Monday, April 30, 2007

Canadian Nursing History Collection Online

I’m the black sheep of my family because I’m from a family of nurses and I’m virtually the only one who hasn’t ended up in the health care field.
In honor of the family profession, I found the Canadian Nursing History Collection Online, which is a wonderful site on historical nursing artifacts. The image collection boasts beautiful, high quality images of various items owned by Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of Civilization.

All the items contained in the collection are somehow related to the nursing profession – from uniforms to caps to medals received for service during war time. The collection contains approximately 1,800 items in a variety of specific categories, including hospital and military uniforms, nursing caps, instrument kits, books on military nursing and memorabilia associated with various leaders in nursing.

In keeping with Canada’s bilingualism, the collection can be searched in either English or French. Unfortunately, the user cannot just browse the site for items – a keyword search must be performed. Overall, the main downside to the site is that it doesn’t have the clearest navigation scheme.

The site doesn’t have a FAQ section, per se, but under Questions, there is an email address where users can send questions or comments. The Menu section acts as a combination of a sitemap and provides further information about the collection and other related special collections of nursing materials. Also under the Menu section is an a link to an overview of nursing in Canada from the establishment of New France until the present day. Additionally, there are links to nursing schools, suggestions for further study and a selected bibliography on nursing in Canada.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

National Library of Australia- Digital Collections

The digital collections of the National Library of Australia provide digitized representations of important holdings of pictures, maps, manuscripts, books, sheet music, and audio in the library’s collection. The main page is easy to follow and utilizes minimal text to guide the user. As a large amount of information is covered, this is an ideal arrangement so the page is not cluttered. Along the top of the screen are links to each of the individual collections. Once in an individual collection, some samples are available for browsing or the user can click on links to search the catalog of items. A general search box is available at the top of the screen for a quick keyword search. If a more in depth search is needed, links lead the user to search the catalog and once the search feature is located it is intuitive to use and provides numerous results. The collection pages also include a box titled, “Our Curator’s Choice,” highlighting a particularly intriguing aspect.

When viewing an individual image, you can access the catalog record and there is also an “Interactive Image” feature where you can zoom in and out, crop, and adjust the size and print the image. The quality of the image can also be altered so fine details can be seen if desired or if a general overview is needed, a lesser quality image can be used. Users can also order high quality TIFF images of items in the collection.

From the main page an especially useful is link available leading to information on Digital Collections Infrastructure. This page discusses the digital object storage system used by the library as well as the digital collections manager to aid in the management of the collections. This page also discusses identification schemes used as well as access and delivery. A diagram illustrating the simplified architecture of access is included as well.

A copyright link is available on the main page as well as the main page for all the collections. As this is an Australian site, they include the notice that, all material is protected under Australian Intellectual Property Laws. Users may download, temporarily store, and display the material in unaltered form as well as print and copy in unaltered form for purposes permitted under the 1968 Australian Copyright Act. The page includes links to resources for gaining more information regarding copyright for the various mediums used on the site.

The main pages includes a link to an online reference query form to submit an electronic question. In addition, they provide a feedback form to gather user needs and to find areas needing improvement.

This is a well organized and comprehensive collection that meets the needs of those seeking information related to Australian history and culture. It is especially valuable to those in different countries as it increases the ability to view important artifacts and gain an increased understanding of Australian culture.

Indianapolis Marion County Public Library

The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library (IMCPL) has two digital collections available for exploration: the May Wright Sewall Collection and the Museum Artifacts Collection. The purpose of each collection is simple -- to provide “free access to digital versions of increasingly valuable, fragile and hard-to-use originals”. Before a visitor begins exploring either collection, they are provided information detailing the size of the digital collection, a description of its contents and, in the case of May Wright Sewall, a brief biography outlining her accomplishments.

The library now uses the CONTENTdm collection management software but when I visited the site a short while ago it was utilizing the software of a different vendor, which was not as user friendly. I tried visiting the Internet Archive to retrieve the previous version but the site has not been archived since May 30, 2006 and the links direct you to the current version. With a discussion of the awkward interface no longer in play, time was spent exploring the Museum Artifacts Collection.

The artifacts are actually part of the much larger collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which has partnered with the IMCPL who hosts the digital collection. The 1,000 artifacts available digitally represent the three domains: natural world, cultural world, and American experience. Surprisingly, the metadata for each item does not attribute which domain the artifact belongs. Although the Museum’s visitors would be familiar with their distinctions, they might have found it helpful to be able to search by domain.

Another piece of information that could have been included in the metadata is the item’s tie to Indiana. From the collection’s description on the IMCPL site, the 1,000 items were selected “based on their relevance to Indiana Curriculum Standards … [and] objects range over school subjects from Social Studies to Science to Geography with a particular emphasis on Indiana”. Only those familiar with curriculum and the State would be able to make this connection while other visitors may be more interested in this information than just a general description of the item itself.

The Artifacts Collection is an example of collaboration between two institutions. The digital access benefits the educators and students of Indiana as well as the rest of the world, who can explore a small portion of the Museum’s collection from anywhere.

Friday, April 27, 2007

University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center

The University of Virginia became a Google partner library just last year. Like all of the Google libraries I've looked at during this class, UVa already had a strong history of digitization. From their press release:

“Since 1992, the U.Va. Library has been making public domain works freely available online,” said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg.

I wanted to take a look at these public domain books, so ended up at UVa's Etext Center where you can download copies of e-books. For a quick idea of what's available, see what pops up in the "Spotlight" section at the center of the home page. So far I've downloaded Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure to my Palm T/X, and they work!

I had a little trouble with the search function. I could find books, but most were showing up as only available for Microsoft Reader. Perhaps with a little more time I could figure out how to narrow the search more effectively. Browsing the collections worked better for me, and I now have Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew ready for my next sync.

I'm uncertain about the future of the Etext Center. On UVa's list of Digital Collections it's described as the "Library's former Etext Center" (emphasis mine). But on the library's Google FAQ page it says
We are happy to join the group of major libraries participating in the Google Book Search project. Not only will the project help more readers discover more books, but Google’s work will also provide us with additional e-texts, letting us quickly complete the “e-text” project we began back in 1992
I hope the FAQ is correct--the Etext Center is a wonderful resource. This is the most forward-thinking use of the Google digital copies I've seen so far.

I have an email in to the library's reference desk to see if I can find out more details. Also of interest is this case study of the Electronic Text Center (go all the way to the end to find UVa) put out by the Council on Library and Information Resources. David Seaman championed this project and according to the case study he left UVa in 2002 and is now the Executive Director of the Digital Library Federation. I wonder if Seaman's departure is the reason the Etext Center's future is uncertain?

L. V. McWhorter Native American Artifact Collection

Lucullus Virgil (L.V.) McWhorter was a friend and advocate of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, especially the Yakama, Nez Perce, Bannock, and Flathead tribes. During the early twentieth century, he observed, studied, wrote about and defended the rights of the tribes.

During those years, he collected physical relics of the Native American cultures. He also collected something that was perhaps more important, their stories. Upon his death, McWhorter's family donated his collection to Washington State University. The University has included McWhorter's Native American artifacts in its digital collections.

The Web site includes a summary of McWhorter's work and the Nez Perce War and brief biographies of the Nez Perce members whose items are included in the digital collection. The site also includes links to the finding aids for McWhorter's papers and photographs.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the National Parks Service and the Museum of Anthropology had photographed items in the collection. For the digital project, WSU librarians digitized these images, added them to a CONTENTdm database and applied descriptive metadata. The small collection can be accessed by a general search, a predefined search, or by browsing the items of specific individuals.

The artifacts in this collection are of great value to not only researchers of Pacific Northwest native history, but also to educators, history buffs and the general public. The collection could be enhanced by the digitization of McWhorter's papers and photographs. The stories of the Nez Perce War still command an audience.

