Thursday, January 29, 2009
The gulf between 2001, the year this exhibit at the Cambridge University Library in Cambridge, England was on display, and 2009 seems immense. For the ever-changing electronic world, it's practically a lifetime.
"Fantasy to Federation" was one of two exhibits on display in the Cambridge University Library in the year 2001. The library has two exhibits every year, with this one taking up the early half of the year.
The focus of this exhibit was neatly summarized on the one-page teaser the library put up to advertise the display. The text preceding the small thumbnails set the stage, giving a brief overview of the history of the mapping of the southern continent of Australia up through the year 1901.
The page then describes some of what may be found in the exhibit, including a map from 1540 (the oldest on display) by a professor of Hebrew at Basle University and images from Cook's first voyage in 1773 .
Beneath that lie the seven maps chosen by the librarians to highlight the contents of the exhibit. The thumbnails of each map lead to a small jpeg image, a picture that displays the full image of the map just large enough to make out the depiction of Australia, but no more.
Beside each thumbnail is the biography of the map. The mapmaker and map name are given, as are any other known facts, such as when it was made, the city that housed it and the Atlas or other volume where it was originally found. The details vary from map to map, and the meaning of the names beside each map are not readily apparent.
The University displays two exhibits a year, each getting its own web page starting in 1998. The evolution and growing complexity of the internet can be seen at a glance from these web pages, the first being simply pages of text, a limited navigation bar, and links to the items chosen to represent the exhibit online. By 2009 however, the exhibit pages have grown more complex, with the amount of text dramatically increasing as it gives great detail and description of what may be found on display.
On none of these pages lie an explanation for why these objects were selected for the website, or how the exhibit was chosen. Presumably, these were all items already in the library's collection, but without a statement from the library, such a thought is pure conjecture.
And while the pictures linked in this specific exhibit's webpage do display the full map, it's small size shows little detail, nor does it do anything to truly entice a browser to come see the exhibit. The biography of each map does describe it in brief, but says nothing about its history after creation.
The exhibits at the Cambridge Library are open to the public free of charge. Directions to the library, as well as the library hours, are linked at the bottom of the page. This exhibit webpage specifically links only to the University, and would therefore only be found by people already on the library webpage.
The library itself is open to Cambridge students only, although private researchers, students of other universities and academic staff may apply for use of the library. There is also a £10 administration charge for non-UK academic students and the public to apply for use of the library.
Collection: A. Einstein: Image and Impact
The collection of A. Einstein is hosted by American Institute of Physics and Center for History of Physics. Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist. He is best known for his theory of relativity and specifically mass–energy equivalence, expressed by the equation E = mc2. Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect." Einstein published over 300 scientific works and over 150 non-scientific works. In 1999 Time magazine named him the "Person of the Century". In wider culture the name "Einstein" has become synonymous with genius.
The home page for this collection is very simple and clear. It includes eight parts, such as “Formative Years”, “The Great Works-1905”, “World Fame”, “Public Concerns”, “Quantum and Cosmos”, “Nuclear Age”, “Science and Philosophy” and “The World As I See It”. It is very easy to navigate each of parts. For example, in the section of “Formative Years”, the collection introduces Einstein's parents, education background and his early life.
The main goal of building the website is to introduce Einstein's image and impact. Therefore, the collection provides a lot of pictures of Einstein. At the same time, it emphasizes Einstein's impact and contributions to physics and the whole world through exhibiting “World Fame”, “Public Concerns”, “Quantum and Cosmos”, “Nuclear Age”. In addition, the website also provides external Links. It is very useful to meet audiences’ needs if they want to know more about Einstein.
The website was built in Nov. 1996, and revised in November 2004. It looks like it wasn’t updated for a long time. However, the website offers audiences opportunity to sign up to find out when they put more exhibits online. Moreover, it also provided PDF file of entire contents, brief version of this exhibit and Spanish version.
This collection is one of the many featured in the New York Public Library (NYPL) Digital Gallery. It stems from the Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. This particular collection is a division of their Changing New York archive, which has over 2,200 duplicate and variant prints. It contains 80% of the 302 photographs in the collection Changing New York Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project by Berenice Abbott. The images are contact and enlarged prints primarily from the Depression era 1930s.
The main page explains that the collection includes images that fall outside of the project’s scope but are “presented for historical and pictorial purposes.” The digitization of the collection was possible due to support from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991-1992. At this time a computerized inventory of the prints' tiles, dates, sizes, physical characteristics, additional inscriptions, paper weight and types, print quality and preservation condition were created. The page also describes the history of the photographer, Berenice Abbott. This gives the viewer a context in which to view the photographs. From the main page the user is able to view all of the images in the collection or search the collection using key words.
