Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Old Woodies: For Enthusiasts of Wood-bodied Cars & Trucks

The town I live in, San Clemente, is known for being a good place to surf. The entire beach stereotype follows: barbecues, Beach Boys, and old Woodie cars. There are festivals displaying these cars, parades showing off these cars, it's a hobby for most enthusiasts, and it fits the beach/southern California lifestyle. Wanting to learn more about this fascination in the culture I live in, I decided to look it up.

The site Old Woodies displays many different examples of these cars. These cars aren't necessarily old, but many are. Any moveable mass covered in wood, including busses and bikecars, is addressed. The site goes to the effort to organize and describe each photograph in their collection. It also displays ownership rights, and a link to the reference where possible. At the bottom of most collections are a list of links related to the reviewed topic. There may also be print readings to reference as well. A search is available to specify results.

There are a couple of problems with the website itself. Whenever the viewer moves the mouse over a frame, the background color of that frame turns to a dark brown wood background. Very annoying with dark text links as well. Usually only one picture is available for each car, which may not provide the best documentation, but it's better than nothing.

Mark

Sunday, May 07, 2006

For Profit Digitization

Well, for my last post, I thought I'd search around to see if there were any digitized collections of library/librarian artifacts so I "googled" those terms...and it led to some interesting results. Right near the top of the page I selected a link to a collection of digitized documents relating to the civil rights movement in this country. This can be found in the archive of a site called The Smoking Gun. This site appears to publish, willy-nilly, any scanned documents it can get its hands on (through Freedom of Information Act). In effect, they collect documents that are interesting but don't themselves have a collection that they decided to digitize. In addition, it is a sponsored site and you see ads as you look around at mug shots of civil rights heroes, Lenny Kravitz' lawsuit against a toilet manufacturer, and other sundry items.. I'm not giving you the web addresses here because I really do think you should look for yourself!

Archive.org: Live Music Archive

Ok, I guess I have one more blog to do (how did I get so behind?). This digital collection is my favorite. Not only is the collection informative, but also useful and entertaining. If you like live music, this is the cat's ass...whatever that means.

Here is the site's description:


Welcome to the Live Music Archive. etree.org is a community committed to
providing the highest quality live concerts in a lossless, downloadable format.
The Internet Archive has teamed up with etree.org to preserve and archive as
many live concerts as possible for current and future generations to enjoy. All
music in this Collection is from trade-friendly
artists and is strictly noncommercial, both for access here and for any further
distribution. Artists' commercial releases are off-limits. This collection is
maintained by the etree.org community.

Remember the word "lossless" from our class lecture and reading?

On the site, you can click on the "Browse bands in the Live Music Archive" link. What is displayed is a listing of all the bands/artists that are represented in the collection. The list is quite large. When you choose one of the bands you will get a listing of the years that are represented for that artist in the collection. For example, by clicking on Grateful Dead (2927 shows!), 1977, then Grateful Dead Live at Barton Hall, Cornell University (that's just three easy clicks!), you can listen to an awesome performance. Most shows are available for download in multiple formats. Live music aficionados prefer lossless formats like Ogg Vorbis, Flac or Shorten (SHN). I usually go for the mp3 format at 192 kbps or greater (human ears cannot detect much above that). In some cases, the artists have asked that the shows are available for streaming only, which is a recent decision by the Grateful Dead regarding soundboard recordings (boo!). Anyway, if you email me I can also recommend great Umphrey's McGee or Benevento/Russo Duo shows. : )

Ernest

DSpace at MIT

DSpace at MIT is neat. Some of you may have heard of DSpace, which is open-source software for developing and displaying a digital repository. You can find out more at this link. MIT has worked with Hewlett Packard on this software and DSpace @ MIT ia a good example of the tool.

DSpace @ MIT is a collection of documents produced by MIT faculty and researchers. It is a place where the intellectual properties of the institution can be collected and made available to MIT students and faculty, and to the outside world. Many other colleges and universities use this technology. One of the key features is the ability for departments (in this case) to organize the information in a way that best suits the department...without jeopardizing the user's ability to locate what he or she is looking for.

While my first time at the sight required a little time to orient myself and figure out what I was looking at, it soon became clear that the mechanisms for browsing and searching are robust and present wherever I chose to navigate. I recommend checking out the Advanced Search option, and also the Help and About DSpace links on the left.

