Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Street and Smith Dime Novel Cover Art Collection at SU

The rigid constraints set by Street & Smith Company have laid the foundation for the growth of professional illustrators, including Harvey Dunn, Joseph Leyendecker, etc. Street & Smith, which is known as “fiction factory”, has produced a variety of popular literature, such as dime novels, adventure stories, pulp magazines, books in series for juveniles, and so on. The Smith and Street Preservation and Access Project has scanned images of all dime novels and selected serial covers for microfilming.

The digital products of this project can be searched and accessed by various fields, including keywords, series title, and author through the search engine. The user can also browse the entire collection, in which all the images were arranged according to the alphabetical order of the image titles. The images presented in each record include a thumbnail of the cover of a particular item and larger images of a particular part of that given cover. The red square in the thumbnail pointed out which part of the cover was zoomed in to present the larger images.

Representative images of the Street and Smith collection have been selected and presented in the Dime Novel Cover Art Gallery. However, the user may not be able to efficiently navigate the representative samples because the index of the Dime Novel Cover Art Gallery was not well-constructed. The entries were composed of the assigned image numbers. They were not informative enough to tell what they will lead the user to. Additionally, the images were not grouped according to clear classification criteria, such as the styles of illustration or the techniques used. Nor did the website tell the user how the images presented in this gallery were representative. The user may not understand why these images can represent the entire collection.

There is also a Yellow Kid Image Gallery that allows users to browse the images of the yellow kid. The headings of the entries of the index of the Yellow Kid Image Gallery were primarily harvested from the texts presented in the yellow clothes of the kid in the images. The entries were placed in the brackets if the headings were not directly acquired from the images. The headings of this index are relatively more informative and may thus enable successful navigation, though their orders were not clear.

The Images of the Street & Smith Company in the website allows users to browse the inner workings of the Street & Smith Co. However, the provenance of these images was not noted. There is only a brief description embedded in the entries of the index. Information about the creators (i.e. the photographers and the scanners of the photos), the creation dates, the copyrights and the restrictions, of these images were not presented. The authenticity of these images may thus be controversial. Further, there are no navigation tools, such as the icons that guide the user to previous pages, next images, or the index of these images. It may thus hinder navigation.

There are also an inventory to the Street and Smith editorial records and the lists of radio scripts.

We can also notice that the information about how to get the permission of using the digital images was presented in the “rights” field of the individual records in the collection list. It may be helpful to place links to copyright statements or terms of use in the web pages that present the images, such as the Dime Novel Cover Art Gallery, the Yellow Kid Image Gallery, and the Images of the Street & Smith Company.

According to the last modified information presented in the website, we can find that the Street and Smith Collection has not been maintained and updated recently. It seems that this digital collection has been ignored after the project was completed. The long-term maintenance and the preservation of this collection may not be taken into consideration when the project was initiated and may thus not be included in the routine tasks of the special collection department at SU.

Finally, we can find that each digital collection at SU has its own web page in which all the products of a particular digitization project were lumped together. It resulted in long web pages of listing and therefore decreased the effectiveness of navigation. The design of websites and navigation tools (i.e. indexes and sitemaps), and the organization and presentation of the navigation tools and the digital products should be seriously considered when planning a digitization project.

Min-Chun Ku at Syracuse on Feb. 13, 2007

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