All posts by Molly Bragg

Who, Why, and What:  the three W’s of the Duke Digital Collections Mini-Survey

My colleague Sean wrote two weeks ago about the efforts a group of us  in the library are making towards understanding the scholarly impacts of Duke Digital Collections.  In this post, I plan to continue the discussion with details about the survey we are conducting as well as share some initial results.

Surveying can be perilous work!
Surveying can be perilous work!

After reviewing the analytics and Google Scholar data Sean wrote about, our working group realized we needed more information.   Our goal in this entire assessment process has been to pull together scholarly use data which will inform our digitization decisions, priorities, technological choices (features on the digital collections platform), and to help us gain an understanding of if and how we are meeting the needs of researcher communities.    Analytics gave us clues, but we still didn’t some of the fundamental facts about our patrons.   After a fervent discussion with many whiteboard notes, the group decided creating a survey would get us more of the data we were looking for.  The resulting survey focuses on the elemental questions we have about our patrons:   who are they, why are they visiting Duke Digital Collections, and what are they going to do with what they find here.

 

The Survey

Creating the survey itself was no small task, but after an almost endless process of writing, rewriting, and consultations with our assessment coordinator we settled on 6 questions (a truely miniature survey).  We considered the first three questions (who, why, what) to be most important, and we intended the last three to provide us with additional information such as Duke affiliation and allow a space for general feedback.  None of the questions were considered “required” so respondents could answer or skip whatever they wanted; we also included space for respondents to write-in further details especially when choosing the “other” option.

Our survey in its completed form.
Our survey in its completed form.

The survey launched on April 30 and remains accessible by hovering over a “feedback” link on every single Digital Collection webpage.  Event tracking analytics show that 0.29% of the patrons that hover over our feedback link click through to the survey. An even smaller number have actually submitted responses.  This has worked out to 56 responses at an average rate of around 1 per day.  Despite that low click through rate, we have been really pleased with the number of responses we have had so far.  The response rate remains steady, and we have already learned a lot from even this small sample of visitor data.  We are not advertising the survey or promoting it, because our target respondents are patrons who find us in the course of their research or general Internet browsing.

Hovering over the help us box reveals expectations and instructions for survey participants.
Hovering over the help us box reveals expectations and instructions for survey participants.

Initial Results

Before I start discussing our results, please note that what I’m sharing here is based on initial responses and my own observations.  No one in digital collections has thoroughly reviewed or analyzed this data.  Additionally, this information is drawn from responses submitted between April 30 – July 8, 2015. We plan to keep the survey online into the academic year to see if our responses change when classes are in session.

With that disclaimer now behind us, let’s review results by question.

Questions 1 and 4:  Who are you?

Since we are concerned with scholarly oriented use more than other types in this exercise, the first question is intended to sort respondents primarily by academic status.   In question 4, respondents are given the chance to further categorized their academic affiliation.

Question 1 Answers # of Responses %
Student 14 25%
Educator 10 18%
Librarian, Archivist or Museum Staff 5 9%
Other 26 47%
55 100

Of the respondents who categorized themselves as “other” in question 1, 11 clarified their otherness by writing their identities in the space provided.  Of this 11, 4 associated themselves with music oriented professions or hobbies, and 2 with fine arts (photographer and filmmaker).  The remaining 5 could not be grouped easily into categories.

As a follow up later in the survey, question 4 asks respondents to categorize their academic affiliation (if they had one).  The results showed that 3 respondents are affiliated with Duke, 12  with other colleges or universities and 9 with a K-12 school.   Of the write-in responses, 3 listed names of universities abroad, and 1 listed a school whose level has not been identified.

Question 2:  Why are you here?

We can tell from our analytics how people get to us (if they were referred to us via a link or sought us out directly), but this information does not address why visitors come to the site.  Enter question 2.

Question 2 Answers # of Responses %
Academic research 15 28
Casual browsing 15 28
Followed a link 9 17%
Personal research 24 44%
Other 6 11%
54

The survey asks that those who select academic research, personal research, and other to write-in their research topic or purpose.  Academic research topics submitted so far primarily revolve around various historical research topics.  Personal research topics reflect a high interest in music (specific songs or types of music), advertising, and other various personal projects.  It is interesting to note that local history related topics have been submitted under all three categories (academic, personal and other).  Additionally,  non-academic researchers seem to be more willing to share sharing their specific topics; 19 of 24 respondents listed their topics as compared to 7 out of 15 academic researchers.

Question 3:  What will you do with the images and/or resources you find on this site?

