would that imagine many people interested in this industry's past would also be interested enough in digitization to be curious about the dates and other details of the project's implementation.

It is also interesting that the sound recordings, like the other materials, are offered in a multiple formats, but left out are the most technologically current or popular options.  For example, the sound recordings are available in WAVE files and Real Audio streaming files.  While these are still popular formats, they do not rival the now-standard MP3 and newer technology.  Perhaps this is due to an effort to work around copyright restrictions while making the most of limited resources.  However, because the sound recordings predate 1972, copyright laws are not applicable unless the library chooses to copyright their digital versions.  

Written manuscripts and images have been scanned and made available as JPEG files and TIFF files.  A single digitized 16mm film is presented as a Real Video streaming file, a QuickTime movie file, and an MPEG file.  These options allow users to choose between smaller, lower quality versions and larger, higher-quality versions of these digital materials.  Clearly, this collection makes an effort to consider the differing needs of users, suggesting that it is attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Therefore it is unfortunate that the site is not designed in a more user-oriented manner.  Simply put, it could be organized more clearly and is therefore somewhat difficult to navigate compared to sites for similar collections.  The main page indicates that the collection can be searched only by keyword.  However, the search function actually allows users many options, including varying levels of complexity and specificity, with a fairly simple interface.  Users can also browse the collection by Subject Index, Title Index, Series Index, Name Index, or Recordings.  The first three lead the user to a short list of nebulously named categories that lead to exhaustive alphabetical lists of everything included in that category.  The second two deliver the user directly to the latter.

Some information about how to use the collection is offered to users at the bottom of the main page.  There are two links to the Library of Congress's page on how to access various materials, including video and sound recordings.  There is also information on cataloging and copyright.  Unfortunately, users are offered no advice or guidance for navigating the collection or making the most of what it offers.

Overall, this is a very unique and interesting collection with far more to offer than meets the eye.  When one makes the effort to read the historical information about Berliner and then browse through the materials with this contextual information in mind, it is an enlightening experience.  It is unfortunate that the organization and design are anachronistic enough to complicate this process, as people become accustomed to digital collections that are increasingly attuned to the needs of the user in their design and organization.  If it were subject to a series of simple design updates, this site could offer a lot more to the audience it clearly intends to serve and to the American Memory Project as a whole. 

Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project

Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project, Department of Special Collections, Donald C. Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara,

The University of California at Santa Barbara's Cylinder Digitization Project is an ambitious and extensive endeavor to preserve cylinder recordings through digitization and to make these recordings available to the public.  The project's web site devotes a page to the history of the cylinder, in which it explains this format's historical significance in this manner:

"From the first recordings made on tinfoil in 1877 to the last produced on celluloid in 1929, cylinders spanned a half-century of technological development in sound recording.  As documents of American cultural history and musical style, cylinders serve as an audible witness to the sounds and songs through which typical audiences first encountered the recorded human voice."

Sound recording technology was developing rapidly during that era, and it continued to develop at an increasingly rapid rate, allowing cylinders to be eclipsed by the still-ubiquitous disc format.  Now cylinder recordings and the phonographs designed to play them are sought and held only by collectors with a special interest in recordings of this era.  The Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project bridges the gap between these collectors and the general public by making these sound recordings available on the web at no cost in multiple digital formats.

The collection is large and abundant with educational narratives about the cylinder to complement the sound archives.  Users can search by title, author, subject, year, keyword, or U.C.S.B. call number, or they can browse the collection by genre.  Each file is available as a stream, MP3 file, and wav file, the latter two of which can be downloaded.  This versatility naturally increases the number of users who can access the collection and the purposes for which they can use it.

According to the Project Overview page, this digitization project began in January of 2002 and now contains approximately 36,000 audio files.  This part of the site provides thorough information on the project's history, funding, sources, technical details, cataloging, and the issue of quality.  Copyright information is addressed in a separate page, which explains that the restored and digitized recordings in the collection are licensed for non-commercial use under Creative Commons, although sound recordings were not eligible for copyright protection until 1972.

This vast and accessible digitization project has received quite a bit of press, and the reasons for this are immediately apparent.  In fact, the news section at the top of the main page states that The Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project was named one of the 50 best websites of 2008 by Time Magazine.  It is clear that the collection is constantly being expanded and the site is constantly being improved in order to provide more information to a wider audience of users.