I owe a special thanks to Laila Miletic-Vejzovic at Washington State University for the permission to post the image above, which is the money fold that belonged to Helping Another (Penahwenonmi). Helping Another, the wife of Wounded Knee, escaped the Battle of Big Hole and lived another 61 years, until her death in 1938.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Digital Commonwealth

The Digital Commonwealth is the result of the collaborative efforts of libraries and other cultural organizations that belong to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The online cultural resources available on the site range from historical photographs to text-based documents. The site was updated recently, but the website is very basic by current standards.

To search the site, the user clicks on Search the Prototype Portal, named as such because the official Digital Commonwealth has yet to be launched. As of this writing, the Digital Commonwealth has 7446 items indexed from four different archive collections: Digital Treasures, Northeast Massachusetts Digital Library, WHOAS at MBL WHOI Library and Williams College Collections Online.

The search option allows the user to search multiple fields – it acts as an advanced search option, although the top right-hand corner may be used for simple searches. You can choose to search using any of the following options: all fields, all or a specific archive, contributor, coverage, creator, date range, description, format, identifier, language (from list), publisher, relation, rights, source, subject, title and type. There are search tips at the bottom of the page but it is questionable whether a novice would take the time to read them. There are almost too many options for casual users – they could find the interface daunting. But for a skilled professional, the options may provide good search results. The browse feature may be a better option for someone who is unfamiliar with the site – a user can choose to browse all or any of the individual collections.

There is a help available link for users, but some of the language used in the instructions would only be understood by other information professionals. The average user isn’t going to understand what “MARC format,” “Dublin Core” or “metadata” mean. The about section discusses the indexing software used for the collection – the portal uses the PKP Open Archives Harvester, which is a free metadata indexing system.

While the quality of the digitized materials on The Digital Commonwealth portal is good, searching the collections may be challenging for novice users. Overall, a noteworthy site for those interested in the history of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Iowa Heritage Digital Collection

The Iowa Heritage Digital Collection (IHDC) is a repository of documents, maps, images, finding aids, education and interpretive materials regarding Iowa history and culture.

The over 10,000 digital items in this collection come from multiple organizations which include colleges, universities, public libraries, historical societies, museums, archives, and schools. Searching the collection enables users to search across these multiple collections.

The software used for the digital collection was CONTENTdm, which we discussed in our class.

One thing I liked about the collection was the short survey they had available on the homepage to get user feedback. I haven’t seen this on too many other digital collection web pages. It offers a little more interaction than the normal “Contact” button.

The collection also has an extensive list of goals on their “About” page, which I found to be very organized. My favorite one was:

“To demonstrate the viability and value of developing electronic resources in libraries, schools, archives, and museums to further the states economic development.”

More information about the Iowa Heritage Digital Collection can be found here: http://iowaheritage.org/

The Catich Collection

The Catich Collection is a “Digital Archive of the works of Fr. Edward Catich,” a well known calligrapher. The collection was created by St. Ambrose University which houses the world’s largest collection of Fr. Edward Catich’s work.

This collection has digitized over 1100 images of Catich’s artwork. In the future, St. Ambrose hopes to include manuscripts, diaries and letters. I am only assuming that this has been moved to a long term goal because of budgetary or staff constraints.

The items are presented in a searchable catalog, with thumbnail views that can be enlarged. The only problem I see with the design of the digital collection is that there is no link to bring you back to the initial homepage. This hindered my perusal of the site on several occasions.

One thing I found helpful was a PDF file provided on the homepage that gives users hints for searching the collection. If someone with little internet searching experience was to come upon this website, they would probably gain from viewing this document. It is also important to note that the language used in the document can be universally used for internet searching, which gives the user a little more instruction.

The digital collection was easy to use (except for the lack of the “Home” link).

More information on The Catich Collection can be found here: http://catich.sau.edu/

Monday, April 23, 2007

Museum of Modern Art: The Collection

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) online collection includes over 6,000 articles by 1,800 artists. Although it’s an impressive art collection, this review looks at MoMA’s useful browse and search feature.

First, users may use the Browse collection highlights dropdown menu, which allows users to browse collection highlights by curatorial department, decade, or recent acquisition. I clicked on “1950s” and then clicked on the browse button. Three pages of modern art from the 1950s opened. Each page had a maximum of six thumbnails images per page. The title of each piece of art is shown below the thumbnail. Clicking on a thumbnail opens a larger view of the image and more facts about the artwork.

Below the dropdown menu, users have the option to Browse the artist index which includes links to the alphabetical lists of artists. I clicked on “K-O” and scrolled down the list to “Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) [13]”. Clicking on her name opened three pages that contained the 13 Georgia O’Keeffe works that are displayed on the MoMA online collection.

Finally, the Search the collection section is an advanced search feature that allows even the most amateur users to easily narrow their search of the MoMA online collection. For example, in the first row, I selected “artist” from the dropdown menu and typed “Matisse” in the textbox. I clicked on the “+” at the end of that row to activate the next line. In the next line, I selected “department” from the dropdown menu. When I did this, another dropdown menu replaced the textbox in that row, in which I selected “Painting and Sculpture.” Below the search textboxes, I checked the “only works with images” box and left the “sort by” box to its default of “date order (earliest first).” I clicked on the search button and 7 pages opened that contained thumbnails of paintings and sculptures by Henri Matisse.

Information professionals who are creating a large digital collection with various departments may want to review MoMA’s browse and search page. It provides great ideas on how to allow users to search the collection.

While you are checking out the MoMA browse and search feature, don’t forget to check out their awesome online art collection!

The Portal to Texas History

The Portal to Texas History, hosted by the University of North Texas Libraries, is an attractively designed web portal that provides access to several sections of the site. There is information available for elementary and high school students in the Young Scholars Page. Although the page hasn’t been updated since 2005, I was surprised that it didn’t have any broken links. The broad subject areas such as architecture, people, education and social life and customs make searching for the digitized documents an easy task for young students. As an added bonus, it has a link to Primary Source Adventures, which provides a small collection of primary source materials. This portion of the site links up with Portal Services for Educators, which offers lesson plans, downloadable slideshows in various formats and student worksheets for teachers of the fourth and seventh grades. These valuable aids present elementary school teachers with professional-looking presentations and lesson plans that they can customize for their classes.

The Portal to Texas History also has a section for researchers with the standard basic and advanced search capabilities. Using the basic search, a user can search for full text, metadata, title, subject and creator. My only complaint is that your average researcher isn’t familiar with the term ‘metadata,’ so it may be an extraneous choice. The advanced search option offers even more freedom to customize the search – it is very similar to Google’s advanced search page. Advanced searching allows to limit results to 10, 20, 30, 50 or 100 results, and also allows for exact phrase and modified Boolean operators. The user can also choose to limit the results to primary source material, a certain institution, collection, language, type or date range.

About the Portal provides a great deal of information about the project itself, including the mission, scope, best practices, partner institutions, equipment used, news plus extensive information about the grants used for the project. Overall, this is a fabulous site on Texas history.

Middlebury College's Digital Initiatives - Robert Frost at Bread Loaf

I chatted with Anne Callahan for our interview assignment earlier in the semester, so decided to write my last blog post on the project that she worked on, Middlebury College's Digital Initiatives. Having graduated from Middlebury, I absolutely enjoyed exploring the Initiative's many offerings: a walking tour of the historic town, digitized photographs from the college's Special Collections, and online exhibits. Anne, whose title was "digitization intern," but worked authoritatively on every aspect of the digitization process, informed me that the Special Collections department, from which the bulk of the digitized material came from, wrestled with their presentation of the digitized items. Ultimately, they decided to incorporate them into the library catalog, and chose to highlight a few particularly interesting collections through the creation of online exhbits. The "Robert Frost at Bread Loaf" online exhibit is one of them, and an excellent representation of the entire collection. I'll focus on it for this post.

The exhibit includes digitized letters and manuscripts, lectures and readings (with audio), and photographs. Also included are excerpts from one man's in-depth notes on Frost. Together, each of these items paint a very thorough portait of one facet of the poet's life.

