Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Digitization Projects in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan

Background
The National Palace Museum is located in Taipei, Taiwan. It has initiated several digitization projects, which can be classified into three major categories, including digital archive, digital museum, and e-Learning. These digitization projects, which are a major part of the National Digital Archiving Program, started from 2001 and will be completed in 2008. These projects were serial and related with each other. Each project was systematically built upon the outcomes of and the infrastructure built by the previous projects.

Objects Digitized
Based on the departments of the objects belonged to (or the types of the origial objects), what were digitized in these digitization projects can be categorized into the following classes: 1. Antiquities; 2. Painting and Calligraphy; 3. Book and Documents. Additionally, according to the original formats of objects, what were digitized also include negatives, X-rays, and records.

Presentation of the Digital Assets
These digitization projects have created a lot of systems that contain the digital products. Some of them are available both in Chinese and in English, including: 1. The Digital Archive System of the National Palace Museum; 2. The 5 masterpieces of the National Palace Museum: This system selected the digital products of five objects and exhibited their 3D images. User can virtually visit the exhibition galleries, zoom in and zoom out the images, and check the subtleties of these objects from different perspectives. Additionally, the detailed images of objects presented in the systems not only allow scholars to conduct academic research, but also enable students to enjoy learning by "manipulating" the objects; 3. The Legend of Ju Ware; 4. Grand View - Painting and Calligraphy of the North Sung(960-1127); 5. Others: Other ditial systems, such as "The Golden Age of Chinese Craftsmanship" and "The Passage", can only be viewed in Chinese, though the introductions of these systems are available in English.

I was particularly impressed by the creative application of the digital products in some of these digitization projects. The digital images of some of the objects digitized and the images of relevant, real entities, and the accompanied descriptions were put together by the interesting stories developed in the e-Learning projects. Thus, 3D video files were designed for "edutainment." The digitization projects can therefore meet the institutional missions - education and preserve the valuable cultural heritage.

Audience
Since the information of these digitization projects and some of the systems created are available in English, the targeted audiences include both Taiwanese and people from around the world. The National Palace Museum also tried to apply its digital products into real education environments. The e-Learning projects have designed education programs based on the objects digitized and their contextual information, such as the historical backgrounds and the creators' biographies. These programs were designed for studens in elementary schools and high schools. The National Palace Museum also provided training and education for teachers. The digital products of the e-Learning projects were developed both in Chinese and in English. Thus, these projects have a wide ranges of users.

Application and Usage
The e-Learning projects in the National Palace Museum were launched and designed for creatively applying the digital products of the digital archives and the digital museums built in the previous projects into educational settings. E-Learning programs were developed based on the objects digitized and the contextual information. The digital products, including the digital images, the 3D videos, and the corresponded texts, were effectively integrated and connected by stories or games designed. With the creative applicaiton of other advanced technologies, such as RFID and touched screen, the learners can "physically" join in these e-Learning programs. For example, learners can anwser the questions about a particular object digitized by touching the screen of a big computerized box or view the digital images and related information of digitized objects on the screen of the other computerized box by "swinging" the "fans" that was controlled by RFID. The digital products were consciously advertised and exhibited in conferences and in other events.

Documentation
The digitization process was recorded. Documentary videos of the process, including the conservation and photographying, were developed. Additionally, the decisions made and related specifications in the digitization projects in the National Palace Museum, such as the changes of the metadata of the paintings, the name authority files of the Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy, the standardized digitization process of antiquities, the evaluation of the digital imaging systems, the testing of the digital cameras, and how the systems were selected, were well-documented and available to the public, though currently these documentation records can only be reached in Chinese.

Navigation
Though the information about the digitization projects in the National Palace Museum was well-organized and systematically presented in the website, the user has to navigate a lot of introdutory information before reaching the digital products contained in the systems. The online accessibility of the digital products may thus reduce. In addition, the systems in different digitization projects are lumped together by their titles. They are not classified into logically sound groups or clearly presented. Furthermore, the systems are not effectively integrated into one "portal." Thus, the user cannot do "one-stop shopping."

Additionally, these digitization projects have put emphasis on marketing since the outcomes and the digital products were frequently reported and exhibited in different events. It may improve the access and the usage of the digital products and enhance the visiting numbers of the physical exhibitions.

Overall, the digitization projects in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan were well-planned since temporary projects were systematically connected and can thus be viewed as serial stages of a comprehensive digitization program. The application of these digital images is also so stunnung. The contents that are of cultural importance and historical value are preserved and creatively disseminated through digitization and the application of digital products.