To me, this question has the potential to provide some of the most illuminating information from our patrons. Knowing how they use the material helps us determine how to enhance access to the digitized objects and what kinds of technology we should be investing in.  This can also shed light on our digitization process itself.  For example, maybe the full text version of an item will provide more benefit to more researchers than an illustrated or hand-written version of the same item (of course we would prefer to offer both, but I think you see where I am going with this).

In designing this question, the group decided it would be valuable to offer options for the those who share items due to their visual or subject appeal (for example, the Pinterest user), the publication minded researcher, and a range of patron types in between.

 

Question 3 Answers # of Responses %
Use for an academic publication 3 6%
Share on social media 10 19%
Use them for homework 8 15%
Use them as a teaching tool in my classes 5 9%
Personal use 31 58%
Use for my job 2 4%
Other 10 19%
53

The 10 “other” respondents all entered subsequent details; they planned to share items with friends and family (in some way other than on social media), they also wanted to use the items they found as a reference, or were working on an academic pursuit that in their mind didn’t fit the listed categories.

Observations

As I said above, these survey results are cursory as we plan to leave the survey up for several more months.  But so far the data reveals that Duke Digital collections serves a wide audience of academic and non-academic users for a range of purposes. For example, one respondent uses the outdoor advertising collections to get a glimpse of how their community has changed over time. Another is concerned with US History in the 1930s, and another is focused on music from the 1900s.

The next phase of the the assessment group’s activities is to meet with researchers and instructors in person and talk with them about their experiences using digital collections (not just Duke’s) for scholarly research or instruction.  We have also been collecting examples of instructors who have used digital collections in their classes.  We plan to create a webpage with these examples with the goal of encouraging other instructors to do the same.  The goal of both of these efforts is to increase academic use of the digital collections (whether that be at the K-12 or collegiate level).

 

Just like this survey team, we stand at the ready, waiting for our chance to analyze and react to our data!

Of course, another next step is to keep collecting this survey data and analyze it further.  All in all, it has been truly exciting to see the results thus far.  As we study the data in more depth this Fall, we plan to work with the Duke University Library Digital Collections Advisory Team to implement any new technical or policy oriented decisions based on our conclusions.  Our minds are already spinning with the possibilities.

Getting to the Finish Line: Wrapping Up Digital Collections Projects

Part of my job as Digital Collections Program Manager is to manage our various projects from idea to proposal to implementation and finally to publication. It can be a long and complicated process with many different people taking part along the way.  When we (we being the Digital Collections Implementation Team or DCIT) launch a project online, there are special blog posts, announcements and media attention.  Everyone feels great about a successful project implementation, however as the excitement of the launch subsides the project team is not quite done. The last step in a digital collections project at Duke is the post project review.

Project post-mortems keeps the team from feeling like the men in this image!

Post project reviews are part of project management best practices for effectively closing and assessing the outcomes of projects.  There are a lot of resources for project management available online, but as usual Wikipedia provides a good summary of project post-mortems as well as the different types and phases of project management in general.   Also if you Google “project post-mortem,” you will get more links then you know what to do with.

Process

 As we finish up projects we conduct what we call a “post-mortem,” and it is essentially a post project review.   The name evokes autopsies, and what we do is not dissimilar but thankfully there are no bodies involved (except when we closed up the recent Anatomical Fugitive Sheets digital collection – eh? see what I did there? wink wink).  The goals of our post mortem process are for the project team to do the following:

  • Reflect on the project’s outcomes both positive and negative
  • Document any unique decisions or methods employed during the project
  • Document resources put into the project.

In practice, this means that I ask the project team to send me comments about what they thought went well and what was challenging about the project in question.   Sometimes we meet in person to do this, but often we send comments through email or our project management tool.  I also meet in person with each project champion as a project wraps up.  Project champions are the people that propose and conceive a project.  I ask everyone the same general questions: what worked about the project and what was challenging. With champions, this conversation is also an opportunity to discuss any future plans for promotion as well as think of any related projects that may come up in the future.

DCIT's Post-Mortem Template
DCIT’s Post-Mortem Template

Once I have all the comments from the team and champion I put these into my post-mortem template (see right – click to expand).  I also pull together project stats such as the number of items published, and the hours spent on the project.  Everyone in the core project team is asked to track and submit the hours they spend on projects, which makes pulling stats an easy process.  I designed the template I use as a word document.  Its structured enough to be organized but unstructured enough for me to add new categories on the fly as needed (for example, we worked with a design contractor on a recent project so I added a “working with contractor” section).

 Seems like a simple enough process right?  It is, assuming you can have two ingredients.  First, you need to have a high degree of trust in your core team and good relationships with project stakeholders.  The ability to speak honestly (really really honestly) about a project is a necessity for the information you gather to be useful.  Secondly, you do actually have to conduct the review.  My team gets pulled so quickly from project to project, its really easy to NOT make time for this process.  What helps my team, is that post mortems are a formal part of our project checklists.  Also, I worked with my team to set up our information gathering process, so we all own it and its relevant and easy for them.

