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Duke Digital Collections: From Projects to Program

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Part of ALA Annual Conference 2010 session: "To Protect and Serve: Is Digitization Good for Historical Materials?" June 27, 2010. In the presentation, I’ll start out by telling you about the mission …

Part of ALA Annual Conference 2010 session: "To Protect and Serve: Is Digitization Good for Historical Materials?" June 27, 2010. In the presentation, I’ll start out by telling you about the mission and subject strengths of Duke’s digitization program and how it has evolved over the last 15 years. Then I’ll focus on three digital collections projects we’ve worked on over the past couple of years, and for each of them, I’ll talk about what we learned in the process: what worked well and what didn’t work so well. I’ll conclude by sharing some takeaway advice and some helpful resources I’d give folks who wants to start a digitization project at their libraries.

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  • The title of my presentation today is Duke Digital Collections: From Projects to Program. In the presentation, I’ll start out by telling you about the mission and subject strengths of Duke’s digitization program and how it has evolved over the last 15 years. Then I’ll focus on three digital collections projects we’ve worked on over the past couple of years, and for each of them, I’ll talk about what we learned in the process: what worked well and what didn’t work so well. The informal title of this presentation is: We’ll make the mistakes so you don’t have to. I’ll conclude by sharing some takeawayadvice and some helpful resources I’d give folks who wants to start a digitization project at their libraries.
  • Now I’ll start out with some information about our organization. The digital collections program at Duke, is an initiative based in the Libraries to digitize and make freely available online Duke's unique primary source materials, like manuscripts, diaries, photographs, rare books, historic sheet music and other resources that support teaching, learning, and research at Duke and for the larger research community.We’re fortunate to have many primary source collections at Duke so we focus on four major strengths, which I’ll highlight in turn:
  • The first is Documentary arts, including documentary photography and documentary film. This is an example by the photographer James Karales of the Selma to Montgomery Civil rights march.
  • The next strength is Duke History, featuringresources from University Archives. This is a football program from early 80s. These collections are very popular with alumni.
  • At Duke, we’re very focused on digitizing advertising and consumer culture materials from the Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History. This is an ad from a collection called Medicine and Madison Avenue documents how health and hygiene products were marketed to consumers. Ads are our most heavily used resources because they can support so much study from a variety of disciplines.
  • Finally, we’re focusing on what we call Transcultural Experiences: materials that document interactions between cultures. Much deals with colonialism; from the points of view of American and British peopletravelling abroad. This is an image from our Sidney D. Gamble collection of images of China in the early 20th century. I’ll talk more about the Gamble collection later in the presentation.
  • Now that I’ve told you where we’re focusing, I’ll now talk about the history of our program and how we get our work done.Duke has had a long history of digitization, starting in the mid 1990s. During this time digitization was grant-funded; projects administered by Special Collections Library. Focus was on image-based collections; strengths in advertising and documentary photography. Built very large collections through grant funding:3 significant advertising collections, historic american sheet music, and two extensive documentary photography collections, some of which are part of the original American Memory site at the Library of Congress. We consider these our flagship collections, and we're still building on these strengths today.  Approach at this time was very project-centric. Each collection was stand-alone entity; Not much thought was given to interoperability across formats or subjects.  In the early 2000s, Duke libraries viewed digitization as a core service that is aligned with library strategic goals, not a peripheral activity, so we made an effort to mainstream digital collections into the operating budget. We wanted to evolve our approach from disparate projects to a digital collections program that used consistent approach, consistent workflows, resources, not reinventing the wheel w/ each project. In 2007, we developed a decentralized model (see diagram) – in contrast to libraries that have separate digital library departments (like Carolina Digital Library and Archives down the road at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), many departments across the library enterprise contribute time and expertise to the digital collections program at Duke. 
  • The first collection I’ll highlight is the Sidney Gamble Photographs, a collection we launched in 2008. Sidney Gamble (who belonged to the Gamble family of Procter & Gamble fame) was an avid amateur photographer who travelled to China 4 times between 1908 and 1932. He took thousands of photos during this time, documenting the people, landscapes, and daily life he encountered. Duke acquired the collection in 2006, which largely consisted of highly-flammable nitrate negatives. We outsourced digitization to Chicago Albumen Works.
  • The next project I’ll highlight is AdViews, a collection of thousands of vintage television commercials from the 1950s to the 1990s. We launched the first part of the collection last summer, and we’ve just finished the last batch this summer for a total of nearly 9,000 commercials. The source collection was an advertising agency archive, held by Duke’s Hartman Center, that contained about 500 reels of 16mm film. We considered this a partially hidden collection, because we had only a rough idea what was on the films. When students or researchers wanted to study the film, they had to request a viewing copy be made, an expensive and time-consuming process. This was a very large, resource-intensive project, and I’ll talk more about how we accomplished it in the lessons learned.
