digitization and scale: a kuni-ezu map

Look at this amazing map:

1837 Omi Kuni-ezu (Branner Earth Science Library & Map Collections, Stanford University)

1837 Ōmi Kuni-ezu (Branner Earth Science Library & Map Collections, Stanford University)

I’m not a Japanese scholar, so I’m not going to have a good explanation of this, but my understanding is that it’s an 1837 version of a 16th-century map of the Ōmi prefecture. It’s part of the map collections at Stanford and it was just recently digitized, in advance of the Primary Source Symposium, where it was the focus of a talk by Kären Wigen.

The map is gorgeous, as is its digitization. Look at the texture captured when you zoom in (click on the map to go play with it yourself; it’s a CC BY-NC license, so go ahead and download it and explore):

detail from Ōmi Kuni-ezu showing map creases, flaking paint, and map detailis

detail from Ōmi Kuni-ezu showing map creases, flaking paint, and map details

What the digitization has a hard time capturing, though, is the scale of the thing. § continue reading

questions to ask when you learn of digitization projects

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

Some days you wake up and you see announcements of a new project to digitize a collection of primary source materials. Perhaps an archive that covers centuries of technological and commercial changes, perhaps a collection of newspapers that encompasses the history of African-American politics and culture, just to name a couple of purely hypothetical examples.

I don’t know any details about such agreements and neither do you, unless you happen to be one of the top-level executives at one of the holding institutions for these collections or at one of the companies doing the digitization. And because we don’t know any details, we don’t know whether such projects are great or not. But we can—and we should—ask some questions when we hear about them:

  • Who financially benefits from such agreements? It is certainly the company doing the digitization and the institution holding the documents, otherwise neither would be doing it.
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resources: digital First Folios

I’ve written about digitizing Shakespeare’s First Folio before, looking at the interfaces of the many different copies out there. But I’m turning my attention to this again for my contribution on the subject for the in-progress Cambridge Companion to the First Folio, edited by Emma Smith. In my article, I’ll be thinking about why there are so many libraries digitizing this same book over and over again and what these many projects can teach us about what we look for from the First Folio and from digital tools.

But to do that, I revisited the 13—!!!!—digitized copies currently out there on the interwebs and created a list identifying each copy and its various relevant features for both the interface and the book itself. Some exciting news since I last looked: Miami has reimaged theirs, created a new interface, and released the images as public domain! Bodleain’s already awesome F1 got even awesomer with the addition of XML. § continue reading

how to destroy special collections with social media

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Rare Book School to deliver a talk in their 2015 lecture series. It was the last week of their summer season in Charlottesville, the week when the Descriptive Bibliography course (aka “boot camp”) was in full swing, and the weather was in all its hot, glorious humidity. I wanted to keep things light as well as make some points I feel very strongly about: the importance of librarians and researchers using social media to help sustain special collections libraries.

Below are the slides and my notes for my July 29th talk. Since RBS records and shares the audio of their talks (go browse through past RBS lectures and listen!) I have, with their permission, also embedded the audio of my talk here so that you can listen and read along if you’d like (there are some variations between the two, though nothing substantive—I’ll leave you to decide which is the authoritative version…). § continue reading

resources: digitized early printed books

Sometimes I give talks about the challenges and opportunities for digitizing early printed books. I prefer to do this by looking at lots of different examples, including lots of different reproductions of different copies of the same book or different reproductions of the same copy of a single book. I keep a periodically updated list of these things to draw from when I’m teaching, and I thought some of you might like to draw on it as well. It’s a page of links rather than notes on my thoughts on the subject, but in some cases, they’re books I’ve written about before and I link to those pieces.

In any case, I hope you find my digitization examples useful, and in turn, I’d love to hear from you if you have other fruitful examples that will help us think about the subject. It’s always incredibly fun for me to talk with folks about this stuff, so if you’d like a live demonstration, I do take requests! § continue reading

disembodying the past to preserve it

What follows is a keynote I gave at the Digital Preservation 2013 conference on July 23, 2013. If you’re curious, there’s a video up of the talk and the Q & A as well and a pdf of the slides I showed (some of which vary from what I’ve shown here).

“Disembodying the past to preserve it”

I am, as you’ve heard, not someone who focuses on issues of digital preservation. I’m a book historian and performance scholar who works at a cultural heritage organization that is focused on the preservation and exploration of centuries-old objects. I think about the digital and preservation from the perspective of someone who studies the past and seeks new ways to make it accessible to scholars and the public.

So since I spend a lot of time thinking about the history of books and since so many people see the rise of the digital heralding the end of print, I thought I would start off by looking back at the earliest surviving instances of moveable type in the West.  § continue reading