Although the exhibit has no search function, all of the content (which is not unmanageably large in size) is laid out in a very simple and easy-to-follow way, so as to faciliate easy browsing. If necessary, each item is accompanied by expository information (such as identifying subjects in photographs) and dated. The digitized images of the photographs and manuscripts are clear and crisp, and very view-able. The audio is also of good quality. The "About" page includes copyright information, with which, I remember Anne telling me, there were some initial problems (items whose copyright was not cleared were simply not digitized).

Though I can't say enough good things about this particular online exhibit, I see room for two improvements. The first thing I would do is accompany Frost's letters with typed manuscripts. Though his penmanship is relatively readable, I often found myself wishing I could simultaneously see them in basic plain text form. I realize this would be a time-consuming task, but if anyone were to edit this site in the future, I think this would be a good change. Something else that I would change would be LIS/Special Collection's marketing of this and all of its digitization projects. As a lit major, seeing and hearing Robert Frost at these places, that I had also frequented, would have been intensely interesting and really would have added something to class discussions on the poet. Granted, I am not certain that the online exhibit existed when I was studying Frost, but it really would enhance the learning experience. It is my hope that it is now being publicized for use and exploration amongst current students.

Historic Pittsburgh

Historic Pittsburgh, which is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, provides a wealth of information on this former industrial powerhouse. From full-text books from the 19th and 20th centuries and historical maps to historical photographs and census information, Historic Pittsburgh is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to find out more about the city. The image collections boast over 9,900 images that can be explored by theme, which includes work, play, at home or Pittsburgh personalities, time, location or collection. Each section is further broken down into further refined sub-topics. The census information would be of particular interest to users who are researching their roots in the Pittsburgh area.

Historic Pittsburgh also contains a section on finding aids, which are designed to assist users with the archival collections at the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center and the Library & Archives of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Historical Society’s catalogue is also hosted by the site, located under the HSWP Catalog tab.

Another useful feature of the Historic Pittsburgh site is the chronology section, which allows the user to click on the timeline to find out more about the historical events in Pittsburgh during that period. The timeline starts in pre-1750 and extends up to 2005.

I was impressed by the clear navigation scheme and the ease with which one can search the various components of the website. The search engines for the different sections have helpful tips on Boolean searching for users who may not be familiar with truncation and wildcard searching. Overall, I have only praise for Historic Pittsburgh due its many features and clear, efficient design and use.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

La biblioteca digital del Real Jardín Botánico

Earlier this semester, as I was making my list of digital libraries to highlight in our blog, I wanted to include at least one non-English collection. When I stumbled upon La biblioteca digital del Real Jardín Botánico, I knew that I had found it. The digital library is both a historical archive and a contemporary resource for scientists.

The collection includes hundreds of books and documents about the science of plants. The publication dates for most of the collection range from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. However, there are volumes that date back to the mid-eighteenth century. The initial phase of the digital library was completed in 2005, which was the 250th anniversary of the Real Jardín Botánico, or the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid, Spain. Some volumes of the digital collection may be some of the first print volumes acquired by the physical library of the RJB. I was enamored of the illustrations in many of the older volumes, especially the Albums de la flora médico-farmacéutica.

Bibliographic information, in MARC format, is provided for each volume. Full-text searching is available on the home page. The volumes can also be browsed by author or title. The pages of each volume were scanned as TIFFs or JPEGs and converted to PDFs for use on the Web site. The volumes can be read in an integrated viewer or downloaded.

In addition to the digital volumes, the collection includes information about and relevant links to both collaborators on the project and additional online resources for botanical research. Some of the information on the site has been translated into English, but the texts remain in their original language (almost all were written in Spanish). The beauty of the pages and the ease of navigation minimize the language barrier and make this a worthwhile site for all visitors.

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Humorous postscript: I have been so pleasantly surprised this semester with the ability to obtain copyright permission for images from the digital libraries that I have visited. The Real Jardín Botánico was the only institution that did not respond to my request. I can only guess that it was because I dusted off my college Spanish to make the inquiry. I likely sounded like a kindergarten student (at best), rather than a graduate student!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

EOneill.com: An Electronic Eugene O'Neill Archive

The Eugene O'Neill Archive is a collection of information regarding the works and life of Eugene O'Neill. The site' content is provided and chosen by a group of O'Neill scholars, ranging from amateur experts to English professors and special collection librarians whose careers have focused on O'Neill. So, the material included in this collection is deemed valuable by highly credible experts.

The amount of actual works by O'Neill that are digitized on the site is small. Those works that are available tend to be smaller objects (such as short plays and single photographs) and are optimized for web viewing. Text pieces are in HTML format and images are small and do not offer multiple sizes or even a single larger image view. Many of the individual collections listed on this site are physically stored in universities around the country as well as in the stores of individual collectors. Some of the works from these collections are included in the forms previously mentioned; the remainder are simply listed on the site.

Searching on the site is done via a Google-powered search box. Browsing can be done by going to the individual collection paces and navigating from there. No indication is made of the number of digitized objects in each collection nor is there an option to view only digitized objects.

A variety of lesson plans and study guides are available on the site for many different grade levels. Also available are reviews, journal articles, and essays about O'Neill and his work. These guides and articles are also in the basic HTML format with links to other works and collections on the site where appropriate.

All in all, this site has only a basic level of digitization. The reliance on HTML for the display and description of objects allows the pages to be easily viewed by any Internet user, but the objects are not very user-friendly beyond that. This site appears to function best as a site to use when beginning research; the study guides and listings of holdings in a number of important collections can give users information about where to proceed with research into O'Neill and his works.

Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books

The University of Wisconsin has a variety of digital collections. One of these collections is the Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books. This collections contains a variety of book bindings, with three different sizes of pictures for each book. The page for each object contains thumbnails for the pictures for each book (front cover, back cover, and spine), a main picture that can be changed by selecting the desired thumbnail, and an option to toggle the size of the selected picture. Also included on this page is a detailed text record of the book and the photographs.

Searching for these photographs can be done in a variety of ways. Categories are available for browsing; literary, historical, and artistic categories are available. Each group of categories link to the individual category page. These pages contain a great deal of information describing the general category including essays on the topic and online resources on the topic. Users can also choose to browse books within that category (as defined by labels in the catalog record). Searches can also be done via a search box on the main page; these searches allow users to find works by any attribute in the catalog record.

One of the most interesting parts of the site is its educational resources. Each of the categories available for browsing also have lists of teaching resources, most of which are online. Lesson plans and handouts are available in Word and PDF formats. Also, the controlled vocabulary list for the subjects in the collection is available, allowing users to more accurately search for their desired objects.

If you're a book lover this is a great collection! The books have great aesthetic value on their own; the collection places these works in a greater context and enhances the users' appreciation for them.

Claremont Colleges Digital Library (CCDL)

I found this site by perusing the CONTENTdm’s list of customers.

One aspect of this site I like is that the DL is clearly presented on the main library homepage.

It is placed prominently with all the other kinds of library resources and services that users have come to expect to be able to find easily: catalog, online journals & databases, geographical information systems, ILL, reserves, contact a librarian, renew books, etc. Its placement communicates that the DL can be an initial destination or a supplement to other research sources.

The Claremont Colleges are five colleges east of Los Angeles that share their libraries as part of a consortium. The colleges have each contributed to the DL, recently created to support the teaching and research needs of students and faculty. Many different digital formats are represented in the DL. The DL attempts to acquire material free of copyright and legal restrictions.

The entire Claremont Colleges Library website has well-planned navigational and labeling elements, and a logical organizational structure. This is also true of the DL itself.

From the DL homepage, one can choose to access the collections by topic, institution, object type, faculty, and collection name. A feature that I haven’t seen often, and which I think is really improves convenience, is the top-right labels: ask us, chat, email, phone, providing a way to get help support from the library staff efficiently. These labels and the rest of the top navigation labels are consistent throughout the DL.

I think another slick feature is that from any collection’s start page, one can browse by subject terms used in the collection: subject terms are derived from LCSH, AAT, TGM, local.

