FY15: A Year in Digital Projects

We experience a number of different cycles in the Digital Projects and Production Services Department (DPPS). There is of course the project lifecycle, that mysterious abstraction by which we try to find commonalities in work processes that can seem unique for every case. We follow the academic calendar, learn our fate through the annual budget cycle, and attend weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.

The annual reporting cycle at Duke University Libraries usually falls to departments in August, with those reports informing a master library report completed later. Because of the activities and commitments around the opening of the Rubenstein Library, the departments were let off the hook for their individual reports this year. Nevertheless, I thought I would use my turn in the Bitstreams rotation to review some highlights from our 2014-15 cycle.

Loads of accomplishments after the jump …

Completed projects

Bento is Coming! – July 3

All search

Collaborating with our colleagues Assessment and User Experience Department and the Web Experience Committee, developers from DPPS built a new “All Search” functionality for the library, using a “bento box” layout approach.



A Digital Exhibits Epic Saga: Game of Stones – October 17

Link Media Wall exhibit

Members of our Digital Exhibit Working Group joined together as a team to develop a digital exhibit related to the history of the construction of the Duke Campus and mount it on the Link’s Media Wall on the lower level of the Perkins Library building. Department members Michael Daul and Molly Bragg wrote about the project in this blog.

A still image from Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1), one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
“See Yourself in the Movies!”: H. Lee Waters Goes Online – January 14

The H. Lee Waters digital collection

Published last winter in collaboration with the Rubenstein Library, it made perhaps the biggest splash we’ve seen in our two decades of digital collections at the libraries.





Building a Kiosk for the Edge – February 19

The Edge information kiosk

Developer Michael Daul worked with the team that managed the rollout of the Ruppert Commons for Research, Technology, and Collaboration – aka The Edge – to mount an information kiosk in the entry space there.



Anatomical fugitive sheets

The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection - March 9
The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection – March 9

During the year we worked with History of Medicine Collections Curator, Rachel Ingold, to build an interface and publish a digital collection of rare and amazing anatomical flap drawings. In that time we sought a design contractor, completed an innovative and technically sophisticated interface, and published the collection; Rachel and Developer Sean Aery even presented at the TRLN Annual Meeting (albeit in July) – now that’s a project lifecycle!



Embeds, Math & Beyond - January 16
Embeds, Math & Beyond – January 16

Digital collections embedding

Sean developed a tool that allows for easy and nicely formatted embedding of digital collections items – images, audio, and video – in web pages. It sounds straightforward, but it was one of the more challenging things we’ve ever tried to do with digital collections.

Launching One Person, One Vote
Launching One Person, OneVote – March 27

One Person, One Vote

That embedding functionality was part of our contribution to the One Person, One Vote project. Members of our department and the Rubenstein Library partnered with the SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies, and Trinity Arts & Sciences to bring OPOV online. Featuring articles developed on campus by Duke students, the site explores and documents the history of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in securing the vote for blacks in the Deep South in the 1960s. Project Manager Karlyn Forner wrote about the project for this blog  here and here.

Revised mastheads

To do this project justice, I would need to link to nearly every web page managed by a member of the DUL staff. It’s one that has kind of a subtle impact, but resonates throughout the library’s web presence and requires real skill. Developer Cory Lown developed and refined a service for library sites that brings consistency to mastheads across platforms and a central point of management. It may not sound glamorous, but it’s an essential element in our web ecology.

Numerous digital collections projects

Not to minimize these important collections, but I’ll list them here more briefly.

    • Monograph of Haiti
    • cradle
      Indiana Jones and The Greek Manuscripts – February 5

      Duke Chronicle digitization – Added the 1980s to our previous publication of the 1960s, and continued digitization on the 1970s to publish in the coming year. Our King Intern for Digital Collections, Jessica Serrao, wrote about the collection here and here.