Min-Chun Ku at Syracuse on January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

King County Snapshots

King County Snapshots is a project that is the result of a collaborative effort between twelve partner institutions, and led by the Museum of History and Industry and the University of Washington Libraries. Billed as “a photographic heritage of Seattle and surrounding communities,” King County Snapshots contains 12,000 rural, suburban and urban historical images.

Users can search across collections or search a specific collection of an organization. Participating organizations include Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Eastside Heritage Center, Maple Valley Historical Society, Museum of History and Industry, Northwest Rail Museum, Puget Sound Historical Society, Rainier Valley Historical Society, Renton Historical Museum, Shoreline Historical Museum, University of Washington Libraries, White River Valley Museum and Wing Luke Asian Museum.

The project took place over a two-year period and was funded by a 2001 National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Explore Collections link has examples of sample searches to get a user started with the collection. The left-hand drop-down menu contains a list of broader categories such as disasters, labor and sports. Once selected, the user has the option of choosing a particular subcategory. For example, if one selects disasters, subcategories include earthquakes, rescues, shipwrecks and so on. Alternatively, the user can choose to select all disaster images, but depending on the topic, the results set may be unwieldy. Once an image is selected, it is accompanied by a comprehensive record that includes information such as title, photographer, date, notes, subject headings, location depicted, collection, ordering information and much more.

One of my favorite features of the site is the option of tagging images as favorites and then later generating your own favorite images page. The photos are stored as a thumbnail collection as a simple webpage on the server. For my favorite images, see here.

The site provides fairly extensive information on the project and its history, as well as additional resources on digitization. Under Copyright and Use, details are provided for fair use for educators and others who would like to obtain images for personal use.

Overall, I found the site to be quite comprehensive and fairly easy to search, with the options of simply browsing the collections, searching by keyword or advanced search. I did encounter broken links on one or two occasions, but fortunately it was not a common occurrence. King County Snapshots provides a fascinating look into the history of the greater Seattle area. The digitization of the images included in the project have surely facilitated to access to users who would not have otherwise seen them, including me.

Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961

Background:
This digitization project is organized by the National Library of New Zealand; the original digitized volumes being borrowed from the Alexander Turnbull Library which holds New Zealand’s documentary research collections. The digitized volumes scan the years 1868-1961 of the Transactions and Proceedings which contain a valuable record of New Zealand scientific research, including articles from key scientific figures such as Ernest Rutherford.

Technical Thrills:
The project is divided into two separate technical parts, one is the scanned images of the New Zealand Micrographics service who microfilmed and digitized the Transactions. This consisted of 400 ppi bitonal scans plus some 300 ppi color scans of illustrations, maps and photographs. The second part is the work of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre who used the scanned images to transcribe the data into TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) format. The process of transcribing the data was carried out using a process called 'double-keying' where two operators work on the same page, marking up the text in XML minimizing errors in transcription. PDFs of the articles are also available from the top of the page. The site apparently runs on the open source software product Apache Cocoon and features the full text search engine Lucene.

User experience:
I found the site easy to navigate as you can; browse by volume or author name, do a basic or advanced search, or view the scanned pictures in the picture gallery. The ability to do a full text search meant finding articles was a breeze. I didn’t have to download any additional software as a standard web browser was sufficient.

Most enjoyable aspect:
The particular advantage of this project was the dual aspect of the scanned object on the left with the easily searchable text on the right, this would be a great help to researchers who would be the primary users of this site. This would probably mean the site would be easier to use for people with disabilities as well as those who prefer to print out their articles.

Boston Streets

Project overview
Boston! A beautiful city full of history and culture. My family and I visited Boston 3 years ago. I was amazed with the designs and layout of the buildings in its downtown. When I came across Boston Streets in my research last semester, my interest on the city was even heightened.

How project started
It was a lunch discussion on the completion of a project on the history and topography of London. Nancy Richard, Director of the
Bostonian Society Library and Gregory Colati, Director of Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University discussed further a collaboration that created a significant project: Boston Streets: Mapping Directory Data .

Project
The project was in response to frequent requests for visual information on places in Boston. Contextual information on Boston photographs was another type of requests that pushed for the need of a mapping directory.

Details of project
The project involved scanning of thousands of pages of 11 Boston city directories between 1865 and 1955. With its complexity and detailed work on it, Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives created a well-organized tool for historians, scholars, other researchers, and anyone needing information on Boston’s streets. In addition to these Boston city directories, historic images of Boston from the Bostonian Society and Tufts University were also scanned. Metadata using controlled vocabularies from
Library of Congress, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus and local geographic resource lists are the major sources in organizing the information.