An interesting collection is the Claremont Graduate University Lectures on Applied Psychology and Evaluation Science.


Here one can watch videos of lectures and debates on such health issues as organ donations and recovered memory. Did I mention that I really like it that this DL enables me to browse by subject?

Not all of the collections are online. Guides to Manuscript Collections has finding aids, including one to the Susan B. Anthony Collection.


Students of digitization will want to check the Growing a Digital Library Collection documenting the work in developing and maintaining the DL.

In the top navigation bar, under “inside the ccdl”, one will find policy statements and a detailed editorial manual on how to use Dublin Core and a manual on scanning best practices.

CONTENTdm has been adopted by many organizations. It must be a good value - relatively low initial cost, minimal commitment of IT resources , while providing many nice features for browsing, searching, and manipulating records.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Digital Bridges

The Special Collections Department of Lehigh University Libraries has digitized thirty works about American bridges of the 19th century. The works range from Cable Making for Suspension Bridges, a detailed article about the cable techniques used in building the East River Bridge to An Elementary and Practical Treatise on Bridge Building, a lengthy manual about the general history and techniques of building bridges.

The documents are presented in a simple, well-designed Web site that offers users the ability to browse or search the collection. The collection database is organized and managed by a combination of locally developed scripts and programs and the open-source digital library software Greenstone. The search function offers multiple options. Users can search the titles, documents, or full text. The site also contains a collection index and an index of illustrations. These thirty documents have historical importance, as well as valuable information for those in the civil engineering fields.

Standard publication and cataloging information is provided for each document. Links on each document page allow the user to select a larger view of the page, a PDF version for printing, or an archival-quality (600dpi) TIFF. The project notes page of the Web site details the process of digitization, including the OCR rough edits and metadata work that was involved to ensure a high level of accuracy in the full-text searches. Information about copyright and permissions is not included in this site. (However, the newer collections of the Lehigh Digital Library do include links to the library's condition of use statement.)

Finally, the Digital Bridges site has a handy addition that makes it stand out from many of the digital projects that I have viewed this semester: a wonderful set of glossaries! Links to the glossaries of terms, names and bridges are included in the global navigation for the site and can be accessed from any page. Their inclusion and easy usability make this site a good model for similar projects, especially those of a technical nature.

Women Working, 1800-1930

For my last blog posting I figured I would end with a project that really Wowed me!! Without getting into the same subject matter I discussed in the first Harvard University Open Collections Project I reviewed, I will focus on some special features of this digitization project. To learn about the content please visit the site and have fun exploring it.

N.B. My interviewee for assignment 2 was working on this project when I spoke with her. At the time of the interview the project was not completed or live on the internet.

Under FAQ's section I stumbled on What are the selection criteria for the Women Working: 1800-1930 collection? This selection statement is not a general statement for all Harvard OCP project rather deals specifically with this one project. The link to the selection page provides visitors with:

* Background on the project
* General criteria for topic selection,
* Selection guidelines for the Women Working Digital Collection
* Criteria for gathering Materials (the Methodology for identifying material)
* Guidelines for literature review
* Editorial guidelines for inclusion or exclusion
* Further general content criteria
* Physical and Structural guidelines (i.e. physical condition,...)
* Reformatting considerations
* Exclusion of materials (i.e. not owned by Harvard -a copyright issue)
* Guidelines on digital duplication


I really like seeing a very well developed selection process and to see it made public. There is no question in my mind why an item would be chosen or not chosen. This is very much in keeping with the whole idea behind the OCP project: the Democratization of the information and resources owned by Harvard University a its many libraries.

Copyright

In keeping with this information for the masses idea the rest of FAQ's section is dominated by copyright questions and policies. Not only can visitors search the collection easily as well as understand the materials selection process, but they are also provided with usage guidelines and copyright information in a clear and concise manner. Again this is a great feature and surprisingly unpretentious.

Links to Women Working

This page provides guidelines for linking to the Women Working website and tells you how to link the page. Instructions are provided for a text link (with html code provided for copying and pasting) and images links. You must contact them via email to do this linking. I am not sure if my links in this blog infringe on copyright because I am not linking to content, just policies. However I am sure there is probably no such distinction.

Teacher Resources

Found in the left hand margin this resource is another wonderful feature of the website and project. The Women WOrking materials are organized according to themes and provide uniques ways to engage students on this topic in the area of social studies and history. This is a great feature and just another way to make this digitized relevant to students and teachers. This is a valuable feature of any digitization project. After a semesters thought, reading and studying digitization I feel it is not enough to digitize materials and slap them up on the web. As we learned at the outset of this class it is not just about preservation. Digitization is also about access and education. Digitization programs need to be responsible for making materials accessible (through things like good website design and usabiltity) as well as further educational or explanatory information.

The Original Wind in the Willows at the Bodleian Library

We're travelling across the ocean to our next Google Books partner library, the Bodleian at Oxford University. In the outline of the Google-Oxford program, Oxford explains that it will only allow Google to digitize material in the public domain and that they eventually have plans to link Oxford's digital copy into their catalog. The library services home page includes a link to Google Book Search, but I was not able to find any Google-scanned books on the site at this time.

Oxford has had its own digital library project since 2001, and one of the newest additions is The Original Wind in the Willows.

This online display, launched by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library to celebrate World Book Day 2007, reveals the origins of Kenneth Grahame’s masterpiece of children’s literature, The Wind in the Willows. It is an expanded version of an exhibition mounted on 1 March for one day only in the Library’s famous Divinity School and reproduces images from the original letters and manuscripts in which Grahame brought his famous characters to life one hundred years ago.

I was not aware that The Wind in the Willows got its start as letters Kenneth Grahame wrote to his son Alastair while the two were apart one summer. There are many interesting details to find in this small collection--one of my favorites is that at one point the letters are addressed to "Michael Robinson" because Alastair had decided he did not like his own name. The letters were saved by his nanny and kept along with other records of the book's history, until it was all donated to the Bodleian Library by Kenneth Grahame's wife, Elspeth, in 1943.

Also included are photos of some of the original bindings and letters from a presidential fan, Theodore Roosevelt. The collection is a wonderful exploration of the book as artifact and another example of the contrast between mass digitization and the highly local digitization projects of individual libraries.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Walker Art Center

A primary reason for digitizing is to increase access. The Walker Art Center demonstrates another reason for digitization - to engage both in-person and Web visitors in experiencing, commenting on, and creating art. The Walker is a “multidisciplinary arts organization” (About the Walker Art Center) located adjacent to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in Minnesota. Combining traditional museum display with contemporary Web 2.0 technologies the Walker both increases access to its collections and engages both museum visitors and Website users to participate, create, and comment. Some of the technologies used include Blogs, Wikis, audio, video, Webcasts, RSS (really simple syndication) feeds and word tagging.

Adding Value to Physical Collections
Adding to the typical digital images of museum installations, The Walker Art Center Collection draws the user in to view, listen, and participate. Images are accompanied by audio and video resources that compliment the collections by giving users various methods and resources for learning and exploring. Above each image are word links that describe the most popular words viewers associate with an art piece. Selecting a word opens an adjacent window containing viewer voted word associations ranked from high to low. Using a simple, intuitive interface, the user can leave comments, vote for the words they associate with a piece of art, and search on word associations to return images, from various collections, with similar word associations.

Using PDPal to Explore and Create
One method of engaging in person and virtual visitors is through PDPal. Hosted by Walker it is a “public art project” that can be accessed on both a PDA and the Web. The PDPal allows users to create personal maps that are “meant to highlight the way technologies that locate and orient are often static and without reference to the lively nature of urban cultural environments” (PDPal).

Digitally Born Installations
Walker’s virtual exhibition area is called Gallery 9. To access the gallery of digitally born media the user selects a colored box at the bottom of the page. Each color represents a type of creative work. The collection is described as
“a site for project-driven exploration, through digitally-based media, of all things 'cyber.' This includes artist commissions, interface experiments, exhibitions, community discussion, a study collection, hyperessays, filtered links, lectures and other guerilla raids into real space, and collaborations with other entities (both internal and external).”

