Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Maine Memory Network

The Maine Memory Network describes itself as “Maine’s Online Museum.” After exploring the website, I found a lot of interesting things. Reviewing this digital collection was much different than the RIT DML, which I previously took a look at.

The Maine Memory Network was developed and is maintained by the Main Historical Society. It is a collection of over 10,000 items contributed from over 160 Contributing Partners. The collection includes

“letters, journals, notes, manuscripts, and other hand-written materials, photographs, albumen prints, glass plate negatives, paintings, and other images, sketches, woodcuts, broadsides, business cards, and other graphic items, architectural and mechanical drawings, maps, and other oversized documents, clothing, tools, household goods, archaeological artifacts, and other museum objects, audio and video files.”

The most interesting feature I found in this project was the myAccount area. You do not need to log in to view any of the information in the collection, but if you do create an account, you get options to personalize the collection for your own uses. For example, you can create your own album of photos in the collection. You can also contribute your own information or items regarding the history of Maine. Another feature in the myAccount section allows you to create your own slideshows and exhibits.

After looking at some of the exhibits, the most interesting one I found was the Maine timeline of historical events. Check it out if you live in Maine or have any interest in its history!

I think that the audience for this digital collection would be students, community members, historical societies, and libraries.

More information about the Maine Memory Network can be found here:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

RIT Digital Media Library (RIT DML)

The RIT Digital Media Library was developed in 2003 by the staff of Wallace Library. It is meant to support scholarly research at RIT and to provide a space for faculty, students and staff to share their work.

Anyone is allowed to view the RIT DML. However, the information is organized into Communities. Within these Communities, there are moderators who control the information that is posted. These moderators can also control who sees certain information. For example, there are minutes from Academic Senate meetings that are not accessible to just anyone. You have to have a log in name, password, and permission in order to view some information.

The RIT DML provides varied sources of information, with 2,500 items currently available.
“Here you can find articles, working papers, preprints, technical reports, conference papers and data sets in various digital formats.”

Some of these documents and materials are “born digital.” However, many pieces of information are provided to the Publishing and Scholarship Support Center (PSSC) at Wallace Library in order to be digitized and added to the RIT DML. For example, a current project is the digitization of all Reporter magazines (RIT’s student run magazine) from 1951 until they began digitally archiving their own copies in 2000. This task is a huge one, seeing as an average of 32 issues are released per academic year.

More information about the RIT DML can be found here:

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

For my interview assignment, I spoke with Tom Blake, the Digital Imaging Production Manager at the Boston Public Library (BPL). The BPL’s digitization program is quite new (just started up within the last 18 months), and doesn’t yet have a website devoted to its digitization efforts; most of what has already been digitized is currently being stored. However, Mr. Blake pointed me to what he termed a “renegade site”: the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center. And in fact, he described the Map Center as a microcosm of what he would like the BPL’s Digital Imaging Studio to become.

The goal of the Map Center, as stated on their Mission page, is to allow people from all over the world easy access to their collection of over 200,000 maps. At this point, only a small portion of this collection has been digitized, but even that small portion is a fairly impressive collection of maps to browse through online.

Overall the website is very easy to navigate. However, the search function is not great. For example, when I did a search for “Chicago” I got all kinds of results that (as far as I could tell) had nothing to do with Chicago, and did not even include the word anywhere in their descriptions. But browsing the collection is easy, with options to explore images by location, date, or subject (for example, there are currently seven digitized maps of “harbors”). This features lists topics alphanumerically, and denotes the number of images currently found under each topic. (So users can tell at a glance that the digital collection includes 33 maps dated 1482, but only two maps under the subject heading “railroads.”)

For each image, data presented includes (if known): author, publisher, date, dimensions and scale. In many cases, additional information about the background of the map is given as well. Unfortunately, few details are included about the digitization process of these items, and these details are hidden. (By right-clicking on the image and selecting Properties, a few details of the digital image may be found.) One important feature of the Map Center is that all maps can be viewed in Map Viewer, which allows the user to enlarge the image and zoom in, and to click and drag the map on the screen.

Right now, the Map Center also features two virtual tours, one of which is called “Faces and Places.” This is a neat interactive tour of Boston from the standpoint of people whose families have immigrated to Boston from other countries. It pairs up the stories of eight people with maps (and explanations of those maps) of where their families came from. This tour seems to be aimed at middle and high school students, and will be of most interest to people with a connection to Boston. But anyone with an interest in maps will enjoy the Map Center’s website.

National Park Service Web Cameras

The Website for the National Park Service Web Cameras is a collection of images to show the effect of pollution on the environment. The images are updated every fifteen minutes. Each hour or so, weather data is updated. There are a few park sites that do not have Web cams, but still offer air quality information. Selecting park Webcams is done by clicking on the links on a map. There is a free-text search window as well.

The audience for the site is the general public, and the focus is educational; however, there are data sources that can benefit a wide range of users.

The site contains plenty of hard data, as well as excellent resources that explain what the air quality data means, elucidating the meaning of the data for ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. Current weather data is also included for each locale.

Ten-day charts feature one-hour and eight-hour concentrations of ozone can be easily accessed for each park site. Those charts include a measurement for the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, for comparison.

Each location that has a Webcam (not all do) has an archive of views, which do not include every image for a given day. The Webcams for these parks do capture some pretty images. The images themselves do not always communicate what is really going on in terms of the air quality, but do draw the view into the site and the data, which tells the story.

To expand the knowledge of air quality, there are links to other sites and information resources, including a particular section for students and teachers, as well as to other sections with the “Nature & Science” areas of the National Park Service web architecture. Other links include “Basics” and “Law & Policy.” The “Monitoring & Data” link includes access to databases and other government Websites that contain environmental data for National Park Service locations, and hold a great deal of information for people with professional, or otherwise more advanced interests.

This digital collection contains images and data that aren’t quite real-time, they are still pretty close. This site could be used for class projects or other research where data could be studied to track changes in air quality.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

National Toy Hall of Fame

The National Toy Hall of Fame began in 1998 and recognizes memorable toys throughout modern history. Toys are nominated each year so the collection continues to grow. The collection is housed at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. The online collection seeks to provide digital images and descriptions of the physical toy holdings in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

The collection presents images of the toys and scrolling over the images provides the name of the toy. The user can click on the images to receive more information regarding a specific item. These detail pages provide a synopsis of the item along with additional photos. Along the left side of these detail screens are the images from the main page and the user can continue to click on images from here to learn further information. The main page itself actually provides very little information and relies on the user to have the initiative to explore either the colored photos or the small links along the left side for About, Nominate, and Museum. The About section is presented in a question and answer format and provides information related to history of the collection, the selection process, and why toys need a hall of fame. Of any parts of the site, I feel this section could use the most revision. The layout is quite bland and little is available to be visually interesting. The Nominate section provides a nomination form so visitors to the site can nominate a favorite toy to be considered in the next year's selection process. The Museum link brings the user to the Strong Museum's web page.

