Monday, 21 April 2014
Diving Deep into Pictures at the Library of Congress
American Society of Picture Professionals Webinar
April 8, 2014
This webinar was prepared by Helena Zinkham, a staff member from the Library on Congress’ Prints and Photographs Division. Ms. Zinkham started her presentation with a brief summary of the mission and highlights of the Library of Congress’ photograph collections. They hope that photographers will use the collection for creative inspiration, to see changes over time, and learn from master photographers. There are over 15 million items in the print and photograph division including cartoon, drawings, posters and items created domestically and internationally. One surprising fact that Ms. Zinkham shared is that there are 950,000 copyright free images in the Library of Congress! If you type “no known restrictions” after your search terms, the rights free images will pop up. If the rights to an image are undetermined, they will only post a thumbnail of the image to inhibit use by the general public. Users can easily search the database by keyword; but be advised that exact phrases cannot be found with quotes, you have to click the advanced search option. The Library of Congress has created several points of entry to their collections including the Guide Records link to search collections by creator, subject, or format. You can also bookmark a record, saving the URL and easily returning to it on a later date.
Some of the subjects that the Prints and Photographs Division is best known for include Civil War, News Photography, Great Depression, World War II, American Architecture, Landmark and Vernacular Structures, and Baseball. Their most popular collections include CQ/Roll Call, Toni Frissell, Art Wood Cartoons, US News and World Reports, and New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper. For the Audio Assault exhibit at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, we found quite a few images of civil rights protests in the New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper collection. When I lived in Phoenix in 2011, I was able to visit the Anne Bonfoey Taylor Fashion exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum; I had no idea that the photographs were rights free from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is constantly adding new digital content to their database, and users can influence this process and access un-digitized materials, if they are doing research in person or are able to hire a Washington D.C. based researcher. With the exception of nitrate negatives, which are stored off-site and only retrieved once per month, there is a two week turnaround for digitization requests in the Duplication Services department.
To discover more images from the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions; researchers have a number of options. The Flickr Commons features 1.25 million photographs from 82 different libraries, archives, and museums. The Library of Congress hosts two blogs, Picture This, and The Signal; and other resources to help users obtain lawful access and use of collection materials.
Monday, 7 April 2014
In class this week, our guest lecturer was Nancy Steinman, an assistant archivist at Mount St. Mary’s College, working on her MILS from San Jose State University, with 20 years of computer programming experience. Nancy talked to us about the origins of XML, the symbols and rules of well-formed XML, and we practiced writing in XML and exporting our Content DM collections into XML. Nancy reiterated how simple and elegant XML can be throughout her presentation; which is true, but my mind went back to countless hours in Oxygen trying to incorporate series, boxes and folders in c01, c02, or c03 levels, with straight quotes, in order to get my XML to validate. It is definitely a concept that requires a great deal of practice to master. One concept that Nancy mentioned which I’ve seen on my Twitter feed from other archivists but have not acquired any direct experience is TEI, or Text Encoding Initiative. TEI is very popular strategy within Digital Humanities, using computers to perform content analysis. I appreciate the way that she mentioned TEI and XML in the same discussion because they share the theme of tags as a layer of information on top of a data. Tags can be formulated to indicate whatever is meaningful to the user, in the case of EAD, unittitle or bioghist, for TEI, it could be couplets or word counts. Nancy concluded with several websites that we could consult if we had more questions; whatis.com and w3schools (XML tutorials).
Sunday, 6 April 2014
In our first class after Spring Break, we talked about description in museum culture and the evolution of VRA. Linda started off with a reminder that museums do not have a long standing tradition of exchanging data nor a standard in resource description. This is why the implementation of CDWA, or Categories of the Description of Works of Art (with its 512 categories and sub-categories) was such an important set of guidelines for these institutions. CDWA morphed into CDWA Lite (35 categories and subcategories) which included a data standard, Cataloging Cultural Objects, and XML encoding. The next step in metadata schemas for museum objects was VRA which looks a lot like Dublin Core. VRA relies heavily on the one to one principal, differentiating between the record of an original work and the various derivatives of it. We also discussed some of the differences between VRA 3.0 and VRA 4.0, although most systems have only adopted VRA 3.0 at this point. Our in class assignment required us to take pictures of art works from around the Shatford Library and describe them using VRA categories. Our assignment was twofold because we created tables in Microsoft Office Word to describe the “work” and created records in ContentDM (Project Client) to describe the image of the art. VRA has now joined Dublin Core, MODS, and EAD in m y repertoire of metadata schemas; it’s like learning new languages, very exciting. At our professor’s request, class the following week was cancelled; we will be making up the lessons in the weeks ahead.