Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Phil Seed’s Virtual Car Museum
(1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, pictured at right))

This is a rather unconventional site I chose for this week’s entry. I wanted to look at private or individually run digital collections to see if there is any indication of people using metadata or zooming and examine the feel of their collection; how they rank importance of searching, organizing schemas, and upkeep for their site. One of the considerations that occurred to me while trying to find a small, private, or individually created and maintained collection was that of sustainability or maintenance. This collection has been published since 1998, over ten years. The design of the site and images while not technologically sophisticated is modern and fresh; it does not feel “nineties”. This is the primary reason I felt this collection, while not a conventional museum exhibit, would be interesting to examine against the guidelines for building a good digital collection.
Phil Seed’s Virtual Car Museum is funded and managed by Phil. The last update to the site was in January 2009 when he added five new car manufactures to the collection. The collecting policy and digitization decisions seem to be any two dimensional representations of primarily European cars made from 1950 to 1980. The collection includes marketing materials from manufacturers, photographs of restored or abandoned cars, and several photograph galleries from car museums that in the opinion of the site creator are exemplary instances of early car restoration or preservation.
There is very little metadata in this collection. A brief narrative essay accompanies most of the galleries and photographs but there is no information about the medium, date, artist or parent marketing company, or photograph contributors attached to any of the images. The most basic metadata that is included with all photographs and digitized advertisements is the make, model and year of the car, and location if it varies between photographs in a single gallery.
This site is humble but illustrates a well organized and logical layout for the users. Although the filtered menus for choosing which car, model, and year one wants to view are cumbersome and indicate that the visitor needs some prior knowledge of European mid 20th century cars it is simple to navigate. None of the images have zoom or thumbnail capabilities and all of the objects are different sizes; file size, display size. All of the scanned objects seem to have a relatively high dpi, but again this is difficult to determine since there is not zoom or alternate display size.
The only criticism I have for this collection is how restricted the searching function is. There is a general site search box that searches within the text created by Phil, so a user must have some understanding of how Phil classifies and describes the objects in his collection. The other searching tool is a list which filters each category of car make through basic ordered listing. Because there are only these two ways to search within the site it may become difficult for a visitor to recall an object that was, for example, seen on the “Rust in Peace” page but only remembers the background or perhaps the shape of the car.
The audience for Phil’s digital collection seems to be other people interested in mid 20th century motor vehicles. Visitors are welcome to sign the guest book, send Phil an email, and contribute to the content. There is a request that any errors be identified and brought to the attention of Phil for correction. There is also information about car rallies and parties across the nation so it seems that this site caters to people with a common interest in older cars and may be a form of social networking although Phil’s site lacks a discussion forum or chat room.

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