Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Category: Digital collections (page 1 of 2)

Photographing Manuscripts



Greetings from the OSU Libraries Preservation & Reformatting Department, Digital Imaging Unit. The department is dedicated to cultural heritage imaging, an umbrella term for scanning and photographing historical materials. If you’re unfamiliar with our work, check out one of my previous posts for some background on what we do.

Digital imaging allows libraries to share rare and unique materials with a worldwide audience, increasing the visibility of  collections while protecting the original objects from excessive handling.  The goal is to capture images that reveal the significant details of rare books, manuscripts, artifacts, and other materials, giving researchers the next best thing to seeing the original.  Today’s post shows some examples taken from the library’s collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscript fragments.

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Digital scholarship and the public domain

How the public domain promotes scholarship: Engaging Columbus uses 1922 OSU thesis to map Columbus neighborhoods | Copyright Corner

Looks like it’s cross-post Tuesday here on the Digital Scholarship blog! This second link is to a post on the Copyright Resources Center’s Copyright Corner blog. Maria Scheid writes about Engaging Columbus, an interesting collaborative project that makes use of digitized images from a 1922 OSU thesis. She uses the opportunity to talk about the important role of the public domain, but it’s also a great example of how digital technology can enable transformative scholarship, and a reminder of the curious life of online collections. When we digitize our content, it can be used in wonderful, creative ways that we never imaged when we put it on a scanner or submitted it to a repository. Read Maria’s post to learn more.

Opening the vaults: Organizations make a multitude of digital images available (link)

Opening the vaults: Organizations make a multitude of digital images available | Copyright Corner

Jessica Meindertsma has published a new post on OSUL’s Copyright Corner blog about a wealth of image resources that have recently become available online, including digital images from the Wellcome Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Getty Images. An excerpt:

In an encouraging trend towards lowering barriers for the use of third party materials, some institutions are implementing policies to make portions of their digital collections available for certain uses without requiring permission or payment of a fee.”

The post is interesting both as a pointer to these fantastic resources, and also as a glimpse of the different ways institutions choose to make content available online. Read the full post to learn more.

Digital Futures

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit both Harvard and Boston University. While at Harvard I attended a showcase of digital projects titled Digital Futures: The NOW edition. Sponsored by Harvard’s Digital Futures Consortium the program consisted of three presentations: “Curated by the Crowd: Collections, Data and Platforms for Participation in Museums and Other Institutions,”HarvardX, and Interactive Map of the Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1760-61. I was intrigued by the quality and diversity of the projects. More importantly, I was taken by what they tell us about the future of libraries and collections.

Curated by the Crowd centered on the creation and maintenance of Curarium, a collection of collections designed to serve as a model for crowdsourcing annotation, curation, and augmentation of works within and beyond their respective collections. The Curarium first project is the Villa I Tatti’s Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance. This collection consists of a unique archive of photographs of “homeless” paintings assembled by art historian Bernard Berenson. The transfer of the collection and its metadata into the Curarium will allow audiences to identify, classify, describe, and analyze the objects in the collection, as well as reconstruct the stories of objects that have either disappeared or been destroyed.

The faculty-led, HarvardX initiative aims to develop and distribute online learning objects and tools, conduct research on pedagogical and technological innovations and learning outcomes, and adapt these innovations to enhance the on-campus experience of Harvard students. HarvardX integrates the development of instructional approaches and digital tools across Harvard’s campus by providing faculty with pedagogical and research support.

As an historian, I found Vincent Brown’s project uniquely appealing. A professor of African and African-American History at Harvard, Brown has made study of the Transatlantic Slave Trade accessible in a new way. He created an interactive map that brings to life the spatial history of the greatest slave insurrection in eighteenth century England. Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative is an “alliance between historians and mapmakers” that offers a carefully curated archive of documentary evidence and presents arguments about strategies, tactics, and landscape. More importantly, the cartographic evidence uncovered by the project shows that, contrary to previous interpretations, the rebellion was a well-planned affair that posed a genuine strategic threat and not a spontaneous rebellion.

Thematically speaking these projects have little in common. They cover history, art, online learning, educational technology, and myriad other disciplines. For librarians and curators this diversity of disciplines and approaches resting under the digital umbrella is precisely where the rubber meets the road. The future, these projects clearly show, is characterized by wider distribution, uncommon openness, and nerve-wrecking disintermediation. The question is: are we ready for it? The future is now.

Digital Preservation Policy Framework – part 2

Last week I focused the Purpose and Scope, and the Principles outlined in the Digital Preservation Policy Framework document. This week I will concentrate on the Categories of Commitment and Levels of Preservation portions of the document.

 Categories of commitment

  • Born digital materials.  Examples:  ETDs (Electronic Theses and Dissertations), institutional records
  • Digitized materials (no available or usable analog).  Examples:  Unique audio and video from Music/Dance & Special Collections.  This category also includes digitized materials that have annotations or other value-added features making them difficult or impossible to recreate.
  • Digitized materials (available analog). Examples:  TRI Actress scrapbooks, Suyemoto Papers, Rubin Collection of Lantern Slides, and the Lantern.
  • Commercially available digital resources.  Example: e-journals (Project Muse, JSTOR)
  • Other items and materials.

