4:00pm to 5:30pm
Digital Special Collections Discussion Group
Location: Disneyland Hotel, Monorail A
Moderated by Jason Kovari, the Digital Special Collections Discussion Group met on Saturday afternoon in a standing-room only session. The discussion addressed three major topics:
- Born-digital acquisitions
- Donor requirements for digitization
- Jason reported on work at Cornell University Library relating to ancient coins and hip hop flyers
- Erika Dowell of Indiana University announced a new exhibit related to the War of 1812
- The Getty Research Institute reported on a new research portal that links to full-text art history books
- The University of Houston relayed information on a new project tracking initiative to address communication problems related to digital projects
- The University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine announced a forthcoming exhibit, to be available in October 2012, related to the influenza epidemic of 1918-19
- The New York Historical Society announced an initiative for digitizing photographs of New York City, with fifty-thousand images included for scanning
- The Yale University Library described a linking effort to connect a batch of previously-restricted correspondence from Georgia O’Keefe to a finding aid
- Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! reported on an effort to digitize 80 years’ worth of cartoons
- The National Library of Medicine announced the completion of a two-year project to digitize Spanish-language medical books and pamphlets
- The Duke University Library reported on the IMLS-funded project undertaken by Triangle Research Libraries Network to digitize manuscripts related to the civil rights movement
- The University of Virginia Library announced the creation of a digital archive to collect materials related to the resignation of University President Teresa Sullivan
Following updates, the group briefly addressed the topic of born-digital acquisitions, touching on the following points:
- Access rules – unpublished content may be treated differently, country-to-country
- The Yale University Library has issued a series of guidelines for authors to keep their content safe and providing advice on how works might be arranged
Donor Requirements for Digitization
The majority of the session focused on what requirements donors might request or demand related to digitization of gifts made to the library. Broadly, the discussion addressed three themes – curation, workflows and communication, and resources – with relevant points enumerated below.
- A conversation between curators and the development office, if it is involved, is necessary to avoid gifts wherein all content, regardless of research value, must be accepted and digitized
- At several institutions, loose committees are formed to review digital project proposals (which may be submitted by anyone)
Workflows and Communication
- A large gift, without instructions or a discussion about the scope of digitization, can be frustrating and disruptive to multiple departments
- Can there be a single workflow for receiving donations, or must the variables be re-negotiated every time?
- How can we establish a feedback loop to reference staffs to enable them to know about the existence of donated collections?
- One possible solution: have separate digitization workflows – one patron-driven, one for curated digital projects
- Bureaucracy not necessarily bad in some cases, especially where there is an institutional imperative for collaboration
- Necessity of determining what it means to digitize: does the donor expect a stand-alone exhibit, or is it acceptable to attach digitized materials to a finding aid?
- The institution must be mindful of promises made regarding the date of availability, as speed and quality are difficult to achieve together
- Scarcity: is everyone’s digitization team too small?
- Digitization requires more overhead – equipment, storage, description for every object
Throughout the conversation, the group made clear that establishing clear communication with donors and with other relevant departments within the library is a top priority. Some institutions reported that they had made progress in this area and had developed documentation that they might be able to share the documents following the conference.