Audio Only Exploration & Participation
In addition to visual exploration and participation the user can also engage in purely audio activities. “Using scores (or "instruction sets"),” artist-composers Steve Reich, John Cage, and Yoko Ono “invited” audience participation in what is described as “Fluxus works.” One participant to Yoko Ono’s Voice Piece for Soprano: Scream is an 83 year old artist and teacher whose picture of her screaming into the telephone is posted in the comments section. Participation such as this makes it apparent that while digital initiatives may at times seem serious they can be used to create fun and collaborative learning environments.

This is only a small bit of what was explored at the Walker. There are a multitude of other resources available to users that are well worth exploring and demonstrate both the various technologies used for digital works and the value that digitization can add to an institution as a cultural institution for all audiences and as a method of increasing participation and understanding of creative works.

Digital Collections of the USMA

The United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point has a digital library that documents the history of West Point, the U.S. Military Academy, and its alumni. The twenty-three collections can be summarized by the following categories: books, manuscripts, maps, multimedia and photographs.

The variety of materials available may surprise visitors – from class rings to yearbooks to a letter written by Major General Alexander Hamilton to the Secretary of War in 1799 calling for the creation of a military academy to audio recordings from their Distinguished Lecture Series. Visitors can also watch a silent movie documenting the winning season of the Academy’s 1945 football team.

While some items, such as the multimedia are available on the site itself, viewing the other collections involves CONTENTdm. The site’s integration with CONTENTdm is relatively seamless compared to others I have seen. This is particularly true with respect to the search function, which allows terms to be entered in the site and another window opens with the CONTENTdm results. All the while the user can easily switch back to the USMA site and begin exploring another area. There is also an option to search all collections simultaneously using the tool integrated in the page header but multiple attempts to use this resulted in “page cannot be found” error messages.

The level of information available through the site will make this a useful resource for those who are interested in military history and those descendants of the cadets who want to learn more about their relative’s military career beginning at the Academy. Class albums are available for 1862 and 1898 through 1902. In addition to providing a picture of each cadet in the program, a link to their biographical information is included in the metadata (aka page description) with the exception of the class of 1862. For this group, some information is provided in abbreviated format but will not take long for a user to figure out that “D-VT 27 Jul 1908” conveys that the cadet died in Vermont on July 27, 1908.

It will be interesting to see how this collection evolves over time to maybe one day include another class of ’98 -- 1998!

The Virginia Gazette

The Colonial Williamsburg foundation's John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library in Williamsburg, Virginia has a collection of non other then the history and culture of colonial British America. Considering the vast collection of colonial furniture, artifacts and primary resources I was happy to see that they have been working to create a digital library. Although the CWF wants people to come to Williamsburg and experience history come alive it is great to see them supporting access to some of the materials via the world wide web. Maybe this resource will help to attract more visitors from around the globe.

The Digital Library viewed through the separate website designed to manage the digital materials; PAST PORTALS, provides access to some of the "primary sources and original research held by the Library. It contains more than 500 research reports, scanned images and encoded texts numbering several thousand manuscript pages."

I focused on the The Virginia Gazette digital program. This program digitized over 8,000 images of the Virginia Gazette - the whole collection. The Gazette was first published in 1736 and ran until 1780. In 1780 the paper moved to Richmond and did not return to Williamsburg until 1930 in the age of Rockefeller. For more information on the Gazette click here.

Searching

The Virginia Gazette is searchable by date/publisher or by a subject index. The date search is accessed through this website. The Subject index is accessed through this webpage. or through the PAST PORTAL website.

I am not sure why there is dual access to the content or why you can't search by date through the past portal website. This set up is very confusing and the past portal has very few search options. I wonder if this portal was set up for the casual searcher and not the more serious searcher with more complex and sophisticated search needs. I think having two access points to the same material is not user friendly and down right confusing.

Images

Viewers are first presented with thumbnails of the Gazette pages and then have the option of viewing a Hi Res or a Low Res image. The images appear to be JPG's, I am not sure if this is for web viewing only. I hope they have a master image somewhere saved as a TIFF.

Special Features

Tradesmen in the Virgina Gazette is a "list of men and women practicing trades in Virginia in the 1700s" compiled by an undergraduate intern in the 2005. The is a wonderful feature that allows you to search the Gazette by name of tradesman, occupation, date, and location for selected years during the period of 1730-1780. If you have research interests in this area this is a valuable pool of indexed materials. A meaningful presentation of the material

Copyright

The project falls under the general CW website copyright statement. However I found the title and the image at the header funny. The title of the copyright statement is "Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions" and the image in the header is of colonial garbed soldiers shooting rifles. Is this on purpose or in jest?? Anyway I digress the statement allows for educational use of the resources and presentation of information to non-educational audience requires written permission from the CWF.

This project seems to be in early stages (or at least I hope). I would love to see a long term digitization plan for CWF. They have tremendous resources that they (the resources) deserve to be treated and displayed like a schnazzy
Harvard OCP project.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wisconsin Historical Society Archives

You can get access to digital finding aids from the Society’s home page. Click on the label Library and Archives, and then “Archives Catalog (ArCat)”. The catalog uses Voyager catalog software, and extensive Help pages provide examples on how to use Guided or Basic search.

ArCat contains over 21,000 catalog entries for the Archives holdings. It includes descriptions for all Society manuscript collections, state government records, and local government records.

For example, the catalog record for Melvin Laird, the former state legislator, Congressman, and Secretary of Defense, describes the quantity of cartons, boxes, microform, recordings, photographs, etc.- plus a descriptive summary of the material, subject heading entries, form/genre entries, and physical locations of the material. Other ArCat records list materials such as correspondence, diaries, films, and maps.

Many of the catalog entries have a field Internet Links, which takes you to the resource’s online “register” or finding aid. A major Archives goal in the next few years is to make these finding aids available online for all records, so that users can click to see the additional information.

For example, the record for the Bay Area Student Committee to Abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1958-1965 links to the online finding aid, providing:
About this Finding Aid, Summary Information, Biography/History, Scope and Content Note, Administrative/Restriction Information, Contents List, Organizational Files, and Reference Files

These entries are part of the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) metadata standard. The quantity and variety of material in archives make putting it all online impossible and, as well, make it impossible to catalog every single item individually. The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) metadata standard, used here to encode and display the finding aids, provides consistent, ample access points and a high degree of detail of the collection.


As of February 2007, the Archives contained approximately 3050 finding aids – the equivalent of 25,000 paper pages. From what I can understand from an entry from the Archivists website
the paper copies of finding aids have been scanned, cleaned up through macros, and edited to ensure they are in proper Encoded Archival Description (EAD). Newly created finding aids are being produced using NoteTab Pro and EAD Cookbook software and added to the Archives regularly.

Another way to get to the Archives is from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections website.

Cities and Buildings Database

Cities and Buildings Database is a project of the University of Washington Libraries. It uses CONTENTdm in managing the collection.

What was digitized
About 10,000 images of buildings and cities throughout the world are organized in this collection. It also includes conceptual sketches and models of Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project. Images resulted from scanned original slides and from other documents which are in public domain.

Audience
This database is intended for students, historians, researchers, and educators. I also thought that it could be an excellent source for architects, city and urban planners and developers, tourists or anyone who could be planning for a trip in that particular city, and any other individuals who may have interest in travel.

Organization
Within the search function is an alphabetical arrangement of countries. A user could easily point and click the country, and thumbnail images display. These are arranged alphabetically by title. Metadata is detailed with all the significant information about each image - title, architect, country, city, date of construction, building name, type, photographer, date of photograph, source, and copyright holder. Type refers to the type of the building like apartments, office buildings, libraries, etc.

Search function
Search could be done using different fields - by country, city, style, architect, date of construction and other options. When searching by country, user could select specific country.
Other search options refer to advanced search function where a user could search across all the digital collections at University of Washington Libraries or could select available collections.