  • The DukeMobile iPhone app is a project created last year by Duke's Office of Information Technology. The goal was to create an iPhone app including a suite of applications to connect the campus community to useful information on-the-go.  Duke was the 2nd university to create such a thing (Stanford was first).  The iPhone app was not a library project in the traditional sense of the term.  OIT sought out potential partners to build an IMAGES module that would incorporate images from sources around the university.  The development of the app was collaborative – Library IT staff worked with the OIT, who contracted the development work out to an external vendor,TerriblyClever. We have gotten lots of attention at national conferences this year, as we were the first library anywhere to introduce an iPhone interface to digital collections. 
  • Now I’ll conclude with some overall takeaways and helpful resources I’d recommend to folks who are thinking about staring a digitization program at their libraries. Let use statistics help you identify priorities for digitization.Remember that digitization is only the first step to making content available: you also need to plan for metadata, web publication, preservation, promotion, and assessment.When doing metadata, normalize names, dates, and geographic terms using a controlled vocabulary, not just within one collection, but across all of your content. This will allow for maps, timelines, and better searching and browsing in general. Standards, like Dublin Core, will allow you to collaborate outside your library with other groups.In-house and home-grown are not always the lowest cost. Vendors can offer digitization services for less than it would cost to buy equipment and staffing, especially for special formats. External hosting solutions, like Flickr, the Internet Archive, iTunes U, and YouTube, can make it easy for libraries without IT support to make content available online.Optimize for search engines: we fin that lots of our traffic comes from search engines so be sure your content can be indexed in search engines and have bookmark-able, session-independent URLs.Finally, promote and assess. Think about ways to connect to current events, anniversaries, and popular interest angles. Reach outside the libraries and connect with campus or community media outlets. Assessing use of the collections is also essential to help you determine future directions. We use Google analytics on our site which is powerful and user-friendly. We also hope to begin doing some citation analysis to see if our digital collections are having an impact on published scholarship.
  • These are some resources I’d recommend. The first two are OCLC reports that have been influential in the digital collections field. Both are available as PDFs from the OCLC website. The first one, Shifting Gears, relates to going from projects to a large-scale digitization program. The second one deals with a risk-management approach to copyright.The last three resources are reminders that you don’t have to go it alone. State Historical Records Advisory Boards and IMLS state programs can provide guidance, connections, and funding to get your programs off the ground. If you belong to a library networks or consortia, they may offer digitization or hosting services for member libraries. An example of this is Lyrasis, which is providing reduced-rate digitization services through the Internet Archive to its members.Finally, communities of practice. If you see a collection you like or that is similar to the project you have in mind, call or e-mail the libraries for more information. Collaboration can follow these contacts.
  • I hope my advise would be helpful, and that you can learn from some of our mistakes. I hope also that this session will inspire you to take a new look at some of your historical materials and how you might make them accessible to scholars and students. What unique content does your library have to offer? What hidden collections could you make digitally accessible to your communities?This last slide has a link to Duke’s digital collections homepage where you can find our blog and our Twitter , Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr accounts.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Duke Digital Collections: From Projects to Program
      Jill Katte Vermillion
      Digital Collections Program
      Duke University Libraries
    • 2.
    • 3. Documentary Arts
      James Karales Photographs: “The Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March, 1965”
    • 4. Duke History
      Duke Football Programs: “Duke vs. University of North Carolina, 1981 Nov 21”
    • 5. Advertising & Consumer Culture
      Medicine and Madison Avenue: “She's a Calendar Girl - But She Has No Dates!” 1957
    • 6. Transcultural Experiences
      Sidney D. Gamble Photographs: “Robert Fitch & Three-Man Chair,” 1917-1919
    • 7. Duke Digital Collections:
      Distributed model
      Priorities
      Assessment
      Conservation
      Web interfaces
      Storage
      Tech infrastructure
      Digital objects
      Metadata
      Metadata
    • 8. Sidney Gamble Photographs, 1917-1932
      North China Union Women’s College, Library, 1917-1919
    • 9. Lessons Learned: Sidney Gamble Photographs
      Digitize at-risk formats to provide access
      Promote digital collections actively
      Use external tools for internationalization and mapping
    • 10.
    • 11. Lessons Learned: AdViews
      Promote digital collections actively x2
      Digitize at-risk formats to provide access x2
      Take a risk-management approach to copyright/permissions
      Explore external hosting: iTunes U, Flickr, YouTube, etc.
      Be realistic about internal resources/workload
    • 12. Alternative interfaces: CoolIris3D Wall
    • 13. Alternative Interfaces: Duke Mobile iPhone App
    • 14. Lessons Learned: Alternate Interfaces
      Provide one open data source (Media RSS) to enable multiple interfaces
      Separate content from presentation
      Expose data using standards
      Let other people do the development work
    • 15. Takeaways
      Let users help set digitization priorities
      Digitization is just the first step
      Normalize metadata, esp. names, dates, geographic terms
      In-house and home-grown are not always the low-cost approaches
      Optimize for search engines
      Promote digital collections and assess use
    • 16. Resources
      “Shifting Gears: Gearing Up to Get Into the Flow [PDF]” (OCLC Programs and Research, 2007)
      “Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online [PDF]” (OCLC Programs and Research, 2010)
      State Historical Records Advisory Boards; IMLS State Programs
      Consortia-sponsored digitization programs
      Communities of practice
    • 17. Connect with us
      http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/
      Jill Vermillion
      jill.katte@duke.edu