DCIT is never to busy for project reviews!

Impacts

The impacts these documents have on our work are very positive. First there is short term benefit just by having the core team communicate what they thought worked and didn’t work. Since we instituted this in the last year, we have used these lessons learns to make small but important changes to our process.

This process also gives the project team direct feedback from our project champions.  This is something I get a lot through my informal interactions with various stakeholders in my role as project manager, however the core team doesn’t always get exposed to direct feedback both positive and negative.

The long term benefit is using the data in these reports to make predictions about resources needed for future projects, track project outcomes at a program level, and for other uses we haven’t considered yet.

Further Resources

 All in all, I cannot recommend a post project review process to anyone and everyone who is managing projects enough.  If you are not convinced by my template (which is very simple), there are lots of examples out there.  Google “project post-mortem templates” (or similar terminology) to see a huge variety.

There are also a few library and digital collections project related resources you may find useful as well:

Here is a blog post from California Digital Library on project post-mortems that was published in 2010, but remains relevant. 

UCLA’s Library recently published a “Library Special Collections Digital Project Toolkit” that includes an “Assessment and Evaluation” section and a “Closeout Questionnaire”

 

 

The History of Medicine’s Anatomical Fugitive Sheet Digital Collection

As Curator for the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, I have the opportunity to work with incredible items, including Renaissance era amputation saws, physician case books from the nineteenth century, and anatomical illustrations with moveable parts, just to name a few.

HOM1
One of the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets with flap down.
HOM2
Same image as the previous one, but with top flap up.

In my opinion, our holdings of anatomical fugitive sheets are some of the most remarkable and rare items one can find in historical medical collections. Our collection includes ten of these sheets, and each one is fascinating for its own reasons.

These anatomical fugitive sheets, which date from the early sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, are single sheets, similar to broadsides, that are unique in that they contain overlays or flaps that lift to reveal the inside of the human body.

I have read arguments that such items would have been used by barber surgeons or medical students, but others say these were hung in apothecary shops or purchased and kept by individuals with an interest in knowing what was inside their body. After almost 500 years, it is amazing that these anatomical fugitive sheets still exist. While we do have a few sheets that have lost some or all of their flaps, I think it’s fascinating to examine where flaps are broken. Somehow these broken and missing parts make these sheets more real to me – a reminder that each one has a story to tell. How and when did the flap get torn? How would this have really been used in 1539?

After the success of our Animated Anatomies exhibit, many of my colleagues and I have been discussing how to make our materials that contain flaps available online. I can tell you, it’s no easy task, but I am thrilled that we now have a digital version of our collection of anatomical fugitive sheets. With funding from the Elon Clark Endowment, a local custom web design firm, Cuberis, was outsourced to create the code, making these items interactive. Our own amazing Digital Collections Team not only photographed each overlay, but also took the code and applied it to DUL’s digital collection site, making it all work freely to a public audience.

There are so many people involved in making something like this happen. Thanks to Mark Olson, Cordelia and William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies here at Duke University, for his role in getting this project started. And here in the DUL – a huge thanks to Erin Hammeke (Conservation), Mike Adamo and Molly Bragg (Digital Production Center), Noah Huffman and Lauren Reno (Rubenstein Library Technical Services), Will Sexton, Cory Lown, and especially Sean Aery (Digital Projects Department). They are an incredible team that makes beautiful things happen. Obviously.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold

Getting to Know Us Even Better

Last Fall, this blog featured brief profiles of all your favorite Duke Library Information Technology Services staff, including our digitization specialists.   This week on the blog we thought we would shine the spotlight even closer on our still image digitization expert, Mike and learn more about his unique contribution to Duke University Libraries.

Mike Adamo, Still Image Digitization Specialist

 

Favorite thing about your job:

While there are a number of things I enjoy about my job I would have to say that working on the Digital Collections Implementation Team consistently rises to the top.  We are a small agile group that is tasked with publishing a wide variety of digital content created within the library and without for publication on the Library’s Digital Collections website.  Each member of the team has a different vantage point when working with digital collections but we have the same goal in mind.  We all strive to publish high quality digital collections in an efficient, consistent and innovative way.  Everyone on the team is constantly trying to expand our capabilities whether it be an enhancement to the interface, normalization of metadata, adding new digitization equipment, streamlining the proposal process or the overarching goal to fold all of our workflows and systems together.  It is rewarding to be on such an innovative, hardworking team.

