Catch You on the Flip Side – 1970s Duke Chronicle Digitized and Online

The 1970s are here!  That is, in digital form.  The Duke Chronicle digital collection now includes issues from the grooviest decade of the twentieth century.  

WatergateThe American memory of the 1970s is complex, wavering from carefree love to Vietnam and civil rights.  As the social turmoil of the 1960s flowed into the 1970s, Terry Sanford was sworn in as president of Duke University.  This marked the beginning of his sixteen-year term, but also marked the decade in which Sanford twice ran for president and partook in heated debates with Alabama governor George Wallace.  He presided over the university In the midst of the Vietnam War and national protests, the Watergate scandal, and the aftermath of the Allen Building occupation in 1969.

In response to the demands from the Allen Building takeover, the Duke University community worked to improve social inequalities on campus.  The 1972 incoming freshman class boasted more than twice as many black students than ever before in university history.  Black Studies Program faculty and students struggle to create their own department, which became a controversial event on campus throughout the ‘70s.  One Chronicle article even tentatively labeled 1976 as “The Year of the Black at Duke,” reflecting the strides made to incorporate black students and faculty into campus life and academics.

black student increase

The 1970s was also a decade of change for women at Duke.  In 1972, Trinity College and the Woman’s College merged, and not all constituents agreed with the move.  Women’s athletics were also shaken by the application of Title IX implemented by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.  This regulation significantly impacted the future of the Physical Education Department as well as women’s sports at Duke.  

Look Familiar?
Look Familiar?

Amidst this sea of change at Duke, there were many things that brought students joy — like the Blue Devils defeating UNC 92-84 in basketball, and snowball fights in November.  

The addition of the 1970s to the Duke Chronicle digital collection marks a milestone for the Digital Projects and Production Services Department.  We can now provide you with a complete run of issues from 1959 to 1989, and the 1950s will be heading your way soon!  We invite you to explore the 1970s issues and see for yourself how history unfolded across the nation and across Duke campus. 

Post Contributed by Jessica Serrao

Content Galore: the SNCC Digital Gateway’s Ongoing Challenge

SDG_ContentLog
Google Drive content log for SNCC Digital Gateway.

So much content. Gobs of content. Never-ending ideas for more content. Content–how to produce, present, and connect it–it’s a challenge the SNCC Digital Gateway Project faces on a daily basis.

The SNCC Digital Gateway deals in two types of content.

First is the content written by the student Project Team under the direction of our SNCC Visiting Activist Scholar. This includes 600 – 700 word profiles of people, stories of events, audiovisual pieces exploring different perspectives in SNCC, and close-ups of the inner workings of SNCC as an organization. When the SNCC Digital Gateway debuts in December of 2016, it will feature over 150 profiles, 50 events, 9 audiovisual pieces, and 25 organizing SNCC pages.

Arrest record for Willie Ricks Individuals active in civil disturbances, vol. 1, ADAH

The second type of content in the SNCC Digital Gateway is the primary sources embedded within the profiles, events, and organizing SNCC pages. Each piece of written content features 6 – 8 digitized primary sources. These are items like the arrest record of SNCC field secretary Willie Ricks — “Extremely radical, militant individual”–, articles from SNCC’s newsletter, The Student Voice, or SNCC activists recounting their organizing experiences in the 1988 We Shall Not Be Moved conference at Trinity College.

Multiply the amount of written content by the number of embedded sources, and that totals well over 1500 items. And that’s only for the 2016 debut…2017 is devoted to producing more content! By the time the SNCC Digital Gateway is complete, it’s aiming to feature 300 – 400 profiles, 100 plus events, 50 organizing SNCC pages, and over 20 audiovisual pieces.