My biggest surprise while exploring the site was the lack of copyright information in correlation with the images. The user cannot tell if the images were taken by the Strong Museum of items in their collection or if they were acquired from an outside source. As a former employee of the museum, this came as a big surprise to me as they are very particular about their collections and about the use of their items.

While I feel the site has interesting images and descriptions, it falls short of being a comprehensive source of information regarding the National Toy Hall of Fame. The main page provides no information regarding the objective of the site so it is difficult to tell if they did not have any further objective than providing digitized representations of their holdings to allow the user to gain interest and visit the collections or if this is meant as a comprehensive site. The Strong Museum itself is a wonderful place to visit with fascinating collections and I feel a better designed site for the National Toy Hall of Fame would do a stronger job of showcasing this unique part of their collection.

Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Voices of the Colorado Plateau is a Web site containing oral histories from people who lived or experienced life out west. Because we are learning about digitizing audio this week, I felt this sight would be appropriate to examine. Users need a Flash 5 player and the oral histories are divided into three sections: people, places, and topics. The digitized audio consists of excerpts from interviews of people who lived or worked on the Colorado Plateau, a large chunk of land mostly in Utah. Unfortunately, that is all I can tell you about the Colorado Plateau's geography. However, having driven through this part of the country a few times I know that it can be pretty inhospitable and was probably a rough place to start up a town. Today, towns are scattered about and it is loosely populated. It is also quite beautiful.

After reviewing the site, I found it had many problems. It does not provide any background information on the geography of the land or the people. Only after an excerpt ends can you read more about the town or person (although some interviews do not have these options). Also, you have the option of listening to the entire interview or viewing the text transcript. But the links to the full interviews only lead to a 404 message, they no longer exist. During the excerpts there is no way to pause, rewind or control the audio file. In addition, I found you can get lost quite easily if you try to listen to the entire interview or read the transcripts.

Despite these problems, I do think that the online oral histories show how digitizing audio can effectively portray historically important information. Listening to a real person's voice share part of his/ her life is a powerful way to communicate history. While this site could use more context, especially for the 'just curious' crowd that happens upon it, I can see how it would serve as a memory for the people living on the Colorado Plateau today, and think they and their families would appreciate it more that anyone.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Calisphere: A World of Primary Resources...

...and more.
The California Digital Library (CDL) has gathered and digitized an incredible collection of over 150,000 primary source documents for use in K-12 education.

The collection includes:
newspaper pages
political cartoons
works of art
oral histories
cultural artifacts

The image above, of a 1969 Black Panther press conference, is an example of the types of photographs contained in the collection. (Special thanks to the UCLA Library for permission to use.) The documents and images support California curriculum standards, highlight California's diverse cultural history and provide teachers and students with high-quality learning resources.

CDL is part of the University of California Libraries. With the financial support of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, the Calisphere project was expanded to include documents from over 50 additional institutions, including other California universities, public libraries, museums, and historical societies.

The digital assets are presented in an easy-to-use interface that can be browsed or searched. Featured images, thematic groupings, and thumbnail albums enhance the usability of the collection. For most of the images, a printable, scalable version with or without additional information is available.

A short description is provided for each image or document (title, contributor, date, contributing institution). Expanded information, including copyright ownership and contact information, is one click away. The site also provides narratives, teacher resources, and links to related UC Web sites.

While designed for K-12 classrooms, the scope and usability of this project make it attractive for university students and the general public. Calisphere is a professionally conceived and presented digital library that provides a great model as our nation’s schools transition to digital curricula.

The Maine Music Box

This site resulted from a partnership between the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine, which initiated the project with the Bagaduce Music Lending Library, a nonprofit organization that collects and lends printed music to professional musicians and educational institutions, and the Bangor Public Library (BPL). The BPL is also the music library for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, which claims to be the oldest continuously performing community orchestra in the nation. According to the Web site:
This project grew out of the University of Maine's desire to leverage its investment in information technology infrastructure by supporting access to significant public library music collections in a digital learning environment for educators, scholars and students. The partnership envisioned broadening access to music literature through digitization, and providing access to images of scores and cover art for viewing, along with the ability to hear a musical rendition of the score.

Enhanced with software options to control playback, tempo and sounds, the use of automatic expression, and to change instrumentation and key, the music collection would be an interactive tool that enriches the learning experience. Discussions with music faculty at the University and teachers from area K-12 schools provided further insight into how the music digital library could be integrated locally into teaching and support music education anywhere.
The About page ( contains a great deal of documentation, from tips on searching the database, which is an impressive size (over 20,000 files), to information on copyright and metadata, but I found the technical issues the most fascinating. The entire project’s design and implementation, from theory behind the logo and page design to the archival preservation aspects and vendor specifications, is detailed. In addition, the most significant scores have been processed by Scorch, software that provides the interactive playback-control options noted above. The user can view the score within the browser window, watching a cursor move over the score while listening to it, with the option to change the key, tempo, and instrumentation. Other scores have MIDI files attached. Nothing more recent than 1932 has sound files accessible due to copyright concerns.

This is a fantastic digital music library site with great potential for music teachers, students, and scholars, and is well worth checking out.

Mt. Hope Cemetery Interment Records

About the Project

This digitization project seemed like a great choice for a blog post, to complement the discussion during this week. The Mt. Hope and Riverside Cemetery Interment Records website is hosted by the University of Rochester Library's department of Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC). The original interment records were preserved on microfilm, and when they were digitized from the microfilm, they were stored on 4 CD's. Interestingly, these interment records came up in conversation when I interviewed Melissa Mead, the Digital and Visual Resources Librarian for RBSC. From what she said, the CD's presented some problems for users who were searching for specific records, because there was no cross-indexing available. Each CD had to be searched individually to find the desired entry.

To make the records more accessible, the CD's were loaded into a database and the website was created to allow users to access and search it. Users can search for records using the first two letters of the person's last name, or they can browse the records via alphabetical links. The database contains records of 360 thousand burials in Mt. Hope Cemetery alone, from May 1, 1837 to February 17, 2002. Records created since 2002 are available by contacting the Mt. Hope Cemetery office.

Sample Search

To test the usability of the database, I decided to find the interment record for Susan B. Anthony, who is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Thanks to our investigation this week of the Western New York Suffragists website, I was able to get her exact date of death, March 13, 1906. Using the search tools at the top of the Interment Records webpage, I typed An in the search box and selected the fourth of the Mt. Hope Cemetery entries in the Date Range box. It worked, and I was able to find the record I wanted. You can see it too, by clicking this link:


Although I just said that it worked, finding the record that I wanted was not as easy as all that. First, each PDF file is an image of one page from the interment records. These records were written by hand, so job one was to figure out how to decipher the cursive writing of the recorder. Second, and more difficult, was figuring out how the entries are organized on the page. Thankfully, the homepage for the project includes a “How to Use” section, which explains that the person's first name is important for determining where their record will be on the page. Names that start with A to E are listed in the top-left quarter of the page; E through I are in the bottom-left quarter. Those names that start with M through R are in the top-right quarter (sort of – there was some overage from the bottom-left), and finally, S to Z names are listed on the bottom-right quarter of the page. So, in the end, Susan B. Anthony's entry is the final one on the bottom-right corner.

