Digital Library Digest: March 21, 2013

Posted by Vicky Zeamer on March 21, 2013 in Digital Library Digest.

Researchers at University of South Florida  St. Petersburg are working to digitize a treasure trove of Spanish documents that shed light on Florida’s past in St. Augustine.

“It is quiet in the archives, the silence broken only by the delicate crinkle of 400-year-old pages of parchment, the soft click of a digital camera, the occasional creak of an office chair.

“Saber Gray sits at a table sorting the fragile, lacy pages by year and category — births, baptisms, marriages, deaths. She wears white cotton gloves to protect the pages and peers closely at each one as she goes. At a nearby table Arthur Tarratus methodically places one document after another into a box and photographs each page. Then he places one atop another with white-gloved hands until the stack reaches nearly a foot tall. And so it goes throughout the day, page after page.

“Tedious,” he says with a frown.

“Gray and Tarratus are USF St. Petersburg graduate students in Florida Studies, working under the supervision of J. Michael Francis, the Hough Family Endowed Chair in Florida Studies, who sits at another table pondering a bound volume of documents from the late 1700s. The slow, deliberate nature of the work obscures their race against time.

“Every day that passes is another day closer to the inevitable destruction of these priceless pages. Each document is encased in plastic from a 1939 preservation effort that protected the documents but also is slowly destroying each page, written with quill pen and dating back to 1594. A distinct smell of ammonia wafts from each box of documents as it is opened, the scent of dead bugs and ancient ink interacting with plastic.

“They are spending this Saturday in the Historical Archives of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s in the heart of the city’s historic district. They are working with the Diocese to digitize the documents and put them online. The goal is to preserve them and make them accessible to scholars and the general public around the world.

“These are the earliest written documents from any region in the United States,” says Francis, one of the nation’s leading experts in the Spanish Colonial experience in the land Ponce de Leon named La Florida. The documents predate the Mayflower and the founding of Jamestown and are older than any documents created in the U.S. about the U.S. in the National Archives or the Library of Congress, he says. Each page is a loose thread in the history of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest continuously occupied European city.”

From Tom Scherberger’s article for USF Magazine, Preserving Florida’s History

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art puts 20,000 high resolution images into the public domain

“The Los Angeles County Museum of art said on their Tumblr on Friday “Dear Tumblr-verse, Merry Christmas: we just gave you 20,000 high-resolution images, for free. Now we have just one question: what are you going to do with them?” This announcement is a next step in LACMA’s ongoing experiment to open up more of their collections to the public, via the public domain. They have more discussion and explanation on their WordPress blog. Do any search on their new collections website and you can limit your search to only those with unrestricted images. And then you can take those images and do… whatever you want. There is still a wordy Terms of Use page that people may want to dig through but the upshot is that folks should go use these photos, for anything. Stick them in Wikipedia, use them on your flyers and blog posts, use them for your album covers, put them on a t-shirt. Thanks for trusting the public, LACMA. Lovely stuff. Here’s the pull quote from their website that sums up why they did this.

“Why would a museum give away images of its art? As Michael Govan often says, it’s because our mission is to care for and share those works of art with the broadest possible public. The logical, radical extension of that is to open up our treasure trove of images. When we first launched our early experiment with giving images away online, we heard a resoundingly positive response from many quarters: school teachers, parents, graduate students, journalists and the occasional creative person interested in printing their own Mother’s Day cards. So far, we have yet to hear of a situation where one of our public domain artworks has been misused or abused.”

From Jessamyn West’s post on her blog, LACMA launches new collection site with 20k public domain images

Public art display, “Filament Mind,” at the Teton County Library in Wyoming is a data-driven installation representing the connection between Dewey Decimal subject and subject title

“This January, hundreds of people attended the grand opening of an addition to the Teton County Library in Jackson Hole, WY. The big draw was “Filament Mind,” a stunning digital art installation utilizing more than five miles of fiber-optic cables, cut into 1,000 pieces, and 44 LED illuminators.

