Date: Mon, 25 Nov 1996 14:40:55 -0500 (EST)
From: Peter Nelson <pnelson@mtholyoke.edu>
To: Mellon 5-C Archives Project DistList
Subject: UPDATE on Archives Digitization Project

First, a heartfelt thanks for the reception you arranged for me at Amherst on the 15th. It was nice to see you all together.

Before everyone scatters for the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to let you know what's been going on on the digitization front.

1. Setting Up Shop at Smith

Since my last update I've set up a serviceable work space on the lower level of Alumnae Gymnasium at Smith, in close proximity to the stacks of the Sophia Smith Collection/College Archives and (upstairs) the friendly confines of the reading room; the library's Non-Print Resource Center is also in the same building, which has proven to be convenient. The setup is only "serviceable" at the moment because my PC has, as yet, no network connection. Eric Loehr is working on this and I hope to be "wired" by the end of the month.

2. Web Exhibit; or, Sophia's Not Getting Any Younger

In the meantime, things are proceeding rapidly in developing the WWW exhibit for the Sophia Smith bicentennial. I anticipated that in many ways this work would be easy because it's simply an adaptation of an exhibit that was on view in the Smith archives over the summer ... or so I thought it would be. But display cases and web pages represent two significantly different ways of presenting information. But I'm enjoying the challenge of translating the exhibit to the WWW environment -- and developing it farther to include materials that couldn't be shown in the original exhibit. I've met with Margery to go over the organization and scope of the material that will eventually be made available. I'm looking forward to showing many of you an early prototype to get your opinions.

3. Hardware for Image Capture

The scanning for preliminary tests and for the early work on the Sophia exhibit has been done on a flat bed scanner in the Non_print Resource Center here at Smith. Despite the reliance on floppy disks to transport digitized images from the scanner to my PC, this arrangement has worked out all right for these small-scale needs. However, in the not-too-distant future we will begin scanning a much more significant volume of material -- and here I refer really still only to the Sophia exhibit. So clearly, even in the first few months of this project, reliable access to a scanning device will become mandatory. As I explained in the previous update, it's very likely that this device will be a flat-bed scanner. I am working with staff at MHC to determine the best one to meet our needs. However, recently I've been reading more about similar projects and digitization vendors that are using a digital camera, and I am interested to find out more about the things they can do ... and also how much they cost. If any of you have any expert knowledge in this area, let me know. My general sense, though, is that we will use a flat-bed scanner for routine digitization work and *also* become adept at using the digital camera(s) already available at Smith and elsewhere.

4. Multi-Media Fair / "Web-enabled" CD

My visit to the Fair at UMass was a somewhat eye-opening experience. It was, on the one hand, comforting to see so many impressive projects that were all produced at the 5 colleges, and to learn about the talents of the people who helped put them together. On the other hand, it was startling to realize what a wide range of products are possible. On the whole, my impression is that the vision we have managed to articulate for our own project is on the mark: namely, to digitize a significant body of archival material so as to produce the basis for any number of future multimedia "packages" -- which might include more web exhibits or archival databases, or CD-ROM products packaged for any number of purposes to support curriculum and research.

The Multi-Media fair coincided rather nicely, too, with an announcement from the U. of Pennsylvania about their publication of a "Web-enabled" CD containing the HTML files and images for several on-line exhibits developed by the Special Collections department. They're apparently marketing the disks directly to the audience that they think will be interested in them. It's an attractive idea which I have considered before -- you can actively distribute collections to a target audience without passively having to rely on that audience trying to find *you*; and as the Penn press release points out, you have "instant bandwidth": no endless waiting for pages to load. Certainly much food for thought these past few weeks, but again, these are end-of-the-line ideas.

As always, your thoughts are welcome. Happy holiday everyone.

Peter


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