Producing so much content is a challenge in and of itself, and our resources have limits. But the SNCC Digital Gateway also needs to present these vast volumes of content in a user-friendly, intuitive way. One Person, One Vote, the pilot site to SDG, taught us a good deal about what works and doesn’t work in site architecture. We wanted the SNCC Digital Gateway to be more accessible to students and teachers, movement veterans and the general public. That meant providing users ways to explore by people and place, periods, organizations, and ideas. The Editorial Board and project staff have spent months hammering out how best to do that. We ended up with something that looks like this:

SDG_Wireframe
Wireframe for the SNCC Digital Gateway sketched on the whiteboard wall of the project room.

In mid-January, we met with Kompleks Creative, the designers of the SNCC Digital Gateway, to see what they thought was possible. Here’s an illustrative recount of the conversation about profiles and how to navigate through them using geography:

    SDG:“We want users to be able to sort through profiles by state, region, county, or city, and we’d really like them to be able to get to counties and cities directly.
    Kompleks: “How many counties are you talking about?”
    SDG: “Probably 100 or more.”
    Kompleks: “Wow. That’s not going to work.”

Don’t worry. We came to up with a good solution. But the fact that the SNCC Digital Gateway needs to handle 500 – 600 pieces of content when finished (never mind the thousands of embedded sources) is an ongoing hurdle. The design process is only beginning, so our site architecture questions are far from sorted out. But in the end, the SNCC Digital Gateway needs to bring SNCC’s history to life in a way that both channels how movement activists understood their work and is accessible and compelling for a new generation of young people, teachers, and scholars.

Good thing we’re only half a year into a three-year project.

OHMS-in’ with H. Lee Waters’ Movies of Local People

Q: How is a silent H. Lee Waters film like an oral history recording?
A: Neither is text searchable.

But, leave it to oral historians to construct solutions for access to audiovisual resources of all stripes. No mistake, they’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Purposefully, profoundly non-textual at their creation, oral histories have since their postwar genesis contended with a central irony: as research they are exploited almost exclusively via textual transcription. Oral histories that don’t get transcribed get, instead, infamously ignored. So as the online floodgates have opened and digital media recorders and players have kept pace, oral historians have seen an opportunity to grapple meaningfully with closing the gap between the text and its source, and perhaps at the same time free the interview from the expectation that it should be transcribed.

Enter OHMS (http://www.oralhistoryonline.org/). In 2013, Doug Boyd at the University of Kentucky debuted the results of an IMLS-funded project to create the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. A free, open-source tool, OHMS empowers even the smallest oral history archive to encode its media with textual information. The OHMS editor enables the oral historian to easily create item level metadata for an oral history recording, including an index or subject list that can drop a researcher into an interview at that selected point. OHMS can also timestamp an existing transcript, so that researchers can track the audio via the text. In its short life, OHMS has demonstrated a way to bridge the great divide among oral history theorists, which reads something like this: Should our focus be the audio or the transcript?

While it springs from the minds of oral historians, OHMS might more accurately be termed the Media Metadata Synchronizer. When I saw Doug’s presentation on OHMS at the Oral History Association meeting in 2013, two alternative uses immediately came to mind: OHMS had the potential to help us provide bilingual entry to the 3,500+ recordings in our Radio Haiti Collection (currently being digitzed), and it could dramatically enhance access to one of Duke’s great collections, the H. Lee Waters Films. Waters filmed his Movies of Local People in mostly smaller communities around North Carolina from 1936-1942, using silent reversal film stock. Waters’ effort to supplement his family’s income has over the intervening years become a major historical document of the state during the Great Depression. And yet as rich as the collection is, it is difficult for students, scholars, and filmmakers to find specific scenes or subjects among the thousands of two-second shots Waters put to film. Several years ago, an intern in the archive created shotlists for some of the films, but these existed independently of the films and were not terribly accurate in matching times since they were created using VHS tapes (and VHS players are notorious for displaying incorrect times). OHMS would give us the opportunity to update the shotlists we had and create some new ones, linking description to precise points within the films.