The “How to Use” section is also helpful for interpreting the entries on the page. In addition to the name and date of interment of the person, we can find out their exact age, the cause of death, their residence, and their exact plot in the cemetery. For Susan B., the cause of death is recorded but the writing is difficult to decipher; she had double pneumonia and some sort of chronic insufficiency. I've also been told by Nancy Martin, the Archivist for the University of Rochester, that certain entries in the “Cause of Death” column must be re-interpreted in today's medical parlance. For example, people in the past died of “acute indigestion”, which today we refer to as appendicitis.

This project is great for researchers of family and local history. If you're interested, Frederick Douglass is also interred at Mt. Hope Cemetery. See if you can find his interment record!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

WHOI ImageSource

I learned bout the ImageSource database during my interview with Lisa Lamond, who was the previous Visual Resources Manager at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (WHOI).

WHOI is the largest private and nonprofit oceanographic research, engineering and education institution in the United States. ImageSource is an image database supported by the U.K. based company iBase Media Services. It consists of current photographs of people, places, technology, events and projects; underwater photography from Alvin, Jason II and other exploration vehicles; illustrations from WHOI publications and presentations; and historical photographs of the Institution and the Woods Hole area. It was created to meet the increased oceanographic visual needs of staff within the institution as well as the interested public and the scientific community.

A user needs to log in to WHOI ImageSource using “guest” as both user name and password to view the public collections.

Things I like about the site:

•Search function
The site offers multiple search options: simple search, keyword search, advanced search.
People are unfamiliar with terminologies in ocean science will particularly like keyword search since it displays system-used keywords (controlled vocabulary) that are divided by different categories. Visitors can browse the keywords by click
ing on the “+” or “-“ sign and choose the right keywords by selecting the check box.
Advanced search is so sophisticated that requires advanced knowledge of ocean science and the collection. Researchers may see the value of this function.
It is interesting to see what other peoples have been looking for recently by looking at Search history.

• Navigation
The site has a consistent and easy-to-use navigation. According to the “Help” page of the site, it has a top-menu that includes “select collection”, “search”, “light box”…”order print”. Some of those are not showing with guest logging in. However, I can still sense the good organization of the site and won’t get lost back and forth. “You are here” always tells you where you are in the site.

• Search results
Search results are displayed in a way of thumbnails with captions. You can choose the number of items per page displayed. In addition, you will be able to sort search result based on caption, date, creators and so on.

• View images
After clicking a particular image, you will see the image metadata such as creator, caption, type, date, copyright statement and etc. Also you can zoom in and zoom out images and view up to the largest resolution you are allowed from the left column of the navigation. Or you can view a slide show from one image to another.

One of the greatest features of image view is that users can compare the present image with the next even the next three images. For instance, once you click on the Compare to Next Image in the left navigation bar. Two new windows open simultaneously with the current and next images. Similarly, four new windows open simultaneously with the current and next three images as you compare it with them.

• Light box
I notice there is a feature called light box where users can store selected images for later use. After some close observations, I realize this somewhat equals to the shopping cart of commercial sites. It looks people can do more things about the images such as printing and ordering images that have been saved in the light box. Unfortunately, those options are invisible to a guest.

Things I dislike about the site:

1. The major problem to me is that no detailed information is provided regarding the background of the site. As I click the “about” page, it turns out to be a blank page.
2. Secondly, as a guest, you can hardly do things such as ordering, uploading images, creating metadata and etc, which is understandable. However, the sad thing is there is no instruction indicating how to get a user name other than just being a guest.
3. The Help page of the site is a long document, which looks like a help Manual of some software. It contains too much information and it’s not very user friendly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

John H.W. Stuckenberg Map Collection

The John H.W. Stuckenberg Map Collection is one of several digital collections at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Stuckenberg (1835-1903) and his wife Mary Gingrich Stuckenberg (1834-1934) were avid collectors of old maps. Many of the oldest maps were purchased in Germany. The original collection, a gift to Gettysburg College, includes 500 separate maps and atlases from the 16th through the 19th century and are housed in the Special Collections department in the college’s Messelman Library

The navigation bar in the right column of the Stuckenberg Map Collection Web page shows that the digital collection is divided into four categories: World Maps, Country Maps, Regional Maps, and City Maps. When selected, each collection opens a new Web page that includes a thumbnail photo of each digital image, the date and title of the map, and a very brief description of the map.

The World Maps collection includes 6 maps that are mostly from the 1600s. Clicking on the first map image opens a Web page that shows a larger photograph of the map. Below the image is information about the map including: title, description, cartographer, date, notes, publisher, place of publication, dimensions, language, medium, long title, file name, file format, donor name, and repository rights. I was interested in the type of scanner used to capture such large originals, but I could not find that information on the Web site.

The Country Maps digital collection includes 61 maps. The Regional Maps digital collection includes 258 maps. The City Maps digital collection includes 36 maps. That is a total of 361 maps. However, when selecting the Browse link at the top of the home page, the newly opened Web page states that there are 446 images in the digital collection – most but not all of the 500 maps and atlas in the original collection. I noticed that the first few of the 446 images under the Browse link are in the Celestial Maps collection. The navigation bar in the right column of the Stuckenberg Map Collection home page should include an “Other” or “Misc” link that would include maps, such as the Celestial Maps, that do not fit in the other four categories.

Researchers who are interested in old maps could spend many hours perusing the Stuckenberg Map digital collection.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Theban Mapping Project

Since 1978, the Theban Mapping Project, based at the American University of Cairo, has been working to create a comprehensive archaeological database of Thebes. The original website, launched in 1997, was followed by its current form in 2002. Purposes of the website include to promote and garner project support, advocate the protection of the tomb sites through balancing tourism, conservation and archaeological study, to share progress and information of the project with scholars and to educate those who are interested in learning more about ancient Egypt and in particular about the tombs contained in the Valley of the Kings. The project continues to build upon its research, continuing to grow and build the site with new information.

Atlas of the Valley of the Kings:
This interactive atlas of each tomb in the Valley draws from a database of more than 2000 images, tomb models, over 250 detailed maps, elevations and sections, 65 narrated tours and a 3D re-creation of a tomb.

Atlas of the Theban Necropolis:
This atlas is an interactive mosaic of 14 aerial photographs of the Necropolis from 1979. Users can zoom in to view the area topography and architectural details of formerly existing temples and palaces, now foundations or covered by sand. Rollovers on overlays reveal the site names.

Designed with a clean simple interface, the atlases are easily accessible through a simple centrally located link labeled “Launch Atlas” along the top or from links to either atlas with descriptions along the top half of the homepage. The atlases launch in a pop-up pre-sized window and uses Flash technology (Adobe, formerly Macromedia) to create an interactive environment for users.