The Cylinder Digitization and Preservation Project sets a fine example for similar digitization projects, which are currently being under-taken at an increasing rate.  Hopefully, others who are interested in digitizing analog sound recordings for the sake of preservation and accessibility will learn from this project.  It will doubtlessly have a lasting impact in the field of sound digitization and as well as on its users.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Digital Library of Appalachia

Digital Library of Appalachia, Appalachian College Association Central Library

Description of what was digitized: The Digital Library of Appalachia provides online access to archival and historical materials related to the culture of the southern and central Appalachian region. The thirty-four member libraries, archives, and museums associated with the Appalachian College Association, known collectively as ACA Central Library, seek to generate interest and encourage continued scholarship for the entire region. Digitized items include: color or black and white photographs, reformatted typed pages, published books, unpublished manuscripts, personal diaries and correspondence, journal and newspaper articles, musical recordings, oral history recordings and transcripts, and other related reproductions.

Audience for the project: General Public

Purposes of the Digital Library of Appalachia:
  1. To improve scholarly access to research resources related to Appalachia. Improved access, particularly to primary source material, will strengthen academic offerings in Appalachian Studies.
  2. To bring together research resources that are currently scattered throughout geographically remote locations. The digital library allows items to be viewed side-by-side, even if they are physically located in different states. The opportunity for comparison and contrast will foster new learning about Appalachian experience.
  3. To share information about Appalachia with scholars worldwide. Students, faculty, and researchers will be able to draw upon the Digital Library of Appalachia for authentic information, and thereby gain a greater understanding of the region.
  4. To broaden opportunities for classroom instruction. Faculty will be able to design new or revised courses based on the resources newly made available through the Digital Library of Appalachia. Likewise, students and teachers in regional schools may find the Digital Library of Appalachia revitalizes their courses in state and local history and culture.
Sample of the search interface:

International Music Information Retrieval Systems Evaluation Laboratory (IMIRSEL) Project

International Music Information Retrieval Systems Evaluation Laboratory (IMIRSEL) Project

“The virtual home of music information retrieval research.”

Description of what was digitized: The objective of the International Music Information Retrieval Systems Evaluation Laboratory project (IMIRSEL) is the establishment of the necessary resources for the scientifically valid development and evaluation of emerging Music Information Retriev
al (MIR) and Music Digital Library (MDL) techniques and technologies. Part of the project is the creation of secure, yet accessible, large-scale collections of music materials in a variety of audio, symbolic and metadata forms. These collections, when coupled with a set of standardized experimental tasks and standardized evaluation metrics, will allow members of the international MIR/MDL research community to participate in TREC-like evaluation "contests" so they can scientifically compare and contrast their various approaches to making the world's vast store of musical heritage materials ever more available.

Audience: Musicians and other Music Professionals

Principal Project Components: The IMIRSEL project comprises to major subprojects:
The Virtual Research Labs (VRL) using Music-to-Knowledge (M2K) project
The VRL subproject is being undertaken to provide a uniform mechanism for the international MIR/MDL community to access the standardized resources of IMIRSEL in a robust, yet secure, manner. The VRLs are constructed using IMIRSEL's M2K rapicd prototyping and evalution environment. M2K is an open-sourced ext
ension of the D2K (Data-to-Knowlege)/Text-to-Knowlege (T2K) Java-based datamining framework, developed by the ALG at NCSA. For more information on M2K please read our M2K (Music-to-Knowledge): A tool set for MIR/MDL development and evaluation pages.

There are 6 ways to find in
formation in this collection:
* search for particular words
* access publications by title
* access publications by author

* access publications by subject

* access publications by date

* access background readings by topi

The Human Use of Music Information Retrieval Systems (HUMIRS)

The HUMIRS subproject is desi
gned to provide answers to the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions as they pertain to the use of MIR and MDL systems. By focusing on real-world examples of music information seeking the HUMIRS subproject will allow IMIRSEL to develop a set of experimental MIR/MDL evaluation task grounded in reality. This real-world grounding will thus make the set of evaluation tasks much more meaningful as developers prepare their MIR/MDL systems for real-world deployment.

Background: IMIRSEL is located at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Project Principal Investigator is J. Stephen Downie of GSLIS and Co-Principal Investigator is Prof. Michael Welge of the Automated Learning Group (ALG) of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

Monday, April 21, 2008

The International Children's Digital Library

The ICDL Foundation's goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children's literature from the world community.