One needs to know what he/she is looking for. An advantage in its search function though is that it allows searching of the terms that are in the database. For example, when a user selects 'type' as the search index, terms assigned to materials in the database could be selected.

Comments
Overall, this database is an excellent source for information on cities and buildings throughout the world. Images reflect that scanning was professionally done. Based on my evaluation, search function is customized to an experienced searcher.

Seattle Art Museum

In my final stop of museum digital libraries, I have found the Seattle Art Museum digital library an interesting study. At present, the museum holds 23,000 art objects and 50% of them are digitized. The rest of the collection is in the process of being photographed and copyright permissions are being obtained.

The navigation of this site has kind of a different twist than I have seen with some of the other museum libraries I have seen. First, you pick which collection you wish to view, then you choose from thumbnail images to get more detail. Detail? What detail? Well, you get an enlarged image of the object, and metadata including a description of the object, the artist, the title, the ascension number and not much else. There is so much more rich information that the Seattle Art Museum could offer to educate and pique the curiosity of the viewer. This being said, there was a neat feature to the digital library. In the window with the image of your desired object and its sparse metadata, there was a feature to "browse all related objects". I was browsing through the Egyptian artifacts and with the click of the mouse, I could see all the other Egyptian artifact photos without sorting through each of the art objects in the collection myself. What a handy little gizmo!

In sum of my blogs, it seems clear to me that while each digital library held a piece of the puzzle, not one contained all the pieces to make a really aesthetically pleasing and completely functional digital library. I believe I would take the graphic design of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the navigation of the Smithsonian and the "browse all related subjects" from the Seattle Art Museum to create a really super digital library.

--Jean Friestad

Mountain West Digital Library

Organization of Site
Mountain West Digital Library is a collaborative digitization project. A quote from the About the Library section best describes the set-up of this project:

The Mountain West Digital Library is a consortium of digital collections from universities, colleges, public libraries, museums, and historical societies in Utah. Four hosting institutions each run CONTENTdm servers supporting their own digital collections, and support partner institutions by providing scanning and hosting services. CONTENTdm's multi-site aggregating server automatically harvests metadata from the hosting institutions on a regular basis and provides the search engine.


This site is a great example of how CONTENTdm servers can help provide users with a pleasant experience on the site by providing optimal access, search engines, and metadata.

Searching the Site

There are multiple ways to access the material that is part of the digitization project. The homepage includes a short-cut keyword search where users can search the whole collection, or just the text, images, video or audio. This set-up will be helpful to users who are looking for particular types of data. Users can visit a Collections Directory, which allows users to browse by collection or by broad subject terms (such as Activities, People, and Places). Finally, there is a more detailed Search the Library page, which allows users to fill in search fields and search in certain collections (or across all collections).

Search Results and Metadata

Search Results are returned on a page within the Mountain West Digital Library Site. Some items have thumbnails, while others do not and are listed by number. Many items have extensive metadata, including rights, format, genre, creator, etc. Some video files even have transcripts provided. The metadata seems very complete and useful.

Items Digitized
Since there are so many organizations that are part of this project, there are many items to search from. It is great to be able to access text, photographs, video, and audio all in one site. This project would be a great asset to all users.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Small Business Interviews

This site would have been more appropriate back in Week 7, on digitizing video and our discussion question about selecting interview subjects, but I only found it a few days ago.

This site contains a small collection of interviews with prominent entrepreneurs who share their insights into small businesses. A partnership of the Small Business Administration and the United States Postal Service, this collection also features particular information resources that have been paired with the videos.

I like this page for many reasons, not least of all because I would like to build information resources for small businesses at my public library, and this site gives me a lot of ideas. That said, the clips are genuinely informative, as are the other information resources: everything is designed to be accessible for any small businessperson. The clips play with Windows Media Player.

Some of the resources that accompany the clips are substantial: the link to “training” takes the user to The Small Business Training Network, which is an online classroom of sorts with topics that range from starting a small business to small business retirement.

The strength of this collection is its focus: it is designed for a defined community. The clips are great starting points. They are short, well-produced and lead the user into the deeper information resources.

As for discussion of metadata, etc, there are no search functions: one sees a list of the clips, and the accompanying info resources that are related to the content of the clip. Should the content grow, a different architecture entirely will be required. However, the information resources themselves could serve as a controlled vocabulary for the clips, should the content grow substantially: it would be nice not only to see what information resources relate to each clip—as it shows, now—but also what video clips relate to a particular topic.

Easily navigable, and full of excellent guidance and resources, the Delivering Success collection provides high-quality digitized video to its target audience. I hope that the partnership continues funding this collection, so that it grows. I would like to “steal” this idea and create a local version: by no means are all small businesses strictly local businesses; but the local perspective on small business could be something that public libraries could tap into in a way that companies or other institutions cannot.

Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project

Created by the University of California at Santa Barbara's Special Collections Library, nearly 7000 cylinder recordings have been made accessible online. For this, my last blog post, I am going to address digital preservation. How will these digital recordings be preserved? What is the UC library doing to ensure their preservation?

Cylinders were the first commercially produced audio recordings. Cylinder recordings are characterized by having several preservation issues. They require a special, obsolete device to play, and the medium is inherently fragile. Although we know that digitization projects are only about access, materials such as cylinder recordings are being digitized for preservation. Not only can digitizing help preserve the original, some recordings can only be played once before becoming so damaged they are useless. These cylinders are being digitized to be available for multiple users in the future. However, these are also the only recording left from the original. While digitization is about access, shouldn't it also be about preservation?

After taking a course in digital preservation this semester, I think it is absolutely feasible to digitize cultural heritage materials for preservation purposes. As long as the institution, in this case UC Santa Barbara, has the tools to preserve digital materials, it can be done.

After searching the site for information related to how these materials will be preserved, I came up empty handed. However, the site documents how the digital sources were created from analog counterparts. The site does not address technical or preservation metadata. Each recording has a detailed descriptive record, with links to the MP3 or WAV files. Now, if I recall correctly, neither file format is open source, making it more difficult to preserve the application. Another thought to consider is that 7000 files is a significant amount to migrate if these formats become obsolete. In order to be easy to migrate, they will need to be stored in a uniform manner.

My other thought is about storage. Currently, it says the files are stored on the library's "Isilon," which from what I could gather is just a place to store digital stuff. Fortunately, the California Digital Library has an initiative to create a digital preservation repository. It seems that in order for this digital collection to have a future, it will need to work with the CDL.

A student blogged on the same project last year. She, too, commented on the description for converting analog to digital. This information is great preservation metadata, but it is unclear how it will be preserved.

McMillan Memorial Library Local History Online

The McMillan Memorial Library's Local History Online is the multi-faceted product of a small library's digitization project, begun to provide access to the library's most valuable item. From this initial digitization effort, the library went on to digitize a large amount of materials: books, ephemera, maps, and city directories, amongst other things. All of the materials have some local historical value.

I first learned of this project through research done for another class. The little information I knew about the project before visiting this site was that McMillan Memorial Library was a small institution with limited resources whose recently digitized offerings were experiencing a good amount of traffic. I was shocked, then, to find the plethora of material that the site had to offer - both in content and information about digitization. While the website is aesthetically lacking, it does have a lot of content to offer, much of which I am sure is valuable to Wisconsin Rapids and Woods County Residents.

What I am primarily interested in in this post, though, is the information that the library offers about its project and the digitization process in general. The "digitization" section of the website includes some of the guidelines that the McMillan Memorial Library followed when selecting items for digitization (criteria included: rarity, accessibility, condition and format, value, money, and copyright [http://www.scls.lib.wi.us/mcm/programs/selection.pdf]), and how a small library with limited resources could successfully complete a digitization project (make use of many small grants, exploiting and sharing others' resources, etc [http://www.scls.lib.wi.us/mcm/programs/talktable_digitize.pdf]). They also share some of their forms for copyright and a generic guide to digitization.

