Best practices: what do we want to do with it?

in DigiLib BLog
February 20th, 2009

At the School of Theology Library, we’ve begun combing our first collection for public-domain imprints we’d like to have digitized by the Internet Archive. For the first batch we’ve chosen the Missions collection—logical, given the Digital Mission Project we’re pursuing.

The selection process is a huge amount of work, and we’re only dealing with about 3,000 records so far! Not only do we have to pull the books; we must find out whether they’ve already been digitized; if so, whether there’s a good reason to digitize them again; and each item needs to be within IA’s technical spec requirements.

Missions stuff is only the beginning of what we’ll eventually want to preserve and make available electronically. But, as the social internet has been teaching us, it’s not enough to digitize. Once artifacts are digitized, what do we want to be able to do with them? I’ve found a third-hand formulation that may be a useful starting point for answering that question in our specific context.

Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason U, was a participant in the recent Smithsonian 2.0 meeting in Washington. Summarizing the meeting, he paraphrased David Recordon’s description of what he’d like to be able to do with Smithsonian Institution objects, in the future (I quote from Dan’s post):

Before I visit Washington, I want to be able to go to the web and select items I’m really interested in from the entire Smithsonian collection. When I wake up the next morning, I want in my inbox a PDF of my personalized tour to see these objects. When I’m standing in front of an object in a museum, I want to see or hear more information about it on my cell phone. When an event happens related to an object I’m interested in, I want a text message about it. I want to know when it’s feeding time for the pandas, or when Lincoln’s handball will be on public display. And I want to easily share this information with my classmates, my friends, my family.

It’s unlikely that any theology library will ever have the same breadth of appeal as SI. But, as I said: it’s a starting point for thinking about what, in the exciting world of tomorrow (and tomorrow, and tomorrow), we’d like to be able to do with the objects we’re digitizing. What are the contexts for its use, inside and outside of academe? Who would want to share what with whom? What would your ideal user experience of digitized theological artifacts be like? Technosocial fantasies welcome in comments.

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One Comment on Best practices: what do we want to do with it?

  • Perhaps another way to ask the question is what would make you say “Wow!!” about the collection?

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