Wednesday, April 15, 2009

JSC Digital Image Collection

NASA's Johnson Space Center has a digital collection of more than 9,000 press release images. IT is unclear how they chose the images that are in the collection or if it is all the pictures they have. The about information was buried within the site so that I had to actively search to find out that JSC stood for the Johnson Space Center. They do have a rather lengthy copyright statement explaining what the photos can be used for and what they cannot be used for, along with contact information for ordering prints.
The image collection can be browsed or searched by keyword, ID number or date. The search interface was a bit clunky and made searches more difficult than they should be. For example, to search by date you had to provide a start day, month and year as well as an end day month and year or it won't allow the search at all. I would imagine most searches don't have such a specific time period in mind. Browsing was also tiring because after viewing an image you had to select the back button to return to the list of photos before selecting another image. Once an image is selected you can view metadata fields with information about the photo ID, program, mission, date, type of film used, title, description and subject words. While the metadata is helpful, it was difficult to ascertain much about the photograph itself from the metadata provided. The images were available in a size large enough to be seen clearly but not so large they could be reproduced well or would give researchers a detailed look at the photograph.
If a user was interested in a specific mission or a specific time period in the space program, I imagine the collection would be fairly easy to navigate, but it does not provide contextual information for anyone who does not know much about the space program already. Regardless, it seems the site is geared towards a person with a casual interest as I would imagine serious researches would get tired of the interface quickly.

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