Professional Development

Digitizing Hidden Collections: Success Stories from Small and Medium-sized Digitization projects

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 3:26 pm

Today, Vicki, Craig, and I sat in on an ALA Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) webinar on the topic of digitizing hidden collections. Each of the four presenters discussedinteresting and uniquedigitization projects.

Erin Kinney, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Wyoming State Library, spoke about the Wyoming Newspaper Project. Besides having a great logo, the project has attempted to digitize all Wyoming newspapers from 1849-1922. The project has aimed for newspapers already on microfilm, but some poor quality or unavailable microfilm forced them to resort to paper copies (sounds suspiciously like the Biblical Recorder project). Although the project planners originally applied for a National Digital Newspaper Program Grant, they did manage to get a CLIR grant and state funding for $940,000 to complete the digitization. Outsourcing the digitization, hiring metadata workers, massive storage requirements, and a variety of other factors played a role in this project, but they have managed to create a great interface and a successful browse hierarchy for access to this important and highly used collection.

Larry Carey of the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, NY took the local history collection (similar to the North Carolina Room at our own Forsyth Public Library) and sought out copyright permission for almost 300 books and publications including city directories, local histories, and a variety of other sources. The learning curve regarding copyright and technical expertise was mentioned numerous times. Carey did reference Peter Hirtle’s Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums as a valuable tool when working towards obtaining copyright clearance for the digital project. I must say, we were impressed with the time and dedication this small public library staff put in to making these materials available online. The benefit, however, is that the site gets approximately 1,500 visits a month.

Devra Dragos, of the Nebraska Memories Project,explained the statewide project to digitize archival materials excluding newspapers. Using ContentDM as their repository, libraries, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions across the state of Nebraska digitized, created metadata, and contributed what they could to this project. Each contributor must sign off that they have copyright for materials and the metadata is standardized. Devra did mention that contributors tend to add information to the metadata that is not standard but is very useful and otherwise potentially lost information.

The final presenter was Natalie Milbrodt of the Queens Memory Project. This is a fascinating project attempting to gather oral histories of the changing landscape and cultural makeup of the borough of Queens while supplementing these oral histories with archival materials. Highly collaborative, innovative, and supported, the Queens Memory Project is only just getting started but it is quite an exciting and interesting effort.

These speakers were highly enthusiastic and had some great projects and ideas. It is always good to hear that other institutions face the same challenges as we do when completing digital projects. What was great was the effort put in to making these projects happen. Smaller libraries with less support technically have manged to make collections accessible to those who seek them out. These are great models for what can be done when a need is realized.

2 Responses to “Digitizing Hidden Collections: Success Stories from Small and Medium-sized Digitization projects”

  1. Thanks for finding this great webinar and hosting it: Good ideas for our future in SC!

  2. It’s nice to read about smaller scale projects. Usually we hear more about mass digitization efforts.


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