What is the most noteworthy/most exciting/biggest change in your 10 years at Duke:

I would say that the Digital Production Center is always changing.  The DPC has been in 4 different locations. I think we have had over 10 department heads all with different priorities, communication styles and approaches to the work.  Our department has been under Conservation and IT (twice).  We have a steady flow of students to keep us on our toes.

Favorite collection/project you have worked on:

I’ve had a few favorite collections over the years but the one that rise to the top is the Jane Goodall Archive.  The Goodall Research papers was an interesting project to work on because it is such a large collection and it spanned many years.  The logistics of pulling this off were pretty complex with a lot of moving parts.  The highlight was that I (along with other members of the team) got to meet Jane Goodall.  She has an open, quiet strength and was very friendly.  Who knows if I’ll ever meet another legend in my lifetime?

Most challenging aspect of your work:

Just like many of us in the Library, the demands on my time are spread across many areas.  Our main focus in the DPC is to “create(s) digital captures of unique, valuable, or compelling primary resources for the purpose of preservation, access, and publication.”  This involves analyzing collections for digitization, developing project plans, consulting Conservation, providing supporting documentation for each project, training and monitoring students, color calibrating and profiling the environment, digitization of collections, quality control of collections, moving and posting of thousands upon thousands of images.  To make it more fun, we always have multiple projects going at one time.

 But just like most of us in the Library, in addition to my main job I have where many hats.  Some of them are: Normalization and ingest of legacy collections into the repository; test and make recommendations for new technology for use in the DPC and elsewhere in the Library; maintain existing technology; troubleshoot our own equipment and work with our vendors to resolve mechanical, software and enterprise issues; consult with faculty and staff in the Library and across campus on their digitization projects; train Library staff on digital imaging standards and equipment; monitor and maintain 7 servers used for production and storage of archival digital images; and field all manner of random questions related to still image capture.  So, balancing all of these things is probably the most challenging thing about my job.  I think many, if not all of us, in the Library deal with this and do a pretty good job of keeping up with everything.

Favorite image:

This is not on Duke Digital Collections, but we digitized it and it was displayed at the Nasher Museum.  For me, this picture personifies the severity of the struggle and sacrifice that is the Civil Rights Movement.

James Karales, Passive resistance training, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1960. Atlanta, Georgia. Gelatin silver print, 8.5 x 13 inches. The Duke University Special Collections Library.
James Karales, Passive resistance training, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1960. Atlanta, Georgia. Gelatin silver print, 8.5 x 13 inches. The Duke University Special Collections Library. Screenshot from Nasher Museum of Art webpage.

When it Rains, It Pours: A Digital Collections News Round Up

2015 has been a banner year for Duke Digital Collections, and its only January! We have already published a new collection, broken records and expanded our audience. Truth be told, we have been on quite a roll for the last several months, and with the holidays we haven’t had a chance to share every new digital collection with you. Today on Bitstreams, we highlight digital collection news that didn’t quite make the headlines in the past few months.

H. Lee Watersmania

waterschart
Compare normal Digital Collections traffic to our Waters spike on Monday January 19th.

Before touching on news you haven’t about, we must continue the H. Lee Waters PR Blitz. Last week, we launched the H. Lee Waters digital collection. We and the Rubenstein Library knew there was a fair amount of pent-up demand for this collection, however we have been amazed by the reaction of the public. Within a few days of launch, site visits hit what we believe (though cannot say with 100% certainty) to be an all time high of 17,000 visits and 37,000 pageviews on Jan 19.  We even suspect that the intensity of the traffic has contributed to some recent server performance issues (apologies if you have had trouble viewing the films – we and campus IT are working on it).

We have also seen more than 20 new user comments left on Water’s films pages, 6 comments left on the launch blog post, and 40+ new likes on the Duke Digital Collections Facebook page since last week. The Rubenstein Library has also received a surge of inquiries about the collection. These may not be “official” stats, but we have never seen this much direct public reaction to one of our new digital collections, and we could not be more excited about it.

Early Greek Manuscripts

An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.
An example from the early Greek Manuscript collection.

In November we quietly made 38 early Greek manuscripts available online, one of which is the digital copy of a manuscript since returned to the Greek government.  These beautiful volumes are part of the Rubenstein Library and date from the 9th – 17th centuries.   We are still digitizing volumes from this collection, and hope to publish more in the late Spring.  At that time we will make some changes to the look and feel of the digital collection.  Our goal will be to further expose the general public to the beauty of these volumes while also increasing discoverability to multiple scholarly communities.

 

Link Media Wall Exhibit

In early January, the libraries Digital Exhibits Working Group premiered their West Campus Construction Link media wall exhibit, affectionately nicknamed the Game of Stones.   The exhibit features content from the Construction of Duke University digital collection and the Duke University Archives’ Flickr sets.   The creation of this exhibit has been described previously on Bitstreams (here and here).  Head on down to the link and see it for yourself!campus_constr

 

History of Medicine Artifacts

Medicine bottles and glasses from the HOM artifacts collection.