If you haven't heard of DSpace or you have heard about it but don't know much about it, I recommend you check it out. You might be using the software in the future. It is one of the few digital collection sites that has excited me.

Ernest

Stanford University Libraries

This digital collection is worth checking out...not becuase it is a "must see" collection, but becuase of the technology used to view the collection. Allow me to explain.

When you click on the link provided in the title of this post, you find a sight that mentions several collections that are available to view...by means of the Luna Insight Insightbrowser.

Ok, so they use a third party java application that you need to download to view the collection. So you sigh, right? You can't just view the collection, you have to work at it.

Again, I am presenting this collection becuase it is slightly different and a project you work on might consider such an approach.

When I realized this, I thought that maybe by doing the extra work, my effort would be rewarded with an excellent browsing, seraching, and viewing experience. Your experience may vary, but that was not the case for me. Let me explain my experience:

I clicked on the Download Luna Insight link on the left. I right clicked on the link to Save Link As and proceeded to download the application. It didn't take long to download. I didn't know where the file was saved to so I had to Search for it. I double-clicked on the executable and proceeded to install the file. I was amused to see they used InstallAnywhere as the installer becuase I once used it to create an install for software that my employer develops. The install process was sort of a pain with the anti-virus software on my computer becuase the install would halt whenever a jar file needed to be scanned. At each prompt I said ok. I started the application, via the Start menu, and chose the Stanford collection. The pictures loaded, but again, my antivirus software had to check with me about it...quite a few times. You can also view the collection by clicking on the collection links in your browser. That is, if you have your Popup blocking checkbox unchecked. With some work I could view the collection. Was it the experience I had hoped for?

No. There was metadata associated with the pictures, but the option didn't offer much value. When you click on a thumbnail, the picture opens in another window (I hate that!). You can zoom in or print the image (yaa). I thought the Chicano Art collection had some interesting pieces. I couldn't browse through them though. Instead, I had to click on one, it would open in a new window, I would zoom in, then close that picture and choose another. If you're counting, that is a lot of clicks.

It was dreadful, but try it! Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live sketch where someone accidently drinks bad milk out of carton and says, "This milk is bad, try it."

Ernest

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Canadian Olympians from the Library & Archives Canada

As a huge sports fan, I wanted my last post to be something sports-related and luckily, I found this photo archive of Canadian Olympic athlete images from Library & Archives Canada.

The interface is rather straight-forward, with a search box, an advanced search option and four ways to browse (by name, by sport, by Olympic games and by medal) offered right on the lefthand side of the home page. The advanced search allows for searching through the various metadata elements applied to each picture. Once a picture is found, it can be enlarged. There is also a clear link to 'Images Copyright' that explains how the pictures can and can't be used.

Browsing could potentially be problematic due to the large number of images on the site. For instance, I just pulled up the 'O' photos under a search by athlete and there were 4,856 images. Since only six are displayed at a time, if you really don't know what you are looking for, it could take a lot of time to find something useful. Even if you do know what you are looking for, if there are a lot of 'hits', it still takes a while to see all the images with only six on a page. An option to show more images per page would be really nice! The advanced search, however, is great, and if you do know exactly what you might want, say down to the photographer and the date the photo was taken, you should be able to find the right picture very easily.

I think some of the pictures on this site were rather amazing. I love to see images of athletes in motion - both because it's impressive to see what the athletes are doing and also because it often requires some impressive photographic techniques.

In closing, one small problem with the site is that it hasn't been updated since 2004 and there was an Olympics held earlier in 2006. But, I imagine it takes some time to gather the images and create the metadata so I shouldn't complain too much.

Emma Goldman Papers

The online digital collection “The Emma Goldman Papers” is hosted by the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE. As the title states, Emma Goldman, famous feminist anarchist, is the focus of the collection. The main page of the collection is well laid out, broken up into a number of sections such as “Meet Emma Goldman,” “Publications of the Emma Goldman Papers Project,” “Primary Sources” and “Features.” Along the side of the main page is a “news” column with fairly recent updates on new additions to the collection. This feature impressed me, as a number of sites I’ve previously written on were created several years ago but never updated.

I was also struck by a paragraph in this column mentioning the collection’s dependence on donations for maintenence of the site, with a link to a tax-deductible donation page. The donation page is specifically for the Emma Goldman Papers project, and not a general page for all SunSITE collections, as I thought it would be. For donating at least $250, the project will send a contributor a matted archival photograph of Goldman. For donating $100, contributors are added to “Emma’s List,” which is then added to the book edition of the Emma Goldman Papers and also published on the website. I think these are great ideas for enticing interesting potential donators and making them feel their contributions are appreciated.