“But “Filament Mind” is more than colorful eye candy adorning the upper walls of the lobby. This dynamic artwork is data-driven. Each piece of cable represents a different Dewey Decimal subject and leads to its corresponding subject title. Whenever a visitor to any public library in Wyoming performs a computer search of the library catalog, the cable and category are illuminated by a color and light display.

“At a glance, library patrons and staff can see what the hot topics are at that moment.

“Public art is really important, because we are a public space and public art conveys a sense of the times,” said Deb Adams, library director, Teton County Library. “It’s like a one-way recording of the cultural and historic aspects of a particular place and time.”

“The library didn’t specify digital art when it put out a national call for proposals, but Adams said “Filament Mind,” the design submitted by Brian W. Brush and Yong Ju Lee of E/B Office in New York, best represented the criteria.

“We were looking for artwork that was going to be intellectually challenging, thought-provoking, would invite various levels of understanding, and would suggest that you discover something new every time you visit the library,” Adams said.”

From Shari Held’s article for Library Journal, Libraries Open Doors, Data to Digital Art Displays

Eight public and academic libraries in Maine join together to form print arching project, “Maine Shared Collections Strategy”

“Eight of Maine’s largest libraries, both public and academic, are about halfway through a major and distinctive project for the shared management and archiving of their print collections and the integration of digital editions into a statewide catalog.

“The drivers of the Maine Shared Collections Strategy (MSCS)—lack of available space, budget cuts, low usage per cost and availability of electronic resources—are common throughout the library world. The recent Print Archive Network meeting held at ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle highlighted the growing number of shared print projects being established throughout North America.

“Nevertheless, MSCS has some distinguishing characteristics, according to those involved in the project:

  • The collaboration between public and academic libraries on a shared print project, which arises in large part from a unique history of trust and decades of collaboration among Maine libraries;
  • The collaboration of public universities and private colleges, as well as the state library;
  • The utilization of large-scale digital monograph collections, including both HathiTrust and Internet Archive, for the shared print data analysis, with a goal of integrating print-on-demand (POD) and ebook-on-demand into the group’s resources;
  • A primary focus on print monographs rather than journals;
  • An emphasis on the retention and preservation of titles, rather than the more typical emphasis on deselection.

“MSCS comprises Colby College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, the Maine State Library, Bangor Public Library, Portland Public Library, and Maine InfoNet, the state’s consortium. It started in June 2011 with a three-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant of $821,065, and the participating libraries are contributing matching funds via in-kind services of salaries and fringe benefits for their staff on MSCS committees.

“Matthew Revitt, the MSCS program manager, said he expects the broader library community’s interest in the project will be strong.

“MSCS will define a sustainable business model–including finances, collection analysis, governance structure, and a memorandum of understanding–that includes diverse partners with different needs and diverse funding streams that can be adapted by other multi-type library shared print projects,” Revitt said.

“Documentation, models, policies, and procedures will ultimately be available for other libraries and consortia to download and adapt as they address the management of their own legacy collections.

“The immediate goal is to analyze the collections and produce equitable criteria for retention and preservation decisions about legacy print titles as well as titles that could be de-accessioned either because they are preserved or available in a large-scale digital collection.”

From Michael Kelley’s  article featured in Library Journal’s Academic Newswire enewsletter, Major Maine Libraries, Public and Academic, Collaborate on Print Archiving Project

 Video: A Digital Shift, Libraries, Ebooks and Beyond (Library of Congress Webcast)

“Cory Doctorow discusses the challenges facing authors and cultural heritage institutions with the increasing use of electronic texts.

“Speaker Biography: Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. He serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the MetaBrainz Foundation, the Organization for Transformative Works, the Annenberg Center for the Study of Online Communities, the Clarion Foundation and The Glenn Gould Foundation.

“For captions, transcript, and more information visit:”

From The Library of Congress webcast seriesA Digital Shift, Libraries, Ebooks and Beyond

Leave a Reply