Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ball State University Digital Media Repository

Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, uses CONTENTdm to create their Digital Media Repository, a resource housing 57 separate digital collections featuring a variety of materials. The repository's About page gives some information about the goals of this digital initiative (greater access, adding to international body of digital objects, etc.), but it also has a link to a video explaining the project from the perspective of those involved in its creation, maintenance, and use. I thought it was nice that the video conveniently had a link to the .wmv in Dial-Up or Broadband formats, by the way. The video does a good job of explaining the benefits of such an initiative to a relatively regional state school like Ball State, and to those outside of their community who may not get a chance, or may not think, to explore their collections.

Users can do a simple search of the collections or sort the collections by Subject/Geographic Area, Dept., Format, or Explore A-Z. Sorting by these categories brings up expandable mens from which you can further drill down to specifics. Two collections I enjoyed browsing were the Musical Instruments Collection and the Works Progress Administration Miniature Furniture collection. Both contain images, but also video and/or audio files to augment the item's display. As the repository uses CONTENTdm, the look and feel of browsing the items is relatively standardized. Each collection will display limited image thumbnails and descriptive information in sortable columns when listing the categories you are browsing. Metadata for each item in the collections is mostly descriptive with some administrative data. It is adequate despite a lack of technical data, which might be useful for the audio and video files. For all of the collections, audio files are Windows Media and videos are in Quicktime format.

The Musical Instruments Collection lists 141 objects to explore. The collection home page has very little background information about the collection or the intruments themselves. The images are simply digital photographs of the instruments. But each instrument image is accompanied by a short audio file of someone playing the instrument. In many cases, detail imags of parts of the instruments are available. When video is used, it is 3D rotation of the instruments with zoom functions. The audio files are great and let you hear everything from more cowbell to music boxes to didgeridoos. Fun.

The WPA miniture furniture was an unexpected find. This collections homepage has a link to an about page with a bit of background on the items. They come from an Indiana State Museum Project from the 1930's and 1940's centered in Evansville, Indiana, that sought to preserve in miniature typical furnishings of the era. The scale is reportedly 2 inches to 12 inches. The furniture was intended for display in libraries, museums, and schools throughout the state and the items were functional. The collection provide images of 33 objects and includes 3D rotating videos that you can manipulate, just like the musical instruments.

The repository contains several collections that include relative typical types of objects. The two particular collections above include 3D objects. Creating digital collections that come closest to recreating the experience of interacting with the real objects seems much more difficult with 3D objects. Augmenting with audio and video (especially that can be manipulated) is a step in the right direction.

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