Implementing OHMS at Duke Libraries was a pleasure, mostly because I had the opportunity to work with my colleagues in Digital Projects and Production Services, an outstanding team that can do amazing things with our equally amazing archival resources. Recognizing the open-source spirit of OHMS, Sean Aery, Will Sexton, and Molly Bragg immediately saw how the system could help us get deeper into the Waters films without having to build out a complex infrastructure (or lay out lots of cash). And so, when the H. Lee Waters website went live last year with 35 hours of mostly undescribed digital video (although we did post those older shotlists too, where we had them), it was generally agreed that a phase two would happen sooner rather than later and include a pilot for OHMS shotlists. Rubenstein Audiovisual Intern Olivia Carteaux worked diligently through the spring to normalize existing shotlists and create new ones where possible. This necessitated breaking down the descriptive data we had into spreadsheets, so we could then “crosswalk” the description into the OHMS xml file that is at the heart of the system.

While the OHMS index viewer allows for metadata including title or description, partial transcript, segment synopsis, keywords, subjects, GPS coordinates and a link to a map, we concentrated on providing a descriptive sentence as the title and, where it was easy to find, the location of the action.

The OHMS interface in action
The OHMS interface in action

While on the face of it generating description for the H. Lee Waters films might seem fairly straightforward, we found a number of challenges in describing his silent moving images. For starters, given Waters’ quick edits, what would adequate frequency of description look like? A new descriptive entry at every cut would be extremely unwieldy. At the same time we recognized that without a spoken or textual counterpart to the image, every time we chose not to describe would deprive potential users of a “way in.” We settled on creating entries whenever the general scene or action changed; for instance, when Waters shifts from a scene on main street to one in front of a mill or school, or within the scene at a school when the action goes from schoolyard play to the pledge of allegiance. Sometimes the shifts are obvious, other times they are more subtle, so watching the action with a deep focus is necessary. We also created new entries whenever Waters created a trick shot, such as a split screen, a speed up or slow down of the action, a reverse shot, or a masking shot. Additionally, storefront signs, buildings, and landmarks also became good places to create entries, depending on their prominence; for these, too, we attempted to create GPS coordinates where we could easily do so.

Our second challenge was how much to invest in each description. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “every picture tells a story” sum up much of the Waters footage, but brevity was of value to the workflow. One sentence, which did not have to be properly complete — a sort of descriptive bullet point — was decided on as our rule of thumb. In the next phase of this process I hope to use the keywords field more effectively, but that requires a controlled vocabulary, which brings me to our third challenge: normalizing description was the most difficult single piece of describing the films. Turns out there’s not a lot of library-based methodology for describing moving images, although there are general recommended approaches for describing images for the visually impaired. Then, of course, there’s the difficulty in deciding how to represent nuanced factors such as race, ethnicity, class, and gender. It is clear that in the event we undertake to create shotlists for all the Waters films, the first order of business will be to create a thesaurus of terms, to provide consistent description across the films.

When we felt like we had enough transformed shotlists for a pilot OHMS project for the Waters website, the OHMS player was loaded onto a server and the playlists uploaded. Links to the 29 shotlists were then placed below the video windows on their respective pages. To access the video and synchronized description, simply click on the link that says “Synchronized Shot List.” In this initial run we’re hoping to upload about 20 more shotlists, and at that point take a breath and see how we can improve on what we’ve accomplished. Given the challenges of presenting audiovisual resources online, there’s never really a “done,” only steady improvement. OHMS has provided what I believe is a clear step forward on access to the Waters films, and has the potential to help us transform other audiovisual collections into deeply mined treasures of the archive.

Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, Rubenstein Library

Future Retro: New Frontiers in Portability

Duke Libraries’ Digital Collections offer a wealth of primary source material, opening unique windows to cultural moments both long past and quickly closing.  In my work as an audio digitization specialist, I take a particular interest in current and historical audio technology and also how it is depicted in other media.  The digitized Duke Chronicle newspaper issues from the 1980’s provide a look at how students of the time were consuming and using ever-smaller audio devices in the early days of portable technology.

walkman_ii

Sony introduced the Walkman in the U.S. in 1980.  Roughly pocket-sized (actually somewhere around the size of a sandwich or small brick), it allowed the user to take their music on the go, listening to cassette tapes on lightweight headphones while walking, jogging, or travelling.  The product was wildly successful and ubiquitous in its time, so much so that “walkman” became a generic term for any portable audio device.

walkman_blowout

The success of the Walkman was probably bolstered by the jogging/fitness craze that began in the late 1970s.  Health-conscious consumers could get in shape while listening to their favorite tunes.  This points to two of the main concepts that Sony highlighted in their marketing of the Walkman:  personalization and privatization.

portables1

Previously, the only widely available portable audio devices were transistor radios, meaning that the listener was at the mercy of the DJ or station manager’s musical tastes.  However, the Walkman user could choose from their own collection of commercially available albums, or take it a step further, and make custom mixtapes of their favorite songs.

lost walkman

The Walkman also allowed the user to “tune out” surrounding distractions and be immersed in their own private sonic environment.  In an increasingly noisy and urbanized world, the listener was able to carve out a small space in the cacophony and confusion.  Some models had two headphone jacks so you could even share this space with a friend.

walkman_smaller

One can see that these guiding concepts behind the Walkman and its successful marketing have only continued to proliferate and accelerate in the world today.  We now expect unlimited on-demand media on our handheld devices 24 hours a day.  Students of the 1980’s had to make do with a boombox and backpack full of cassette tapes.

boombox

 

508 Update

Web accessibility is something that I care a lot about. In the 15 some odd years that I’ve been doing professional web work, it’s been really satisfying to see accessibility increasingly becoming an area of focus and importance. While we’re not there yet, I am more and more confident that accessibility and universal design will be embraced not just an afterthought, but rather considered as essential and integrated at the first steps of a project.

Accessibility interests have been making headlines this past year, such as with the lawsuit filed against edX (MIT and Harvard). Whereas the edX lawsuit focused on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the web world and accessibility are usually synonymous with section 508. The current guidelines were enacted in 1998 and badly in need of an update. In February of this year, the Access Board published a proposed update to the 508 standards. They are going to take a year or so to digest and evaluate all of the comments they have received. It’s expected that the new law will be published in the Federal Register around October of next year. Institutions will have six months to make sure they are compliant, which means everything needs to be ready to go around April of 2017.

I recently attended a webinar on the upcoming changes that was developed by the SSB Bart Group. Key areas of interest to me were as follows.

WCAG 2.0 will be base standard

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are general a more simplified yet also more strict set of guidelines for making content available to all users as compared to the existing 508 guidelines. The WCAG standard is adapted around the world, so the updated rule to section 508 means there will be an international focus on standards.

Focus on functional use instead of product type(s)

The rules will focus less on ‘prescriptive’ fixes and more on general approaches to making content accessible. The current rules are very detailed in terms of what sorts of devices need to do what. The new rule tends to favor user preferences in order to give users control. The goal being to try to enable the broadest range of users, including those with cognitive disabilities.

Non-web content is now covered

This applies to anything that will be publicly available from an institution, including things like PDFs, office documents, and so on. It also includes social media and email. One thing to note is that only the final document is covered, so working versions may not be accessible. Similarly, archival content is not covered unless it’s made available to the public.

Strengthened interoperability standards

These standards will apply to software and frameworks, as well as mobile and hybrid apps. However, it does not apply specifically to web apps, due to the WCAG safe harbor. But the end result should be that it’s easier for assistive technologies to communicate with other software.

Requirements for authoring tools to create accessible content

This means that editing tools like Microsoft office and Adobe Acrobat will need to output content that is accessible by default. Currently it can take a great deal of effort after the fact to make a document accessible. Often times content creators either lack the knowledge of how to make them, or can’t invest the time needed. I think this change should end up benefiting a lot of users.