Curious about bone saws, blood letting or other historic medical instruments? Look no further than the Rubenstein Libraries History of Medicine Artifact’s Collection Guide.   In December we published over 300 images of historic medical artifacts embedded in the collection guide.  Its an incredible and sometimes frightening treasure trove of images.

These are legacy images taken  by the History of Medicine.  While we didn’t shoot these items in the Digital Production Center, the digital collections team still took a hands on approach to normalizing the filenames and overall structure of the image set so we could publish them.  This project was part of our larger efforts to make more media types embeddable in Rubenstein collection guides, a deceptively difficult process that will likely be covered more in depth in a future Bitstreams post.

Digitization to Support the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project Partnership

Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.
Transcript from an oral history in the Joseph Sinsheimer papers.

In the last year, Duke University Libraries has been partnering with the SNCC Legacy Project and the Center for Documentary Studies on One Person One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights.  As part of the project, the digital collections team has digitized several collections related to SNCC and made content available from each collections’ collection guide.  The collections include audio recordings, moving images and still images.  Selections from the digitized content will soon be made available on the One Person One Vote site to be launched in March 2015.  In the meantime, you can visit the collections directly:  Joseph Sinsheimer PapersFaith Holsaert Papers, and SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference.

 

Coach 1K

Coach K’s first Duke win against Stetson.

This one is hot off the digital presses.  Digital Collections partnered with University Archives to publish Coach K’s very first win at Duke just this week in anticipation of victory # 1000.

What’s Next for Duke Digital Collections?

The short answer is, a lot!  We have very ambitious plans for 2015.  We will be developing the next version of our digital collections platform, hiring an intern (thank you University Archives), restarting digitization of the Gedney collection, and of course publishing more of your favorite digital collections.   Stay tuned!

“See Yourself in the Movies!”: H. Lee Waters Goes Online

 

hleewaters-200x300_desaturated
H. Lee Waters, circa 1942.

When in the late 1980s Duke Libraries first began collecting H. Lee Waters’ “Movies of Local People,” the only way the films could be seen was through projection or, given the deluxe treatment, played back on a video tape.  Nearly 30 years later the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Duke Library’s Digital Projects and Production Services team are proud to bring the films online.  It is an important milestone for a collection that has grown so organically through the years and whose individual films have come from so many sources.

The motion picture films in the H. Lee Waters Collection play out a history of North Carolina (and Virginia, and South Carolina) in the late 1930s and early 1940s unparalleled in scope and vision.  But what would eventually become such a grand gift to the citizens and scholars and artists of the region did not begin with that in mind.  Like fellow commercial photographer and North Carolinian Hugh Mangum, Waters might be considered an accidental documentarian, taking to the road in the depths of the Depression as a resourceful businessman, filling theatre seats with audiences who paid to see themselves in the movies.  And yet, a natural behind the camera, Waters knew composition and how to frame a shot; more importantly, he knew people, loved to be around them, and could draw from his subjects positive reactions to this unexpected man with a camera, outside the mill, on main street, in front of the school, in the shop.  As Waters biographer and documentarian Tom Whiteside has noted, Waters’ quick-cut aesthetic managed the immediate goal of getting as many townsfolk into the movie as possible while achieving, in the long-term, an archive of still image frames that is vast in its scope and ripe for investigation.  From this perspective, the vernacular of his art puts him in the company of the prominent documentary photographers of his day.

 

A still from Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1), one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Clayton (N.C.), circa 1936-1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Waters used reversal film, and the film he projected was the same film he shot in the camera, edited for length and his beloved special effects.  He worked quickly, didn’t make copies, and after coming off the road in 1942 shelved the films until, later in life, he started selling them to their respective communities.  Duke’s collection of H. Lee Waters films therefore owes a debt to the towns, libraries, and historical societies who over the years have sent, and continue to send, Waters’ legacy to Duke, recognizing that centralizing these resources works in favor of the region’s cultural heritage.  It also means that over the years Duke has accrued film in all conditions and states of preservation.  There is film in the collection that is literally turning to dust; there is also beautiful Kodachrome that could have been shot yesterday.  Since 1988, too, audiovisual preservation has changed dramatically.  Thankfully, and with the help of the National Film Preservation Foundation, a substantial number of the films have received full film-to-film preservation; nevertheless, earlier, heroic attempts at saving some films to videotape, some formulations of which are now severely degrading, have left us in a few cases with only a blurred shadow of what must have been on that original film.  So our digital project reflects the films and their creator, but also the history of the collection at Duke.