    • Early Manuscripts – An ongoing project stretching back a number of years, we finally published a portion of the library’s medieval Greek manuscripts last year. Digitization continues, and we expect to publish more in the near future.
    • WLMPC migration from Scriptorium – Digitized and republished many of the materials from a 1990s-era digital mini-collection based on the Women’s Liberation Movement.
    • lincoln_featured
      Comparing Photographic Views of the Civil War in Duke’s Newest Digital Collection – September 10

      Barnard & Gardner – The Rubenstein Library’s Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts, Lisa McCarty, very graciously contributed a blog post for our publication of these seminal collections of Civil War photographs. Guitarist William Tyler used the images as a point of departure for a musical performance commissioned by Duke Performances.

    • Memory Project pilot – We set the table for a larger project based around the oral histories produced under the direction of Chinese filmmaker Wu Wenguang, chronicling some of the tumultuous passages of history in Twentieth Century China.
    • History of Medicine artifacts – We published a collection of images of medical tools from history via the finding aid.


Projects undertaken & ongoing

Here’s a list of some of the things we undertook in 2014-15, or projects that have been ongoing for a longer period of time.

Who, Why, and What: the three W’s of the Duke Digital Collections Mini-Survey - July 9
Who, Why, and What: the three W’s of the Duke Digital Collections Mini-Survey – July 9 (’15)

Digital Collections user survey

Program Manager Molly Bragg led a group focused on gathering data about how scholarly and instructional use of digital collections; we posted a short survey on the site this past summer. The survey is part of a larger effort to understand how our digital collections are used in research and the classroom.

When MiniDiscs Recorded the Earth - April 7
When MiniDiscs Recorded the Earth – April 7

Digitization R&D

Whether it’s Alex Marsh singing an ode to Auto-crop or geeking out on encoding formats,  Zeke Graves reminiscing about the Minidisc and wax cylinders, or Mike Adamo putting the Hasselblad through its paces or researching new equipment purchases, our digitization specialists are always thinking about how to maintain, upgrade, and expand our capabilities for digital capture and preservation.


We are working on a new generation of Tripod, the internal platform we use for providing discovery and access for digital collections. Developers in DPPS are partnering with the team from the library’s Digital Repository Services Department to develop interfaces for the Duke Digital Repository. Meanwhile, we are migrating the digital collections into that platform, with plans for a phased rollout, culminating in 2016.

T206 Harry Lumley
Preview of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Digital Collection – October 24

W. Duke & Sons

This collection of tobacco advertising materials has been in the works for some time. The Tripod3 team is using the collection to drive the process, and we plan to publish it in the new platform online in the fall.




William Gedney Photographs

Working with the Rubenstein Library, we have begun a mass digitization project for the Gedney photographs. The original digital collection, which premiered in 1999, featured a selection of just under 5000 prints, done at lower resolutions than our standards today. Our plan is to digitize all of the prints, slides, manuscripts and artwork, which will more than quadruple the scope of the 1999 version.

A Sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South (1956) - August 2015
A Sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South (1956) – August 14

Duke Chapel Recordings

Working with the Divinity School and University Archives, we began implementing a grant to extend the scope of our Duke Chapel collection to include all of the recorded sermons.






Sports Information negatives sneak preview - June 5
Sports Information negatives sneak preview – June5

Sports Information Negatives

Also working with University Archives, we have entered the early stages of a project to digitize thousands of negatives from Duke’s Sports Information Office.




New exhibits web site

We’re rolling it out in phases beginning last week and continuing this week, but the bulk of the work took place in FY15 on a new web site for the library’s exhibits program, representing the beautiful new spaces of the renovated Rubenstein Library.

This blog

Finally, I should mention Bitstreams itself as one of our ongoing projects, and an accomplishment in its own right. We went live with it about 18 months ago, and have maintained weekly posts throughout that time. I count no less than ten occasions from July to July 2014-15 that a Bitstreams post featured on the front page of Duke Today, the university’s central news site.