In general, the intent and purpose of these changes help the 508 standards catch up to the modern world of technology. The hopeful outcome will be that accessibility is baked in to content from the start and not just included as an afterthought. I think the biggest motivator to consider is that making content accessible doesn’t just benefit disabled users, but rather it makes that content easier to use, find, etc. for everyone.

Digital Projects and Production Services’ “Best Of” List, 2015

Its that time of year when all the year end “best of” lists come out, best music, movies, books, etc.  Well, we could not resist following suit this year, so… Ladies in gentlemen, I give you in – no particular order – the 2015 best of list for the Digital Projects and Production Services department (DPPS).

Metadata!
Metadata!

Metadata Architect
In 2015, DPPS welcomed a new staff member to our team; Maggie Dickson came on board as our metadata architect! She is already leading a team to whip our digital collections metadata into shape, and is actively consulting with the digital repository team and others around the library.  Bringing metadata expertise into the DPPS portfolio ensures that collections are as discoverable, shareable, and re-purposable as possible.

An issue of the Chronicle from 1988
An issue of the Chronicle from 1988

King Intern for Digital Collections
DPPS started the year with two large University Archives projects on our plates: the ongoing Duke University Chronicle digitization and a grant to digitize hundreds of Chapel recordings.  Thankfully, University Archives allocated funding for us to hire an intern, and what a fabulous intern we found in Jessica Serrao (the proof is in her wonderful blogposts).  The internship has been an unqualified success, and we hope to be able to repeat such a collaboration with other units around the library.

 

dukeandsonsTripod 3
Our digital project developers have spent much of the year developing the new Tripod3 interface for the Duke Digital Repository. This process has been an excellent opportunity for cross departmental collaborative application development and implementing Agile methodology with sprints, scrums, and stand up meetings galore!  We launched our first collection not the new platform in October and we will have a second one out the door before the end of this year.   We plan on building on this success in 2016 as we migrate existing collections over to Tripod3.

Repository ingest planning
Speaking of Tripod3 and the Duke Digital Repository, we have ingesting digital collections into the Duke Digital Repository since 2014.  However, we have a plan to kick ingests up a notch (or 5).  Although the real work will happen in 2016, the planning has been a long time coming and we are all very excited to be at this phase of the Tripod3 / repository process (even if it will be a lot of work).   Stay tuned!

DCcardfrontDigital Collections Promotional Card
This is admittedly a small achievement, but it is one that has been on my to-do list for 2 years so it actually feels like a pretty big deal.  In 2015, we designed a 5 x 7 postcard to hand out during Digital Production Center (DPC) tours, at conferences, and to any visitors to the library.   Also, I just really love to see my UNC fan colleagues cringe every time they turn the card over and see Coach K’s face.  Its really the little things that make our work fun.

New Exhibits Website
In anticipation of opening of new exhibit spaces in the renovated Rubenstein library, DPPS collaborated with the exhibits coordinator to create a brand new library exhibits webpage.  This is your one stop shop for all library exhibits information in all its well-designed glory.

Aggressive cassette rehousing procedures
Aggressive cassette rehousing procedures

Audio and Video Preservation
In 2014, the Digital production Center bolstered workflows for preservation based digitization.  Unlike our digital collections projects, these preservation digitization efforts do not have a publication outcome so they often go unnoticed.  Over the past year, we have quietly digitized around 400 audio cassettes in house (this doesn’t count outsourced Chapel Recordings digitization), some of which need to be dramatically re-housed.

On the video side, efforts have been sidelined by digital preservation storage costs.  However some behind the scenes planning is in the works, which means we should be able to do more next year.  Also, we were able to purchase a Umatic tape cleaner this year, which while it doesn’t sound very glamorous to the rest of the world, thrills us to no end.