• Organization

ICDL is a project of the Human- Computer Interaction Laboratory at University of Maryland and was founded with the Internet Archive.

• Description of what was digitized (partially excerpted from an article on the ICDL in the Boston Globe --

Run by a local nonprofit, the electronic database contains thousands of digitized historic and contemporary children's books in dozens of languages, from Chinese to Croatian, including rare and fragile works that have been largely hidden from public view. …

Most important, it is easy-to-use. Rich with simple graphics and primary colors, the kid-friendly website enables visitors to search for, say, books with red or yellow covers, or fairy tales, or stories about imaginary creatures, or books with chapters and pictures…

Designed using feedback from children, the site recognizes that young readers rarely search for books the way adults do, such as by title or author. As a result, it lets children choose books by age level (from 3 to 13) or length ("short," "medium," or "long"), or tales that are happy or sad, or stories that include poems and rhymes. They can also select not simply animal books, but books specifically about ducks, or bears, or magic dogs….

The website, which lets children choose passwords guarded by monsters, is also making literary treasure troves widely available to the public for the first time. The BPL, for example, is sharing a grant with the digital library to post online a portion of its Alice M. Jordan Collection, a 160,000-volume storehouse of children's literature that is not available for general circulation….

Because the website's collection is available in multiple languages, it can be used worldwide - including in obscure places where, paradoxically, an Internet connection can be more common than a public library, thanks to organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that are working to spread technology. In a partnership with the World Bank, for example, the digital libary recently created its first "branch library" in Mongolia by digitizing more than 250 Mongolian children's books and installing a computer server in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital….

The website has appeal to large urban US school systems, whose student populations speak dozens of languages. It also provides a solution for parents who may not have time to take their children to a library, or for parents whose first language is not English and who want their children to read books published in their native tongue.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Aerial photography Florida

Aerial photography Florida is a fascinating collection of photographs offering a bird's eye view of Florida during most of the 20th century (1930-2000). The initial digitization project in which 100,000 photographs were digitized was funded by a grant from 2002-2004 to the University of Florida Libraries. They plan to continue adding materials to the site. There is more information about the collection including the technical aspects of the image capture methods and hardware on the website.

One browses the collection via a zoomable map of Florida. As you zoom in you colored dots represent photos that are listed in the lower part of the window. Clicking on the camera icon allows the viewer to see the photograph. There are choices for magnification. There is also a search interface that allows input of place names that is shown after clicking on the cryptic "Basic" in blue letters at the bottom of the screen. However, I couldn't get it to return any results to me.

This site is designed for researchers, both historical and contemporary as well as educators and students. The site has curriculum materials for teachers to use.

Overall it is a nice project, rich in content. Unfortunately the user interface, while innovative in its idea, pales compared to other map applications like Google Maps and will probably frustrate users familiar with the fast response of that technology. Since searching didn't work for me, I can't determine whether that would be a better way to access the collections.

19th-Century American Sheet Music Digitization Project

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
19th Century American Sheet Music Digitization Project

The UNC-Chapel Hill Music Library has digitized and made available 82 volumes (3300 pieces) of 19th-century American sheet music and made it available online. Each volume consists of a young woman from the time period’s favorite pieces of sheet music that had been gathered and bound into a volume. The audience is specifically stated as those using this collection for class use and research in a variety of disciplines, including Music, History, Art, English, Political Science, Sociology, and the curriculum in American Studies. Not much background information is provided about the project, though information regarding the importance of the collection, as well as historical background on three of the volumes is provided. Users may search or browse by title, volume, composer, or keyword. Interestingly, not all of the contents of each volume have digital images available, but even just the metadata that is provided is interesting in the history it represents.

Minnesota Digital Library

• Project name:

Minnesota Digital Library

Organization name:

The Minnesota Digital Library Coalition

• Description:

The Minnesota Digital Library presents the user with a collection of the state’s unique resources and special collections. “Minnesota Reflections” contains more than 20,000 images and documents shared by more than 75 cultural heritage organizations across the state.

• Audience:

The site’s intended audience is researchers, educators, students, and the public.