Atlas of the Valley of the Kings: Taking advantage of the vector-based animation capabilities of Flash, this atlas opens with a nice simple Flash animation while assets load. From the top left, users can select one of 64 tombs of well-known pharaohs and unknown tombs from a drop down menu or users can scroll through using forward and back arrows. Offering a number of features, tabs along the right allow users to look at an overview, description, maps and plans. The description includes detailed information, images and media and related links. The maps and plans are interactive and allow users to pan, zoom and measure in meters, feet and cubits. Each tomb also features a narrated movie with a transcript, making the content accessible to the aurally impaired. The movies are well produced with high-quality images and include last updated information. Lastly, a 3D animated narrated tour of a tomb with images and explanation of elements of the tomb is available. Quatrapoint technology collects data from lasers shot within a space, which is then used to develop a highly accurate 3D virtual model.

Theban Necropolis: Much simpler than the Valley of the Kings atlas, this atlas presents an aerial map which users can drag or zoom in and out of, using a vertical scroll bar. Overlays indicate sites of interest. The map is not draggable on overlays unless the user zooms in enough or by hiding the overlay. It would be interesting to be able to switch between the image from 1979 to more recent images and contrast the change over time. However, cost and priorities may not warrant the investment. From the homepage description, I expected more information about the sites than just the title.

Both maps link to user guides; however, the guide is on the webpage and brings the page in from of the map, hiding the pop-up window.

Additional Information
This site is rich in resources and extremely transparent with information. Additional content includes detailed information regarding the project' staff, a Site Management Masterplan intended to address the issues of visitor access and site conservation, progress reports, published articles, browseable database of text, images and maps by sites or by archeological and images. Resources link to a bibliography and other Egypt related resources.

The Theban Mapping Project website provides a wonderful educational site rich in media and content and I highly recommend taking time to explore it, in particular the Valley of the Kings Atlas. Enjoy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Online Archive of California (OAC)

A core component of the California Digital Library, the OAC provides access to images and texts associated with California history, nature, people, places, society, and technology, such as manuscripts, photographs, and works of art held in libraries, museums, archives, and other institutions throughout California. The texts available online include transcripts of oral histories, personal narratives, letters, press releases, newspaper articles, and other types of documents. The available images include photographs, paintings, graphical materials, and other types of images, all of which can be either searched or browsed. The size of the collection is quite impressive: over 120,000 images; 50,000 pages of documents, letters, and oral histories; and 8,000 guides to collections are available. In addition, the history of the OAC is notable in and of itself, in terms of the development of digital libraries. Research at the UC Berkeley Libraries developed a prototype finding aid standard in the form of a Standardized General Markup Language (SGML) Document Type Definition (DTD), which in turn led to further refinement of the standard and development of the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) DTD under the direction of the Society of American Archivists and the Library of Congress.

My brother used to live in a loft on Fulton Street in San Francisco, so I searched for that. Among the 20 images returned there were several photos from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Digital Collection, such as the Fulton Iron Works and the old City Hall, both before and after the devastation. Within the text collection, transcriptions of first hand accounts of the earthquake can be read. Search results can be ordered according to relevance, year, publisher, or title. The search and browse interfaces are well developed and easy to use, allowing search refinement and serendipitous discovery through browsing the copious collections. Truncation, exact phrase, as well as plurals and singulars searching is supported, and search terms are case insensitive. There is an advanced search option also.

The virtual collections are also grouped in thematic collections, for example, there are collections focused on the Free Speech Movement and Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA). This episode in American history is often neglected in terms of attention paid and importance, but is quite relevant given the current political climate. Search results are listed with a thumbnail image, title (short description), the owning institution, and a link for more details. Those additional details sometimes include a general content note that provides more information about the context of the photograph and its content. There are links to a larger size image and printable versions. The pages do not have image manipulation options, such as other DLs sometimes have, but I did not miss that option at all. I found that the images downloaded rather quickly and displayed very nicely.

This site would be a useful resource for anyone doing casual or in-depth research on any topic that was associated directly or tangentially with California. In addition, this online resource came closest to replicating the experience of browsing the shelves in a physical library, one of my favorite pastimes, with its new experimental image browsing interface. The thematic collections also helped contribute to the success of this experience. All in all, a fantastic digital library that is well worth the time to investigate.

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience

The “In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience” project of the New York Public Library (NYPL) has gathered all the components of African Diaspora and presented the migration history of African-American in the U.S. This project demonstrates the self-motivated migration activities of African-Americans from their angles. It has selected 13 important migrations that have changed African-American and the U.S. Each migration is exhibited through the narratives, the selected images, maps, the accompanied descriptions, related text resources (bibliographies and their full-texts), and other learning materials and reference tools. We can learn from the source information of the digital products presented in this website that what were digitized include books, periodicals, manuscripts, maps, and so on.

The user can navigate the collection by the three major types of objects presented (images, maps, and texts). The highlighted terms in the narratives were connected to the glossary that contains the explanation. The bibliographies of the full-text resources were exhibited and integrated into the narratives that describe a particular migration. The full texts can also be accessed through the topics chosen. Furthermore, in addition to the search engine for searching all the materials contained in this website, there is the other search engine for the text materials that allows the user to retrieve the full text of a particular bibliography selected.

The multiple indexes in this website also allow the user to browse the collection from various perspectives and may thus enable effective navigation. First, the user can browse the collection by selecting a particular migration from the 13 migrations arranged by chronological order. The user may get a sense of the framework of the migration history by browsing the entries of this index. Second, the user can browse the collection by selecting the places involved in these migrations. There is a map shows the corresponded locations and directions of migration that the user selects to browse. Third, there is a timeline that concisely presents the history of migration and of the U.S. The “browse by source materials” allows the user to access the collection by defining one of the selected 13 migrations and the types of materials (images, maps and texts). These three indexes lead the user to the same collections. Finally, there is an index to the section of the educational materials. This section integrates the map that presents the direction and the source materials of a particular migration, lesson plans with concentration areas (disciplinary subjects, such as social studies, history, performing arts, and economy), the glossary that explains and arranges related terms alphabetically, and the Internet Gateway that provides links to the related resources of that given migration on the web. These educational materials were mainly accessed either through a particular migration selected or through the concentration area.

The images in this website were presented with high authenticity since their sources, titles, descriptions, and their indexing information (i.e. IDs, subject headings, and keywords) were well-documented and presented. The quality of images is good. There is a “request a copy” link that guides the user to NYPL’s Photographic Services & Permissions and its contact information near the “images” presented. It may enhance the awareness of copyright and thus positively affect the usage of the digital products. Additionally, the texts and the maps were also of high authenticity and the authoritativeness since their sources, copyright statuses were presented and the usage was precisely controlled. Some of the texts can be directly copied, some can only be printed. The user can understand who owns a particular item, how it can be used, what contexts it can be used through the descriptions through copyright statement. It seems that the copyright status of every material in this project was clearly identified and managed when the project was developed.

