Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design | Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum

Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design | Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum

Office Map

This collection is home for more than 160,000 works of art from the Renaissance to the present concerning the history of European and American art and design. It includes works on paper featuring designs for architecture, decorative arts, gardens, interiors, ornament, jewelry, theater, textiles, graphic and industrial design, and fine arts.

The digital objects are listed for browsing and show thumbnails and titles. There is no search function so the user must click through the pages of images to find what they’re looking for. After choosing an image, the user can click on the image and view it one size larger. There is no zoom capability and the images, though very interesting, are small.

The metadata consists of the title, description, time period, creator, actual image size, the materials used to create the art, where it was purchased, where it was made, and the provenance. The metadata is good, but it would be nice if links were provided to art of the same type (architectural drawings, etc) so that they user could easily find more of the same.

The audience according to the Cooper-Hewitt website is designers, scholars, writers, and collectors. Anyone simply interested in design would enjoy the collection too, as well as any other collection part of the Cooper-Hewitt.

Though there is no denying the images are interesting, their digital representations leave something to be desired. They are small and do not zoom or enlarge enough to be truly appreciated. The site isn’t searchable and there are no links to the art by category of types of design. This seems to be a site based on getting people interested in viewing the physical exhibits in person. Something else to be noted is the word BETA just above the list of links to the site’s collections and this could be why the site isn’t quite up to par. Lastly, curatorial departments of the museum are closed until further notice due to renovations.

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection hosted by UCLA is an enormous resource for researchers interested in Mexican and Mexican-American recorded music.  The project is a joint effort sponsored by Los Tigres del Norte Fund, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, the Fund for Folk Culture, as well as support from the Arhoolie Foundation, NEH, NEA, Grammy 
Foundation, and even LucasFilm Foundation.  The point is, it has a lot of funding and is a very large project.  Initially, 30,000 recordings were made available (full access on UCLA campus, record images and samples available off campus).  The NEH grant allows for another 20,000 recordings to be made available, half of which are up already.  Overall, the entire collection contains over 130,000 individual recording son 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33 1/3 rpm discs.  

The site has some project information and The Arhoolie Foundation "Projects Funded" webpage hasa bit more about the Strachwitz Frontera Collection project.  The records date range is from 1905 to the 1990's.  As for copyright, the library offers to takedown materials at the request of owners.

Descriptive metadata is not as complete as one would hope.  Titles, subjects, record labels, etc. all appear in the full record, but dates do not on most records.  And sadly, for all the financial support, and for containing audio files in the collection, technical information is lacking.  Those of us interested in audio preservation are curious about what equipment and what standards were used to digitized the samples.  

The item records are fairly standard.  Images of both sides of the records are available.  Zoom options are great allowing for fine detail of the image of labels.  The audio samples are in Real Audio format, which makes them generally available to most Internet users.  Over all, this collection has a lot of potential.  As is, it is quite an interesting and wide-ranging collection.  But I cannot help but think much more background information or research into the recordings could be made available.

Historic Topographic Maps of California--San Francisco Bay Area

University of California Berkeley Historic Topographic Maps of California--San Francisco Bay Area

1. Selection Decisions
This project digitized topographic maps of the San Francisco Bay area from 1895 to the present (although the front page says it was last updated in 2007). The front page has a link to "information about this project" that very usefully lays out the selection decisions in an upfront, clear manner. The Berkeley team that did the project used the U.S. Geological Survey's topographic quadrangles of the San Francisco Bay region for digitization because they are in the public domain and were believed to be of most use to the Cal Berkeley community and to offsite users. The project includes 15- and 7.5-minute USGS topographic quadrangles that cover over 100 years of mapping of the region. The maps' coverage includes Point Reyes to Half Moon Bay (North to South) and the Pacific Ocean to Antioch, Livermore and San Jose (West to East). The summary of the selection decisions also includes a few sentences of justification why topographic maps are valuable, useful and worth digitizing in general, and notes that first edition maps were always used when more than one edition was available. As well, the selection decisions paragraph notes that the collection includes some editions of quadrangles published by the Corps of Engineers, the Army Map Service, or the Defense Mapping Agency. In all, "350 maps were carefully selected to represent a historic perspective of the changing landscape of the region from rural to densely urban. "

