Thursday, October 6, 2011

Creating an Online Collection with Born-Digital Content at Ball State University Libraries

Hello all, and happy Day of Digital Archives! My name is Amanda Hurford and I am Metadata and Digital Collections Developer at Ball State University Libraries in Muncie, Indiana. I work closely with archivists developing and uploading content to the Libraries’ Digital Media Repository (DMR), which we use to provide online access to digitized versions of various primary source materials (photos, manuscripts, audio/video recordings, etc.). As of Oct. 1, we’ve created 113 digital collections, consisting of 115,837 assets and 343,011 individual digital files.

More and more, the source materials that arrive in our department are born-digital. To provide a glimpse into the life of a digital initiatives librarian (me), I’ve broken down one particular project that has been a big part of my day-to-day work for the last several months: the Roger Conatser Aerial Photographs Collection. The collection currently includes over 1,500 digital aerial photographs of Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana, taken by Muncie resident Roger Conatser in 2005. It recently went “live” at the end of July, but work continues on this ongoing project.

My share of working with this digital archive (and others) has consisted of several steps:

· Organization of the files: The digital photographs came to us on several CDs, and have since been copied to a backed-up server where our staff can easily access the files while we work with them. We also renamed the files. While keeping a log of the changes we made, we altered the file names from generic numbers to a naming schema that falls in line with our other digital projects. Each file now has a unique identifier which includes the archival number that was assigned to the collection.

· Upload into the content management system: Our team inputs the files into the DMR using CONTENTdm’s Project Client. This process includes auto-populating the “Digital Identifier” field with the file name, making it possible to track the master image down from the online version.

· Create and edit metadata: We spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of information would be useful in searching and browsing these images, and ended up with the following fields, among others. Many thanks go out to our local team of Delaware County experts for creating such amazing, useful records!

o Landmarks

o Identified Streets

o Thesaurus for Graphic Materials Subjects

o Area Type

o Date

· Maintain controlled vocabularies: All of the landmarks and streets our team identified contributed to the development of a hefty local controlled vocabulary that is frequently being tweaked.

· Add other materials: This is the step we are currently working on. In addition to the large archive of digital images, the collection consists of around 200 slides, over a thousand negatives of varying size, and countless prints. The slides and negatives have been digitized and are currently being described in CONTENTdm.

· Finalize the collection for archiving: Once we finish the remainder of the collection, all the master files, access files, and documentation (including an export of the metadata from the DMR) will be nicely packaged for long-term archiving. Next the collection gets passed to our technology team, who will redundantly archive the collection off-line.

This has been an interesting collection to work with, and an introduction to the inevitable evolution of the role of a digital initiatives librarian. As more born-digital materials need to be made available online, some of the more traditional aspects of my work will taper off (no sense scanning a print of a photograph if the original digital file is available). I will however, need to keep up-to-date with new digital formats and learn how to best work with them.

Amanda Hurford

Metadata and Digital Collections Developer

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