The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Digitization
A little under a year ago, we rolled out a new search for our site which is powered by the Google Search Appliance. The goal of implementing this new search was to make our content and collections more accessible, to make discovery easier, and to generally improve the user experience.
Work towards that goal didn't end a year ago.
Over the summer of 2014, work by our staff began on making PDFs of the Smithsonian staff newsletter, The Torch, text-searchable. Because these PDFs can be read by our Google Search Appliance's bots, their content can be indexed. This means that our site search will return any Torch issue that matches your search string.
Let's say you're doing some research on Smokey the Bear. So you head over to our website, and search for "Smokey." You'll be presented with a familiar search results screen (one of which is actually a link to a Torch PDF). But let's say you didn't want to see finding aids or collection items, just the PDFs. Don't worry, you can do that too.
You may have noticed there's a new link at the top of the content type filters, labeled "PDFs." In the above example, the site would return only PDFs that match the search string "Smokey," such as an article about if Smokey should be retired and the original Smoke's obituary.
- You Asked, We Listened: Introducing the Archives New Site Search, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Institution Archives Moves to Drupal 7, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- My how far we've come - A new website allows you to see when your digital images would lool like rendered on an old Commodore 64 computer. [via PetaPixel]
- In their own words, oral histories at the Archives of American Art shed light on the artistist, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, in their exhibition, Artist Teacher Organizer: Yasuo Kunioshi in the Archives of American Art. [via Archives of American Art Blog]
- Watch out manuscripts, the next step: Handwritten Text Recognition! [via InfoDocket]
- This week the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced the winners of the 16th Annual Desgin Awards. [via Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum]
- Four basic steps - Archiving the Arthur C. Clarke Collection. [via AirSpace Blog, NASM]
- Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, spoke with Smithsonian Magazine about the Baltimore protests, the role of museums during times of upheaval, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s plans for the future. For more from Lonnie Bunch about the museum, please see the video below. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- Still recovering - The University of Missouri Library still has 160,000 out of 600,000 books that remain to be treated after a mold outbreak in 2013. [via InfoDocket]
- Imagining Spacewalks - An exploration of Tumblr for the National Air and Space Museum exhibition, Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extravehicular Activity . [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- From the Ford's Theater comes the website, Remembering Lincoln, which marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln and which includes some of Mary Henry's diarys from the Archives. [via Effie Kapsalis, SIA]
- Helpful information about how to find photos at the New York Public Library and beyond. [via NYPL blog]
- In time for Preservation Week the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services has a handy guide on how to preserve your stuff. [via ACLTS]
- Digital and free - Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum has put online 210,000 images of works of art and Google Art Project now has 3D objects from a variety of museums and galleries, including animal skulls! [via Open Culture and The Verge]
- The National Air and Space Museum will be beginning the STEM in 30 program on April 22, which consists of live, fast-paced, 30-minute webcasts, and is designed to increase interest and engagement in STEM for students. [via NASM]
- The National Archives and Records Administration has digitized its Little Rock Nine film to mark the anniversary of its 1965 Oscar win. [via InfoDocket]
What happens when an organization turns to the Internet 'crowd' for help to make its online collections as accessible as possible? The Archives is several years into its crowd-sourcing initiatives: tagging photographs and solving mysteries on Flickr Commons and transcribing text-oriented materials on the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Our goals are focused on enabling people to virtually look inside these materials and apply data mining and other techniques, enriching and speeding their own work.
In just the past 18 months, over two thousand new volunteers plus an untold number of anonymous contributors have given us a big boost, and the results are remarkable. While the quality and quantity of the effort is impressive – over 300 transcription projects and hundreds more photos available to tag on the Flickr Commons, I am more excited by how I see volunteers' passion for knowledge grow, having an empowering and domino effect.
Looking for the Inside Stories
As the institutional archives documenting the Smithsonian's history of acquiring and disseminating knowledge, we hold a wide variety of both scientific and humanities oriented primary source material that reflects that diversity of the Smithsonian's activities from its earliest days over 169 years ago.
As we selected material for our digital volunteers, I expected them to engage with it, gaining insight and appreciation for the personal efforts and experiences of the individuals behind them. However, volunteers soon uncovered additional, noteworthy individuals and events buried inside those texts.
Going one step further, they began to find connections between different Archives projects, such as the professional and personal relationships between scientists and examples of their work.
Amidst all of these discoveries, the depth of access these volunteers have helped us create has enabled researchers to include these historical sources in computer-driven longitudinal studies.
#WeLearnTogether: The Domino Effect
#welearntogether is a Twitter hash tag these 'volunpeers' have taken to when discussing the projects they are working on. It reflects the community culture we have striven for since the first days of our crowd-sourcing initiatives. So what's this domino effect?
Domino 1: Our volunpeers are using the information they have found, finding links to data held by museums, libraries, and archives at the Smithsonian and helping us to connect those resources to each other.
Domino 2: The volunteers are reaching out to other organizations, and sharing what they have learned so those organizations, too, can update and enrich their own information catalogs. These include JSTOR and the United States National Herbarium.
In the end, the knowledge of our collections has grown, their accessibility improved, resulting in tangible benefits for today’s and tomorrow’s Smithsonian collections users. It is so rewarding to watch these volunteers’ voyages of discovery stoke a passion to discover more and fire an enthusiasm about these collections that has proven to be contagious.
- Record Unit 7148 - David Crockett Graham Papers, 1923-1936, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7272 - Frederick Vernon Coville Papers, 1888-1936 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7267 - Vernon Orlando Bailey Papers, 1889-1941 and undated, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 7417 - Florence Merriam Bailey Papers, 1865-1942, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- By the way there's something in the closet - The story of the Armstrong Purse, its discovery, and the objects contained within. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- Leave those selfie sticks at home - Smithsonian museums and museums across the globe are starting to impose restrictions on the use of selfie sticks. [via ABC News]
- Hey don't throw that one away - Charles Darwin's childrens' drawings on the back of some of the pages from his manuscript draft of his On the Origin of Species kept those manuscripts from being discarded. [via Washington Post]
- Love is in the air at the National Museum of Natural History as their scientists there are helping species look for love in a series of “dating profiles” to celebrate Valentine's Day. [via Unearthed blog, NMNH]
- This just in - The Freer Gallery of Art will be closed for a year for major rennovations starting in January 2016. [via Smithsonian Newsdesk]
- Experiments in reposting - Here is what happens when you repost the same image to Instagram 90 times. [via PetaPixel]
- A thrill and sense of responsibility - Reflections on organizing the Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress. [via Library of Congress blog]
- Now available at the New York Public Library - The papers of Tom Wolfe, the author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities, among others. [via the NYPL blog]
- Inspired by love? Say it with Shakespeare with these Shakespeare Valentines. [via Folger Shakespeare Library]
- 3D scanning and the Transcription Center at the Smithsonian are in the news. [via CBS News]
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