The collection itself features many photographs of Goldman, which are well-digitized and intriguing. Scattered throughout are small thumbnails of digitized newpaper articles from Goldman’s time, which are linked to larger versions on seperate pages. Unfortunately, these larger images are available in one size, which often contain small text that is not visible. This detracts from the success of the site.

Overall, the site is extremely interesting and is one that I plan on revisiting to learn more about Goldman. I appreciate the organized outline of the site, as it facilitates successful navigation through the collection. The site is well-maintained, and I found no broken links or missing pages. I recommend visiting this collection to anyone interested in learning more about Goldman and the fasinating times in which she lived.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project

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

http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/

The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project is an effort to digitize 6,000+ commercially produced musical and spoken cylinder recordings.

The recordings provide insight into the popular-culture of their day, the years surrounding the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries. Until now, however, they have been stored in the Department of Special Collections of the Donald C. Davidson Library at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and accessible only to those who visited the facility. With a $205,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, UC at Santa Barbara embarked on this digitization project to expand the potential audience and to preserve some delicate cylinders.

The program began with a pilot project in 2002 to assess the feasibility of digitizing the collection. The pilot showed that the project was feasible and that it held public interest and grant funding available. The project is still ongoing with recordings being added as they are converted and digitized. A full technical report (not yet published) will detail the many hurdles involved in digitizing.

The site’s content managers made the decision not to exclude any recordings from the digital collection. This includes poor quality recordings and some potentially offensive content. The original cylinders vary in their audio quality, and other institutions may have better recordings, but the purpose of this project was to make them publicly available, and bad recordings are better than no recordings. Because the collection managers believe that the recordings provide insight into the attitudes of the time, they have also included some recordings that they warn may be offensive to some listeners, especially vaudeville routines like “coon songs,” “rube sketches” and “Irish character songs.”

Cataloging conformed to standards set out by the library community and by Syracuse University’s already existing catalog of sound recordings.

The collection can be browsed or searched. The browsing page is very unsophisticated. The collection is not broken down into subsets. Rather, users may just peruse the list of 6204 records. Searching is also relatively simple. Users can search keyword, author, title, subject, year, and call number. There is no advanced search option.

The recordings can be listened to in streaming format, or downloaded as an mp3 or a wav.

TECHNICAL SPEFICATIONS
This site was unique among many I have looked at, in that it detailed the equipment, software, and file types used to create and maintain the digital collection. The project’s creators also used the site as a “soapbox” to lambaste poor software.
Analog → digital transfer at 44/1 KHz & bit depth of 24 bits
Files edited & normalized (decrackled, dehissed, debuzzed)
16 bit derivative file created
Surrogates made in .mp3 & .mov formats
6,000+ original recordings
36,000 audio files (masters & derivative)
2.0 TB disc space
Linux based server
Uses Z39.50 to communicate with OPAC
Streamed from G5 Apple Xserve running Quicktime Streaming Server.

Digitize Local Food

We’re at the end of our semester. I have one more digitized niche to find. Good grief! How many questions about digitization have we discussed? Why Digitize? Who is the audience? How will the audience find us? Is there something significant about the collection?

What if we don’t have copyrights? What if we do? Will digitization make the collection more accessible? Are there value-added benefits to the institution? What if nobody visits our site? What works? What doesn’t? Why does my brain feel like final exam jello?

Wait a minute…is the town where your library is located famous for some product used the World over? Does the manufacturer have a museum? Does the museum have a Web site? Is there always room in a digitized niche for a Librarian?

Jell-O’s corporate Web site provides examples of what can be digitized given enough time, money, server space, and bandwidth but there’s a link on the corporate site that’s far more fun.

The JELL-O ® Museum at http://www.jellomuseum.com is physically located behind the LeRoy Historical Society’s building in LeRoy, New York. The site is presented as a service of the LeRoy Historical Society, the LeRoy Business Association and a local computer products company. “Copyright & copy; 1997 LeRoy Historical Society and WEJ Ret (5/00). All Rights Reserved thru 2006.”

It’s not a complicated Web design. It’s loaded as one long continuous, scroll down page. It’s a good example to study as a basic, yet useful, informative, and fully functional, digitization project but it should be viewed as a project that would benefit from improved organization, pagination, and librarian style cataloguing.