• Background information:

The website offers this background information: “’Minnesota Reflections’ is the initial digitization effort of the MDLC. This digitization project, conducted from 2004-05, involved more than 50 participating historical societies, special archives, and libraries. The MDLC and participants digitized more than 6,000 unique photographs and images, collected the information on these images, and is creating a searchable database to help people access and use them. Search Minnesota Reflections at

Administratively, the Minnesota Digital Library is a grant-funded project operating under the umbrella of the MINITEX Library Information Network.”

Presentation, Metadata and Review:

One thing I like about this project is that it devotes a portion of the site to “Standards and Practices” including metadata guidelines, curriculum standards, program best practices and a project guide. This is an especially great resource for information students and professionals that I really enjoyed exploring.

I also really like that so much of the site is devoted to education and offers such great teacher resources.

The collections themselves can be browsed by region, by topic or by collection. There is a wide range of topics covered, including agriculture, religion, social issues and Native Americans, among others. There are also basic and advanced search tools. On the opening page for Minnesota Reflections, there is a section titled “Spotlight” that features links to different items within the collection with a brief introduction. This is a great way to introduce materials to the user that he or she wouldn’t have found otherwise.

The items themselves are cataloged using CONTENT software. Items are displayed with a thumbnail image alongside their title, subject and description. The metadata for each item includes title, creator, contributor, description, date of creation, general subject, specific subject, local subject, Minnesota city or township district, Minnesota county, state, country, contributing institution, rights management and local identifier. One of my favorite features is that the user can save items to his or her “Favorites” for easy access later on.

I really appreciate the links to related sites and organizations offered in addition to the artifacts themselves. This site is truly a wonderful resource.

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Project name:

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Organization name:

The Lemelson Center, Smithsonian Institution

• Description:

The Lemelson Center offers this mission statement, which I think sums up the website very well:

To document, interpret, and disseminate information about invention and innovation

To encourage inventive creativity in young people

To foster an appreciation for the central role of invention and innovation in the history of the United States


The site is devoted to showcasing the invention-related holdings of hundreds of archives throughout the United States. The collection covers inventions from the medical, consumer, scientific, household and legal fields, among others.

• Audience:

As one can gather from reading the mission statement, the Lemelson Center’s online project is geared toward young people and students, but anyone can find interest in this site. The variety of topics is so vast; the site appears to include everything! The “Centerpieces” portion of the website leads the user to virtual exhibits ranging from watches to guitars to artificial hearts.

• Background information:

The website offers this background information: “The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation was founded in 1995 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History through a generous gift from the Lemelson Foundation.”


Presentation and Review:

The website is divided into a few different sections: “About Us,” which gives the user background information on the project, “Centerpieces,“ where virtual exhibits are featured, “Events,” “Resources,” with educational matierals, research opportunities, articles, archives, books and websites, among other things, “Video and Audio” and a “Press Room” with links to different press releases.

Records can be searched by subject, inventor name, and collection title or repository name. A simple keyword search will reveal what materials exist on the chosen subject, which institution holds them, and how to contact them for more information.

Each exhibit is different, with no standard format or layout, which makes the site lack some cohesion. I found that a little overwhelming as I explored the site; I would prefer some uniformity or standardization in the way exhibits are presented. Nonetheless, the site is an incredible resource, with great stories attached to each artifact. One of my favorite exhibits was “Inventing Ourselves” where one can “Explore how wearable and implantable inventions for the body are changing the way we live, and how we think of ourselves as human beings.” So cool!

One feature I really like is that on the side of each page, under the menu, is a little “teaser” piece of information that the user can click on to be lead to a different part of the site. (For instance “Who invented the electric guitar? Find out in our virtual exhibit” or “Did Edison invent anything besides a light bulb? See what other bright ideas he had.”) I think this is a great way to get users to explore the collection deeper.

The Podcasts under the “Video & Audio” section are also a great feature that I really liked.

Overall, this is a great website, though a bit overwhelming!

National Library of Australia Digital Collection

Organization name:

National Library of Australia

Description of what was digitized:

Pictures, rare historical maps, early Australian sheet music, manuscripts, selected printed works from the collection and selected audio recordings.
As of December 129,088 items across all collection and formats have been digitized.

Audience for the project:

The audience spans from scholars, to researchers, students and general public. Anybody interested in Australia’s cultural heritage.


According to the website “the library is committed to maintaining and promoting appropriate standards for creating, managing and providing access to its digital collections.”

