“Archival Access Online”: Dr. Neil Mann

I really enjoyed the presentations and discussion at Archival Access Online:  The Promise, The Problems, The Payoff.  Panelists were Dr. Neil Mann (The New York Public Library), Nancy Heywood (The Massachusetts Historical Society) and Dr. Sherry Darling (The Mary Baker Eddy Library), with Beth Luey as moderator.

Before applying to the Simmons MLIS program, I had hoped my experience at MIT’s digital humanities lab would provide some relevant background knowledge about the digitization of cultural materials — it was so fun to watch and listen last night and have all these connections going off in my head!  Just when I think I really want to be an arts librarian, I find myself excited about digitizing archival materials again.

my notes from Dr. Neil Mann’s presentation:

  • advantages of digitization:
    • can (virtually) unite pieces of manuscripts that are, physically, scattered in different locations
    • some manuscripts are so fragile, they will only show you pictures (in a cold dim room) – better to analyze online
    • democratice, general access
    • better online than in person when good tools are provided to zoom in, rotate images, view transcriptions, translations.  good example of this is woolfonline.com where you can hover over some handwriting to pop up that line of text in a clear, readable font
    • when a collection is put online, you can stumble across items you’d never know to ask for if visiting the collection.
  • Emerson papers at NYPL
    • it’s currently difficult to navigate NYPL website to find the emerson papers [true; I can’t find them right now]
    • images of emerson’s writing shows his process – things crossed out, writing in margins, etc
  • problems:
    • when a digitizing project takes a long time, the technology used at the beginning is outdated by the end.
    • cost
    • hard to find things when they’re not transcribed (transcription.si.edu  – new technology for transcription)
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