The images seem to be organized by ID numbers in ascending order. When looking at a specific image the user is able to find more images by clicking on one or more categories already listed. These are listed under the headlines Subjects and Names, Collection Guide, or Library Division. There is also an option to select “all” or “any” when searching. The items underneath each heading change from picture to picture and this gives clues to what sort of tags the pictures are given. This can be helpful if someone is looking to see photographs of related material either within the collection or outside of it without having to search the NYPL as a whole. Image details are also provided, including the image title, creator, additional names, created date, medium, specific material type, and item physical description among others. Visitors to the site can buy or print each image, which is nice for those who wish to do so. Unfortunately there is only one resizing option that enlarges the photograph but does not allow the user to zoom in at all. There are also instructions on linking or embedding the image to other sites, which is a neat feature enabling users to share photographs that they like.
Information regarding selection, curation, and how the photographs are digitized can be found on the “about” page for the NYPL Digital Collection and not on the actual collections page.
This collection strikes me as well thought out and is presented in a way that is easy to navigate and search. I think it might be useful if they added more specific tags, since only searches pertaining to the boroughs, or specific streets seem to get the best results. It might also be nice if there were an option to zoom in on the photographs.
The Ad*Access Project by Duke University's Hartman Center
The Ad*Access Project was digitized from the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives' "Competitive Advertisements Collection (Pre-1955 Files)", a collection of ad clippings made by the Thompson advertising firm to keep tabs on their competition, and follow trends in ad design. It's a closed project, with a well defined scope. It seems like a good candidate for digitization because of the fragility of the ad clippings, benefitting researchers by allowing the collection to be seen outside of the archive for the first time.
The scans are easy to navigate, grouped into one of five broad categories, which also determines how the scans are named. There's a "details" page for each of the scans, which provides metadata fields, and allows you to search through some of these fields. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they offered information on the magazine or newspaper the object was clipped from, but was puzzled by their decision not to include it as a searchable field.
The collection seems responsive to intellectual property concerns, as evidenced by the scans of Arrid ads that have been pulled due to copyright restrictions. This also shows that the collection is actively managed. The copyright policy allows for Fair Use of the scans without prior permission, and facilitates this by offering scans in 72ppi and 150ppi, in an easily downloadable format. I'm glad the scans are easy to save, and not in a proprietary format like Flash, but wish they had included 300ppi scans for better print quality.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The WWII U.S. Medical Research Center is authored by two individuals, Alain Batens and Ben Major, who provide most of the narrative text and explanations preceding transcribed records and soldier’s accounts. The site was originally funded by the United States Medical Department and now functions as a research tools for “anyone interested in WW2 United States Medical history”. The home page for this collection explicitly states that the WWII U.S. Medical Research Center is “a work-in-progress” and that any contributions from visitors are welcome. One portion of the organization’s collection that struck me was the ‘items for sale’ page where WWII medical history buffs can buy and sell artifacts. This gave the site an e-bay feel and I wondered about the audience especially after reading that the collection was begun by WWII re-enactors and medical collectors.
The acquisitions and display policy seems to be anything and everything that this organization can get relating to WWII medical supplies or experiences. There are specific groupings in this collection such as an item database, medical kits and items, and articles. These groups remain visible at all times in a menu oriented vertically on the left side. The collection is very easy to navigate because the user does not have to go back to the home page to see the various groups. It appears to be actively managed (the last site update was in January 2009), the authors provide their names and contact information, and there is a real-time running statistic of current and past visitors. There is also a guest book for posting comments about the site and why a user has visited the site.
A lack of distinction between the metadata and the objects made it difficult to understand what I was viewing. Item lists, medical kit lists, and field reports were all written in the same simple sans-serif font as the explanations and introductions. It was hard to decipher where the commentary ended and the actual text-based object began. At this time the only objects in the collection which fit my understanding of the term digital object are photographs. The photographs are static, lacking a zoom function or any other way of organizing them for research outside of the categories the authors have assigned them to. There are labels under each photograph and many are highly descriptive and specifically address questions a user might have such as ‘why are those crosses painted on all the tents?’ to providing the design history of medical field kits.
The photographs and the transcribed text from field reports and testimonials of soldiers are legally protected under a footer that appears on each page. A user can not copy the photographs and must contact the site administrators for any type of outside use. It is possible to copy the text and this concerns me because many of the soldier’s accounts are personal and have specific names, dates, and other potentially sensitive information that may be misquoted or misused.