A still image from Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1), one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still  from “Kannapolis (N.C.), 1941 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Many at Duke Libraries have made the Waters collection what it is today, and those of us working on bringing the films online build on the efforts of librarians, archivists, and technical staff who were as passionate about these movies as we are.  Ever in transition, the collection is marked by growth, an element that we see as integral to the website.  In fact we are already adding to it.  In addition to the films and (for some of them) shotlists, there are oral history interviews with the children of H. Lee Waters.  Tom Waters and Mary Waters Spaulding have not only been essential in bringing their father’s films online, they have a unique perspective on a talented man whose contribution to the history of North Carolina was only beginning to be appreciated when he died in 1997.  Waters’ home movies will be added to the site soon, and we anticipate presenting select work inspired by the Waters films, because, in addition to their own sublime artistry, the movies remain a magnet for artists and documentarians mining archival sources.  One such work will debut March 20 for Duke Performances, as Jenny Scheinman premieres her work “Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait,” based around film from the collection.

A still from "Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1)," one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.
A still from “Smithfield (N.C.) and Selma (N.C.), 1937 (Reel 1),” one of the films in the H. Lee Waters Digital Collection.

Of course, we also hope the site might draw other Movies of Local People out of hiding, because while Duke and the State Archives hold a good number of the films, we still don’t know the whereabouts of some of them.  So when you visit the site, take advantage of the embed and share functions accompanying each of the videos, use them on your blog or Facebook page, guide people to H. Lee Waters at Duke, and who knows? It may lead them to investigate further, to liberate that can of film that’s been sitting in the closet or biding its time at the local library.

Post Contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Dispatches from the Digital Library Federation Forum

On October 27-29 librarians, archivists, developers, project managers, and others met for the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Forum in Atlanta, GA. The program was packed to the gills with outstanding projects and presenters, and several of us from Duke University Libraries were fortunate enough to attend.  Below is a round up of notes summarizing interesting sessions, software tools, projects and collections we learned about at the conference.

Please note that these notes were written by humans listening to presentations and mistakes are inevitable.  Click the links to learn more about each tool/project or session straight from the source.

Tools and Technology

Spotlight is an open-source tool for featuring digitized resources and is being developed at Stanford University.  It appears to have fairly similar functionality to Omeka, but is integrated into Blacklight, a discovery interface used by a growing number of libraries.

 

The J. Williard Marriott Library at the University of Utah presented on their use of Pamco Imaging tools to capture 360 degree images of artifacts.  The library purchased a system from Pamco that includes an automated turntable, lighting tent and software to both capture and display the 3-D objects.

 

There were two short presentations about media walls; one from our friends in Raleigh at the Hunt Library at N.C. State University, and the second from Georgia State.  Click the links to see just how much you can do with an amazing media wall.

Projects and Collections

The California Digital Library (CDL) is redesigning and reengineering their digital collections interface to create a kind of mini-Digital Public Library of America just for University of California digital collections.  They are designing the project using a platform called Nuxeo and storing their data through Amazon web services.  The new interface and platform development is highly informed by user studies done on the existing Calisphere digital collections interface.

 

Emblematica Online is a collection of  digitized emblem books contributed by several global institutions including Duke. The collection is hosted by University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne.  The project has been conducting user studies and hope to publish them in the coming year.

 

The University of Indiana Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative started in 2009 with a survey of all the audio and visual materials on campus.  In 2011, the initiative proposed digitizing all rare and unique audio and video items within a 15 year period. However in 2013, the President of the University said that the campus would commit to completing the project in a 7 year period.   To accomplish this ambitious goal, the university formed a public-private partnership with Memnon Archiving Services of Brussels. The university estimates that they will create over 9 petabytes of data. The initiative has been in the planning phases and should be ramping up in 2015.

Selected Session Notes

The Project Managers group within DLF organized a session on “Cultivating a Culture of Project Management” followed by a working lunch. Representatives from John’s Hopkins and Brown talked about implementing Agile Methodology for managing and developing technical projects.  Both libraries spoke positively about moving towards Agile, and the benefits of clear communication lines and defined development cycles.  A speaker from Temple university discussed her methods for tracking and communicating the capacity of her development team; her spreadsheet for doing so took the session by storm (I’m not exaggerating – check out Twitter around the time of this session).   Two speakers from the University of Michigan shared their work in creating a project management special interest group within their library to share PM skills, tools and heartaches.

A session entitled “Beyond the digital Surrogate” highlighted the work of several projects that are using digitized materials as a starting point for text mining and visualizing data.  First, many of UNC’s Documenting the American South collections are available as a text download.  Second, a tool out of Georgia Tech supports interactive exploration and visualization of text based archives.  Third, a team from University of Nebraska-Lincoln is developing methods for using visual information to leverage discovery and analysis of digital collections.

 

Assessment

“Moving Forward with Digital Library Assessment.” Based around the need to strategically focus our assessment efforts in digital libraries and to better understand and measure the value, impact, and associated costs of what we do. 

Community notes for this session

  • Joyce Chapman, Duke University
  • Jody DeRidder, University of Alabama
  • Nettie Lagace, National Information Standards Organization
  • Ho Jung Yoo, University of California, San Diego

Nettie Legace: update on NISO’s altmetrics initiative.

  • The first phase exposed areas for potential standardization. The community then collectively prioritized those potential projects, and the second phase is now developing those best practices. A Working group is developed, its recommendation due June 2016.
  • Alternative Metrics Initiative Phase 1 White Paper 

Joyce Chapman: a framework for estimating digitization costs

Jody DeRidder and Ho Jung Yoo: usability testing

  • What critical aspects need to be addressed by a community of practice?
  • What are next steps we can take as a community?

A Digital Exhibits Epic Saga: Game of Stones

A screen from the Queering Duke History exhibit kiosk, just one of the ways DigEx supports library exhibits.

Just under a year ago Duke University Libraries formed the Digital Exhibits Working Group (DigEx) to provide vision, consulting expertise, and hands-on support to the wide array of projects and initiatives related to gallery exhibits, web exhibits, data visualizations, digital collections, and digital signage.  Membership in the group is as cross-departmental as the projects they support. With representatives from Data and Visualization, Digital Projects and Production Services, Digital Scholarship Services, Communications, Exhibits, Core Services and the Rubenstein Library, every meeting is a vibrant mix of people, ideas and agenda items.

The group has taken on a number of ambitious projects; one of which is to identify and understand digital exhibits publishing platforms in the library (we are talking about screens here).   Since April, a sub-committee – or “super committee” as we like to call ourselves – of DigEx members have been meeting to curate a digital exhibit for the Link Media Wall.  DigEx members have anecdotal evidence that our colleagues want to program content for the wall, but have not been able to successfully do so in the past.  DigEx super committee to the rescue!

The Link super committee started meeting in April, and at first we thought our goals were simple and clear.  In curating an exhibit for the link wall we wanted to create a process and template for other colleagues to follow.  We quickly chose an exhibit topic: the construction of West Campus in 1927-1932 told through the University Archive’s construction photography digital collection and Flickr feed.  The topic is both relevant given all the West campus construction happening currently, and would allow us to tell a visually compelling story with both digitized historic photographs and opportunities for visualizations (maps, timelines, etc).

Test stone wall created by University to select the stones for our Gothic campus.
Test stone wall created by University to select the stones for our Gothic campus (1925).

Our first challenge arose with the idea of templating.  Talking through ideas and our own experiences, we realized that creating a design template would hinder creative efforts and could potentially lead to an unattractive visual experience for our patrons.  Think Microsoft PowerPoint templates; do you really want to see something like that spread across 18 digital panels? So even though we had hoped that our exhibit could scale to other curators, we let go of the idea of a template.

 

We had logistical challenges too.  How do we design for such a large display like the media wall?  How do you create an exhibit that is eye catching enough to catch attention, simple enough for someone to understand as they are walking by yet moves through content slowly enough that someone could stop and really study the images?  How do we account for the lines between each separate display and avoid breaking up text or images?  How do we effectively layout our content on our 13-15” laptops when the final project is going to be 9 FEET long?!!  You can imagine that our process became de-railed at times.

Stone was carried from the quarry in Hillsborough to campus by way of a special railroad track.

But we didn’t earn the name super committee for nothing.  The Link media wall coordinator met with us early on to help solve some of our challenges. Meeting with him and bringing in our DigEx developer representative really jumpstarted the content creation process.  Using a scaled down grid version of the media wall, we started creating simple story boards in Powerpoint.  We worked together to pick a consistent layout each team member would follow, and then we divided the work of finding images, and creating visualizations.  Our layout includes the exhibit title, a map and a caption on every screen to ground the viewer in what they are seeing no matter where they come into the slideshow. We also came up with guidelines as to how quickly the images would change.

 

media_wall_grid.draft2-grid
Mockup of DigEx Link Media Wall exhibit showing gridlines representing delineations between each display.

At this point, we have handed our storyboards to our digital projects developer and he is creating the final exhibit using HTML and web socket technology to make it interactive (see design mockup above). We are also finishing up an intro slide for the exhibit.   Once the exhibit is finished, we will review our process and put together guidelines for other colleagues in DUL to follow.  In this way we hope to meet our goal of making visual technology in the library more available to our innovative staff and exhibits program.   We hope to premiere the digital exhibit on the Link Wall before the end of the calendar year.  Stay Tuned!!

Special shout out to the Link Media Wall Exhibit Super Committee within the Digital Experiences Working Group (DigEx):  Angela Zoss, Data Visualization Coordinator, Meg Brown, The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Coordinator, Michael Daul, Digital Projects Developer, Molly Bragg, Digital Collections Program Manager and Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist.

 

Comparing Photographic Views of the Civil War in Duke’s Newest Digital Collection

Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital offering: The Barnard and Gardner Civil War Photographic Albums.  Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts Curator, Lisa McCarty contributed the post below to share some further information about these significant and influential volumes.

“In presenting the PHOTOGRAPHIC SKETCH BOOK OF THE WAR to the attention of the public, it is designed that it shall speak for itself. The omission, therefore, of any remarks by way of preface might well be justified; and yet, perhaps a few introductory words may not be amiss.

As mementoes of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that the following pages will possess an enduring interest. Localities that would scarcely have been known, and probably never remembered, save in their immediate vicinity, have become celebrated, and will ever be held sacred as memorable fields, where thousands of brave men yielded up their lives a willing sacrifice for the cause they had espoused.”

Verbal representations of such places, or scenes, may or may not have the merit of accuracy; but photographic presentments of them will be accepted by posterity with an undoubting faith. During the four years of the war, almost every point of importance has been photographed, and the collection from which these views have been selected amounts to nearly three thousand.”

-Alexander Gardner

The opening remarks that precede Alexander Gardner’s seminal work, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, operate two-fold. Firstly, these words communicate the subject matter of the book. Secondly, they communicate the artists’ intentions and his beliefs about the enduring power of photography. Undeniably, Gardner’s images have endured along with the images of his contemporary George N. Barnard. Working at the same time, using the same wet collodian process, and on occasion as part of the same studio, Barnard created a work entitled Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign. Both were published in 1866 and as a pair are considered among the most important pictorial records of the Civil War.

To compare these two epic tomes in their entirety is a rare opportunity, and is now possible to do both in person in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room as well as online in new a digital collection. Whether you prefer to browse paper or virtual pages, there is much that can still be discovered in these 148 year-old books.

Something I noted while revisiting these images is that despite their many commonalities, Gardner’s and Barnard’s approaches as photographers couldn’t have been more different. While both works document the brutality and destruction of the war, Gardner’s images convey this through explicit text and images while Barnard chooses to rely heavily on metaphor and symbolism.

Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, Pennslyvania, Plate 41, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War
George N. Barnard, The Scene of General McPherson’s Death, Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign

 

Evidence of these opposing visions can be seen at their most severe when comparing how the two photographers chose to depict casualties of war. I find that these images are still shocking, but for completely different reasons.

My perception of the image by Gardner is complicated by my knowledge of the circumstances surrounding its production. Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook is oftennoted as being the first book to show images of slain soldiers. It is also been widely established that in Sharpshooter and other images Gardner and his assistants moved the position of the corpse for greater aesthetic and emotional affect. In this one image, Gardner opened up a variety of debates that have divided documentarians ever since: How should the most inhumane violence be depicted, for what reasons should the documentarian intervene in the scene, and under what circumstances should the public encounter such images?

The image by Barnard answers these questions in a wholly different manner. When examining this image close-up my reaction was immediate and visceral. A thicket marked by an animal skull and a halo of matted grass— the stark absence in this image is haunting. I find the scene of the death and its possible relics to be as distressing as Gardner’s Sharpshooter. For in this case the lack of information provided by Barnard triggers my mind to produce a story that lingers and develops slowly as I search the image for answers to the General’s fate.

Search these images for yourself in all their stark detail in our new digital collection:

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/rubenstein_barnardgardner/

Post Contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts

Bodies of Knowledge: Seeking Design Contractors for Innovative Anatomical Digital Collection

The History of Medicine Collections, part of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, would like to create a digital collection of our ten anatomical fugitive sheets.

flap
An Anatomical Fugitive Sheet complete with flap.

Anatomical fugitive sheets are single sheets, very similar to items such as broadsides [early printed advertisements] that date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and are incredibly rare and fragile. Eight of the ten sheets in our collections have overlays or moveable parts adding to the complexity of creating an online presence that allows a user to open or lift the flap digitally.

The primary deliverable for the design contractor of this project will be an online surrogate of the fugitive sheets and any accompanying plugins. Skills needed include JavaScript and CSS.

We’re looking for a talented design team to help us connect the past to the present. See the prospectus for candidate contractors linked below.

Bodies of Knowledge: a prospectus for design contractors to create an innovative anatomical digital collection.