The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Web/Tech
- A wonderful graphic of the history of the National Mall using its museums, memorials, and significant events. [via Washington Post]
- This past week was #AskACurator day and the folks at the National Museum of American History shared some of their favorite questions they received. [O Say Can You See? blog, NMAH]
- As part of it celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month, the Library of Congress launched an online selection from its Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. [via InfoDocket]
- Connections between Herman Melville and the Smithsonian's first Secretary, Joseph Henry, found! [via Unbound blog, Smithsonian Libraries]
- A look at the steps involved in putting on an Archives of American Art exhibition. [via Archives of American Art blog]
- The National Archives and Records Administration recently released new guidance for metadata requirements for transferring electronic records. [via InfoDocket]
- Congrats to the Biodiversity Heritage Library for making Wired's list of 103 Must-Follow Feeds in Science, Culture, Design, and More. [via Wired]
In the spring of 1992 the Smithsonian's "Internet Implementation Committee" was working to connect the Smithsonian to the Internet. Every organization on the Internet needs a domain name, which references a specific range of Internet Protocol (IP) numbers. What domain name should we use? What names were available? What name could we request? Several possible names were researched – we could spell out Smithsonian or we might use an abbreviation such as "SI", or "Smith". However, any other abbreviation seemed contrived, artificial, and unusable. “Smithsonian” would certainly work, but seemed too long and cumbersome. At that time the domain name choices were limited to the original six historic, or generic top level domains or gTLDs: ".com", “.edu”, “.gov”, ".mil", ".net", and ".org".
The Smithsonian clearly did not want to join the ".com" domain (Sports Illustrated already had the "si.com" domain name, and still has that name today). The “.net” (usually reserved for organization supporting network operations) and “.mil” (usually reserved for the U.S. military) domains seemed inappropriate; and the “.org” domain was usually reserved for other organizations, also inappropriate. The two most logical, available, and promising name options were presented to the Internet Policy Team: we could apply for either the “si.gov” or “si.edu” domain name.
The sense of the technical team was that it did not really matter which domain name was selected; any name would work exactly the same from a technical point of view. So it was, perhaps, more of a political consideration. The Smithsonian Institution is a trust instrumentality of the United States. Someone at the planning meeting said, "The Smithsonian is technically not part of the government-- can we be “si.edu”?, and that was how “si.edu” was selected.
The Smithsonian applied for and was awarded (on June 19, 1992) the Internet domain name “si.edu”, which became the Smithsonian's first identity on the Internet.
The physical Internet connection was made in July 1992. At that time Internet services were limited to: E-mail (SMTP), file transfer (FTP), and remote login (Telnet). The Smithsonian staff would use these services to access remote computer resources, such as library catalogues, and databases. These services predated the web and the first desktop PC web browser. Little did we know how the rapid growth of the World Wide Web and expanded Internet services would change everything! The official announcement of the Smithsonian’s Internet connection was made by John Moreci, Communications Manager, Office of Information Resource Management, “Smithsonian Connects to Internet”, September 28, 1992.
With the Internet infrastructure established, the Smithsonian website was launched on May 8, 1995, and the rest is history . . .
From that simple beginning with a single domain name, the Smithsonian has, like many large organizations, come to own many domains – nearly 400 as of this writing. Most are not in use and were registered to ensure Smithsonian control over the trademarked Smithsonian name. When the Smithsonian Institution ventured into more commercial endeavors, a “.com” domain -- Smithsonian.com (operated by Smithsonian Enterprises) – did in fact become appropriate. It is in use today, as are a number of other single-purpose domains (e.g., inventionatplay.org). Many of these domains exist for marketing and communications purposes; some are standalone websites, others are simply redirected to “si.edu” subdomain addresses (e.g., emammal.org redirects to emammal.si.edu).
One unanticipated and interesting benefit for the Smithsonian is that search engines like Google evaluate search results from “.edu” domains as originating from an authoritative source and therefor rank the search result higher than those from other domains.
Since the Smithsonian registered “si.edu”, the requirements to register an “.edu” domain have become more strictly focused on accredited educational institutions. According to Educause (the non-profit association responsible for overseeing “.edu”) "only U.S. postsecondary institutions that are institutionally accredited by an agency on the U.S. Department of Education's list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies" are granted new “.edu” domains.
Previously granted “.edu” domains (such as Smithsonian’s) are grandfathered-in under the newer policies.
- Report of the Internet Implementation Committee to Robert S. Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for Science, August 14, 1992, Smithsonian Institution Archives
One hundred sixty-eight years ago, on the first Monday in September, the Vice President of the United States George M. Dallas convened the first meeting of the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents. Congress entrusted the governance of an unprecedented public trust, "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," as stipulated in James Smithson's bequest, to this group that also included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the mayor of the city of Washington, three members of the U.S. Senate, three members of the House of Representatives, and six citizens. The Board of Regents has since worked to guide the growth and development of the Smithsonian into a largest complex of museums and cultural heritage and scientific research centers unlike any other in the world today. Their input and oversight has seen the Smithsonian expand from a single research institution, to the first United States National Museum, and eventually to the 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities centered in Washington, D.C. with locations around the world.
The Archives has launched a rapid capture digitization project to make the whole of Record Unit 1 - Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Minutes, 1846- , available online by early 2016. Normally a labor-intensive four stage process - preparation, scanning, metadata generation, and online publication, the Archives' rapid capture digitization workflow consolidates several steps and enables us to cut the time from scanning to online publication by an estimated 80%.
When digitization of this collection is completed and the Minutes are accessible online, digital volunteers in the Smithsonian Transcription Center will be invited to transcribe these historic documents so that scholars of American science, museology, and other disciplines will be able to use advanced research techniques with these important primary source materials.
In the months to come, we will share details about different parts of this project and tell you about what happens behind the scenes to make this project a success. Our first in depth post will come from conservator William Bennett who is preserving and preparing the oldest material in this collection for rapid capture digitization.
- Board of Regents Records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- It's been an exciting and sad time at the National Zoo these last few weeks as giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth to twin cubs, but then unfortunately loss the smaller cub within a few days. [The Torch, SI]
- Last week marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast area and Curator of Photography at the Archives Center at the National Museum of America History, David Haberstich, shares about collecting materials that documented the destruction that occured and its affects on the lives of those there. [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- Love maps? Well now you can download The History of Cartography for free! [via OpenCulture]
- Something to keep an eye on - Some of the biggest names in tech are teaming up to create a new open source video format. [via Wired]
- Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Library of Congress' National Book Festival being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. [via Library of Congress Blog]
- Smithsonian scientists and colleagues have discovered a new genus and species of river dolphin that has long been extinct. [via SI Newsdesk]
- Simply put . . . duct tape is awesome! Especially so when you have to fix your rover on the moon with it. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- If you are looking for an exciting livestream, check out the University of Arizona, who's playing host to two baby hummingbirds. [via Wired]
- The world's oldest multicolored printed book has been opened and digitized for the first time. [via Colossal]
- The power of the user - Library users at the Los Altos main library in California rejected the new online catalog in favor of the old one. [via InfoDocket]
- For your viewing pleasure NASA is now on Tumblr. [via The Verge]
- The National Archives UK has redesigned the "Records" section of their website to help users find what they are looking for. [via The National Archives Blog]
- History in the making - The invention of digital photography at Kodak. [via Lens blog, NYT]
- Exactly how do you put on an Apollo spacesuit? The folks at the National Air and Space Museum explain. [via AirSpace blog, NASM]
- One step closer to Mars - Astronauts taste lettuce grown on the International Space Station. [via The Verge]