The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Web/Tech
- During the first snow of 2015, the National Zoo's giant panda cub, Bao Bao, displayed the joy of experiencing snow for the first time. [via Smithsonian Science]
- Coming to a reading room soon - The American Library Association published a report on the need to develop policies regarding 3D printing in libraries. [via InfoDocket]
- The "Ansel Adams Act" went to Congress last week and aims to ensure that photography in public spaces is not prohibited, that the government will not charge photographers to shoot on public land, and that photographic equipment cannot be seized or tampered with. [via PetaPixel]
- The Digital Public Library of American (DPLA) recently announced a new strategic plan. [via InfoDocket]
- Talk about acceleration - A cheetah does 0-60 faster than a Ferrari or Lamborghini! [via Core77]
- A find for early animation - Archivists at Norway's National Library discovered a missing animation film, Empty Socks, about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a Disney precursor to Mickey Mouse. [via The National Library of Norway]
- A fascinating look at the workshop of Kenji Yamaguchi, a National Geographic employee who builds camera contraptions for their photographers. [via Proof, National Geographic]
- See 1950s America at its best in a newly released Kodachrome home movie from the Prelinger Archives of Beany's Drive-In, Long Beach, California (c. 1952.) [via BoingBoing]
- The National Digital Stewardship Alliance residents are on the forefront of born-digital media preservation. Here's a look at the Carnegie Hall resident's efforts to understand the process of preserving live concert webcasts, educator workshops, master classes, and more. [via The Signal, Library of Congress]
- A shiny new collections search for the New York Public Library! [via NYPL on Twitter]
- Now available: "Community Approaches to Digital Stewardship," from the Library of Congress. [via Infodocket]
How we share information and spread knowledge has changed drastically from when the Smithsonian Institution unveiled its first homepage in May 1995. The official debut of "America's Treasure House for Learning" took place in House Speaker Newt Gingrich's office with Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman on Capitol Hill. The site linked to video, images, pages, maps and audio clips from across the Institution. Other Smithsonian homepages went online as well.
Secretary Heyman reported in his annual statement for 1995 that as of September 30, the site had more than 8.5 million visits. To put this in perspective, Smithsonian websites combined had more than 99 million visits in fiscal year 2014.
Prior to this the National Museum of Natural History was using Gopher technology in 1993 on the Internet. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory also launched its Telescope Data Center website in 1993, which was one of the first 250 websites on the Internet and is still active today.
While the Archives has been preserving Smithsonian websites since the late 1990s, we do not have the electronic files preserved from this first Smithsonian homepage. Multiple attempts to retrieve files off a data tape have been unsuccessful. We do have the press kit, a printout of the top part of the site, and other related files. We continue to hope someone out there might have another copy of the digital files from 1995.
The earliest captures of the homepage at the Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive only go back to 1997 and are missing some items.
Anyone who has done complex searches on the web knows they can be challenging, especially with digital information that is nearly 20 years old. Using a standard search engine does not always deliver the desired results.
This is where Memento comes in. With funding from the Library and Congress and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Old Dominion University. Dubbed as "Time Travel for the Web," the Chrome extension works by supplying the URI (uniform resource identifier of a web resource) and selecting a date in the past that it may have been on the web. I entered www.si.edu in my browser and selected "get neared save date" of January 1, 1996, (the earliest available with the plugin) and found a web capture from the Portuguese Web Archive. This display of the homepage from October 13, 1996, has more details than what was found previously, as these results did not display from regular queries to search engines. I also recently found that Indiana University has a capture as well.
Memento uses a protocol to search archived websites from the Internet Archive, Archive-It (where you can find archived Smithsonian websites), the UK Web Archive, the Icelandic Archive, and other sites. It also works with Wikipedia, and other tools are being developed. Obviously, it only works if the website was captured in the past and available on a server.
It is rewarding to see a few more pieces come together from the early days of the web and the Smithsonian's role in it.