The pages take a very short amount of time to load with a digital connection, although the photographs reproduced on many of the pages cause hiccups in scrolling and loading. The technical problem I encountered with the WWII U.S. Medical Research Center were pages that did not load and I received an error message and directions to return to the home page each time. The “statistics” page for this collection contains many fields of user data, breakdown of numbers of links per page, and the number of items in the collection as a whole and within the imposed groupings. There is a strong curatorial presence in this collection and the authors appear to be very concerned with the opinions and needs of their users.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Feminist Art Base is the digital collection of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. F.A.B. builds on the Center’s commitment to preserving the history of feminist art and to fostering engagement with a broad range of feminist artists. The entry page to the site promises users that the collection is “ever-growing,” and explains that the Center seeks to include the “most prolific contributors to feminist art from the 1960s to the present.” The collection includes images in multiple media, video and audio clips both as art and of artists discussing their works, artists’ CVs, and statements from the artists about their work. The collection currently includes materials from nearly 200 artists; the artist base for this collection seems to be those featured in the Center’s inaugural exhibit, the 2007 Global Feminisms exhibit of international feminist artists, and the collection has expanded from that beginning. Beyond these general features, is not clear exactly who decides or how they decide which artists to invite and include in the collection.
In addition to this being a singular collection, its strength is in the structure of the metadata which allows searching and allows users to generate related groups of materials. Metadata for each piece of the collection includes the artist, title, year, medium, artist description of the content (when available), and tags (subject headings). For example, Allyson Mitchell’s 2005 Tawny sculpture (pictured above) includes the tags: woman, lesbian, queer, nature, fur, creature, animal, sasquatch, beast, craft, textile. Users can click on any of the tags to see a grouping of various artists’ materials which share that tag. It is not clear how tags are selected; for example, the tag “canada” appears on some of Mitchell’s materials, apparently because she’s from Canada, but not all of her materials include this tag. Clicking on artists’ names brings up links to their materials in the collection along with an artist biography, a statement from the artist about her work, along with the artist’s CV, location, website, and contact information (if available). There is a search function which searches the metadata text, and users can also click to view popular tags offered as a sheet of arranged links ranging from imperialism to Polaroid to Wonder Woman. As I mentioned above, the choices guiding the collection aren’t described in the minimal metadata about the collection as a whole.
While the collection offers good information about the creation of the art presented, it offers no information about the digitized object produced from that art, nor does it offer any information about the digitization process. This information would be useful in this multimedia environment since the collection itself is an articulation of a feminist art project. It may be the case that artists themselves upload their own digitized objects; there is an “Artist Login” link within F.A.B. In this case, it would be interesting to know what format the artists themselves use to archive their work. The images in the collection in some cases appear to be photographs of other media, in some cases film stills, and in some cases they are scans of original photographs; users can click to enlarge some of the images, but others remain the same size. Video and audio streams are of clear. The fact that some images cannot be enlarged or examined more closely and that the video streams cannot be enlarged may limit the future utility of the collection.
The opening page of the collection clearly lays out its range of intended users: “Our goal is to make this groundbreaking archive a comprehensive resource for artists, curators, scholars, and the general public.” More broadly, the curators hope the collection will support part of the mission of the Center, “to educate new generations about the meaning of feminist art.” The “Artist Login” link suggests, too, that there may be additional features for artists using the collection. This is an impressive virtual gathering of feminist artists and one that seems useful to educators as well as to artists, scholars, and community members.
This is still a work in progress at the Baylor University Libraries; the project's stated goal is to eventually have a copy of every gospel music recording from the 1940s-1980s digitized and catalogued. As of now, only 217 items (of an unspecified number) are available to the public, but I have the feeling Baylor faculty and students may be able to access more. Dr. Robert Darden, a professor of church music at Baylor, started the collection as a way to preserve "the Golden Age of Gospel Music" (so says the website), to bolster the school's fine arts library, and as a way of including Black Gospel music in the university's Baptist tradition. Students and scholars of church music, African-American history, or even pop music history might be able to use this as a resource. The collection also has its own blog, which tracks digitization progress.
Every available artifact having to do with a recording is scanned as images--the sleeves, liner notes, and the LPs--and clips of the audio are also available in mp4 format. The image scans are fairly high quality, and can be zoomed into for better looks at the detail. The clips probably are a means of protecting copyrighted material, since many recordings from this period aren't in the public domain yet. The collection is searchable, and users can also create a "favorites" folder in which they can compare and save items. Metadata includes the recording title, the artist or group, the publisher, the original format (LP, tape, etc.) and digital format, contents of the recording (i.e., the songs), and rights management; I took a look at the source code and it looks as though it was done according to Dublin Core standards, so there's a good range of interoperability there.
