Monday, April 20, 2009

JARDA: Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives

JARDA is a themed collection within Calisphere, the University of California’s digital collection of primary resources from archives throughout the state. The collection includes an incredible range of significant materials that provide context for each other. The site doesn’t provide much information about how the librarians chose what would be digitized for this themed collection. The collection narrative simply states that it includes “heavily requested materials for research, classroom study, and other uses,” that these materials have historically been “difficult to access physically” because of their physical dispersal among collections. “The JARDA project was created to remedy this problem.” It is not clear whether the librarians evaluated which materials relating to Japanese American relocation were the most “heavily requested,” but it is implied that the creators of this collection looked for themes that could be generated out of their combined collections. JARDA draws from the organizing librarians’ ten sites of employment, including the Japanese American National Museum, the California State Archives, the California Historical Society, and seven university archives from University of California (Los Angeles and Berkeley), California State University, University of Southern California, and University of the Pacific. Building this consortium was the first part of the collection decision-making process. It appears that diversity of material types was also key; the collection includes diaries, letters, photographs, drawings, US War Relocation Authority materials, and oral histories conducted with people who lived in the camps and with people working as administrators of the camps.

This collection utilizes metadata at several levels. First, the introductory page offers a “Background and Timeline” narrative to contextualize the collection materials. Second, the collection is divided into four themed areas: People, Places, Daily Life, and Personal Experiences. Within each of these, there is overview information about what is in the themed area, a list of related browse terms that users can click on (including named locations, terms like repatriation and barracks, names of artists and authors, etc.), along with lesson plan materials. Each theme page also includes a series of thumbnails that invite users in visually as well. Once users click on an image, they see another layer of metadata. All images include title, the collection where the physical object is located, and the contributing institution housing that collection. Some of the collections and contributing institutions are linked to the home pages for these resources. Digital objects also include other metadata as relevant to and available for the object, including creator/contributor and date. The objects seem to have descriptive titles rather than including descriptions.

The digital objects appear to differ between separate collecting institutions. Most photographs appear to be 300dpi or 600dpi JPEGs, paintings also appear to be 600dpi JPEGs, sketches are 300dpi JPEGs, while many diary entries are 600dpi JPEGs. Many, but not all, of the images include a color strip or a grayscale strip to allow adjustment for true color.

The central audience for this collection is clearly gradeschool teachers and children. Each themed area includes “Questions to Consider,” a list of the “California Content Standards which lesson plans with these materials may fulfill, a list of “Terms to Understand” and their definitions, documents including lesson plans and activities, and a note (and disclaimer) about “Racial Slurs” that may be found in the original captions to photographs from the US Relocation Authority. The introductory page for the collection also includes three teacher-developed themed lesson plans for particular grades. The images in this collection are compelling and the context is well narrated. It is sometimes difficult to navigate back and forth, and not all of the images are scanned in the same quality, but the material is useful and presented in an interesting way.

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