Monday, March 30, 2009

Wiliam Blake Archive

The William Blake Archive is sponsored by the Library of Congress and supported by the Carolina Digital Library and Archives at UNC-Chapel Hill. Both clearly have very high digitization standards and access to amazing materials. This is certainly not the only Blake Archive but it seems to be much more extensive than most, including the New York Public Library's project which features three of Blake's works.

The digitization initiative includes Blake's illuminated books, commercial book illustrations, separate prints and prints in a series, drawings and paintings, and manuscripts and typographic works. The about page is the most complete information page I've seen on a digitization initiative. Viewers are given thorough information on the people actually involved in the program and details of the long-term plan. They began with the illuminated manuscripts in the early '90s and have been adding to the collection since. One could spend a couple hours just reading over the supplemental and background information provided for the project. You can even take a virtual tour of the collection to learn about all the features included.

The images themselves can be accessed two main ways. The only real downside of this project is that there is no way to browse thumbnails. You can select a medium and then a work through either the index or navigator pages (the navigator is actually a pop-out window). There is also a search feature but users aren't able to enter their own search terms when searching for images. (There is the option of searching the text using your own search terms however). For an image search, the site provides a list of search terms available and lets you select several of them to find images.

Once an image is accessed, there are several ways to view it. One drop down menu offers an image enlargement, illustration description, or textual transcription. The image enlargement opens another window and lets users zoom in once more to see more detail. The textual transcription will give the original text plus an English translation if necessary. The illustration description essentially provides the same information as the inote button. When a user selects inote, another window opens with the image split into several sections and a menu to select each of the sections. Once selected, the user is given a description of the action and content of that frame. The info button below the image provides detailed metadata for the featured image. They include the three levels of resolution available, information about the works creation and the source of the image. They even include information about the scanner used for the images.

Although I first saw this project five years ago, it is one of the most exciting digital projects I've encountered. They provide more than sufficient data on the project and its implementation as well as giving detailed information on the images themselves. The only thing I think would improve the site would be thumbnail previews rather than textual lists of the items in a work.

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