We can’t do everything.  These categories are meant to be seen as guidelines.  Developing solutions for “born digital” resources informs solutions for other categories.  But it does not imply that these assets are more valuable or important than any other categories and/or our traditional analog materials.  The categories of commitment add another dimension to discussions of stewardship.  For example, digitization of materials that are in danger of format obsolescence, or that depend on superseded equipment, may create an urgency for action, but only if the content of the materials is judged to be essential.

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The Getty Open Content Program (link)

The Getty Open Content Program

The J. Paul Getty Trust announced this week that it will provide unrestricted access to and reuse rights for high-quality digital images of many items in its collection. According to James Cuno on the Getty Iris,

The initial focus of the Open Content Program is to make available all images of public domain artworks in the Getty’s collections. Today we’ve taken a first step toward this goal by making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose.

This is an exciting step for the Getty, and great news for scholars, artists, and others. Read the full post or click the link to the Open Content Program above to learn more.

Selecting Content for Reformatting from Analog to Digital

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nena Couch and Wes Boomgaarden.

The Ohio State University Libraries’ Strategic Plan clearly articulates the intent of the Libraries to “increase the scale and scope of distinctive and digital collections and enhance access to and usage of these materials to support research and anytime, anywhere learning.” [Strategic Focus Area 4] It accomplishes this through its supporting initiative (4.3) to “build OSU programs and projects that digitize and make accessible high value high impact works in library collections.”

OSU faculty meeting minutes from 1875, from the OSU Archives

OSU faculty meeting minutes from 1875, from the OSU Archives

The focus and initiative are administratively located in the Libraries primarily within the purview of the Associate Director for Collections, Technical Services and Scholarly Communication.   In that structure, the Collections Reformatting Review Sub-Committee (CRRS-C) of the Collection Development and Management Committee is charged “to review and set priorities for the generation of digital content in the Libraries where analog content is being digitized.”   The CRRS-C develops and maintains a regularized process for calling for and reviewing proposals within the Libraries.   As project proposals are vetted and approved, the many tasks involved with digitization and delivery of content are handed to the Digital Reformatting Working Group (DRWG) for implementation.

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Conservation and Digital Imaging–Part 1

The Digital Imaging unit has been a part of the OSU Libraries since November 2005.  I’ve always felt lucky that it was established within the Preservation department, which is also home to the Conservation unit. Conservators repair,  stabilize, rebuild, and restore books, manuscripts, artifacts and other cultural heritage materials.  Although it might not be obvious at first, physical conservation of objects is often crucial to successful digitization.

Conservation treatment enables long-term preservation of items.  It also makes access to the items easier, including digital access.  For instance, producing a readable digital version of this newspaper from 1929 would be impossible in its initial state.  But after repair with Japanese heat-set tissue, it can be digitized and shared online.



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Meet the OSU Libraries’ Digital Imaging Unit

Located in the Preservation & Reformatting Department on west campus, the Digital Imaging Unit digitizes the rare and distinctive items found in the Libraries’ collections. We typically handle objects that are difficult to scan or photograph, or that need something special: high-resolution close-up shots to reveal small details, for instance.  Often, the features that make rare books, manuscripts, and other cultural heritage objects so interesting are the same things that make creating digital images a challenge. They may be extremely fragile, very large, very small, faded from age, or encased in heavy and ornate bindings.

SmallBook     UnusualFeatures3

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Why We Digitize

The answer to the question about why we digitize materials from the collections of the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program (BPRCAP) is actually quite simple – and that is, to let people know what we have.    In case you are unaware, the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program was created officially in 1990, after acquiring the Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Sir George Hubert Wilkins in the mid- 1980s.  The first year that the Byrd and Wilkins collections were open to the public was 1994/95 – reference requests totaled 41 for the year.  In 1999, the Polar Archives launched its first website, and the reference stats went to 198 for the year 1999/2000.  We have seen a steady rise in reference activity every year since, with a leveling off at around 350-400 requests annually.  In this time, we have continually added more and more information to our website.


Admiral Byrd’s dog, Igloo

All of this digitization has been well received by our patrons, though admittedly confusing to them at times.  For example, “I found your finding aid online to the Byrd papers, but when I clicked on it, nothing happened.”  And, that’s when we have to have a discussion about choices.  The Byrd Papers alone are more than 500 boxes of materials; we will never digitize it all.  But many times people do indeed find what they are seeking on our website – such as various museums who borrow artifacts to enhance their own exhibitions.  They really love that they can see the artifacts online, rather than simply look at a list of what we have.  I’ve also had family members tell me how excited they were to see documentation of their relative on our website, whether it be an oral history, or an image collection, or a reference to their family member in a finding aid.  Just this week, we were contacted by an author who found us online, and will be coming for an extended visit to research our collection for a book she is writing.  And the History Teaching Institutes uses one of our lesson plans on an ongoing basis in their hands-on workshop where they teach teachers how to incorporate primary resources in the classroom.  The list goes on.  Digitization does not in fact decrease the use of our collections – it increases it.  After all, they can’t use it if they can’t find it.  And isn’t that the whole point?

With each various project, we have used whatever tools were available to us at that given time.  I like to say that the Polar Archives has stuff stored in every digital orifice on campus!  But not to worry – we will help you find what you are seeking!  Here is a rundown of a few of our many digitization projects, where they live, and in some cases,  why they live where they do.

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