The Jell-O site is a thinking cap jiggler. In our own libraries what do we have about locally produced products? If nearby niche museums already have projects, maybe we should check our archives for materials that would benefit from digitization and that the local niche project would find valuable and useful to include -- if the goal is to improve access to materials.

Ah, the history of Jell-O (including historic recipes) in a digitization starter package. The whole world can visit! And according to the site counter, more than 300,000 people have.

I rest my niche.

-Y

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

National Gallery of the Spoken Word

Here is a “collection of collections.” Each gallery is in itself a collection. The audio component of these collections is unique and exciting. Any of these files would enhance a history lesson.

“The National Gallery of the Spoken Word (NGSW) is an ongoing five year research project funded under the Digital Library Inititiative II spearheaded by the National Science Foundation. The NGSW is creating an online fully-searchable digital library of spoken word collections spanning the 20th century at HistoricalVoice.org. NGSW provides storage for these digital holdings and public exhibit “space” for the most evocative collections. From Thomas Edison’s first cylinder recordings and the voices of Babe Ruth and Florence Nightingale to Studs Terkel’s timeless interviews and the oral arguments of the US Supreme Court, the collections of the NGSW digital library cover a variety of interests and topics. Designed as an expansive repository of aural resources, Historicalvoices.org will grow to include many more collections from partnering institutions around the country and the world. One of the primary goals of the NGSW is the development of a rich set of exhibits and educational curricula that fully incorporate sound files.”

http://www.historicalvoices.org/index.php
“A substantial portion of our cultural heritage from the 20th century is recorded in enormous collections of spoken-word materials. Yet much of it may be lost or remain hidden away in archives and private collections, making the voices inaccessible to students, teachers, scholars, and the general public. The purpose of Historical Voices is to create a significant, fully searchable online database of spoken word collections spanning the 20th century - the first large-scale repository of its kind. Historical Voices will both provide storage for these digital holdings and display public galleries that cover a variety of interests and topics.”

These are very nice collections…I love hearing audio recordings of those no longer with us…capturing moments in history. To listen to the audio files I downloaded Real Player. [http://www.real.com] The audio files themselves stream to your desktop—you do not download the files.

There are seven galleries featured in this collection, a few of which are:

History and Politics Out Loud, http://www.hpol.org. HPOL offers transcriptions along with the audio files. This is especially nice where the audio is difficult to hear. You may browse the files on HPOL by date, speaker, and title;

Studs Terkel: Conversations with America, http://www.studsterkel.org. The Studs Terkel gallery doesn’t offer transcriptions but does include a brief synopsis of each collection; and

The Earliest Voices collection at http://www.historicalvoices.org/earliest_voices/edison.html is an amazing glimpse of history including Edison’s first recording (one of the first recordings ever), in 1878, of animal sounds. Other notables in this gallery include Booker T. Washington, William Taft, and William McKinley. Although this collection states that transcripts with sound are available, I could not display the transcripts. There is also some background and biographical information included on this site, however, I was not inclined to read it—I found the small white font on the dark background to be difficult on my eyes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to display the page for the Flint Sit-Down Strike: http://www.historicalvoices/flint/ .

Listen and enjoy!

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Within the Library of Congress' American Memory collection, is a wonderfully preserved collection of early American baseball card collection. This collection features over 2100 cards of various players, assorted by their names, teams, card sets, league the player played in, and the team the player played for. The cards were donated to the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress in 1954, originally from the larger card collection of Benjamin K. Edwards. The Library of Congress claims that they are not aware of any copyright protection of the baseball cards themselves, although they leave the door open for possible copyrightable material printed on the card.

Over 2100 major and minor league baseball players are featured within the collection. These cards are referred to as "tobacco cards", cards that were distributed in cigarette packs, in an effort to make the packages stiffer and for marketing purposes. To the collector, these cards are worth a significant amount of money. The rarity of their existence now in any condition would be very sought after to any collector. Photographs of players were rarely used; many of the cards depict drawn baseball players, sometimes in action shots. The information available on the backs of these cards sometimes provide a short biography of the current player, but sometimes there is no text available on the back at all. Sometimes the backs of the cards were generic throughout the set, and either only advertised the tobacco the card accompanied, or listed the entire set of cards available by the tobacco company. This is quite different from the detailed statistical information available on the back of today's current baseball cards.

