Interesting article about the Vatican’s library, and their approach to digitizing select works. Very practical move, but one not need to think long of what may not be digitized by the Vatican. Article also brings up interesting points about how with digitization, the notion of scholarship and science is looming large, not only within these accessible works, but into the overall discussion. No link, but like a good lib, I cite:
Far more important for the many scholars who have no ready access to the library, the process of digitizing images from the Vat’s collection of illuminated manuscripts had begun–an undertaking that is very much in keeping, in ways that Nicholas V couldn’t have imagined, with that Pope’s dream of “the common convenience of the learned.” “A decision was taken,” Cardinal Mejía went on, making use of the curious passive construction that, I’d noticed, he favored when speaking of events that occurred during his tenure, “to digitalize the miniatures”–the hand-painted illuminations in the manuscripts–“so people could have access to the miniatures without seeing the manuscripts, which we try to keep as much as possible in their own places, because they’re so precious. So now the Vatican has a site for these images, and you can click on an image and see the illuminations. There’s access for anybody.”
Mendelsohn, Daniel. “GOD’S LIBRARIANS.” New Yorker 86, no. 42 (January 3, 2011): 24-30.
Ursula Le Guin has some stones. This whole Google digital books settlement is a bit complicated, but it boils down to something more than opting in and out for the authors. It’s about signing away your authorship, and forcing companies like the great and powerful Goog to negotiate with you before you do so and not after they’ve been caught. Le Guin says it better:
The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:
First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.
Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.
The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.
Google has some stones as well, dictating the terms of their own settlement to authors of works they’ve digitized without consent. Perhaps Google is trying to claim some sort of perverted sense of fair use by chumming with libraries to assist in their digitization without bothering to negotiate with authors and forking out the dough to buy the item they want to scan from Amazon or AbeBooks.
Two occurrences struck me as definitely non-coincidental during the ACRL conference this past week. The first being Friday’s keynote address delivered by Sherman Alexie, renowned author, comedian and veritable renaissance man who happens to be American Indian. His address was poignant, irreverent, lyrical and human.
After spending a few minutes objectifying all the “hot, near-sighted” librarians in the room, Alexie weaved a story with the magic he so effortlessly conjures, discussing various topics ranging from his sickly stint on Oprah to kicking Stephen Colbert’s ass, to applying for having his grandfather’s war medals reissued. Needless to say, the bigger picture of his whole presentation was one that recurs throughout his works, of Indians and Indian stories.
Combined with his presentation was my reading of his majestically written book Indian Killer. Central to the book was the theme that “Only Indians should tell Indian stories”. Specifically, one instance within is the argument between two characters on whether American Indian stories/content should be recorded by non-natives,even if for academic purposes. Does it constitute stealing, since these stories are traditionally familial, and orally transmitted from generation to generation? Would recording the screams of someone being physically assaulted equate to the Indian reaction of stealing their stories without permission?
Ironically enough, one of the more interesting and buried sessions that followed Alexie’s address was entitled From Babine to Yakima: Academic Libraries and Endangered Language Preservation, from Washington State University Librarian Gabriella Reznowski. Gabriella mentioned that this is indeed a touchy situation, one that needs careful attention. There is a difference between saving and preserving native languages, Reznowski stresses, and that libraries can serve as collaborative partners in culture preservation, as long as some considerations are followed, including:
- Deciding whether the Internet is an appropriate venue for placing native cultural resources, rather than simply accessing them in the stacks.
- Are being tribal policies being followed and respected, having gained permission to begin with?
- How much effort is the institution willing to spend to keep up their community and tribal relationships?
Just a few considerations to…consider. We may not be trained linguists, but librarians can be part of something that provides a failsafe against losing one’s history. Though at all costs, we must realize the point at which we may rewrite such history, despite our good intentions.
So, assuming you have thought a plan and planned your thought, you’re ready to digitize. Creating a decent collection using an application like CONTENTdm is surprisingly straightforward. Indeed, this second phase, if you know what you’re doing, takes the least amount of time.
Regarding the actual digitization, you don’t need the most current or advanced equipment, only a little knowledge of the scanning and archival process. When working with photographs, here are some considerations:
- Always create a layer of copies: Create a master set of copies that will not need any touchup. These are the true backups; save them in the TIFF file format – though they will be large in file size, they will remain uncompressed and unchanged. For images that will be touched up with Photoshop or Piknik/Fotoflexer, etc, use the JPEG format – there’s little sacrifice in quality with good compression.
- Watch your resolution. We use Epson scanners, and when working with textual documents, we will scan with 300 PPI/DPI. For photographic images, here’s our process: Take the longer side of your image and divide 3000 by it; this will be your approximate scanning resolution. Inaccurate resolutions will create scans with both inaccurate clarity and file size. To be avoided.
- Make sure your metadata is created beforehand. This streamlines the process and avoids confusion with similar photos. Also, your metadata dictates the the how thorough your collection is. Your collection is only as good as your metadata.
- Save your copies/backups in numerous places. If you’re fortunate enough to have server space, place your masters and working copies there, as well as on a writable disc. If in an academic or business institution and you have a shared drive, place them there. Keep your physical copies in acid-free containers in your archives or wherever it’s consistently cool and dry.
- Be consistent in your work and the workers you choose for the projects. Inconsistency will create inconsistent metadata, collections, etc.
- Start small; don’t get involved too early with compound objects (multiple images for the same object); they’re not necessarily complicated to scan, but using CONTENTdm’s compound object functionlity is not all that intuitive.
These are just a few considerations. For more on the terminology, take a look at my LibGuide for digitization terminology, formats and whatnot. It deals with a little more detail concerning the basics.
The great and powerful Goog has now acquired the archived photos from LIFE magazine, and it’s publicly available on each of your interwebs:
The collection includes the entire works of Life photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gjon Mili and Nina Leen. Also available are: the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination; Dahlstrom glass plates of New York from the 1880’s; and Hugo Jaeger Nazi-era Germany 1937-1944.
Dawn Bridges, a spokeswoman for TimeInc, the archives in their entirety would be available in the first quarter of next year. She said it was would not just be historical. “We will be adding new things. There will be thousands of new pictures from DC for the inauguration on January 20,” she said.
What’s cool is that according to the article, 97% of the photos (10 million) have never before been seen. Here’s Google’s portal for accessing the photos. A prominent issue now to consider is whether the photos are in the public domain. Obviously, the older ones might just be, but what about the ones less than the 70 or so years it takes for fair use? Pretty groovy for browsing, though.