All posts by Sean Aery

AdViews at the Internet Archive

AdViews Internet ArchiveAdViews, our collection of nearly 9,000 digitized vintage television commercials, is now available via the Internet Archive.  The videos had previously been accessible only through iTunes U.

Since we launched the first batch from the collection back in July 2009, the commercials have amassed over 2.5 million downloads and 700,000 previews in iTunes (viewing a video from within iTunes without downloading). There’s no doubt that AdViews has been popular in iTunes. We have heard from several patrons how easy it is to get the videos using this familiar software.  Others have downloaded tracks directly through the iPad’s own iTunes interface for viewing on-the-go outside of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  One patron even sent us a virtual hug.

But iTunes isn’t for everyone. We have heard from folks using computers in public libraries where they are unable to install the software. We have also gotten emails from Linux users unable to run iTunes. We aim to make our collections usable through familiar, user-friendly interfaces (such as iTunes), but it’s also important that they are as open and accessible as possible.  We are happy to now extend the collection’s reach to a broader audience.

As of this week, you can now access AdViews videos in three different ways:

  • Our website. Now from our web interface, click any track title and an embedded video player will pop out (courtesy of the Internet Archive).  There are buttons to view each video “album” (or “subcollection”) in either iTunes or the Internet Archive.
  • Internet Archive.  View the videos directly in your web browser.  You can download different sizes of MP4s, or even Ogg Video, if that’s more your thing.
  • iTunes U (iTunes software required).  View or download MP4 videos through iTunes on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.  Downloading will automatically add the videos to your iTunes library under the “iTunes U” category.

Special thanks go to Skip Elsheimer at A/V Geeks, Jeff Kaplan at the Internet Archive and Will Sexton here at Duke University Libraries for their contributions to this project.

Russian Posters Collection, 1919-1989 and undated

We are happy to announce the publication of the Russian Posters Collection, 1919-1989 and undated. The collection consists of 75 Russian posters, documenting almost 60 years of Communist political advertising.

The digitization and publication of this collection is timed to coincide with two public events, both of which involve Duke faculty using library holdings:

  1. The ongoing Nasher Museum exhibit Machine, Mother, Mannequin: The Good Woman in Soviet Propaganda, created by Prof. Beth Holmgren (Chair, of Slavic and Eurasian Studies Dept) and Angela Linhardt (M.A. candidate, Slavic and Eurasian Studies).
  2. The “World View Spring Seminar: Understanding Russia and Its Neighbors,” an event specifically for K-12 and community college teachers co-sponsored by the joint Duke-UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies (a Federal Title VI Center).  Specifically, the images will be used today in a presentation called “Posters, Propaganda, and Perestroika,” to be given by Prof. Pamela Kachurin, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies/Slavic and Eurasian Studies, Duke University.

This is our first project to be completed using our new suite of tools for creating digital collections at Duke, including our newly redesigned web interface.  We will introduce some enhancements to the Russian Posters site over the next few weeks.

Please feel free to leave feedback and suggestions for this collection in the comments.

Try Our New Digital Collections Site (Now in Beta)

I’m happy to announce the availability of a beta version of our new Digital Collections web interface, the result of the Tripod2 project at Duke. Try it now! It will be available “in beta” for a few weeks at so you can give it a spin and tell us what you think.

Over the next few weeks, we will be tying up loose ends so we can replace the existing site at


34,000 items from 22 digitized collections, cross-searchable in a common index. Includes a wide range of formats: photographs, advertisements, books, sheet music and more.

PDF export for items

Save or print a PDF of any item. Especially useful for our sheet music collections.

Zooming & Panning

Zoom in close on images to see the smaller details or read the fine print.

Continue reading Try Our New Digital Collections Site (Now in Beta)

An increasingly diverse range of formats

As we continue to develop our new discovery system/site for Digital Collections (codename Tripod2), dealing with format complexity is one of our biggest challenges.

One of the library’s major strategic goals is to “increase the Libraries’ capacity to create, acquire, and manage digital scholarly content in an increasingly diverse range of formats.”  We’re doing our part.

Many resource discovery sites have to handle only a single item format. YouTube deals with videos. That’s pretty much it. And it deals with them very, very well. But within our collections, we have a mixed bag:

  • single-page image-centric objects (e.g., photographs or printed ads)
  • single-page text-centric objects with images (e.g., song lyric sheets or broadsides)
  • items with pagination (e.g., sheet music)
  • books comprised of hundreds of pages with accompanying text
  • PDF documents
  • digital videos
  • albums comprised of a series of videos
  • …and more formats on the horizon.

To complicate things further, some of our objects are hosted here at Duke on our servers, but some of them are elsewhere (YouTube, the Internet Archive, iTunes, Flickr, etc.).

We’re aiming to make these items all easily discoverable in our site and to present the best possible interaction options for each of the various item types you will find in the system.

Here’s a sneak peek at how some of our various resources will be presented.  The screen shots are from our actual web application (previous previews have been from mockups):

Single Image


  • options button above, item info below

Page With Text

Continue reading An increasingly diverse range of formats

Mockups for our New Interface


Here’s a first look at the new design for our Digital Collections site! Based on the blueprints from our initial wireframes, these designs include fully fleshed out HTML, CSS, images, and Javascript.

These designs focus on what we’re calling ‘portals’: useful starting pages for researchers to explore particular groups of items. These can be homepages to individual digital collections, or portals to groups of items from various collections.

We hosted a discussion session among library staff last week. I’ll capture the conversation from that session in the comments section of this post.




Branding & Navigation

Continue reading Mockups for our New Interface

Presentation on Initial Wireframes (2/3/10)

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This morning, I gave a presentation to our library staff to show and discuss our possible wireframe prototypes, as well as the analysis that informed the designs. It’s a sort of visual summary of our redesign-related blog posts to this point. The embedded version here is small, but you can view the full presentation here.

Collection Homepages: Prototypes, Analysis, & Inspiration

At long last, here’s the final group of wireframes we’ll blog about for our site redesign project: the individual collection homepages. Here’s an annotated look at one of our current collection homepages:

View this feedback (Collection Homepage – Current Site) on Notable


Here are six possibilities (A – F). We’ve used Ad*Access as an example, as it is our most-visited collection:



The ideas in the prototypes stem from our analysis of the current site, per the following:
Continue reading Collection Homepages: Prototypes, Analysis, & Inspiration

Search Results: Prototypes, Analysis & Inspiration

As we continue our redesign, we’re getting some really helpful feedback on our mockups for item pages. By all means, keep it coming! Here are some new prototypes for our search results screens, as well as our analysis of our current search results and examples of others systems we like. What do you think?



There are five examples here; some are searching across all collections and others are searching within a single collection. Particular areas of interest for us: location of the ‘Narrow by’ facets, display of results for matching digital collections or matching digital exhibits, collection branding & info.


View this feedback (Search Results (Cross-Collection): Existing Interface) on Notable
Here’s what we have learned about our search interface from our various evaluation methods:

Web Analytics

  1. About 75% of searches are within-collection searches; 25% are cross-collection.
  2. The majority of searches are for various topics, though many users search for items from a particular decade (“1920s”), format (“advertisements”), or collection (“Gamble”).
  3. Some users attempt to retrieve every item possible through search (“*”, “all”, “a”)

Usability Tests (Spring 2008)

Continue reading Search Results: Prototypes, Analysis & Inspiration