On Thursday, the Round Table on Special Collections presented a panel entitled “21st Century Reading Rooms: Interacting with Special Collections Online.” The panel included Mark Custer from ECU, Nick Graham from UNC Chapel Hill, and Kevin Gilbertson from WFU. Although Kevin was unable to present due to illness, the other two gave fantastic presentations about digital collections online.
Nick Graham, North Carolina Maps Project Librarian at the Carolina Digital Library & Archives at UNC Chapel Hill, discussed interactive GIS applications on NC Maps. He explored points, polygons, and georeferencing. Points are latitude and longitude, expressed in decimal degrees. If you can see a point on a map, you can see it in context among other locations — such as Historic Des Moines‘ pushpins feature that shows where historic photos were taken. Polygons are, essentially, shapes. At least three points encompassing a shape can be used to search without text — instead, users can create bounding boxes (or other shapes) to view particular areas. Nick mentioned the Kentucky Geography Network as an advanced version of what NC Maps aims to do, which is better demonstrated through the UNLV’s Interactive Spatial Image page, which “searches by spatial coverage.” And finally, georeferencing is matching up points on a given map to the same points on another map. With historic maps, this is groundbreaking — users can now take a historic map and put it over a modern map to compare development, ecology, land ownership, etc. NC Maps has already started doing georeferencing. Overall, the goal for NC Maps is for interactivity, accessability, and usability by the public.
Mark Custer, Markup & Text Coordinator for Joyner Library Digital Collections at ECU, discussed the Daily Reflector Image Collection, which has over 7000 images from Greenville’s local newspaper. Mark’s focus was on identifying ways that the collection has been shared with the public. His argument: seek out familiar places and hosting — don’t create new (and therefore unfamiliar) frameworks. The Daily Reflector images are available through ECU’s Digital Collections portal, through the Daily Reflector newspaper’s website, as well as on Flickr. Mark described the ease of extracting metadata from their images and batch uploading to Flickr. Of the 200 photographs uploaded to Flickr, the images have been seen by over 800 people — without advertising of any kind. Over 550 comments have been made to Daily Reflector digital images.
Overall, both presentations highlighted new developments in interactive special collections, aka digital collections. Perhaps the ECU Digital Collections portal could be explored in greater detail for its usability (I explore it in some depth for the upcoming issue of the Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists). A number of librarians/archivists in the audience were interested in the ways these resources are discovered, particularly ways repositories can share their resources. The NC Digital Heritage Center came up in a question, though there was little information available about how the Center will work to create greater access to widespread resources. These are exciting times to be a special collections librarian…