What intrigues me so much about this collection is the amount of information available for each card. Not only is the front and back of the card available for viewing, but each image is also available in a larger, more detailed image. Complete bibliographic information is available for each card represented, including name, date, team played for, other categories the card can be searched by, and the LC reference number. All cards within the collection can be searched by a variety of means, and in some cases, there are a number of different cards available to view from each player.

Initially, I had trouble understanding the importance of such a collection. After poking around the site for a while, I realized that this collection plays well within the scope of the much broader American Memory collection. These baseball cards represent a place in time in American history, important to be preserved and displayed as baseball is identifiable with America. This specific collection from a specific place and time not only documents an important American pasttime, but also provides complete bibliographical information about the collection. I think it's a wonderful collection worth recognition by any baseball enthusiast.

Mark Pernotto

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Japanese Ex-libris Stamps

At the end of the course, I would like to introduce you to a digitization project in Japan. Japanese Ex-libris Stamps http://www.ndl.go.jp/zoshoin/e/index_e.html is a digital exhibition of ex-libris ownership stamps imprinted in the books from the collections at the National Diet Library, Japan.

The primary purpose of Japanese ex-libris ownership stamps is to indicate the ownership of the books just like bookplates in Western countries. Through these stamps, however, we can learn about not only the provenance of the book but also the book itself, its owner, and the history of the period.

During this semester, I have been looking for an interesting Japanese digitization projects that is made fully available in English, but I could find very few projects. This digital exhibition was originally created in Japanese and a selected portion was translated into English. Sadly, only limited images, functions, and descriptions are available in the English version. For example, ex-libris stamps of only seven people are exhibited in the English version, while in the Japanese version there are 30. Also in the Japanese version, there is a time-line, which is not available in the English version, and you can see the ex-libris stamps of the person if you click his/her name shown in the time-line.

Nonetheless, you will still be able to find a variety of stamps different in size and colors at "Variations in Ex-libris Ownership Stamps."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Yup'ik Prayer Masks



My previous blog entry about the Smithsonian online Viking exhibit led me to other online exhibits from the National Museum of Natural History. One of several online exhibits I found was titled "Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making Prayer". This online exhibit displays 27 masks and ceremonial materials from the Native Alaskan Yup'ik people.

This exhibit was created jointly by a team of native Yup'ik people, researchers and museum professionals. Agayuliyararput or "Our Way of Making Prayer" was the first exhibit to bring Yup'ik masks and ceremonial materials to a wide audience in their native context. These ceremonial masks are similar to those of the Pacific Northwest Indians who create ceremonial masks in the form of animals. These animals are also represented in their totem poles.

During religious ceremonies the person becomes the animal's spirit represented in the mask. Yup'ik people call this spirit tuunrat (helping spirits). The "introduction" page of the exhibit better explains the use of Yup'ik masks:

"Masked dancing traditionally took place during the long Alaskan winter in the qasgiq or communal men's house. The masks were used for many ceremonial purposes; they were said to have made the unseen world visible. It is impossible today to know the specific meanings behind any type of mask, as the meaning was personal to the mask's creator and related to the story he or she wished to tell ... after Christian contact in the late nineteenth century, masked dancing was suppressed, and today it is not practiced as it was before in the Alaskan villages."

"View the Mask" displays the masks and ceremonial objects in the exhibit. Each picture gives a description of the mask, describing such things as: what the mask represents, what the colors and object on the mask mean, how the mask may have been used and who donated it.

I was surprised to find an online exhibit devoted to native ceremonial masks, since I don't think ceremonial masks and objects are often highlighted among native American collections. They are also rare to find in good condition. Like the Viking exhibit, this digital collection displays excellent photographs and enough information to peek the users' interest and desire to learn more.

Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga



"Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" is a traveling exhibition produced by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History that can now be viewed as online exhibit. This digital exhibit is very pleasing to the eye with detailed maps and several large, detailed images of Viking artifacts found throughout the web site.

A guided tour takes the visitor room by room that is set up chronologically from the beginning of exploration to discovering North America. Each page gives information on the time period among the Vikings and displays an image of an artifact from the exhibit.

Clicking on "Viking Voyage" offers an exciting interactive "voyage" from seven key Vikings journeys. Information of these journeys include: homelands, western isles, Iceland, Greenland, Markland and Helluland, Vinland, and Land of Legend. Each destination offers information on archaeology about that area, sagas, history and/or environment. These pages also offer beautiful detailed photos of artifacts, artwork, and scenic photographs.