Revisiting the William Gedney Digital Collection
Fans of Duke Digital Collections are familiar with the current Gedney Digital Collection. Both the physical and digital collection have long needed an update.  So in recent years, the physical collection has been reprocessed, and this Fall we started an effort to digitized more materials in the collection and to higher standards than were practical in the late 1990s.

DPC's new work room
DPC’s new work room

Expanding DPC
When the Rubenstein Library re-opened, our neighbor moved into the new building, and the DPC got to expand into his office!   The extra breathing room means more space for our specialists and our equipment, which is not only more comfortable but also better for our digitization practices.  The two spaces are separate for now, but we are hoping to be able to combine them in the next year or two.

 

2015 was a great year in DPPS, and there are many more accomplishments we could add to this list.  One of our team mottos is: “great productivity and collaboration, business as usual”.  We look forward to more of the same in 2016!

Star Wars: The Fans Strike Back

At the recent Association of Moving Image Archivists conference in Portland, Oregon, I saw a lot of great presentations related to film and video preservation. As a Star Wars fan, I found one session particularly interesting. It was presented by Jimi Jones, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is the result of his research into the world of fan edits.

This is a fairly modern phenomenon, whereby fans of a particular film, music recording or television show, often frustrated by the unavailability of that work on modern media, take it upon themselves to make it available, irrespective of copyright and/or the original creator’s wishes. Some fan edits appropriate the work, and alter it significantly, to make their own unique version. Neither Jimi Jones nor AMIA is advocating for fan edits, but merely exploring the sociological and technological implications they may have in the world of film and video digitization and preservation.

An example is the original 1977 theatrical release of “Star Wars” (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), a movie I spent my entire 1977 summer allowance on as a child, because I was so awestruck that I went back to my local theater to see it again and again. The version that I saw then, free of more recently superimposed CGI elements like Jabba The Hut, and the version in which Han Solo shoots Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina, before Greedo can shoot Solo, is not commercially available today via any modern high definition media such as Blu-Ray DVD or HD streaming.

The last time most fans saw the original, unaltered Star Wars Trilogy, it was likely on VHS tape (as shown above). George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, insists that his more recent “Special Editions” of the Star Wars Trilogy, with the added CGI and the more politically-correct, less trigger-happy Han Solo, are the “definitive” versions. Thus Lucas has refused to allow any other version to be legally distributed for at least the past decade. Many Star Wars fans, however, find this unacceptable, and they are striking back.

Armed with sophisticated video digitization and editing software, a network of Star Wars fans have collaborated to create “Star Wars: Despecialized Edition,” a composite of assorted pre-existing elements that accurately presents the 1977-1983 theatrical versions of the original Star Wars Trilogy in high definition for the first time. The project is led by an English teacher in Czechoslovakia, who goes by the name of “Harmy” online and is referred to as a “guerilla restorationist.” Using BitTorrent, and other peer-to-peer networks, fans can now download “Despecialized,” burn it to Blu-Ray, print out high-quality cover art, and watch it on their modern widescreen TV sets in high definition.

The fans, rightly or wrongly, claim these are the versions of the films they grew up with, and they have a right to see them, regardless of what George Lucas thinks. Personally, I never liked the changes Lucas later made to the original trilogy, and I agree that “Han Shot First,” or to paraphrase Johnny Cash, “I shot a man named Greedo, just to watch him die.” We all know Greedo was a scumbag who was about to kill Solo anyway, so Han’s preemptive shot in the original Star Wars makes perfect sense. I’m not endorsing piracy, but, as a fan, I certainly understand the pent-up demand for “Star Wars: Despecialized Edition.”

tfa_vinyl

The psychology of nostalgia is interesting,  particularly when fans desire something so intensely, they will go to great lengths, technologically, and otherwise, to satiate that need. Absence makes the heart, or fan, grow stronger. This is not unique to Star Wars. For instance, Neil Young, one of the best songwriters of his generation, released a major-label record in 1973 called “Time Fades Away,” which, to this day, has never been released on compact disc.