There are some problems with organization of the project that make nailing down metadata somewhat more difficult than it needs to be. Links to metadata are jumbled up and it is hard to tell what goes with what. However, when specific needed links can be sorted out from the bad formatting, there are useful metadata features, including a pop-up table a lot like our metadata tables in GreenStone, that show the map title, date (when survey was done), alternate date (printed), dimensions, publisher, scale, and notes. However, these appear not to be offered for each and every map. There were many that I viewed where I could not find any metadata at all, but maybe this isn't terribly important to the people that they think will use the maps, in that they know the year from the object title, can reasonably assume that the army or USGS did the survey, and probably just want the information contained in the actual map. It would make any authentication difficult, though. One great feature they have on metadata is a link to the map's MARC record in the Berkeley online library catalog, which would make it very easy to go retrieve the physical copy. There is also more information about the digitization process than I have seen in maybe any other collection I have viewed this semester. The "information about the project" page has two great paragraphs about how the maps were scanned (what equipment was used) and where they did it, what resolution, how they migrated and backed up the data, how the project was funded, how the database was built and by whom, and even how they made the thumbnails. In all, a lot of information. This section also documents one particular librarian's insistence that the images be of very high archival quality, showing compliance with the good practice of "if you're going to digitize, do it as if you will only ever digitize that object once." Contact information for all of the staff responsible for the project is offered at the bottom of the page for people who have questions.

The objects are high quality scanned maps. Links to all of the maps from different years of the same quadrangle are offered on the same page as the particular map you're looking at, so it is quick and easy to do comparison. One downside is that they seem to have gone with some kind of proprietary option for publishing the zoom-view images, through a company called lizardtech. So, the images are all in .sid format, which does not seem to be at all interoperable. I had to download and install a plugin from lizardtech's website to view the zoomable maps. This seems like it could be a big problem if that company disappears and no one can get the plug-in to view the digitized maps in a useable way (ie. not thumbnail sized). There are directions for saving the images in a tiff, gif, or jpg format for later use, though. That said, the images are FANTASTIC. One can zoom in close enough to very clearly pick up stray fibers in the paper or variations in ink thickness in the text on the maps. They are very, very nice, and would probably stand in just fine for the real thing if all you needed was the topographic information they contain.

I would assume this is for people who know a thing or two about topographic maps. I do not, and so the site was a little hard for me to navigate, but for people who know the terminology and the uses, it's probably no problem at all. To me it seems like city planners, geographers, historians, college students, and possibly even high school or middle school students could make great use of these maps.

The History of Medicine

The History of Medicine (IHM) has built a collection of about 70,000 images related to medical practice in several countries around the world. The collection contains images of portraits, photographs, caricatures, posters and graphic art. The images range in date from the 15th to 21st centuries and were gathered from the History of Medicine and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The images themselves are quite interesting and the interface is easy to use. Users are given the option to browse all the images and then narrow their browsing by selection a format, country or time period. When you select an item a small scale appears near the bottom which allows you to zoom in and out of the image. Although this is a really useful tool, it can be difficult to see on black and white images which make up a significant portion of the collection. Also, some of the images don’t hold up well when zooming in as close as possible.

The interface also allows many tools which allow you to share and interact with the images although some of these (such as creating a presentation) are only available to people with usernames and passwords.

Each image has a lot of metadata which is listed in a column on the left-hand side of the screen. They include information on copyright status but also make it clear that it is the user’s responsibility to determine whether or not they can use an item.

Although I didn’t use the tool, the collection is also searchable in Locator Plus which offers a completely different interface in which to display the results. Although I think this site is used primarily by people at IHM and NIH, they want the images to be useful for private study and research as well.

The interface looks really nice and is simple to use and the images themselves are really interesting. I would like a little more information on the collection itself however. Although the metadata includes information on which organizations publish the images, it’s unclear how they were used. I wanted more context for some of the images.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Sheet Music Consortium is not a digital collection in the strictest sense; rather, it is an aggregate and possibly a standardizing measure of several different sheet music collections. However, it's aim, associated information and structure are all exceedingly similar to a digital collection--indeed the only difference is the lack of images stored on-site.

There is a wealth of material within this Consortium database. Almost 50,000 instances of sheet music from the Library of Congress are aggregated here. Additionally, the "about" page makes clear the Consortium's purpose as well as the different collections original creators and provenance. There is even a section explaining dublin core standard metadata tags and all the necessary steps to gain approval as a member of the Consortium--a boon to smaller institutions not knowing where to start with digitization and a great way to make sure everything is standardized. I could not find much in terms of linking or interoperability, but the Consortium does allow you to "collect" instances into your own "virtual collection", as well as view other's previously created virtual collection, a fascinating resource and about as close to "web 2.0" as I've seen a curated digital collection get. The search function is also fantastically robust, allowing searching in multiple fields and with several symbol-based search enhancers such as a # to search for prefixs (i.e. lov# returns loving, love, lover, etc.).

Since all of the collections have to conform to dublin core standards, there is a perfectly acceptable and standardized amount of metadata for all instances. Of course, the display of this metadata leaves something to be desired on some of the external sites, which is a problem when you need to move off-site to reach the actual instance. However, the rule of conformity means the metadata will be there, even if it requires a little more searching. The only field that is markedly absent involves metadata about technology and processes used.