McMillan Memorial Library's Local History Online is a great example of the way that one small institution found a way to digitize what it knew were valuable materials. That they share their process and their "tips" for other like institutions to use is what makes this project noteworthy.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., like many other museums, has a digital library to create awareness of its art holdings. The interface holds text and/or data on all of the approximately 110,000 objects. There are not images of every object, only about 6,000 objects have images available at this time. The National Gallery does not state when, or if, the rest of the objects will be digitized in the future.

The navigation of this site is, frankly, difficult. The maxim: "If you don't know what you're looking for, you're not going to find it" applies. The search mechanism is prohibitive of browsing. First search method is by artist or work title. If you don't know the artist or the title of the work, you're out of luck. Second search method is more promising: Subject. This gives you a set of radio buttons to choose the topic (religious, ceremonial, Native American, etc.), but proceeds to ask more detailed questions on subsequent screens. A bit annoying. The third search mechanism is an expanded search including: "artist name, title key words, school, style, creation date, medium, and/or short list of popular subjects." If you don't know any of these, you are also out of luck again. The fourth and fifth search methods are by provenance and ascension number. Both prohibitive to browsing.

In addition to the search functions being difficult to maneuver, once the desired image is on your screen, there are multiple screens to click through to find out the provenance, bibliography, location, exhibition history and the like. The "amount" of metadata seemed appropriate, because all of the information was interesting, however, the way in which it was presented was a bit chaotic.

While the National Gallery does have art objects that are interesting to look at and can be appreciated world wide by being on the web, I believe this digital library can be improved in appearance, navigation and scope.

--Jean Friestad

Smithsonian Digital Library

The Smithsonian has an incredibly huge amount of information on their website. I chose to focus on the digital library that contained images of the lighthouse postcards.

Navigation of the Smithsonian website was superior to any of the other digital libraries I have reviewed. Links were clearly marked and one didn't have to "drill down" through many web pages to find what was sought.

The introduction page for the digital library contained basic information, including a glossary of terms and links for more information about the collection and the history of lighthouses.

The lighthouse postcards were searchable three ways. First, there was the text box to type in the name of the light house. Pretty standard. Second, there was a regional search function where one could choose a region of the United States and then select a lighthouse from that region. The third and most ingenious method was a map that listed all the lighthouses by region and one just had to point and click on the light house name to bring up the image of the post card.

The metadata for the postcards was quite good. In addition to showing the image of the postcard, usually front and back, the metadata listed the location (state, longititude and latitude), original construction, year built, improvements and light characteristics. Also on many of the postcard pages there were additional links available if one was searching for more detailed information on the lighthouses. Even though this sounds like a lot of information for each postcard, the images and information is presented in such an organized fashion that it doesn't seem like "information overload".

I found this site to be very informative, completely fascinating and well designed.

--Jean Friestad

Monday, April 16, 2007

The James Joyce Scholars' Collection

Here is another digital resource from the University of Wisconsin, created to support teaching and research needs – a digitized collection of texts pertaining to the study of James Joyce. I found this collection to be easy to use.

The UW-Madison Libraries developed this project in collaboration with Professor David Hayman, one of the pioneers of Joyce scholarship.

Under his leadership, sixteen works, from the 1960s to the 1990s, were selected for digitization. They all share two characteristics: 1) all the books are currently out-of-print and 2) they are valuable to those seeking a more complete understanding and appreciation of the richness of James Joyce's literary works.

The selected works compiled in the James Joyce Scholars' Collection are considered invaluable to those who wish to study the works of perhaps the greatest novelist of the 20th century. Among the texts can be found: Clive Hart's Structure and motif in Finnegans wake (1962); Karen Lawrence's The odyssey of style in Ulysses (1981); David Hayman’s The "Wake" in transit (1990). Each of these books is a major contribution to the field.

Students of Joyce can select to search across all the works or choose to search a particular title. The Search screen permits Simple, Proximity, and Boolean Searches.

Selecting an item from a search result or from browsing to an individual title takes you to the Contents view for that item. This view has been created to provide access to specific sections or chapters of each work.

The navigation features allow you to view the individual pages in a work, arrow forward and back, jump to a specific page or section, or back to the table of contents.

Icons allow you to easily adjust the size of the text, and you can choose “Page Text” to view the OCR’d processed text or “Page Image” for the original text.

Pages can only be printed individually, there is no way to print a range of pages.

The Joyce Collection has seen its usage grow steadily since it was online in 2002.

The database is copyrighted by the University of Wisconsin, portions may be quoted for personal research or teaching as permitted under Fair Use.

Copyrights for the individual works included in the Collection are retained by the original publishers and, in some cases, by the authors and their heirs.

Information is provided about requesting a reprint of any of the texts.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Botanicus Digital Library

The Collection

A web-based encyclopedia of historic (18th and 19th century) botanical literature from the Missouri Botanical Garden Library.

Purpose

Under “About”, the intent in digitizing the library is explained: to improve access to scientific literature worldwide for botanical researchers and for botanists working in the field. I would add that most gardeners will appreciate the works for their artist and literary qualities.

Search and Navigation

The home page provides a search box and “Authors,” “Titles,” “Browse,” and “Recent” tabs along the menu bar at the top offer expanded search possibilities, including searching by publication date starting with the year 1480. Another tab “Copyright”, notes that images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.5 License, and provides contact information.

On the home page under “Digitized Titles”, which explains the method for selecting and prioritizing the literature to be digitized, a drop-down list of scanned titles can be selected and viewed.

Navigating this collection is a breeze; browsing it is a pleasure. One can browse by author, title, or keyword.

Looking through the digitized volumes is satisfying: despite the low contrast between the type and aged paper, the intuitive tools for maximizing, zooming, and dragging render all readable; the fit-to width and fit-to-height allowed for full frame viewing no matter the proportion of the text; and the leaf forward and back tool offers the sensation of paging through one of these remarkable works.

The illustrations found in the texts are especially wonderful and a remarkably decent print of Monarda kalmianna, a North American native, is now posted above my computer.

Especially helpful for moving through a work is the box at the left, “Pages” which provides a clickable page-by-page list of the work. For example: page xi, blank, title page, page 6, illustration, table, etc. This digital library also links out to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s OPAC and to WorldCat.

Funding and Continuity

Botanicus is made possible through support from the W.M. Keck Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It is also supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.

Though no further description of funding is made, the vitality of the project is evident in the
two boxes in the left column of the home page. The top box “Now Online” summarizes what’s available to date: number of titles, volumes, pages and links to other online catalogs.

It also contains “Recent additions” that conveys a sense of up-to-the-minute attention and excitement about the project. The second box, titled “Botanicus News,” links to the site’s blog. This also makes the site feel fresh, with articles about the technical aspects of the site, details of production, difficult choices and improvements, and links to a variety of other sources.

Botanicus makes it clear that it seeks an audience no smaller that the world. It has impressive specific goals for deploying the latest library science practices and web technology. This site demonstrates the promise of digital libraries by providing a rich experience of the digitized materials. I’ve just begun to explore the breath and depth of this site. Botanicus merits regular visits to monitor its development.

Lunar Orbiter Digitization Project

The Lunar Orbiter missions of the late 1960’s yielded thousands of photographs that were used to support the lunar landing missions of the Apollo program and served as a basis for broader scientific goals. The original photographic exposures, scanned onboard the spacecraft and then transmitted to Earth as analog data, were made into photographic prints and then hand mosaicked into sub-frame and full-frame views. They covered much of the lunar surface, but were also affected by “Venetian blind” striping, missing or duplicated data, and saturation effects than could hinder their use.

In the late 1990’s the United State Geological Survey Astrogeology Research Program began a project to digitize a subset of these photographs. The goal was to create a global, cartographically accurate and cosmetically enhanced digital photographic mosaic of the Moon that can be accessed by scientists and amateurs alike.