Each section of this digital exhibit is easy to navigate and contains a wealth of information. Clicking on "Learning Center" offers the user a teacher's guide, bibliography, vocabulary, maps, Rune Alphabet, and an old Norse board game.

I thoroughly enjoyed navigating this online exhibit and, particularly, enjoyed viewing the artifacts. This web site is an excellent example of a user-friendly, well planned, and perhaps, well-funded digital project.

Marine Animals and more… Discovery of Sounds in the Sea

I was on a quest for a digital collection that made good use of audio clips. I found what I was looking for on the “Discovery of Sound in the Sea”. This site was created by University of Rhode Island's (URI) Office of Marine Programs (OMP) in partnership with Marine Acoustics, Inc. of Newport, RI, with funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The site contains a large collection of sounds of nature, particularly the sounds of marine animals, as recorded underwater. This collection is an example of an educational web site on a very specific topic. On one level, the site is structured like a text book on the topic of underwater sound, with an outlined flow you can follow if desired. The information follows one of three themes, “Science of Sound” - how sound is created, how it travels, and how it is measured; “People and Sound” - underwater sound as a means to an end for navigation, fish location, oceanographic research, and defense applications (the site is funded by the Navy, after all); and “Animals and Sound - how and why sound is produced by marine animals. The text material is supplemented with full color photos, diagrams, and audio clips when pertinent. There is in-depth content on this web site, much of it very technical and over my head. But now for the fun part - go to the Galleries: Audio link, where you can choose from the set of animal sounds that are available for QuickTime or other MP3 playback from the site.

The site designers wisely realized that the audio clips are the coolest thing on this site, and have provided that alternate navigation path called
"Galleries: Audio" to take you straight to the audio clips. They clearly gave some consideration to the knowledge level of their audience when creating this index. When accessed from the main gallery list, the index is sorted by categories: Marine Mammals, Marine Invertebrates, Fishes, Natural Sounds (as recorded underwater) and Anthropogenic Sounds. The common name of the animal is listed in each category, for example "Humpback Whale". For the user that is a more serious marine biologist, there is a link that displays an alternate index, sorting the animals into their family groups; the Balaenopteridae, for example, are grouped together.

I've bookmarked this site for future reference because it seems like a unique resource if I ever find myself looking for a detailed answer to any question related to how marine animals make sound, how we detect those sounds, or how we perform research using sound energy under water. And on top of that, it is fun to listen to the marine animal sounds on this site.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of the classic “picture of the day” Web sites. Because they are selecting, digitizing, explaining, and archiving a picture each day, I think this can be included as a digital library. The pictures are of galaxies, nebulae, stars and more. They have been putting up a new picture every day since June, 1995. You may still access every photo they have posted. It is hosted and supported by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NSF (the National Science Foundation) but there are mirror sites in over 15 different countries around the world.

This site is your basic, “old school” style site, with a no-frills interface. Each day there is a photo, with a brief description of the phenomenon. They do have free-text and directory search capabilities. They also have a statement on copyright that says that all copyright inquiries must go back to whoever is credited for the picture. Unfortunately, they do not offer thumbnail images, or have anything to preview the photos before checking out a page.

This is a site I remember looking at years ago. I was very surprised to see that it has not been overhauled to look less dated, but perhaps that is an indication that there is no money for such endeavors, or the creators feel they have better things to do (both are research astronomers). However for shear scope and astronomical wonder, this is site is a classic.

The Art of Asia


The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has a terrific exhibit on display, the “The Arts of Asia.” This is a permanent collection in the museum. They have done everything right in this exhibit. It is attractive, full of information, well-organized, and valuable for the browser and the researcher alike.

A helpful menu on the side breaks down the categories: History and Maps. Buddhism, Architecture, Ceramics, “Explore the collection” (which features popular segments of the collection), and Additional Resources. In each category, thumbnails of the different images all appear on one page, so you don’t have to click through images to get an idea of what the collection holds.

In terms of balance, I like the amount of information balanced with the images. You can truly learn more about a topic through maps, videos, timelines, and histories. They also give you the option of saving particular images to your “collection.” You can then email your collection to yourself or others. However, you can not save your collection for future visits. You may also email an e-postcard of many of the images.