Legacy collections: piling on the content

Last year, a friend of mine gave me several dozen CDs that he did not want to store and take care of any more. Most were albums and artists that I liked and might have bought anyway, but his large, one-time donation saved me that time and expense, and obviously caused my music collection to grow.

To date, a majority of DLS projects have involved reformatting physical library materials to digital, and building new collections one-by-one. While this is an important task for making sought-after materials available online for the first time, DLS is most excited when approached by another department or organization with a large collection of digital content in-hand. These legacy collections consist of previously digitized materials, or are born-digital in the case of digital photographs and electronic texts. In any case, the donor, like my benevolent friend, usually does not want to devote time and energy to storing and administering the content.

Since a primary strategic goal of DLS is to develop a full range of digital resources, and make them available online, we actively seek out these legacy collections. When this collection comes with corresponding metadata relating to the content, it becomes even more valuable to DLS and the Iowa Digital Library. Although, that’s not to say it requires no effort to add to the digital collections already managed by the department. Often, file names need to be altered and metadata “massaged” to match our standards. Editing the materials can take many hours of work, but in the end, many more valuable items can be made publicly available for research and scholarship much sooner than with one-by-one digitization.

Our first experience with these collections came in the form of the Calvin Photographic Collection, nearly 1000 photographs of early Iowa City as well as geological formations across the country, given by the Department of Geosciences, which is still a repository of the original glass plate negatives, but partnered with DLS to make the images available online in perpetuity. Currently, DLS is tweaking several more legacy collections numbering in the tens of thousands. Look for announcements on the blog when these become available.

–Mark F. Anderson
Digital Initiatives Librarian