I can't say much for the actual instances: for one, they are not actually hosted within the consortium and for another the quality and structure vary wildly depending on the individual collection they are held within. The Library of Congress, of course, has it done up right; I can't say the same for some of the others. There is also nothing about copyright upon the Consortium site itself. One must travel to the individual collection's pages to find this information.

Overall this Consortium is a great resource for sheet music scholars searching for information on a specific piece, as this aggregate seems to collect a whole lot of them--over 100,000! The intended audience is likely either researchers or fans of sheet music or the periods they came from. 

Lunar Orbiter Digitization Project
In 1966, there were five Lunar Orbiter missions launched which devoted to mapping potential lunar landing sites. Original Lunar Orbiter images were photographic images acquired during the mission period and be scanned into a series of strips on spacecraft and then transmitted back to earth. The images would be printed out in very high resolution.
This project provides more current updates which are available online. There are three sections: Global Status & Download; HiRes Status & Download and Pilot Project. I carefully reviewed Pilot Project part and found that this site is super enriched. There is a link to Lunar Orbiter Digitization Project Index where under parent directory, the images are listed with information about size and last modified time. Some of the images are in gif format while some are in tif format. Also there are html links. Comparing with other digitization project and comparing with their websites, this project seems complex by involving multiple image formats and due to the particular characteristic of the images, sophisticated digital technology was applied. Although there are relatively less images
Within Download part, there is a big star map pops out and users could select numbers in red italics to access data available for download. It is well virtualized. As if select a number, you could go further and access to downloadable images in a new window. The images are in low resolution jpeg format with rich medadata including which mission it was, size, frame number and so forth.
It is an amazing website and an awesome project.

Joseph Berry Keenan Digital Collection at Harvard Law Library

Joseph Berry Keenan was the director of the International Prosecution Section, a group of lawyers and law professionals that served during the war trials in Tokyo after World War II. As head of the IPS, he collected correspondence, much of which is important to understanding what went on during those trials. Harvard Law Library has digitized them and posted them on the Web here.

The scans themselves are very high quality, and very readable; unfortunately, there's pretty much no metadata at all for them. They're organized by boxes and in a series of sequences--like an archive, in other words, rather than a library per se. They're not searchable, even though there's a "search" button at the top. You can download papers as PDF files, though. I can imagine that this would be a valuable resource for historians, especially those interested in law and the Second World War, but unless you know the sequence you're looking for, it would be hard to locate anything specific. It's more browsable than searchable, I suppose.

Wonders: Images of the Ancient World, NYPL

This New York Public Library digital exhibition consists of over 1,700 images (paintings, engravings, photographs, etc.) depicting ancient civilizations (Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc.) taken from 18th to early 20th century. The collection is massive, and exploring it can be a bit overwhelming at first. The only options to browse through the collection are to display all the images at once (clicking through page after page, organized alphabetically by title) or by viewing parts of the collection grouped by subject headings. But since there are still a lot of different subject headings, this can still take some time. A general 'search' feature is also available, though you can't pick a specific category.

Pretty much all the metadata you could possibly want is provided with each image: creator (if known), format/medium, date produced, the original collection it was taken from, etc. The catalog number in the library is also provided, should you want to go and see that drawing of the kneeling Greek archer you like so much live and in person. Images can be enlarged to a degree, but zooming in is limited to roughly 5x the thumbnail size. A link located on the toolbar near each image lets you purchase a print, should you so desire.

The lack of browsing options would suggest that this is a site for people who know their subject (Classics Majors, I'm looking at you. Well, not at the moment. I'm typing, actually. But... never mind). And, with that in mind, this is a very successful collection. But people without a good background in Classics will have to be content to take their time to figure out the collection, or spend some time wandering around aimlessly (which, honestly, there's something to be said for. There are plenty of interesting things to discover here).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chicago State University

The Chicago State University Collection contains historical photographs of the University. The site uses CONTENTdm, and is not at all aesthetically appealing. The about page for the collection establishes the University as an important witness to the demographic shift that occurred in Chicago during the 20th century. The collection does not reflect this. It contains only 16 photographs, some of the school seal rather than the students. Whether these photographs were the only ones they had or why they were chosen about the rest and why so few were digitized is left to the viewer's imagination.
The metadata provided is very thorough, with more than 15 fields including one for all the notes they have on the object. Metadata varies from object to object, but the information about the objects is substantial. The image itself is only visible in thumbnail or a screen-view size. The original scan is not available for viewing. The site provides no information about the digital object or what kind of technologies were used in digitizing.
I would guess that this collection is aimed at people with a casual interest in the university. The collection as a whole is too small for any real research and it does little to show the demographic change discussed in the about page.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Pelican Project

This digital collection focuses on scans of book covers from Pelican Books, which was an offshoot of Penguin Books that was started in 1937.  Selection decisions aren’t listed, but looking through the collection, you can see that they made the choice to scan only front covers, which are in varying conditions.  Investigating further, I found out that it's not a complete collection, so it may be made up just of books they had access to, or perhaps just covers they liked.  There's no way to know, and the lack of information about selection decisions could be a missed opportunity.  If they let users know what books they were still looking for they could possibly elicit the help of other Pelican Book enthusiasts to lend books or send in scans to help complete the collection.  It’d also be interesting to know why the scans stopped in 1985.  Did the series end, or did they just not like the cover design styles of the late 1980’s?