One of the drawbacks of this project is that the length of the descriptions in the homepage of this website is relatively long. Users have to read all the texts to find out the scope and the target audience of the collections. It may be helpful if the description in the homepage could be shorter and briefly point out the origin, the purposes, and the defined users of this project. The long description led me to making the inference that the defined users of this project were those who were interested in the history of African-American’s migration (i.e. historians and African-Americans). However, I found out that teachers in high schools were also included in the defined user groups since there are lesson plans for high school students. It may be important to point out what were provided by including the collection description in the homepage.

Additionally, this website presents primarily the outcomes of the project. It may also useful to offer additional information about this project (i.e. teams) since the project information is not available in this website. Furthermore, there is a dead link in the website. When clicking the Congressional Black Caucus at the left column to learn more about the funding source of this project, “the requested page could not be found” was presented in the website of the House of Representatives. It may be useful to create an individual webpage for acknowledgement and includes it in the website if the sponsored institution cannot maintain the webpage about their sponsoring of the project.

Overall, the website of this project is well-organized and the products were clearly presented. The digital products were also logically structured. The various access points to the collections and navigation tools, such as icons that link to next or previous images, maps, and paragraphs of narratives, were also effective in guiding users. The user can always understand where his navigation locates. Furthermore, each digital product in this website was well-organized, described and indexed, so the accessibility of the materials was improved. The educational materials allow the digital products to be applied in real learning environments and demonstrate the importance of African-American in various areas. The ultimate missions of this project and NYPL may be thus met.

Min-Chun Ku at Syracuse on Feb. 19, 2007

Western Trails: An Online Journey

This website represents one project out of several being maintained by the Collaborative Digitization Program. Entitled "Western Trails: An Online Journey, Trails Through Time," the site is organized into information and images on different kinds of trails. Users can click on segments such as "Native American Trails," "Explorer Trails," and "Railroad Trails."

The material available on this site appears to be digitized versions of photographs, maps, and newspapers articles related to various Western Trails.

Users of this site can click on any of the particular trail types to read about the trails' significance in history. Links to digitized documents are scattered throughout these written summaries. There is a "Search This Site" function. However, after searching for a term, users are directed to the search results listed in Google. For the most part, the results link back to the original written summaries that the user has already visited. It seems that there is no way to search for a term and simply get a list of documents, as opposed to being directed back to the written summaries with the scattered links. This presentation makes for pleasant use for someone just browsing due to interest in the topic, but would not be as helpful for someone who wished to perform a thorough search.

There is a fair amount of information presented on the "About Western Trails" side menu, such as information on the project partners, participants, etc. However, there is not really a general statement about the purpose of this particular project. There is information on copyright, which is useful for the user to see. Finally, users can link to the Collaborative Digitization Program homepage to get more information on the organization, as well as other digitization projects they sponsor.

Macaulay Library – Animal Sound & Video Catalog

Since we’ve turned to talking about digitizing audio in class, I thought I’d review the Macaulay Library’s collection of animal sounds and videos. In case that sounds somewhat familiar, this library was mentioned in one of this week’s readings (“Planning An Audio Preservation Transfer Project”). The Macaulay Library is part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It contains the world’s largest collection of animal sounds.

This is an incredibly comprehensive DL, with a lot of innovative features. It’s clear that concern for the user experience was a high priority.

Users are allowed some flexibility in specifying their preferred mode of interaction with the resources. Both audio and video files are available. The site offers RavenViewer, available free via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which uses Quicktime to handle video and audio files. Big thumbs up that this is an optional download, and that the site’s content is still usable for those who choose not to download RavenViewer.

That said, RavenViewer is well worth the download, especially for birding and nature fans. Users have many, many options for customizing settings, including the option to view spectrograms, waveforms, and change the speed of playback. It’s also possible to view catalog information via the RavenViewer interface. This includes information such as the location and date of the recordings, and media notes like file type, sample and data rates.

As previously mentioned, the collection is extensive and there are a large number of files available - for example, there are over 4300 recordings just of wrens, though not all of those have been digitized. The designers have included a very thoughtful ratings feature, which quickly allows users to zero in on recordings with the best audio and/or visual quality.

The Macaulay Library’s DL is very intuitive and easy to use. The search function works well, and it is simple to tell what resources are available and whether those resources are audio, visual, or both. I particularly loved the ‘best of collection’ feature, which was wonderful for browsing.

It’s definitely a great digital library to check out for ideas, especially if you’re planning an audio-intensive project.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Frontera Collection of Mexican American Music

In contrast with my previous post on the EVIA digital archive, this week's digitization project is fully functional and available online. It's notable as much for for what's being digitized as for how it's being presented.

First the what. The Frontera Collection consists of over 100,000 recordings on 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33 1/3 rpm records as well as some cassettes. The recordings document a breadth of Mexican and Mexican-American popular and folk music and spoken word performances, including the musics of the Tejano and Chicano communities. This breadth charts the development of these art forms through the first half of the twentieth century (from 1905 to 1955). Many of the recordings are unique, the original masters and the companies that recorded them both long gone. Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz's personal collection forms the nucleus of this project, and it is Strachwitz who has been spearheading the project. Much of the digitization and cataloguing work goes on at Arhoolie's headquarters in El Cerrito, CA, although the project has multiple sponsors, including famed norteño band Los Tigres del Norte and three departments at UCLA: the Chicano Studies Research Center, the Music Library, and the Digital Library. The last of these hosts and serves the digitized content from their digital collections.

Phase one of the project has been to digitize the 78s, which number around 30,000. And this brings me to the how: the digital libraries site makes accessible a streaming sound file of each recording (with 78s, it's usually one selection per side) and a digitized image of the record label, which is equivalent to the title page of a book. Those with on-campus access can listen to the entire track, while those outside of the UCLA community can listen to the first fifty seconds. This, it was explained to me, was to satisfy copyright requirements of making the material accessible within the UCLA library (which in this case appears to be interpreted as a virtual space accessible only by those on campus or otherwise part of the UCLA community), since some of the recordings are still under copyright.

Presenting the labels along with the sound is brilliant, but what really makes this site useful to those doing research (both academic and personal) is the ways in which access is thoroughly provided. The recordings are well catalogued under a system of subject headings -- in both English and Spanish -- that are particular to the subject matter. Since corridos (a form of Mexican folk ballad) form a large part of the repertoire, and many corrido texts are about heroism, machismo, bandits, or unrequited love, there are several precise subject headings so to aid in effective searching. Subject headings are both browseable and searchable.

