Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crime Broadsides

Harvard Law School Library's collection of crime broadsides spans the years 1707 to 1891 and includes more than 500 broadsides. Broadsides were sold in Great Britain at places of execution. In their time they were called both dying speeches and bloody murders. This collection takes the time to carefully explain the historical context of the broadsides, the origin of the collection at the law library and that their entire collection is online.
In addition to several pages about the collection, the site allows users to browse the collection, or search by category or keyword. The search features have a variety of drop down menus and are a bit overwhelming, but they are very through. The records that match the submitted query appear as a short list of metadata elements, without any thumbnails. By clicking "display full record" the user is taken to a page with all of the metadata elements visible, including title, creator, description, genre, subject, ID number and any notes they have about the item. However, the image of the object itself is still not visible. By clicking on another link, the image is pulled up in a special viewer in a new window. The number of clicks required make viewing an object cumbersome at best.
The images themselves can be viewed in great detail, allowing zooming all around the page, though figuring out how to use the special viewer might take an inexperienced user a little bit of time. The images are also easily converted to pdf for downloading. Information about the digital object was not listed on the site.
It seems this collection is for a user with a passing interest in the subject. While the site itself could have been designed better, a scholar would only be able to begin his research online. To acquire more information, I suspect they would have to go to the law library in person.

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