The Power of Integrated Digital Collections

“I hope you found the readings surrounding project planning and selecting materials for digitization applicable to your own lives (professionally, personally, or both”

I must be a complete digital library nerd at this stage because I found some of the NINCH philosophies and concepts downright inspiring!

NINCH’s mission statement says they strive to create a platform for the community “to advance the goal of an integrated, distributed body of cultural material accessible to all.” While reading through their Guide to Good Practice, especially Section III on selection criteria, I was struck with how powerful this idea of integrated digital collections is. Because digital artifacts are so much more portable and more sharable than analog items, there is tremendous potential when you think about multiple collections building on each other and working together to maximize impact.

I feel like there are three senses in which digital collections “integrate.”

There are situations like Hathitrust where multiple institutions band together and pool resources to intentionally create one digital library with materials from multiple sources.

Then there are these more hub-like organizations like Europeana (or, seemingly, DPLA) that bring together digital artifacts from different collections to form exhibitions that are presented centrally on the hub site.

The third type of “integration” could simply result from following this rule, proposed by NINCH: 

“with the spread of digitization activity and the multitude of projects and programs around the world, it is important to ensure that your proposed digitization efforts will not duplicate other efforts elsewhere.”

Through careful selection and awareness of what has already been digitized by others, there is amazing opportunity with digital collections because the World Wide Web makes them potentially available everywhere there is internet access. In this way, the World Wide Web could itself be thought of as a digital collection hub. On this front, I though it especially promising to read that there are “a number of initiatives [including one by NINCH] in the US are providing mechanisms for projects to register details of their activities and outputs.”

The trick, it would seem, when there is NOT a central hub like Europeana or DPLA helping users find the far-flung (but all online and related) collections.

I am fascinated by this example from my own work as a researcher working with historical newspapers. Tammygoss found a great news story on YouTube last week referencing an enormous privately-created and maintained collection of historical newspapers in upstate New York made by Tom Tryniski. There is another large historical newspaper digital collection from NY state held by New York Heritage Digital Collections.  Tryniski’s collection is VERY confusing to browse but as far as I can tell, the two collections have managed to avoid digitizing any of the same newspapers! A great example of following the NINCH guidelines….. except, neither collection makes any reference to the other collection whatsoever.  I only eventually discovered both through repeated Google searching for resources in that area. 

So maybe part of coordinating digital collections should be acknowledgement and linking to supplemental collections!?

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2 responses to “The Power of Integrated Digital Collections

  1. Well I am feeling quite nerdified about all this lately!
    I just noticed I forgot to finish a sentence there. Should be something like: :
    The trick, it would seem, when there is NOT a central hub like Europeana or DPLA helping users find the far-flung (but all online and related) collections, is to somehow help users stitch together the various related collections out there as they do their research.

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