Giving some thought to who might make use of this collection, I can imagine several potential audiences. Scholars and students of Mexican and Mexican-American popular music and culture would find this a boon, and scholars in other areas might also make use of the recordings as secondary sources in documenting, for example, the Mexico-US drug trade, chronicled in a special subgenre of corrido called the narcocorrido. Record collectors and afficionados of the music will appreciate the site in helping them organize and understand their own collections and hear the music without increasing wear and tear on their original discs. Traditional and popular musicians looking for source materials from which to learn tunes and interpretive elements would also be well served. Cultural stakeholders, such as those of Mexican heritage wishing to "rediscover" some of their own heritage, and cultural heritage organizations such as libraries and community centers, should enjoy the site as well. Again, recordings are only streamed to allay copyright concerns, and access to the full-length stream of the recording is only available on-campus, so those doing research would still have to travel to Los Angeles to hear entire selections. The benefits, though, are that these recordings are becoming available in one centralized location, and can be searched from afar ahead of time. Those who make the trip to UCLA to hear the full recordings can come knowing precisely what they're looking for, instead of having to dig through dusty stacks of 78s and put them on the turntable one at a time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Documenting the American South: First-Person Narratives of the American South

Documenting the American South (DocSouth)
First-Person Narratives of the American South

Part of a larger digitial initiative providing online access to primary resources used for the study of the history and culture of the Southern United States. The digital collections are comprised mainly of materials from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill libraries.

The First-Person Narratives of the American South collection contains diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, travel accounts and ex-slave narratives of people living in the American south. It represents first hand accounts of Southern history written from the southern perspective (an insiders account if you will). The collection focuses on the more disenfranchised sections of Southern society and includes the writings of
"African Americans, women, enlisted men, laborers, and Native Americans."

Visitors to the website can browse the collection of first-person narratives alphabetically or browse images included in the collection by subject

Selecting Alphabetical Browsing:

If you select this option you can peruse a list of narratives organized alphabetically by author's last name. The listed items contain the authors last name, first name and years born and died. Below this is the title of their narrative hyper linked to the actual narrative. Finally the the place, date and name of publisher are also provided.

When you select a narrative to view, you click the hyper linked title and you are directed to a web page that contains the Full text of the narrative (you can choose to view it as an html file or a XML/TEI source file), links to illustrations frontispiece, title page and list of illustrations), a summary of the narrative, and subject headings to enable visitors to "look for similar items by subject" in the collection.

Selecting Browse Images by Subject:

If you select this option you are taken to an alphabetized listing of subject headings assigned to the images in the collection. Once you select a subject heading you are taken to the search results for your selection containing a list of images, their titles, when they date to (if available), and where they are from. From here you select an item from the listing of search result and you are directed to a page with the image, bibliographic information (where the image is taken from), a list of relevant subject headings, as well as links to the narrative the images derives from.

The information provided through this project is very unique and represents an important historical snap shot of an American region. The resource are valuable in attempting to understand the culture and history of the American South. The site was simply laid out and well organized. The search options seemed limited at first, but once I began clicking around using the 2 browse functions, materials were easy to locate and navigate. I was very impressed by the sheer volume of narratives that exist and were published. I have a feeling I will be re-visiting the site again and again to read some of the narratives I came across.

American Social Hygiene Posters

The American Social Hygiene Posters collection is maintained by the University of Minnesota libraries as part of the Social Welfare History Archives. The SWHA is designed to promote understanding and research of “social service and social reform in the United States.” Users can search by keyword, title, subject, ID#, or time period. There is also a drop-down subject list that gives a glimpse into what type of subject matter is dealt with in the posters.

Social hygiene posters are tools designed to educate people (mostly the young) on correct habits and behaviors. This collection has a variety of posters covering topics from how to enjoy work to the correct way to dance with a member of the opposite sex. Search results give thumbnail images of the posters. Clicking on an image leads to a page with descriptive metadata and another image. It is necessary to click on ‘enlarge’ to make the writing visible. I am sure it was a challenge to find the right resolution with the proper balance between readability and file size. Users of the collection can add images to a ‘basket’ in order to keep track of relevant and interesting images.

This is an example of a collection that would be interesting to a wide array of users. It is of course of interest to historians and researchers. However, due to the content of the images, they also have a certain amount of ‘camp’ value that would gain attention from academics and non-academics alike. For example, this image advertising the importance of good posture is amusing to the modern viewer. I could see this collection becoming very popular through word-of-mouth (in fact, that is how I first came to know of its existence). For that reason, I think it is a good idea that the copyright information of each image is listed clearly on its page. Not everyone who comes across these images will be a copyright expert. Attaching the copyright regulations to the images makes the rules clear and hopefully prevents misuse.

Update: In the course of viewing this post, I realized that there is a gap in their copyright plan. If someone sends a direct link (as I did above), then a person is taken to the image but bypasses the copyright information.

Friday, February 16, 2007

UMW Digital Collections

I thoroughly enjoyed a visit to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Digital Collections website.

It offers a number of digital collections drawn from print collections at the University’s Library Archives and American Geographical Society Library. All the collections use of color palette, type, and layout make it a pleasure to view.

Go to “Cities Around the World” and click on “Cities”. A tag cloud displays the top 100 cities with the most photos. A neat way to represent such information.

For those collections with a geographical aspect, such as “Transportation Around the World”, “Afghanistan: Images from the Harrison Forman Collection”, or “Milwaukee Neighborhoods: Photos and Maps 1885 - 1992”, a hyperlinked map provides a convenient way to select records by location.

The collections use the same design elements across the top of the page – helpful for learning how to navigate. I like being able to Browse since many times I’m not familiar with what’s in a collection. I really like the “add to favorites” feature which allows you to select and save images to “My favorites” as you move to subsequent pages.

Browse in “Cities Around the World” and click on an image. The Dublin Core record is displayed. You can witness the power of using controlled vocabularies – click on a Subject or Geographical Location term and retrieve similarly indexed records. The rich indexing and the software make many options available in Advanced Search, including being able to search across collections.

Click on “About” in “Transportation Around the World”. Students of digitization will appreciate the information provided about the scanning equipment, file sizes, thesauri, and content management software. Each of the collections provides ample copyright and permissions information.

Mark M.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dickinson Electronic Archives

The Dickinson Electronic Archives is the product of an on-going digitization project, aimed at presenting perhaps an unknown side of the poet through writings by her and about her. As stated in the proposal for the Archives, "the Dickinson Editing Collective has been working toward an ambitious kind of scholarly publication of Dickinson's corpus: a multimedia archive unique in its scope and vision, aimed at exploring and virtually reconstructing Dickinson's textual, social, historical, and geographical worlds" ( This unique concept is certainly intriguing and, if seen to fruition, will be the Dickinson lover's dream.

Though the Dickinson Editing Collective does eventually hope to digitize the poet's canon in its entirety, the Archives currently features letters to, from, and about the poet. The DEA is very forthcoming about the fact that the Archives is a work in progess, making note that no collection is currently complete and access to the majority of Dickinson's letters are password-protected (family members' letters that are digitized are accessible). That is not to say that the site is lacking in content; what exists is rich and interesting, and more than enough to fill one's time! Transcriptions accompany the digitized material.

Since our latest topic was copyright, I found myself hunting around the site for any copyright mention. Harvard's Houghton Library, which possesses an "Emily Dickinson collection" of over 7000 items, is listed at the bottom of many pages as having granted permission for the site to digitize and reproduce images and letters. Additional photos are credited to various individuals.

