Monday, January 22, 2007

Archiving Special Collections.

Visit the British Library web site and page through some amazing texts coupled with an audio recording about the work. It is very cool.

As more and more libraries start to digitize their 'special' collections (and not via Google either) it will be interesting to see how they 'display' these collections in the on-line context. I believe small thriving businesses will be developed that help libraries create on-line or electronic shows. The online version of the material that typically shows up in the glass display cases in the library lobby.

It is great to have all this 'special' collection material available for research and access but for the casual library patron some filtering and explanation/analysis is important for enjoyment and value. This is why I think you will find digital archivists selling their services to libraries to create these representative packages or shows of the material. These digital archivists will present the best parts of the collection and 'design' or curate these online shows. Viewers will be able to access the material via the web but perhaps they could also view the material in the library via web enabled kiosks.

There is so much of this material coming on-line. (OCLC has three different programs designed to collect this material). I think only a small percentage of stuff has thus far been digitised and we run the risk of having a glut of material that if not organized and presented to the typical patron may never be seen. This would be akin to the local public library collection that sits undisturbed in the special viewing room that isn't open to the public.

The need to create logical presentations of this valuable material does draw attention to the importance of the local librarian in selecting or editing this material. The process also creates new opportunities to add to the material in ways that perhaps was discouraged or difficult. This is especially the case with oral histories. Creating a visual respresenation of the material in a special collection and then encouraging some long lived local patrons to add their vocal history to the presentation would add significantly to the relevance and importance of the collection.

As I said, I think this is coming because I think there is an obvious need for services to support this type of activity.

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