The Smithsonian Library Special Collection has a series of digital collections titled "Galaxy of Knowledge," which features a digital collections divided up in specific schools of knowledge. The newest collection that Smithsonian had added was a small digital exhibit on cartoons, depicting political and social satire. The Smithsonian Institute Libraries have over 650 books devoted to caricatures and cartoons spread out over several libraries.
For this particular digital exhibit, the Smithsonian Institute Libraries chose eleven high-profile (male) cartoonists mainly from America and England whose work was featured between 1700 until the 1920's to 1030's. Most of the cartoonists selected for this exhibit contributed to the history of cartooning in a major way or somehow influenced historical events/persona through their humorous observations such as William Hogarth. A few others were picked because they were famous or well known in their time periods, Charles Dana Gibson for one.
The metadata used to search and categorize the collection is basic and largely restricted to author, title of work, date of work or author's birth/death, and a general subject matter of the cartoon. The way the metadata is organized in this collection reflects some of the principles outlined in the Framework of Building a Good Digital Collection. It is controlled, gives out relevant and descriptive information about the contents of the collection.
The objects that this collection focused on were collections or published cartoon books. The books are obviously well preserved and for some books, the cover was photographed. Each author/cartoonist has six digitized rendiditions of his work, thus giving a general idea of subject area, style of humor, style of artwork, color (if there's any), but is not complete or recorded exhaustively. The user can enlarge the picture twice, which in some cases is not enough to be able to read the text.
I imagine the intended audience for this is most likely educators, people interested in political history, American history since the explanations are written with the intention to explain social and political events that the cartoons depict. The audience that the Smithsonian Institute had in mind was broad enough that they exercised political correctness because it is made obvious that careful screening of subject material was done. For example, there was a little blurb commending one of the cartoonists for his early sensitivity in depicting African Americans, however they do not provide any kind of physical examples to prove this. I don't know if this is a matter of being sensitive to one's audience or the SIL is wary of controversy.
Acadian Heartland:Records of the Deportation and le Grand Derangement, 1714 – 1768.
The Nova Scotian archives are strictly governmental and their use is protected by Freedom of Information. “The ruling principal of acquisition,” the Acquisition Policies states, “shall always be provenance.” Policies are detailed and structured, giving a step-by-step account of every point in the archiving process and even giving definitions of words such as “fonds” “acquisition” and so on. There is a detailed account of the administrative history from the commencement of the Public Archives in 1927. Copyright policies are explicitly stated under a Public Service tab for the users.
This collection denotes a turning point in French Acadians in Nova Scotia and the surrounding areas. “These documents provide a factual account of events leading up to the Expulsion, first-hand descriptions of the Expulsion itself, and additional relevant documents from the aftermath years.”Because they are government documents, no French Acadian records survived British rule, so the website compensates the biased perspective with “various pertinent French documents from earlier years.” Also included among the official papers is a journal of a British commander in charge of the Expulsion in New England.
All publications have citations. Artwork has artist and date, when known, and medium. There seems to be a discrepancy between marking a piece of artwork “photograph of original sketch” or simply “sketch.” Unless the actual record is a photograph and not the original, then this could be problematic. There are no descriptions of the physical object, such as height and width, for textual nor artistic items. When applicable, more information is available about the subject or artist of portraits through a linked search. This is not necessarily pertinent to the average user, but the archivist in me hates that the photos are filed under: NSARM Photo Collection, Miscellaneous, Costumes.” I don't know how they do it in Canada, but Miscellaneous isn't the heading for Acadians in Lousiana.
The resources in this exhibit were digitized from published versions of the originals through a scanning method that uses optical character recognition (OCR) software. “This makes it possible to type into the Search Box any word or phrase of particular interest. The results displayed will present all pages within the volumes containing that word or phrase.” I searched for R. Harris, a painter I noticed in the images, and found every instance of the name “Harris” in all records in both French and English. Though I have no attachment to the name Harris, this website is designed for those who might. It is aimed at not only the general public of Nova Scotia and geographically displaced descendants, but to researchers of this time period, boasting the most important account of the Deportation. “First appearing in print nearly 150 years ago, these records are frequently discussed or cited in histories of the Expulsion, but have not been widely available for many years, so that examining and evaluating the documents on their own, as primary sources, has been difficult.” The website says that it does not translate or interpret, but has simply made the source available to all who are interested. In this way, it adds significant value to the realm of information for research, however I still feel that I am missing some of the information inherent in the original when I read the 150 year old text on my laptop in Ariel font.
Overall this website is very effective and useful. They add value by linking to other official websites of Acadian interests, such as the Office of Acadian Affairs, and by offering the exact same site in French.