Boston Streets is a mapping directory that “contextualizes the people, places, and events that have shaped the city from the years before the American Civil through 20th century urban renewal”. As a visual tool, Boston Streets uses “structured texts, standards-based metadata, and GIS (Geographic Information System) tools” in creating access to the collection.

Target Audience
This collection is intended for historians, other scholars and researchers, urban planners, architects, government officials, businessmen, real estate developers, and others who have interest on the history of Boston.

Organization
Contents of this collection include directories, images, and maps. The directories were converted to full-text searchable documents. More than 3,400 images include historical photographs of Boston from both Bostonian Society and Tufts University. These were scanned according to digital preservation standards of the Library of Congress. Maps include street maps and atlases; these are the bulk of the project.

The organization of this collection is presented in four categories: places, moments, people, and cowpaths.
Places
include maps, atlases and geospatial information. Moments include more than 100 years photography and images of Boston streets. People includes digitized Boston’s directories which are resources for learning on the movements of people. Cowpaths is a map-based tool to capture images and directory information so these could be plotted in a map. With this tool, users could define their own data requirements, query the data, and have their results mapped in any of the historical maps.

Each of the categories has both
keyword and browse search functions. Cowpaths help
is well designed that even a new user who is not familiar with the tool could easily understand it.

Navigation
Since the navigation is topical, it is easy to use. Location of navigation is visible. Page layout is well defined and not distracting to users. Pages flow in an organized way. Its organization ensures that people understand what follows next.

Interface is well organized. An attractive
home page with a map background welcomes the researcher to this rich collection. The project’s proposal and status reports reflect strong commitment of the Staff members managing this collection.

Boston Streets will serve current and future researchers. It effectively and strongly supports its mission statement as evidenced by what is presented.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Calgary Exhibition & Stampede Archives

The Calgary Exhibition & Stampede Archives (CE&SA) captures the history of the Exhibition and Stampede, promoting Calgary's western heritage. This two-year digitization project started in 2005 and includes over 4,500 digitized images and documents. The CE&SA is part of an overall digitization project called Our Future, Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project (AHDP). Anyone interested in learning about Calgary's western history will find this site entertaining and informative. The site is still under construction, but it is worth a visit. Just be aware that you might run across a few broken links.

A little history: The Calgary Exhibition was first held in 1886. This event, held in July, brought ranchers and farmers together for entertainment and to generate new business. The Calgary Stampede, a wild west cowboy show, was started in 1912 by American western performer, Guy Weadick. The $20,000 prize money for the first Stampede was the highest amount awarded in rodeo competition, at that time, and the Stampede was a huge success. The Exhibition and Stampede events were combined in 1923 and are still held every July. Over the years, the Stampede Grounds offers year-round events and has grown to include a casino, convention center, and hockey arena. Today, additional upgrades and expansion projects are in the works.

The CE&SA provides digitized images and documentation (e.g., event programs, prize lists, catalogs, Stampede-related books), Microsoft Excel files with results and other reference information, and education resources produced with the Galileo Education Network.

I found the CE&SA site design clean and easy to navigate. Response time was good. The site uses CONTENTdm by DiMeMa, Incorporated to manage the digital collection.

  • Browse: The archives can be browsed by category (i.e., images, text, databases, books, and educational resources).
  • Advanced search: Provides field-level search.
  • Other site tools include My favorites, Feedback, and Help.

The Browse and Advanced search presents results in an easy-to-use table format that includes an image thumbnail, title, subject and keywords, and a description. I easily could select an item to view or use the My favorites tool to identify a group of items to view or download. Depending on the size of the digitized item, additional viewing tools (zoom in/out, pan, and clip) are available to help in viewing or using the item.

The quality of the digitized content was impressive, considering the age of some of the materials. Images were clear and metadata information was also displayed. Documents were easy read and page through. One example is a menu from the Sixteenth Annual Range Men's Dinner (1947).

The archives are published by the University of Calgary Press and developed in partnership with the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede. Funding is provided by the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede, the Community Initiatives Program, Alberta Community Development, and Information Resources, University of Calgary.

Women's Studies Digitization Project

The Women’s Studies Digitization Project is a project from the University of Minnesota. The purposes of the program included utilization of the collections in the Wilson Library at UM and supporting University curricular goals (in the women’s studies department and elsewhere). The project’s user base therefore includes the general population as well as students and faculty at UM, although the emphasis is on the latter.