- Home Page of the Smithsonian's First Website, Historic Images of the Smithsonian, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Web Archiving Update, October 2014, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Institution websites, Archive-It
- On New Years Day 2015, the 44,000 works of art in the Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler collection will be available online. [via WAMU]
- Dumpster diving! The National Museum of American History added a copy of the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Atari 2600 game found in a landfill to their collection. [via O Say Can You See, National Museum of American History]
- The grand re-opening of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum included “Maria Kalman Selects,” an exhibit put together by the Tel Aviv-born, Bronx-raised designer and illustrator. Her only criteria? That the objects give her a "gasp of delight." [via Cool Hunting]
- The American Association for State and Local History weighs in on the importance of documenting controversial histories. [via AASLH blog]
- The basics of copyright distilled into a comic book? I’m in! Available as images, a flash book browser, a print book, and free downloadable PDF. [via PetaPixel]
- The George Eastman House has released 6 new videos on historic photographic processes including this one on cyanotypes. All 12 are available here. [via PetaPixel]
The Smithsonian Channel produces award-winning television programming that engages viewers much in the same way as the Smithsonian's museums and galleries do throughout the United States with their visitors. Just as the Smithsonian is working to digitize its collections for greater access and preservation, the Smithsonian Channel and the Smithsonian Institution Archives are also undertaking various efforts to ensure the digital preservation of these television programs.
The reformatting workflow for this project has been dynamic, and it should be. During earlier accessions of Smithsonian Channel programming, the progams were transferred on DVDs, numbering in the hundreds. In order to preserve the files digitally and prepare them for ingest into the Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), the DVDs undertook a lengthy workflow process to ensure the highest level of playability and playback quality.
As part of the project's workflow, and best practices at the Archives, each disc is individually scanned using virus detection software. While this process is lengthy, it is critical to ensuring the security of the Archives' IT infrastructure. The next step in the workflow is to individually create .ISO images of each disc, which retains each program's DVD menu functionality. After creation of the .ISOs, the individual .vobs are extracted and converted to a single .vob using a command prompt script. This single .vob is then converted to an .mpeg, also using command prompt, to ensure the greatest playability across multiple software programs. This process is individually repeated for every DVD within the collection and can take months to complete.
After creation of the mpegs, the associated metadata must be created for each individual file in preparation for ingest into the DAMs. The metadata is applied to each file using Adobe Bridge; however, the metadata cannot be embedded into the actual video files, thus creating a sidecar .xmp file is necessary to hold the associated video file's metadata. Once this process is complete, the .ISO, .mpg, and .xmp files are entered simultaneously into the DAMs to ensure to proper parent (.iso)/child (.mpg and .xmp) relationships are maintained.
Throughout the entire workflow, upon initial receipt, after each conversion, and after upload to the DAMs, each file has been viewed for quality assurance, furthering adding time to an already lengthy workflow. In total, processing the collection of 136 DVDs within the accession took roughly 300 hours to complete.
In an effort to simplify the workflow, archivists from the Smithsonian Channel and the Archives met to develop a plan to achieve maximum efficiency with the preservation of Smithsonian Channel's programming. During the meeting, it was decided to test a pilot program wherein the Smithsonian Channel would send a number of .mov files through a secure server to the Archives to develop a new workflow based solely on the digital transfer of the Smithsonian Channel's programs. While not eliminating the original DVD transfer yet, this process significantly decreased the workflow and time involved in the entire preservation process.
With the transfer of the .mov files, the conversion process was removed entirely from the workflow. Further, the metadata can be directly embedded into the file header of the .mov files, eliminating the need to create a separate file for the metadata. For DAMs ingest, only the .mov file is needed, as opposed to the .ISO, .mpg, and the .xmp file. In essence, what used to take nearly 300 hours to complete could essentially be completed in as little as a day for a collection of programming.
By making the process of preserving the Smithsonian Channel programs simpler and easier, programs can be preserved more quickly and with less files to work with and a more straightforward workflow there is less likelihood for errors to be made. The collaborative effort between the Smithsonian Channel and the Archives is a prime example of two institutions working together in the effort of digital preservation.
- What are You Watching?, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- And Action: The Ins and Outs of DVD Video Preservation, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Digital Video Preservation: Further Challenges for Preserving Digital Video and Beyond, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Channel records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives