Building the Broadsides Collection: A Large-Scale Digitization Approach

I’m happy to report that work on the Broadsides and Ephemera Collection has begun! The source content for this project is an artificial collection in Duke’s Special Collections Library, dated 1790-1940. Truly an interdisciplinary collection, it includes materials related to political campaigns, politics, theater, dance, museum exhibitions, advertising, travel, expositions, and military campaigns, and it presents historical perspectives on race relations, gender, and religion. On many items, you can still see holes in the upper corners from the original posting of the signs and flyers.

Aside from past processing decisions that brought this artificial collection together in the first place, we will do no selection before digitization. Our goal is to digitize ALL of the content (roughly 5,000 items) and to use it as an example of an “open-ended” digital collection. If we aquire additional broadsides and posters, they can be digitized and added to this collection on an ongoing basis.

We also consider this project as digitization of a hidden collection: the early broadsides and posters are a significant, but underutilized resource. Currently there is no item-level access to the collection; researchers have to review individual folders on-site. Some of the international materials have no metadata. Since we have little to no metadata, the collection will provide a body of material for developing a prototype metadata tool and for training staff in our Cataloging and Metadata Services dept. in contributing metadata for digital collections.

Before work could begin on the project, the Broadsides collection passed through the proposal and planning stage. During this phase we evaluated the project proposal based on research value, resource requirements, intellectual property issues, and overall feasibility. The Libraries’ Collections Council gives final approval for all digitization projects to move into production.

The next stage of the process is conservation — coming soon!

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