The album, recorded on tour while his biggest hit single, “Heart of Gold,” was topping the charts, is an abrupt shift in mood and approach, and the beginning of a darker, more desolate string of albums that fans refer to as “The Ditch Trilogy.” Regarding this period, Neil said: “Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.” Many fans, myself included, regard the three records that comprise the ditch trilogy as his greatest achievement, due to their brutal honesty, and Neil’s absolute refusal to play it safe by coasting on his recent mainstream success. But for Neil, Time Fades Away brings up so many bad memories, particularly regarding the death of his guitarist, Danny Whitten, that he has long refused to release it on CD.

In 2005, Neil Young fans began gathering at least 14,000 petition signatures to get the album released on compact disc, but that yielded no results. So many took it upon themselves, using modern technology, to meticulously transfer mint-condition vinyl copies of “Time Fades Away” from their turntable to desktop computer using widely available professional audio software, and then burn the album to CD. Fans also scanned the original cover art from the vinyl record, and made compact disc covers and labels that closely approximate what it would look like if the CD had been officially released.

Other fans, using peer-to-peer networks, were able to locate a digital “test pressing” of the audio for a future CD release that was nixed by Neil before it went into production. Combining that test pressing audio, free of vinyl static, with professional artwork, the fans were essentially able to produce what Neil refused to allow, a pristine-sounding, and professionally-looking version of Time Fades Away on compact disc. Perhaps in response, Neil, has, just in the last year, allowed Time Fades Away to be released in digital form via his high-resolution 192.0kHz/24bit music service, Pono Music.

It’s clear that the main intent of the fans of Star Wars, Time Fades Away and other works of art is not to profit off their hybrid creations, or to anger the original creators. It’s merely to finally have access to what they are so nostalgic about. Ironically, if it wasn’t for the unavailability of these works, a lot of this community, creativity, software mastery and “guerrilla restoration” would not be taking place. There’s something about the fact that certain works are missing from the marketplace, that makes fans hunger for them, talk about them, obsess about them, and then find creative ways of acquiring or reproducing them.

This is the same impulse that fuels the fire of toy collectors, book collectors, garage-sale hunters and eBay bidders. It’s this feeling that you had something, or experienced something magical when you were younger, and no one has the right to alter it, or take access to it away from you, not even the person who created it. If you can just find it again, watch it, listen to it and hold it in your hands, you can recapture that youthful feeling, share it with others, and protect the work from oblivion. It seems like just yesterday that I was watching Han Solo shoot Greedo first on the big screen, but that was almost 40 years ago. “’Cause you know how time fades away.”

Zoomable Hi-Res Images: Hopping Aboard the OpenSeadragon Bandwagon

Our new W. Duke & Sons digital collection (released a month ago) stands as an important milestone for us: our first collection constructed in the (Hydra-based) Duke Digital Repository, which is built on a suite of community-built open source software. Among that software is a remarkable image viewer tool called OpenSeadragon. Its website describes it as:

“an open-source, web-based viewer for high-resolution zoomable images, implemented in pure Javascript, for desktop and mobile.”

OpenSeadragon viewer in action on W. Duke & Sons collection.
OpenSeadragon viewer in action on W. Duke & Sons collection.
OpenSeadragon zoomed in, W. Duke & Sons collection.
OpenSeadragon zoomed in, W. Duke & Sons collection.

In concert with tiled digital images (we use Pyramid TIFFs), an image server (IIPImage), and a standard image data model (IIIF: International Image Interoperability Framework), OpenSeadragon considerably elevates the experience of viewing our image collections online. Its greatest virtues include:

  • smooth, continuous zooming and panning for high-resolution images
  • open source, built on web standards
  • extensible and well-documented

We can’t wait to get to share more of our image collections in the new platform.

OpenSeadragon Examples Elsewhere

Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And looking at high-res images in OpenSeadragon feels pretty darn magical. Here are some of my favorite implementations from places that inspired us to use it:

  1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Zooming in close on this van Gogh self-portrait gives you a means to inspect the intense brushstrokes and texture of the canvas in a way that you couldn’t otherwise experience, even by visiting the museum in-person.

    Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (obverse: The Potato Peeler). Vincent van Gogh, 1887.
    Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (obverse: The Potato Peeler). Vincent van Gogh, 1887.
  2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (Library of Congress). For instance, zoom to read in the July 21, 1871 issue of “The Sun” (New York City) about my great-great-grandfather George Aery’s conquest being crowned the Schuetzen King, sharpshooting champion, at a popular annual festival of marksmen.
    The sun. (New York [N.Y.]), 21 July 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
    The sun. (New York [N.Y.]), 21 July 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  3. Other GLAMs. See these other nice examples from The National Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian National Museum of American Museum, NYPL Digital Collections, and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

OpenSeadragon’s Microsoft Origins

OpenSeadragon

The software began with a company called Sand Codex, founded in Princeton, NJ in 2003. By 2005, the company had moved to Seattle and changed its name to Seadragon Software. Microsoft acquired the company in 2006 and positioned Seadragon within Microsoft Live Labs.

In March 2007, Seadragon founder Blaise Agüera y Arcase gave a TED Talk where he showcased the power of continuous multi-resolution deep-zooming for applications built on Seadragon. In the months that followed, we held a well-attended staff event at Duke Libraries to watch the talk. There was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing. Indeed, it looked like magic. But while it did foretell a real future for our image collections, at the time it felt unattainable and impractical for our needs. It was a Microsoft thing. It required special software to view. It wasn’t going to happen here, not when we were making a commitment to move away from proprietary platforms and plugins.

Sometime in 2008, Microsoft developed a more open Javascript-based version of Seadragon called Seadragon Ajax, and by 2009 had shared it as open-source software via a New BSD license.  That curtailed many barriers for use, however it still required a Microsoft server-side framework and Microsoft AJAX library.  So in the years since, the software has been re-engineered to be truly open, framework-agnostic, and has thus been rebranded as OpenSeadragon. Having a technology that’s this advanced–and so useful–be so open has been an incredible boon to cultural heritage institutions and, by extension, to the patrons we serve.

Setup

OpenSeadragon’s documentation is thorough, so that helped us get up and running quickly with adding and customizing features. W. Duke & Sons cards were scanned front & back, and the albums are paginated, so we knew we had to support navigation within multi-image items. These are the key features involved:

Customizations

Some aspects of the interface weren’t quite as we needed them to be out-of-the-box, so we added and customized a few features.

  • Custom Button Binding. Created our own navigation menu to match our site’s more modern aesthetic.
  • Page Indicator / Jump to Page. Developed a page indicator and direct-input page jump box using the OpenSeadragon API
  • Styling. Revised the look & feel with additional CSS & Javascript.

Future Directions: Page-Turning & IIIF

OpenSeadragon does have some limitations where we think that it alone won’t meet all our needs for image interfaces. When we have highly-structured paginated items with associated transcriptions or annotations, we’ll need to implement something a bit more complex. Mirador (example) and Universal Viewer (example) are two example open-source page-viewer tools that are built on top of OpenSeadragon. Both projects depend on “manifests” using the IIIF presentation API to model this additional data.

The Hydra Page Turner Interest Group recently produced a summary report that compares these page-viewer tools and features, and highlights strategies for creating the multi-image IIIF manifests they rely upon. Several Hydra partners are already off and running; at Duke we still have some additional research and development to do in this area.

We’ll be adding many more image collections in the coming months, including migrating all of our existing ones that predated our new platform. Exciting times lie ahead. Stay tuned.

Animated Demo

eye-ui-demo-4

 

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team