Though I loved this site and am eager to keep track of it in the coming years, there is a slight lack of functionality. The "Open Critical Review" section welcomes comments from site visitors, and purportedly allows users to read through previous comments. However, when I visited the site I was not able to see anything more than the subject of each comment. Doesn't seem to be a fully functional feature.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network (MMN) is the Maine Historical Society’s online digital museum. It provides access to over 10,000 images selected from over 160 museums, historical societies, libraries, and other organizations throughout the state of Maine (Forty percent of this digital collection comes from these partners). It has received numerous awards at the national and state level and last fall was awarded a $349,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant. That grant will be used to create its newest digitization program, Maine History Online, whose purpose will be to highlight topics, themes, and events in Maine history and to present it in such a way to encourage critical thinking as to how history is interpreted and used. What has really left an impression on me is how the MMN’s collection been gathered and displayed.

In the early planning stages of MMN, organizers recognized how much richer the website would be if historical organizations throughout the state could contribute images and information from their collections. This in turn would allow the smaller organizations, who often have limited financial resources and a small or all-volunteer staff, to have access to technology that might be unaffordable. It would also provide access to their collections that generally were not seen by many people. By setting standards and procedures, , for the digitization of their historic materials and providing technical support, resources, and assistance; these organizations are able to remain autonomous over the selection, cataloging, and maintenance of their contributions.

MMN’s focus is to be a resource that helps in the “understanding of local history and Maine history, and through those pursuits, the nation’s history” and they recognize that local communities might have different perspectives on national or state events. Therefore, they encourage partners to create their own online exhibits. Schools can participate in this as well, The Project Historian also creates exhibits from images gathered from these organizations and provides interpretive text to accompany them.

It seems to me that they accomplish a lot with a relatively small staff: a full-time Director, a full-time Project Historian, a part-time Content Producer, a full-time Outreach Coordinator, two part-time Outreach Consultants (at distant locations in the large and rural state) and a part-time Project Cataloger. They rely heavily on volunteers and interns, who do all the scanning of documents and transcribing of manuscripts. Programming and web design are outsourced to vendors.

I am very impressed with the content of this site. Since it is Valentine’s Day, you might want to take a look at their Valentine Exhibit, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rochester City Directories

The digitization of the Rochester City Directories is part of a large scale digitization project by the Central Library in Rochester, NY. The work is funded through a grant from the Gleason Foundation, a local philanthropic foundation, and the project is digitizing these directories from 1827 – 1930. The digitized copies are available free through the library’s website in PDF format.

What are the Rochester City Directories? These directories list the names of men and women living and working in Rochester including their occupations and street addresses. Death information is also included for some of the entries. By browsing through the existing files, the user can gain a sense of history on the city of Rochester through changing occupations. In 1827 a sampling of occupations is: teamster, attorney, cooper, pail-maker, nailer, and tavern keeper. The later directories also include a street index and the user can browse by street name and see the individuals living at a specific house number. For those living within the Rochester city limits, give it a try and see if you can find your house!

These records could be invaluable to those doing genealogical research. While they are fascinating for local users, those researching family ties from around the world could check the Rochester records without leaving their computer. They would also be a good resource for school classes researching local history as change over time can be assessed.

The site is extremely easy to use and includes a link to download Adobe Acrobat so users can easily view the PDF files. The project has a professional appearance and commitment to quality is evident. I recently spoke with the Digitizing Manager regarding the project and she stated providing a quality resource was of utmost importance as was making good use of the generous grant funds. Two part-time staff members were committed to the project and their training and expertise are evident in the finished project. The main page also includes a link to Frequently Asked Questions to help guide the user, further increasing usability.

This project is an example of digitizing as an act of preserving content as well as making the information more accessible. The fragile copies from the nineteenth century can be preserved in a secure location and are still in existence if needed but for those purely seeking content, the digital records are a powerful resource.

Alaska's Digital Archive

Alaska's Digital Archive is a well presented site of "historical photographs, albums, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents, physical objects and other materials from libraries, museums, and archives" throughout the state. It includes over 10,000 items and is currently in the third phase of digital initiative. It is intended to support the instructional and research needs of Alaskans and others interested in Alaskan history and culture.

The site is user friendly in that it is easy to navigate and each step step explain in layman's language. The entire site has a light has a light approachable air to it. For example on the home page, it doesn't just say "Browse", it actually tells the user what browsing the site means. The same goes for "Advanced Search", My Favorites, "Help" and "About". The "Help" page is a narrative of the site such as one would find to an index. It is worded for the average user, uses images the aide explanation and does not skimp on information. There are several nicely outlined viewing options for example one can select a single collection or view all collections. Once a selection has been made the further viewing options are: grid, thumbnails, bibliograhic and title. Each of which is laid out in table form.

The archival site also provides links to other projects (, contributing partners, its privacy and collection policies and much more. I think this project would be a helpful example when looking at ways to make a digital library appealing to a diverse viewing audience.

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

Monday, February 12, 2007


Ad*Access is a digitized collection of more than 7,000 advertisements, printed in newspapers and magazines (U.S. and Canada) between 1911 and 1955, and is one of thirteen digitized collections from Duke University's Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The pilot project's goal is to make this content available for research and study (falls under Fair Use, Copyright and Citation Information). Other uses will require permission from the copyright holder. Funding was provided by the Duke Endowment "Library 2000" Fund.

The source materials came from the John W. Thompson Company Competitive Advertisements Collection. The Ad*Access collection, a subset of the Thompson Company collection, focuses on five subject areas:

  • Beauty and Hygiene (2,391 ads)
  • Radio (997 ads)
  • Television (864 ads)
  • Transportation (2,658 ads)
  • World War II (397 ads)

Each category provides a summary of U.S. history of the industry during this time frame. Having the history summaries helped put the ads into perspective. When viewing the ads, please be aware that some of the language used during that time frame is not considered acceptable by today's cultural norms.

The site browse and search features are intuitive and easy to use. Each digitized asset has a thumbnail, a 72 dpi image, a 150 dpi image, and metadata. Having the 150 dpi image size made it easy to view the smaller text in some of the ads.

The Creation of the Images and Database section provides excellent information on the technology and processes used in the project. This information might be a helpful reference to others planning a digitization project.

It was fun to look at the ads for some of the old products (and their prices). For example, in 1950, the first color televisions went on display in New York City and in 1952, you could rent a car for three dollars a day plus seven cents a mile!

Many of the original print ads have become too fragile to handle. It's fortunate to have this collection digitized for all to access.

Kalamazoo Public Library – Local History Photo Gallery

I grew up near Kalamazoo, Michigan (apologies for putting a certain Glen Miller tune into your heads) so I headed to the Kalamazoo Public Library’s website to see if they have any digitized assets on display. I found a nice, basic DL of photographs from their local history collection.

