Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All in a day’s work for U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees

If you want a change of scenery but can’t travel right now, try browsing through some of the natural and wildlife collections available at the National Image Library, sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The public domain, still photo digitized images in these collections are the work of U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees around the United States. The images include scenic photos of nature, wildlife management work such as bird banding, plants, animals, and other natural resources that fall under the care of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The audience for this site is anyone interested in the natural world and/or anyone interested in the natural resources of different parts of the U.S.

There is very little project background information on the site, so it’s difficult to tell what the motivation was for the project and how it was implemented. Future plans are also sketchy, although on the first page there is a mention of a software upgrade which will take place, but there is no mention of when.

Finding and viewing the images

The current site allows you to search for images based on keywords or use the search engine. The images are found in many different collections, organized geographically:
-Alaska Image Library
-California Nevada Image Library
-Historic Image Library
-Midwest Image Library
-NCTC Image Library
-Northeast Image Library
-Pacific Image Library
-Southeast Image Library
-Southwest Image
-Washington DC Library

One thing I noticed is that the images do not always match up to the collection. For example, if I search for “grand canyon,” I find 4 images, 3 of which are in the Washington, D.C. with the fourth in the Historic Image Library. Also, not all of the images are of still photos, as the site describes. Some are maps or drawings. It might be nice to filter the search on the format of the image you wanted. Also, while the keywords are helpful and sometimes cross-referenced, it might be easier to use some type of tag cloud. Searching seems to be more useful than browsing; for example, if I type in “grand canyon,” I find four images, but if I try browsing for that term, I don’t see it. One thing that I like is that if you search for something, and it finds something, it will show you the Subject field in that record so that you can match up your search to a subject term that you can use when browsing the keywords.

The images are presented with their metadata information, and it looks like the metadata standard used is Dublin Core. While I usually think that some of the metadata elements don’t need to be seen by the user and can sometimes be confusing, I think this site organizes them well and it doesn’t detract from the user experience. It’s easy to download the image from the site, and some images have additional formats to choose from.

Presentation of IP information

Since assignment 3 is fresh in my mind, I was very interested to see how they handled intellectual property issues. On the home page, they state that the images are in the public domain. I found conflicting information on the Privacy page, where they mention that some of the images on the site are licensed for use under current copyright law. Also, they do ask that if you use the images, you credit the photographer and the Fish and Wildlife Servie (“John Doe/USFWS”). I didn’t find any Terms of Use statement, but that could be because most of the images are in the public domain.

Overall impression

I like the idea that these images were created by the people actually working to preserve these resources, and it’s a good example of making something accessible through digitization (the natural resources themselves, plus sharing the work that goes into preserving them). I will definitely bookmark this site and check back to see what they add.

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