The project has two sections: Women’s Travel Writing, 1830-1930 and Early Modern French Women Writers. The WTW section was designed to complement other digital collections of women’s travel writing, rather than replicate or conflict. It includes women traveling to and from the United States as well as travel to non-Western countries. Unfortunately the texts are no longer available. I think this is a good sign to all of us regarding how important it is to have a long-term plan and to keep our projects up-to-date. However, the supplementary materials are all still there, including photographs, biographical sketches, maps, and portraits of the writers. The section is separated into primary, supplementary, and teaching materials. This would make it easier to use as part of a class research project. I could see people designing a semester-long project around the collection, if it were still viable. There are a number of different ways to search the digital objects, which also helps with usability.

The French Women Writers section was produced in cooperation with the Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL) at the University of Chicago. This project is still up and running. Like the WTW part of the project, the French Women Writer's section has a variety of objects and is organized to make instruction easy. Both sections have a clear outline of how the objects were selected. Selection was determined upon a woman writer’s country of origin and her years of literary production. Even though the primary texts are not available, lists of the writers and their works are still on the website, so it can still be used as a reference source. In addition, the photographs and other images are still available and helpful for researchers. One strongpoint of the project is the variety of assets that are presented. Rather than having only the text, users would be able to supplement their readings with biographical and social information. It is also of a manageable size. I think the limited selection policy (determined by the relatively narrow topics) helps to keep the collection focused. For people interested in these topics, it would have been very useful.

MIT’s OpenCourseWare

DSpace is an MIT project that gets a lot of attention (and rightly so), but OpenCourseWare is another quite ambitious undertaking. From http://web.mit.edu/ocw/:

“MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) makes the course materials that are used in the teaching of almost all MIT’s undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the Web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world.”

To this end, the OCW staff has digitized and made available a number of the materials used in over 1,500 MIT classes. OCW offerings include most every kind of course MIT offers from engineering to music, management, and even some phys. ed. classes. Course materials range from the expected text-based materials such as handouts and lecture notes to pictures and animations, audio files and movies. Most of the content is located on the OCW site itself; there are also some links to other sites. Course content is available in English as well as a few other languages. Translations into Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese (traditional and simplified) are provided thanks to corporate partnerships.

Materials are organized by subject, and then by course name and number. There is also an excellent search function. For example, a search on ‘protein biochemistry’ turns up documents containing that phrase across several different courses and subjects. Another nice feature is that users can elect to download all of the materials for an entire course by clicking a single ‘download this course’ link.

In addition to the course materials, course syllabi are usually presented. This could be quite useful for someone interested in developing a similar course elsewhere. The audience for this collection would include students, teachers, and curriculum developers, in addition to those interested in MIT itself - prospective students, perhaps? After playing around a bit with the search function, I think the collection could even be used as a reference tool in certain situations, though I doubt this is an intended use. As the OCW team helpfully provides great detail about the program’s conception and implementation - even including some discussion of staffing and resource requirements - this collection could also prove to be a very useful resource for those planning a similar venture.
(see http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Global/AboutOCW/process.htm as an example.)

I find this collection easy to use. The organization by discipline and course name is very intuitive, and the search function is great for those times when the searcher is not quite sure which subject to look under. It is a very large collection, and there’s quite a bit of variability in the number and scope of materials included in each course, so some courses are not as complete as they might be.

One last point: a collection like this one certainly raises some interesting copyright issues. They are using a Creative Commons license for the OpenCourseWare materials. MIT OCW has clearly spelled out its stand on these legal and privacy issues in a Legal Notices section: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Global/terms-of-use.htm.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Southern Oral History Program

The Southern Oral History Programs (SOHP) is part of UNC-Chapel Hill's Center for the Study of the American South. Its purpose has been to capture oral histories that may not otherwise enter the historical record from both common citizens and prominent figures. The program has been in operation since 1973 and during that time hundreds of interviews have been recorded. These recordings were done on analog recording mediums (e.g. cassette tape) and are available for listening at the Center itself. However, the program is in the early stages of being digitized.

The currently digitized interviews are available in both streaming and downloadable audio formats (Real Audio and .mp3 respectively). In addition, some of the interviews are available in a .doc or .pdf format transcript. This feature is especially helpful for users who may not be able to hear or may not have the appropriate software to properly play the audio files. Some interviews are also accompanied with pictures from the interview in gif and jpg formats. All of the different kinds of files are quite user friendly. The interviews are split into two parts for the audio files, allowing them to be downloaded quicker. In addition, a new interview search engine has been added to the site, providing a great deal of standardized information about the interview (e.g. length of interview, topics discussed, recording medium, etc.)

The first interviews digitized were some of the bigger names in the collection; former Presidents Carter and Clinton, to name two. With over 500 total interviews to transcribe and digitize a great deal of work is left to be done. The end result may be well worth the effort, with the overall quality and scope of the collection as well as the expanded metadata appealing to scholars and the ease of use and searching capabilities may appeal to the simply curious or other casual users.