Rights management isn't talked about, but I think it'd be safe to assume that they didn't get permission to post these.  Covers were scanned at 200ppi, which seems like a decent balance between not having high enough resolution that it would make rights owners feel threatened, but still displaying a quality image (though who knows really?).  At first glance, I thought they had added shadows around the books, which seems like it would be a bad choice for preservation.  On closer inspection, it looks like erasing the outer border of the scan is what gives the illusion of shadows.  This decision gives the collection a cohesive visual look, and displays great against the white background.   

The layout of the site is really clean.  Items are arranged by year, which is really the only metadata.  It's confusing that some books appear in two different years, and it would be helpful to know why that decision was made.  It would also be nice to know more about the graphic designers, although I don't know if that information was in the books.  Because of the emphasis on the visual design of the collection, I would say the collection is targeted towards fans of modernist design, or graphic design history.  The collection is a great representation of the changing eras of graphic design, but with even a little information about their selection decisions and collection, it could be a much better resource.

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection

This collection is one of the University of Washington libraries’ special collections. The website provides an extensive digital collection of original photographs and documents about the Northwest Coast and Plateau Indian cultures, complemented by essays written by anthropologists, historians, and teachers about both particular tribes and cross-cultural topics. The digital databases includes over 2,300 original photographs as well as over 1,500 pages from the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior from 1851 to 1908 and six Indian treaties negotiated in 1855. Secondary sources include 89 articles from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly and 23 University of Washington publications in Anthropology.

It is easy to explore the collection. Users can browse by Images, Documents, Image Subjects and Image Subjects. For example, users can click the “Browse Images” button, and in the next webpage, the list of available items will appear in the dropdown box. When users find the image they want to see, they can click the thumbnail, and a large picture will load on the screen. Zoom in or out can change the view to see the big picture or to get in close. At the same time, users can use some special tools such as “Maximum Resolution”, “Fit in Window”, “Fit to width”, Rotate left, Rotate right, Hide/show thumbnail and Clip image in a new window. Especially, for “Clip image in a new window”, users can click the mouse and drag the box diagonally to select part of the image. In the new window, right-click to perform other browser functions, such as save, print and e-mail. The metadata will be found under the picture along with Title, Photographer, Date, Notes, Subjects, Location Depicted, Object Type, Negative Number, Collection, Repository, Restrictions and Transmission Data.

Like most online digital collections, the essays and digital databases may be accessed by using the keyword search at the top of pages throughout the site. Overall, this is a high – level digital collection, as part of the American Memory Historical Collections at the Library of Congress, it was 1997/98 Award Winner in Ameritech Digital Library Competition. The intended audience for this particular digital collection would definitely be K-12 teachers, researchers and anyone who may be interested in American Indians culture.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Kolloen Family Photo Collection

Recently a friend of mine discovered that his family is featured in a digital collection hosted by The University of Washington Libraries. The collection is only a sample of what the library/archive actually carries related to the Kolloen family. There is no explanation for why these specific images were chosen to be digitized but UW does offer some interesting background on the family, the historical context of the collection and the relevance for Seattle.

In total, the digital collection contains 34 images compiled in a ContentDM site. The images feature members of the family, the hotel they built and pictures of the Yukon Territory. The ContentDM format allows users to interact with the images in pretty interesting ways. The images can be viewed as many different sizes and rotated, although I'm not really sure why it would be useful to rotate the images as they are all right-side up. An interesting feature of the site allows you to select an area of the photo which then appears in a new browser window. The selected area does not show up any larger than the last view but it does allow you to crop the picture in the browser and then save the image as is. I think it's nice that you can interact with the images this way. I don't think I've seen any other digital collection that allows you to crop a photo within the browser.

Not surprisingly, UW does a nice job with the metadata which is displayed beneath each image. They provide detailed information about the image as well as hyperlinks in the title which allow users to view other images with the keywords in the title. The also provide information about the collection and the historical context. Users are able to save the images to their own computers as the copyright has expired on the images but they also have a service that allows you to order prints from the collection.

UW obviously has a great reputation and I like what they've done with this collection. I would like more information about why these items were selected over others but it's nicely done. Information is easy to find, images are clear and large and interactive. They really made the most of the ContentDM structure and put together an interesting collection that is important for the city of Seattle's history.