The University of Chicago Library's Special Collections Research Center has a launched an initiative for the digitization of archives and manuscript collections. The digital images are being made available via the online finding aid for each collection. This will recreate for the online user the experience of a researcher encountering the original materials in the SCRC Reading Room, with documents displayed as they are housed in each folder, and with description of the contents in the form of folder headings.
Individual, high-resolution images of each page will be permanently preserved in the Library's digital repository, and can be made available for publication or other research needs. Due to provisions of copyright laws, digitization efforts are currently focused on materials in the public domain, or those for which the University of Chicago holds copyright.
Collections with digitized content available online include:
* The Ida B. Wells Papers contain diaries, correspondence, manuscripts and photographs documenting the life of the teacher, journalist, and anti-lynching activist.
* The Dr. Harry Bakwin and Dr. Ruth Morris Bakwin Soviet Posters Collection contains nineteen Soviet political posters produced in the early 1930s, collected by the American physicians Dr. Harry Bakwin and Dr. Ruth Morris Bakwin during two trips to the Soviet Union.
* The Fielding Lewis Papers contain business, personal and legal records documenting life on a plantation on the James River in Virginia, both before and after the Civil War.
* The University of Chicago Laboratory School Work Reports are made up of reports about the Elementary and Secondary division of the Laboratory School, and document classroom activities in the School's first decade. http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/scrc/ead/ICU.SPCL.LABSCHOOLREPORT
* The Jefferson Davis Trial Papers document the legal entanglements, ambiguous delays, political floundering, and shifting of responsibilities surrounding Jefferson Davis' first indictment for treason.
* The Thomas Winston Papers relate primarily to Winston's activities as a surgeon with Illinois troops during the Civil War.
* The Middle Eastern Poster Collection produced by
government offices and private organizations, primarily in Iran and Afghanistan.
For those interested in the production details, the Large Scale Digitization Initiative is a collaborative effort involving the Special Collections Research, the Preservation Department, and the Digital Library Development Center. The initiative has been guided by definitions of, and requirements for, mass digitization provided by funding agencies such as the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. These guidelines stress expedited scanning workflows, without sacrifice of image quality, and with close attention to preservation concerns, and the use of existing descriptive metadata, such as that provided by a finding aid.
The collections are scanned by Preservation Department staff. The documents are scanned in color, in the order in which they are filed in each folder, and a TIFF file is created for each page image. A naming scheme is used for the files which can be extended to other collections scanned as part of the initiative. The TIFF images from each folder in the physical collection are combined into PDFs for delivery. PDF was chosen as a delivery format because of its simplicity, stability and ubiquity. It is expected that the vast majority of users will have PDF viewers on their computers, and will be able to use them to enlarge, decrease, rotate, print, and otherwise easily view the images. Although the images are delivered as PDFs, the TIFFs of each page will be stored in the digital repository, and will be available if needed for other purposes.
Links to the digital files are added to the online finding aid by SCRC staff. The Encoded Archival Description (EAD) tags chosen allow links to be created at any level of description in the finding aid, from series, to folder, to item, and for multiple links to be attached to a particular description. Digital Library Development Center (DLDC) staff updated the style sheets to allow display of the links in the finding aids database. DLDC is also hosting the digital files, which will be retained in and delivered from the digital repository.
The procedures developed for large scale digitization of archives and manuscript collections are simple and extensible. Future plans call for the delivery of digital audio files and, eventually, of born- digital content, and for full-text searching of digitized typescript documents, which can be made keyword searchable through optical character recognition (OCR).
Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library