Maine Music Box

The Maine Music Box Project has digitized almost 23,000 titles (from five different collections) of unique, rare, and/or historically important music manuscipts, scores and sheet music. The purpose was to not only store and preserve deteriorating works, but to also make the pieces widely accessible to the music teaching community in digital form. It is supported, in part, by funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and is a partnership with the Folger Library at the University of Maine, Orono; the Bagaduce Music Lending Library; and the Bangor Public Library.

Sixty-two percent of the sheet music is in the public domain. Images of the score and sound files are also available for many of these works. The remainder of the collection is under copyright protection. A thumbnail image and text record are representative of these songs.

The project was designed to provide access of these works to educators, scholars, and students but anyone interested in sheet music, its art, or history will enjoy the collection. It is relatively easy to search. You can browse by subject, art, or by collection. The music can be searched by keyword or phrase in the music title, a person's name, subject or lyrics. Results can be displayed in text form or with images. There is also a password-protected interface for instructors who want to build lessons around pieces in the collection and for their students to use.

An aspect I appreciated in the "About Maine Music Box" section was the information presented under "Technical Information." Project components such as system design, indexing and processing; web interface; metadata; inventory control system; system hardware/storage; and even the site design were presented. While I am still learning what all of this means, it seems to me to be a useful template should I be involved in a similar project.

Ida Tarbell Home Page

For my first post I decided to explore the Ida Tarbell Home Page sponsored by Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. The site is located at http://tarbell.allegheny.edu/index.html. As an alumna of the college, Tarbell donated many of her papers and photographs from her years as a journalist and author to Allegheny College. She is best remembered as a “muckraker” for her work researching the Standard Oil Company and as a contributor to McClure’s magazine. Tarbell was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2000. The curator of the site has attempted to digitize a sampling of her work to share with the public.

My first observation of the page was it did not seem to be updated on a regular basis. The last “in the news” item is dated 2002. A look at the bottom of the page and I see the last update was 16 August 2005.

One of the most interesting features of the page is along the left side under contents. The From the Archives link brings the user to a page of links of digitized articles and photographs from Tarbell’s career and her time at Allegheny College.

As I was fortunate enough to have the chance to view Tarbell’s holdings in special collections at Allegheny College about 5 years ago, I know first hand the sampling on the web is only a fraction of what is available in Allegheny’s archives regarding her work with Standard Oil and in documenting the life of Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps more funding and a commitment of staff time to the project would allow more of the valuable resources to become available to the public. The Credits and Sources page comments how the page is maintained through “contributions from faculty, alumni, and the staff of Pelletier Library.” This suggests there is no constant stream of funding for this digitization project as well as a lack of staffing. The Ida Tarbell Home Page appears to be the start of a digitization project and hopefully the future will bring the resources to complete the work.

Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project

The digitization project I decided to explore for this inaugural post was the Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project, found at http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/. The Lincoln Project, originating at Northern Illinois University, gave birth to Lincoln/Net, a collection of primary materials relating to the President and his home state. Scans of photographs and interactive maps are among the site's highlights. Video, timelines, and additional historical information are also included.

During my exploration of Lincoln/Net, I was most struck by what I found under the section entitled A Word About Historical Sources :

"This project has grown from the original goal of making primary source materials available to individuals who are often unable to travel to these libraries, museums, and archives to take advantage of these resources. While scholars make use of these materials regularly, school children and members of the general public often do not. We hope that the Lincoln/Net site will increase public access to historical materials, especially in schools.
We also hope that this project will encourage students and other non-scholars to visit libraries, museums and archives to examine the vast amounts of historical materials that remain there, undigitized."

Like Jill stressed in her first lecture, digitization is about access. As such, the foremost aim of this project was not only to make important academic materials available to an expansive audience, but also to make this audience aware of the value of such materials in the hopes that they seek out others of their kind. That this project supports increased access to all historically-relevant materials suggests a shared sense of purpose within the digitization and library community.

Something else that resonates with our classwork thus far: nine organizations/institutions are listed as sponsors of Lincoln/Net, suggesting the project and Lincoln/Net's enormous cost. A cost that, in lieu of the high quality of materials that can be searched and accessed on Lincoln/Net, was and is well-spent. Though the amount of search options is initially confusing (categories include theme, timeperiod, and material type), they necessarily break down a large amount of content and ultimately make the site user-friendly. Though I do not have anything, really, to compare it to, I believe that Lincoln/Net is a dynamic outcome of a successful digitization project.