Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Creation of the Challenger Collection, Pt. 3

This is the last of a three part series describing the creation of the Challenger collection, a project to digitize and make available primary source materials related to the Space Shuttle Challenger and the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.

The collection can be accessed here.

 

The final step in creating the Challenger collection was to upload the material to the repository.  We first needed to create the appropriate structures on the repository to hold the material.  Each type of material required a slightly different structure.  Once the structures were created we began to make the material available to the public.

Our repository is hierarchical.  The Challenger collection is under the larger heading of “Centers” (for the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Challenger Center for Education and Teaching Excellence.  Other headings include, for example, the Henry Whittemore Library, and the Academic Affairs Office.  The Challenger collections itself is broken down into two categories, called series.  We created one series for the images and one series for everything else, which we titled “Documents”.  The Document series was further broken down into three series: Correspondence, Ephemera, and Reports.

There were two methods to upload the items to the repository: individual or batch.  Individual uploading involved fewer steps but was more time consuming.  We chose this method for the correspondence, of which there were three, and the governmental reports, of which there were two.  The second method, a batch upload, allowed for multiple items to be sent to the repository at once, but required more steps.  The first step was to store the material where it could be downloaded to the repository (in contrast to the individual method, where the material could be uploaded directly, the batch-uploaded material needed to be hosted elsewhere.  We chose Dropbox for this purpose).  The next step was to download a spreadsheet specifically created for the task of a batch-upload, populate it appropriately, and re-upload the spreadsheet to the repository.  If all was done correctly a confirmation email would arrive once the material was successfully sent to the repository.

In order to make sure the material is findable to the public, we had to ensure the correct metadata was associated with each item.  Unfortunately the batch-upload method was not very efficient for doing this.  While the batch-upload spreadsheet contained cells for metadata, with larger sets of files it became difficult to associate the correct metadata with each file.  For this reason we chose to individually add the appropriate metadata to each batch-uploaded item after it had been posted to the repository.  The process of adding metadata was time consuming but indispensable to a functioning repository.

 

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Humans (not robots) digitize newspapers

Here at the library’s Digital Commons team, we are building a digital version of The Gatepost student newspaper collection. (The print version lives in our Archives and Special Collections, as always.)

Doesn’t Google do that?

No. Actually, humans put newspapers on the internet. Sure, we use computers and cameras, and lots of software tools. But overall, the process of digitization is more manual than automatic. It involves a lot of planning and prioritizing as a team.

Human eyeballs, hands, and good judgement are required every step of the way.

Essentially, we are stitching together searchable PDF documents of each issue from hundreds of scanned images, organizing them, adding background information, and finally serving documents up on the internet, such that Google can crawl and index them, and users can find what they want.

We will publish the finished product on our repository website, DigitalCommons@Framingham, so that anyone can search the FSU student newspaper back issues for names and events of the past. We plan to roll out a decade or two of the paper at a time: the Thirties, the Forties, etc. For each volume, we will highlight some notable campus events, personalities, or artwork on the website so that the high points don’t get lost among the dozens of issues.

 

What’s the benefit of digitizing newspapers?

We can never quite anticipate who might find our treasures useful, but we believe that open access to our collections will enrich intellectual and artistic work of the future. It’s vital for us to share the collection to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in the content.  I hope that the digital newspaper archives will be valuable to all sorts of users.

Possible users of the collection:

  • Explorers of the history of journalism, teacher education, and 20th century collegiate life
  • Nostalgia-seekers
  • Current campus group officers who want to read up on the group’s past adventures, successes, and follies
  • Genealogists and descendants of Framingham community members

 

We look forward to sharing our history with you! We will keep you updated with more Gatepost digitization news as it happens.

 

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Filed under Archives/Special Collections, guest blogger, Open Access, Resources, Technology