Sunday, February 03, 2008

Virtually Missouri

The organization that supports Virtually Missouri is the Saint Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

This digital library contains photographs, lithographs, engravings, illustrated newspaper tear sheets from Leslie's and Harper's, maps, postcards, advertisements, broadsides, posters, and drawings that document the history of St. Louis, MO, mostly from the nineteenth century, but some dating all the way back to the 1760s.

The assumed audience for the project consists of Missouri residents and University of Missouri-St. Louis students and faculty.

The site states that "the purpose of the Missouri Digitization Planning Project (MDPP) is to coordinate access to digital collections and exhibits created by the cultural and scientific heritage institutions of Missouri... Representatives from the archives, historical society, library, and museum communities" work together to achieve two goals:

  1. to educate people about digitization, and
  2. to centralize Missouri's digital collections (About Virtually Missouri).

What I find most interesting about this project is the scope. It's huge, spanning 200 years or so of historical items.

The digital assets are presented in collections which can be browsed, alphabetically by institution name or collection name, or searched. The search feature did not work for me in Safari, but it did work in Firefox. This is probably due to the fact that the server(s) runs on Microsoft software. When successfully searched, the resulting items are displayed in rows with a thumbnail image of the item digitized on the left, followed by columns containing title, subject, and description. The user can click on the labels: "title," "subject" and "description," in order to alphabetize the collection by that label chosen. The default is by title.

When an item is chosen by clicking on the title, the digital image is displayed to fit on the screen by default. Above the image is a toolbar with a zoom option, maximum resolution, fit in window, fit to width, rotate image left or right, hide/show thumbnail, and clip the image from a new window (which allows the user to crop the image to the desired size and section of the image in order to save, print or email). Beneath the image contains the metadata. The words in the description are linked individually as search terms. There seems to be enough information, but the linking of individual search terms in the description seems not to be worthwhile. (For instance, rather than linking "Saint Louis, MO" as a term, the collection links "Saint," "Louis," and "MO" individually. The present metadata includes title, identifier-MDI, identifier-Other, description, subject, date-creation, date-current (when the item was entered into the database), and source (which also includes information about the original item, ie. "dirt stained, surface abrasions, tear upper right, 7.85 by 5.99").

1904 World's Fair Screenshot

It is somewhat easy to use. It's a little clunky, which might have to do with the fact that the database uses PHP (a server-side web-development language) for such a large collection, but it offers a lot of useful features, like cropping the image and allowing the user to easily zoom in and out within the same window.


Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

The software they are using is CONTENTdm. Likely by the end of the semester, you'll be able to spot a project that is using CONTENTdm by its look-n-feel. It is an OCLC product.

Melissa Houlroyd said...

Do you know if other CONTENTdm sites have the same problem with Safari? I figured the PHP and ASP things out from looking at the URLs of the pages I was viewing.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...