Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 16:25:30 -0500 (EST)
From: Peter Nelson <>
To: Mellon 5-C Archives Project DistList
Subject: Archives Digitization Project UPDATE

To: 5-C Digitization Project Team and interested others

This is the first of what I hope will be a brief weekly update on the status of the Mellon-funded Archives digitization project. I hope these missives will stimulate a dialog among us all about the course being charted. Please do respond with your comments, questions, concerns, and especially your advice, since I am just beginning to get oriented here and am still unaware of many of the potentially helpful resources at 5 Colleges.

I've spent the last week mostly at MHC going through the customary (dis-)orientation process: meeting staff, ordering a few publications, and getting set up with a temporary "office" in the MHC Archives. (I will secure more permanent quarters next month when an office opens up down the hall.) I've been configuring the new PC that will be used for the project (an HP Vectra running Windows '95), and making efforts to load the appropriate software that I know we will need once scanning starts (e.g., HTML Writer and Adobe Photoshop). Offhand I would say the logistics are working pretty smoothly, and it won't be long before we're ready to do some prototyping.

Also during this first week I transcribed and revised the early planning document that the project team had written up during the U. of Michigan workshop with Margaret Hedstrom in August. It describes project goals and deliverables, some general criteria for selection of digitized archival content, and an early attempt at a plan of work for the 3-year period. Copies of this document will be distributed to many of you shortly.

On Fri., Nov. 8 I spent my first day day at Smith, the designated first site for project operations. It has already been agreed that in light of Sophia Smith bicentennial celebration (the flame of which, presumably, is to burn through early '97!), we should focus our efforts here to prepare a digitized version of the Sophia Smith exhibit that was on view over the summer. This exhibit would be made available in an appropriate way (or ways) on the WWW. Normally it is somewhat backwards to mount an on-line exhibit first BEFORE digitizing collections, but because (a) little time is left in the bicentennial year and (b) this exhibit is ready-made and generally excellent, it seems a special case should be made to proceed in this order, and speedily.

With Margery Sly and Eric Loehr therefore, I began to survey the resources at our disposal at Smith. My findings: - Since an appropriate PC is not available for temporary project use at this time, it seems the best plan would be to transport the PC now at MHC to SC for the duration of this phase of the project. - A student assistant in the Archives will be assigned to the project for 8 hrs./wk.; she will be involved in the production of digitized files once the process is decided. - A special project work room (with network connection) is being prepared on the lower (stack) level of Alumnae Gymnasium. - I was introduced to SC's Non-Print Resources Center, where two scanners and a digital camera are available. On Wednesday I will meet with Linda Ahearn at the Digital Design Studio and find out what resources it can provide. - Still to be determined are how it will be possible to use the NPRC's scanner for the exhibit materials, use Photoshop to process digital files and store the images on the PC in the Archives. It may be desireable to purchase our own flat bed scanner exclusively for project use, depending on how easy it is to do the work as described above alongside other users of the equipment in the NPRC. I know it is unwise to rush into ordering equipment, but for a digitization project of this scope, a scanner is easy to justify (and straightforward to buy).

Aside from the exhibit, Margery and her staff have been preparing an inventory of Founding Documents; the suitability of these for digital access would presumably be appraised as the exhibit piece nears completion.

I look forward to the Multimedia Fair at UM on Thursday to see what approaches/ideas can be borrowed for our project -- hope to see you there.

It is my intention to get out to all the colleges in person soon to introduce myself and discuss the project. I will endeavor to keep the non-participants (UM and HC) fully involved in developments over the next three years, since it is very likely they will become *active* partners in the enterprise in some fashion when this pilot project is over.


Peter Nelson
Five College Project Archivist
c/o Mount Holyoke College Archives
(413) 538-3020