Apologies for duplication. This is an announcement about
Northwestern's recently launched digital collection; supported by a
National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library
Services. Photographs were digitized at 600dpi and are delivered in
JPEG2000 format; metadata is Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and
was crosswalked to MODS for faceting and searching; Northwestern's
repository platform is Fedora. Additional reports and other
information about the preservation metadata (PREMIS) implementation
and preservation repository investigations will be forthcoming.
June 24, 2009
MEDIA CONTACT: Wendy Leopold at [log in to unmask]
Rare Africa Photos Go Online, Open New Options for Africa Research
This press release:
Collection site: <http://www.library.northwestern.edu/africana/winterton/>
EVANSTON, Ill. --- This week -- for the first time ever -- a
searchable collection of thousands of rare photographs chronicling
Europe's colonization of East Africa becomes available to anyone with
an Internet connection anywhere in the world, thanks to the efforts
of staff at Northwestern University Library.
The Humphrey Winterton Collection of East African Photographs:
1860-1960 began attracting the interest of Africa scholars and others
in 2002 when it was acquired by Northwestern's Melville J. Herskovits
Library of African Studies. The library officially launches the
online collection today (June 25).
"The 7,000-plus photographs in this extraordinary collection document
the changing relationships among Africans and between Africans and
Europeans during 100 years of dramatic historic change," says
Herskovits Library curator David Easterbrook.
They include formal and informal portraits of Africans and their
colonizers, photos of slaves and slave traders, and images depicting
the building of railroads and urban areas and of traditional African
They represent the work of explorers, colonial officials, settlers,
missionaries, military officers, travelers and early commercial
Visitors to the site can search for photographs by subject or browse
them in a way that replicates how British collector Winterton
organized the collection into 65 albums, scrapbooks and boxes. A
"browsing feature" developed by Northwestern University Library
technology specialists, for example, reproduces the experience of
flipping through a photo album's pages.
Jonathan Glassman, a Northwestern associate professor of history in
the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and specialist in 19th- and
20th- century East Africa and comparative race and slavery, says the
collection's special value lies in its unusual subject matter.
"The most familiar photographs from this era tend to dwell on what
photographers considered East Africa's glamorous aspects -- its
spectacular wildlife, landscapes, settler life or the occasional
posed portrait of an African sultan or Maasai warrior," he says.
"What stands out about the collection is the large number of items
that document prosaic matters -- matters that are precisely the most
difficult for the student of African history to get a handle on,"
Because the images are tagged with extensive metadata, they can be
searched by date or keywords. A school group viewing the site in its
pilot stage, for example, asked Easterbrook to see if the collection
included any photos relating to President Obama's ancestry. The
result: 31 photos of people and places were found.
According to Easterbrook, photos going back as far as the 1860s are
extremely rare in the history of photography in Africa, and
opportunities to see and study them are rarer still. The creation of
the digital Winterton site changes that.
One of its oldest photographs depicts a Zanzibar slave market circa
1860. Although faded and in poor condition, the photo can be viewed
online in detail. It is one of many images in the collection relating
to slavery and the slave trade.
Among them is a portrait of Tippu Tip, a businessman, plantation
owner and advisor to the Sultans of Zanzibar. Of African and Arab
descent, he was an active slave trader even after the British
abolished the slave trade in 1807 and slavery itself in 1833.
To optimize its value as an education tool for students of all ages,
the online collection was designed in consultation with a group of
kindergarten to high school educators and members of Northwestern's
own renowned Program of African Studies.
In addition to explaining how elementary and high school teachers can
use the collection for classroom projects and curricula, the online
site links to other resources on teaching about Africa.
Generous funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services
made it possible for Northwestern University Library not only to
digitize the Winterton Collection images but also to design
innovative tools to preserve and display them in electronic form.
With today's launch, the Winterton Collection becomes the third
Herskovits Library collection available online. The others are a
collection of 113 antique African maps dating from the 16th to the
early 20th century at
and a collection of 590 posters reflecting the culture and politics
of contemporary African nations at
These and other digital collections are part of an innovative digital
repository being designed by Northwestern University Library to most
effectively preserve and display electronic text, visual, audio and
video materials for online access.
Northwestern's Herskovits Library of African Studies is home to the
world's largest separate collection of Africana materials.
M. Claire Stewart
Head, Digital Collections
Northwestern University Library
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