The historical photographs are a bit of an odd assortment. They range from photos of a couple of local businesses to pictures of city parks to portraits of graduating seniors from the class of 1872. Some of the collections represent significant bits of Kalamazoo life and history. For example, there is heavy coverage of the insane asylum – yes, we were known for our insane asylum! - but many other aspects are conspicuously absent. Some of the photo collections have links to learn more; these links take the user to a well-written, engaging discussion of the subject of the photos, plus some additional content such as a few additional photos and a map or two.

Since we’ve been reading quite a bit about the selection process for digitization, I was naturally thinking about the KPL’s selection process for these digital assets. I wonder why they chose to digitize and share these particular collections of photos. I also wonder why digital libraries in general don’t tend to include statements about why they choose to share the particular assets they do – at least, I can’t recall seeing those sorts of comments. Perhaps they don’t want to reveal details of the decision-making process to the public, or they feel that the public wouldn’t be interested. Any thoughts?

The KPL digital library is nothing particularly flashy and coverage is certainly not exhaustive, but it is easy to use and navigate. The Gibson guitar factory series is particularly fun to page through. This digital library of old photos should appeal to those interested in the businesses and institutions represented, as well as Michigan history fans in general.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Frank S. Matsura Image Collection

Washington State University’s digital collections library includes the Frank S. Matsura Image Collection. Matsura, a Japanese immigrant, photographed life in a small eastern Washington town in the early 1900s.

The main Web page allows users to access the collection three ways:

1. Browse Entire Collection. When clicking on this link, the search results said 1,598 matching items were retrieved.

2. Search the Collection. This option allows the users to enter free-text terms in the search textbox. For example, when the word “water” was entered as a search term, 102 matching items were retrieved.

3. Select A Predefined Search. This option includes a drop-down box of all the categories in which the collection is arranged.

No matter which of the three options are used to browse the collection, each results page showed 10 thumbnail images per page with the instructions to “Click on the thumbnail or title to view the item and corresponding description.”

The main page of the Matsura collection seems a little too wordy; however, the information was very interesting. The text includes biographical information on the photographer and then guides the user on searching the database. Finally, the text includes information on how the digital collection was created, which will be appreciated by digitization professionals of the future. A few thumbnail images were interspersed with the text. A few larger images may have made the page more visually aesthetic.

Washington State University has correctly established the value of digitizing the Frank S. Matsura image collection. WSU is a top research university and serves the region captured on film by Matsura. Anyone searching for images of everyday people and places in the region during the early 1900s can appreciated the accessibility of the Matsura images. Also, anyone who is planning to digitize a small image collection may want to review the Matsura collection for an excellent example on how to do it effectively.

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, Harvard University Library

This digitization project is part of Harvard University's Open Collections Program. The Open Collections Program is an avenue for Harvard to

"advance(s) teaching and learning on historical topics of great relevance by providing online access to historical resources from Harvard's..." collections.

This particular digitization project focuses on voluntary immigration to the United States from 1789-1930, although materials related to the African Diaspora are also provided through links to other digital resources. The collection mainly concentrates on 19th-century immigration and draws upon Harvard's wealth of historical materials including books, pamphlets, photographs, maps, archival materials and manuscripts.

Interestingly, this web accessible collection is not intended to just highlight Harvard's vast collection of materials related to voluntary immigration. Rather it is intended to be an Education Resource for immigration studies. This is accomplished by providing access to digitized materials as well as providing contextual information regarding this period and feature of American History. Quantitative data, diaries, biographies and other writings are used to

"capture diverse experiences" and "provide(s) a window into the lives of ordinary immigrants."

The digital assets presented are extensive and visitors can conduct searches for materials or browse the materials by genre or subject. Texts and manuscripts are available in their entirety. They are easy to browse and read. Photographs are high quality scans that can be viewed up close and personal. Backs of photos with descriptions were also scanned and are viewable.

The volume of materials presented through this web accessible collection is amazing and potentially overwhelming. Luckily for users, the website for the collection is well-organized, simple to navigate and visually pleasing. All of the links in the left hand margin are visible without scrolling, which in my mind is essential for usability. As someone who has performed historical research, this resource is a goldmine.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Medieval Manuscript of Syracuse University Library

The Department of Special Collections in the Bird library at Syracuse University has held a small amount of important medieval manuscripts on parchment. These manuscripts are of high artifactual value because of their uniqueness of content and styles. The special collection department decided to collect full descriptive information for ten selected manuscripts, digitize the images contained in these manuscripts, and make them accessible on the web in 1999. This project not only digitized the individual pages of the selected manuscripts, but also displayed detailed images of selected images from the individual pages.

This project adopts and revised the catalog descriptions developed by Digital Scriptorium, though SU does not participate in this image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts. There are three levels of descriptions of the digitized manuscripts, including the overall manuscript, part of the manuscript, and the texts contained in the manuscripts. The Index to the Medieval Manuscript in the website leads users to the brief summary of a particular manuscript, to the sub-index that guides users to the selected images contained in that manuscript, and to the links to the descriptions of that manuscript in table format.

One of the biggest problems of this project is the organization structure of and the presentation of the images and their descriptions. First, though Index to the Medieval Manuscript may allow users to get a sense of what the collection contains, the entries were ill-designed. They are arranged according to the manuscript number assigned (i.e. MS 1, MS 2, MS 3…). The institution and the department that owns these manuscripts were stated after these identifiers and thus be repititively presented. (In this case, the heading “Syracuse University, Department of Special Collections” has been frequently occurred). We can notice that this kind of reiteration is redundant. Though it helps locate the physical items, it should be placed after the headings that are relatively more identifiable, such as the titles of the manuscripts. The user may have to quickly skim all the collection before locating the images that they want to take a look at.

In addition, the entries in the sub-index that leads to the images contained in each manuscript were also arranged according to the assigned identifiers that the user may not be able to efficiently and effectively locate what he needs. The user can only search the images contained in these manuscripts by browsing the titles of individual images. It may be helpful to install a search engine to search the images and their descriptions. Further, the numbers of the entries of the images in some of the web pages that present the image titles of a particular manuscript were so large that they may hinder navigation.

The images presented in the website were of low quality. For example, the texts in the digital images of the individual pages of the manuscripts were cut out. Though the texts may not as valuable as the borders or decorated borders, the images of them should not be ill-presented. Undesirable texts or pictures should be removed before display. The images should be corrected and edited for aesthetic and consistent presentation.

Furthermore, other important components of the website of a digitization project, such as site maps, acknowledgements, contact information, additional references, were not well-organized and systematically presented. The web pages look more like listing. Finally, the website does not have copyright statement that guides users how to legally and correctly use the digital images and the accompanied descriptions.

In summary, the website of this project was not well-constructed. The digital products of this project were not well-presented, either. The accessibility of the digital images and their metadata may be thus reduced because of the navigation difficulties. The advancement of the accessibility and the usage of the materials rely on not only the digitization of containers, but the organization and the presentation of the digital products and their descriptions.

Min-Chun Ku 古敏君 at Syracuse on Feb. 08, 2007