In our readings we have learned about how pilot projects can be useful when undertaking a digitization project. I was impressed with how this project went about doing the pilot project.
Funding for the pilot project had to be secured. Five Lunar Orbiter frames were selected to represent a region of the moon that exhibited a wide variety of lunar features (presumably to test the limits of such an undertaking) and also chosen to serve a dual purpose of complementing other digital data for this region.

The digitization of the images was outsourced, but they used their in-house ISIS software to process the data (I was heartened to read, “The product [following scanning] is a TIFF image that preserves film data and can be ingested into ISIS readily.” I would not have known what that meant a week ago!) This included geometric rectification and mosaicking into subframes, cosmetic correction, and cartographic control. Figure 2 on this page illustrates this process.

The pilot project was completed in 2002. Here is one pilot project result.

In reading through the literature about this project I came across other topics we have discussed in our class this semester. One is keeping your audience in mind. One report in 2003 acknowledged that the project will result in only a fraction of the Lunar Orbiter data and that they “will request further comment from the user community to identify high-priority frames for possible future processing.” The latest report (2007) alluded to the issue of funding and support, “We will continue to do so [offer unique, digitized views of the Moon] so long as the community and NASA support such an effort.” It made me wonder if interest in the project was waning (they did not scan any new frames last year, however worked on the cartographic control of data). Checking for related articles, I came across an abstract from GeoWorld that NASA has approved a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project to launch in late 2008. One of its purposes will be to map the moon.1 In light of this information it will be interesting to see how the Lunar Orbiter Digitization Project proceeds.

1GeoWorld, (July 2006). Moon map sets stage for future missions. 19(7), 15. Retrieved April 15, 2007 from Wilson Web database.

Museum of Tolerance Online

This online outreach program of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance is an extensive digital collection of exhibits, source documents, and educational materials related to the experiences of Eastern European Jews during World War II and the Holocaust. It is all the more impressive given that it was a relatively early digitization-for-online-presentation program (copyright dates on the pages range from 1997 to 1999). It also bears the design characteristics of that era -- the site is not searchable and documents are browseable only as categories and lists of links to individual pages (though there are navigation buttons within documents). There is also a complete site map available on the home page, another feature of the time which has unfortunately become uncommon in modern pages -- unfortunate because, even with keyword searching, it can be much easier and more effective to find a page within a website using a logically organized site map rather than taking your chances on the whims of a more-or-less effective search algorithm.

The Museum of Tolerance Online (there is also a brick-and-mortar museum located in Los Angeles) comprises four collection areas. The Multimedia Learning Center is structured like the old Yahoo! page -- categories of categories of categories, only in this place each is represented by an icon. When you finally get to a piece of information, it's just that -- a small piece, an image with a caption, or maybe a short description. There's lots of info there, but it's rather cumbersome to navigate.

Of more interest to scholars and researchers is the Special Collections section, which provides access to digital images of thousands of pages of documents in ten collections related to the Holocaust. Documents are in English, German, and Hebrew and include official investigation and documentation of war crimes and atrocities, as well as events leading up to the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials afterward. All documents are black-and-white fax-quality scans (in GIF format) of paper documents from the Institute for Documentation in Israel. Each page is available as a thumbnail and in two sizes, so the documents can actually be read online by a researcher.

The third section, the Teacher's Resources area, is probably the weakest. The information is scattered and sparse, and not up to par with what you'd find on most teacher resource websites, i.e. pre-made lesson plans, worksheets, multimedia presentations or interactive activities (at least none that I could find). Mostly it consists of a collection of ideas for introducing and teaching about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience, a glossary of people and terms, a small library of online books, and a short FAQ about the Holocaust. Considering the amount of teaching materials already available for teaching about WWII and the Holocaust (the latter is a hot topic in schools these days), what's here could be considered starter ideas, or supplemental information -- at best.

Much more promising is the Virtual Exhibits section, which I think is patterned on some of the exhibits from the physical Museum. There are three exhibits, laid out much like in a museum, with a series of captioned photos introduced by contextualizing text. These are probably the richest resource on the site for K-12 students as well as the general public, and I imagine are meant to give some of the intellectual and emotional experience of visiting the Museum itself -- and taking a self-guided tour.

In browsing through this site, I get the feeling that not much has been done with it since 1999 -- some of the links are dead or take you to strange places, like somewhere in the middle of a collection instead of the top of it. Still, for a project of its time it is commendable, and it has the potential to be expanded and updated into a true online research and education center on the Jewish experience of the Holocaust.

Bridging the Urban Landscape

Here’s a site, “Bridging the Urban Landscape” with very similar subjects and content as in “Historic Pittsburgh”, discussed earlier this month.

Perhaps, if you compare and contrast them, you will find “Historic Pittsburgh” a more enjoyable experience. Why? “Bridging” is an older site, developed almost as a one-person demonstration project and has probably not been extensively updated. “Historic Pittsburgh” is a collaborative effort, with more resources committed to it. Its labels, organization, search, browse, and navigation features are more sophisticated. Something to keep in mind when considering whether you’ll have the commitment of resources to keep your site looking up-to-date and responsive to user expectations.

The Collection

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh’s public library, has created an exhibit of 600 historical photographs of Pittsburgh, organized by neighborhoods. Also included are documents from the city’s history, a chronology of its important events, newspaper accounts, publications about Pittsburgh, illustrations of Pittsburgh’s residents, even an audio clip of Andrew Carnegie describing how to be a proper steward of wealth. The contents are selected from the Library’s collection.

The title of this collection and the home page’s image of a bridge under construction suggested to me there would be an image gallery of Pittsburgh’s bridges. I didn’t find one. Nothing in the title, the home page photograph of an open drawbridge, the opening statement, or the main menu’s list of topics actually convey the site’s intent and variety of content. “Bridging” is the idea that hypertext promotes connectivity, linking materials and people together.

Organization

It seemed to take too much clicking around to find that much of the content is under “Tours”, then “The Neighborhoods”: the exhibit consists of 34 neighborhood divisions, but less than half have content under them.

Navigation

The site uses two sets of navigational icons. One is a cartoon image of Andrew Carnegie playing with blocks. The second set of baseball player figures functions within the individual neighborhoods described in the exhibit. These may be charming icons, but actually using them becomes tiresome quickly. Because there is no consistent navigation panels across the top or left hand side, the quickest way through the exhibits is most often the back button.

The two clickable lines that do appear at the top of the screen, “Home” and “Bridging the Urban Landscape” create confusion in that while clicking on the latter does return one to the site’s home page, clicking on “Home” takes one to The Carnegie Library home page.

The site has valuable and interesting material that seems buried. It relies too much on contextual hyperlinks within the text. An there's a lot of text to read. The discipline of producing a hierarchical navigation system forces a critical analysis of subject matter from which this collection would benefit. That doesn’t preclude using clever images and icons to enrich the exploration, but more rigorous organization would speed navigation.

Because the images have no identifying code, it’s difficult to re-find an image without taking notes as you review them. It’s necessary to know what neighborhood is being searched, and what page number of thumbnails was being viewed in order to re-find the image. The site does not have a search function. By default, the exhibition seems geared to the casual viewer, perhaps most popular with natives or former residents.

Content

The selection of text presented tends toward the arcane. It would help if there were explanations of the materials. For example, it would be interesting to know more about “Pittsburgh Stamps”.

The photographs and drawings are dynamic and seem the more worthwhile content. They are presented as successive screens of thumbnail details, each with a cryptic one or two word caption and the size of the image. Clicking on the thumbnail goes to a screen with a larger, full-frame image and more extensive captions, but without the kind metadata found in Historic Pittsburgh.

The upper right-hand corner of the screen shows a camera icon with the phrase “Buy Photos” but clicking on it goes to a separate site unrelated to the exhibition. Yet, there does seem to be another way to order photos, described under “Main Menu”, “Odds & Ends”, “To Order Photos”.

Copyright

Each image contains a “Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh” watermark – is this really necessary?
There is almost no information regarding copyright or how the images can be used.