from the archives: making archival images accessible online

Last week, I finally finished the scanning and metadata entry project I began over a year and a half ago at Northeastern: Two photo albums and a scrapbook compiled between the 1890s-1920s by Marjorie Bouvé, a young Boston woman who founded a school of physical education. The photographs and scrapbooks document her adolescence and college education (she attended Bradford Academy and Smith College), and her work as a teacher. Hopefully, hopefully, early in 2011, I'll be able to link to the interactive database containing all the images and records I created.

Nearly 2,000 of them.

But for now, I thought I'd give you a taste of what it means to create what we in the archives world call "digital surrogates" of archival images. Partly 'cause I think it's interesting. Partly 'cause I took a phone call from a gentleman this week at the Massachusetts Historical Society who didn't understand why all our records weren't just digitized and up online (as our Collections Services director would say: "if you see it online, it wasn't elves that put it up there!").

So what does it mean to enter metadata for each digital image we create? Well, here's a sample record I pulled from the database, which is the metadata (the information about the creation and content of the image) associated with one page of a letter in Marjorie's scrapbook.  You sill see from the file name that this is the ninth item cataloged from page one of volume four from the Marjorie Bouvé papers (collection M89).

<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Description">Item separated from m89_s4p001v005. Item related to m89_s4p001v008.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Title">Letter to members of the Rainy Day Club from M. Anagnos, 20 August 1892.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Creator">Aganos, M.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Creator">Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.RelationIsPartOf">Marjorie Bouvé Papers (M89), Box 1</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.DateCreated">1892-08-20</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.DateAvailable">2010-10-23</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.RightsRightsHolder">Copyright Northeastern University</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Provenance">Haidt, Marie</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Format">3215 x 4073 pixels</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.RelationIsFormatOf">7.75 x 10.0 inches</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.RelationIsFormatOf">Social Stationary</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.CoverageSpatial">Boston (Mass.)</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.CoverageSpatial">South Boston (Mass.)</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Subject">Correspondence -- Massachusetts -- Boston</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Subject>Correspondence -- Massachusetts -- South Boston</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Subject">Scrapbooks</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Subject">Social stationary</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Aganos, M.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Bouvé, Marjorie, 1879-1970</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Caverly, Edith L.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Eaton, Alice</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Kelly, Edith A.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Smith, Lillian</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Smith, Marion E.</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingPersonalNameTerm">Wilkins, Christel W.</Metadata> 
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.subjectHeadingGroupNameTerm">Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind</Metadata> 
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.scannerModelName">BookEye 3 A1</Metadata><Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.imageProducer">AJC</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.maximumOpticalResolution">400dpi</Metadata><Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.dateTimeCreated">2010-07-21</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Identifier">B001927</Metadata>
<Metadata mode="accumulate" name="nuhistph.Url">m89_s4p001v009</Metadata>

This record is in XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and can be read by a variety of web-based display programs (at Northeastern, we use a content management system called Greenstone).The information I enter, and enclose in tags) allows the content management system to display the images and the information about them in a prettier, user-friendly format. See, for example, the images in the Freedom House Collectionwhich Hanna (and a team of others) worked on a few years ago.

Some of the information is generated automatically by Greenstone, but all of the data in the file set you see here was entered by me.  Fingers crossed it all pays off in the end, when y'all get to flip through a digitized version of some pretty cool turn-of-the-twentieth-century pictures and ephemera ... all from the comfort of your very own personal computers.

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