There is an in-depth description about used metadata.

The digital collection is using the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) metadata standard, which is closely based on the Dublin Core standard.

Audiences seeking more information can read the Website Metadata Strategies and Guidelines.

Digital Capture Standards:
This digital collection uses quality control assessment and a frequently updated Digital Capture Standard. Here are described among others, the digital capture equipment, the format for images and more.

Presentation of digital objects:

Pictures: Pictures can be viewed either using the Picture catalog site or browsing through different collection organized by themes.
Additionally one can search for pictures via the search functions.

All pictures can be ordered or links to the picture can be emailed. Pictures can saved and downloaded for research purpose only. For all other purposes users need to fill out a permission request form.

Maps: as with the pictures, they can be viewed either by a thematically ordered collection or via the digital collection map site. Most of the maps zoom over a function.
All other digitized items are presented in a similar fashion – either through the digital collection catalog or by browsing through selected showcases.

Project background information
This site offers a tremendous amount of background information.

For example it describes digitization guidelines, digitization policy, digitization infrastructure and much more.

What I liked:

This site offers many great collections, but the most interesting for me was how thoroughly and well the site offered its background information. This is extremely helpful for anybody involved in digital libraries or for people like myself currently studying digital libraries.

UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection

• Project name:

UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection

Organization name:

University of California, San Francisco

• Description:

This website showcases a collection of 400 Japanese woodblock prints on the subject of health and medicine, the largest collection of such in the United States. The prints “provide a window into traditional Japanese attitudes toward illness, the human body, women, religion and the West.” Themes include contagious disease, drug advertisements (the largest category), foreigners and disease, religion and health and women’s health. The majority of the prints date mid-to late nineteenth century, just as Japan’s self-imposed isolation was ending and the country opened to the West. The collection shows a gradual shift in attitudes towards health and medicine, from “reliance on gods and charms… to the adoption of Western, scientific principles as the basis for medical knowledge.”

• Audience:

The audience for this collection would be scholars of Asian medicine, the history of medicine, Asian religion and Japanese art. It has also attracted the interest of health care practitioners, especially those interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine or Alternative Medicine.

• Background information:

The website offers this background information: “In 1963, UCSF Provost and University Librarian, later Chancellor, John B. de C. Saunders, M.D., started the East Asian Collection, which was then developed over the next thirty years by Librarian/Curator Atsumi Minami. Mrs. Minami traveled to Japan and China and purchased items from various smaller, private collections, acquiring the woodblock prints as well as hundreds of rare Chinese and Japanese medical texts, manuscripts, and painted scrolls.

In 2003, the California Digital Library funded the project to make digital images of the prints available online. The project involved translating titles of the prints into English, updating catalog information, digitally photographing the prints, and ingesting the metadata and digital images into the CDL's website Calisphere.”

Presentation and Review:

The user can browse the entire collection, or browse by theme. There is a search function, but no advanced search options are given, unfortunately. The site offers some search tips to users, which I think is a great idea.

The images themselves are vibrant and beautiful! A brief list of details is given for each print including the title in Japanese and English, the creator/contributor, the date and the contributing institution. Clicking for more information brings the user to a different page with further details like the subject, type, physical description and origin. Printer-friendly versions of the images are offered, with or without details. Browsing by theme is a great option. A brief introduction is given for each theme on its opening page, ending with a link to further information.

References are listed should the user wish to find more information on the subject, but I wish the site offered links to related pages.

Krieger's Watercolors of Fungi

Organization name
University of Michigan Herbarium

Description of what was digitized
The collection consists of images of watercolors created by Louis C. C. Krieger from 1918 to 1928 for the collection of Dr. Howard A. Kelly. The watercolors depict various types of fungus. The library contains 332 records and 365 images.

Audience for the project (stated or assumed)
The library is designed for mycologists and other interested in studying fungi.

Type of project background information available on the site
Documentation for the project is located on the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service page ( However, most of the documentation is related to the software, DLXS, with little information available about the actual conversion process or metadata types. The library does offer a digital conversion service and information on processes are available on the Digital Conversion Services page (

Is it easy to use?
The collection is very easy to use, if not very pretty. The main page offers links to browse the images or records or to search the collection. The search function allows you to search by genus, species, scientific name, common name, or keyword anywhere. The browse function allows you to sort the images by genus, species, common name, or age and allows you to view 20 records at at time. The images are displayed with a caption, though the user can also view the captions with no image or the images with the first part of the record. In the images with record display, 20 thumbnails are displayed and the selected record is displayed to the side. Clicking on the image displays a resizable version of the watercolor with a few details about it. Clicking on the description tab displays the entire metadata record. The navigation for the library is intuitive and easy to use, though hyperlinking searches from the record would improve its accessibility.

Notable New Yorkers

Organization name
Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office (OHRO)

Description of what was digitized
The collection consists of ten of the oral histories collected by the OHRO. Both the audio and a transcription are available for use. Included with the oral histories are a variety of photographs of the individuals.

Audience for the project (stated or assumed)
This project is intended for New York historians. However, the individuals included in the library have had an affect far beyond the borders of New York and will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the US.

Type of project background information available on the site
The OHRO site offers a lot of detail regarding the collection and its practices for collecting oral histories, but little information on how the items were converted and what if any metadata was used.

How are the digital assets presented?
The Notable New Yorkers collection is beautifully presented, but appears to be more of an online exhibit than a digital library. However, there is a lot to be learned from a site like this. Physical libraries generally include exhibits of current materials, so creating a display of notable material that brings together disparate pieces from various collections with additional description might make increase use and understanding of the collection.

The Museum of Musical Instruments

• Project name:

The Museum of Musical Instruments

Organization name:

The Museum of Musical Instruments

• Description:

The Museum of Musical Instruments is an online collection of fretted musical instruments that looks at the relationship between art and the musical instrument. The website offers an interesting mix of history, art and design expressed through instruments, artists and music. Online collections include “Dreadnoughts,” “Rebels and Rolling Stones,” “From Ragtime to Riches,” “Getting Hip in the Roaring 20’s,” “Roots of Music in the Jazz Era” and more. The user can also find exhibitions (given at fine institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts, The Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art) like “The ZigZag Moderne Style,” “Bound for Glory: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie,” and “The Private Life of Mark Twain” among others.

• Audience:

This website isn’t geared toward any particular audience; anyone with an interest in music, musicians, musical instruments, art or design will probably appreciate all this site has to offer.

• Background information:

MoMI offers the following background information: “Hank Risan and Bianca Soros established MoMI in early 2000, choosing to build a virtual museum to reach the largest possible audience of music lovers throughout the world. Risan and Soros feel that guitars are an enlightening medium for examining our society, conveying important developments in technology, communication, and fashion. These soulful and beautiful icons of our culture now have a home where they will be preserved for enjoyment by future generations. Plans for constructing a physical museum are underway, with groundbreaking ceremonies tentatively scheduled for Spring 2002.” (Source:

• Presentation:

The website is divided into several sections: Collections, Exhibitions, Our History, Articles, and Manufacturers. The home page gives a good introduction to the site and promotes several of the site’s collections and exhibitions. Choosing a collection brings the user to a new page where photos of different instruments are laid out with their model name and year. Selecting one of these examples brings up a larger photograph of the instrument; the user can hover his cursor over different parts of the image for a highly detailed zoom-view. A brief description of the instrument is given, along with related articles and links.

• Review:

My favorite part of this site is the integration of art history with musical instrument design. I love the material on different art movements’ impact on musical instrument aesthetics and the examples given (Van Gogh, Cezanne, and so on).

The biggest problem with this site is that there is no search function. I enjoyed browsing through the collections but wish there were a way to search for exactly what I was looking to find without having to go collection-to-collection.

Also, I wish the site included a glossary of terms for people who are not familiar with the various anatomies of the instruments featured or with different music vocabulary.

Columbia River Basin Ethnic History Archive

• Project name:

Columbia River Basin Ethnic History Archive

Organization name:

This site is a collaboration between five institutions located in the Columbia River Basin: Washington State University Vancouver, the Idaho State Historical Society, Oregon Historical Society, Washington State Historical Society, and Washington State University Pullman.

• Description:

The Columbia River drains a 259,000-square-mile basin that includes territory in seven states -- Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah -- and one Canadian province. This website “brings together selected highlights of the ethnic collections from leading repositories in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.” The site also offers tutorials on information literacy and attempts to spark an online discourse on ethnic history sources and issues. Some of the ethnic groups featured are African Americans, Basque Americans, Chinese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans, Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, and Russian Americans. A historical background is given for almost each of these groups (for certain groups, the historical overview is still in the works), with select images along side the text to support each story. Native Americans are not included in the collection, but the website offers links to other projects devoted to representing Native American history and culture.

• Audience:

The audience for this website would be anyone interested in the history of the Columbia River Basin and the immigrants who found a home there. The site would also hold special interest to someone looking to improve their information literacy skills, as well as teachers who offer instruction on information literacy, who will be able to find lesson plans in the “Tutorials” section.

• Background information:

The site offers the following background information: “Funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the collaborative project sought to create a database with thematic coherence that would engage online researchers in thinking more deeply about the significance of the rich primary resources available in museums, libraries, and historical societies. We also hoped the project would serve as a model for other institutions that wanted to share collections and stimulate public interest in and use of those collections.”

• Presentation:

The website is divided into four sections. Section I offers an introduction to the website and gives background information on the project as well as a map of the region. Section II takes the user to the database, where he or she will find selected documents, reports, records, maps, photographs, newspapers, artifacts, and oral history interviews. The entire collection can be browsed using CONTENTdm, where documents are presented as a thumbnail with their title, subject and description. Section III will lead the user to tutorials and lesson plans. Finally, Section IV holds the discussion forum, where topics include “Discrimination and Equal Rights,” “Family Life, Religion and Social Customs,” “Immigration and Migration,” “Work and Labor,” “Ethnicity and Race” as well as sections devoted to each individual ethnic group. There are roughly 4,000 users registered with the site.

• Additional Information:

The CRBEHA gives general history links and a list of resources used by the project in acquiring information about each ethnic group.

• Metadata:

The metadata used includes the title, description, date, subject, type, coverage, collection source, identifier, repository, relation, contributors, project identifier, language, format and rights.

• Review:

I really enjoyed browsing this site and exploring the rich cultural heritage of the Columbia River Basin. The tutorials really set this site apart from the other digital libraries I have explored. I love that the project tries to promote information literacy and even offers teaching guides. What a great resource!

Dorothea Lange Collection 1919-1965

The Dorothea Lange Collection was created by The Oakland Museum of California to allow researchers, students and other interested persons access to the huge body of documentary photographic work by Dorothea Lange. This collection of nearly 21,000 items spans the work of Dorothea Lange from her early Native American photographs through her work with migrant workers in the 30's up to her later years traveling the world. The images are available in thumbnail or high-resolution versions with significant metadata. However, the hi-res jpg files are not very high resolution. Most that I looked at were less than 100 KB. Another criticism of the site is that it is very slow to browse through. Even when using the search function, which is very handy, the results are displayed as text only and images can only be viewed by clicking on them.

According to the sites Scope and Content page, the negatives were digitized in the 1990's. The entire negative as captured, giving additional information to the researcher.

It is wonderful to see all of this great photographers work available online.

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

Project name and URL

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

Organization name

The University of Florida's Department of History

Description of digitized materials

This collection is made up more than 85,000 pages of transcribed documents, originating from over 4000 interviews with individuals about various elements of Florida history. At this time, only the transcribed pages are available on the project's site.

Audience for the project

The stated audience for this project includes research scholars, students, journalists, genealogists, and other interested groups.

Presentation of digital assets

The information is organized into multiple categories, including:
  • Native Americans
  • African Americans in Florida
  • Civil rights activities in St. Augustine (1964)Q
  • Women in Florida
  • Pioneer settlers
  • Florida education
  • The citrus industry
  • The Florida Highway Patrol
  • Florida politicians
  • Florida newspapers
  • Growth Management in Florida
  • History of the University of Florida
  • The UF Law School
  • The UF Medical School
  • The Civilian Conservation Corps
  • African Americans in the Korean War
  • Florida business leaders
  • History of Florida's Water Management Districts
  • The UF Women's Studies Program

Individual files contain the following metadata fields:
  • Bibliographic ID
  • Volume ID
  • Resource Identifier
  • Title
  • Publication Date
  • Source Institution
  • Holding Location
  • Attribution Statement
  • Subject
  • Spatial Coverage
  • Subcollection
Is it easy to use?

Yes. The main interface allows users to conduct either a basic or an advanced search, and they are able to search across all collections or select individual collections. The site offers searching tips, and the presentation of the information is simple. The site is very easy to navigate.