Monday, January 30, 2017

Digitize This!

by Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

Who doesn’t love a good digital collection? It’s just so handy having everything right there at your fingertips instead of having to schlep all over creation to track it down.  Why isn’t everything digitized? Well, for one thing, it takes a whole lot more effort than you think.

Way back in 2015, the folks from the Corning Museum of Glass’s Rakow Library approached me about digitizing the Thatcher GlassManufacturing Company Collection. From 1905 to 1985, the company produced milk, beer, and juice bottles, as well as other food containers right here in Elmira. Our collection includes bottle and container designs, company newsletters, advertising, annual reports, financial reports, correspondence regarding corporate lobbying, and other administrative records. If you’re into the history of bottles or glass or manufacturing or labor or environmental lobbying, this is the collection for you. I was excited at the prospect of digitizing it, but I knew from experience it would be a job of work, and one which would keep me from my usual duties. We decided to apply for a $10,000 grant from the South Central Regional Library Council so we could hire someone to help with the project. In the spring of 2016, we received $5,000 and off we went.
 Contrary to popular belief, the first step in any digitization project is not scanning: it’s planning. Since we only received half of the money we requested, we needed to prioritize which parts of the collection would be digitized. We decided to start with the 3.5 linear feet of bottle designs, then move on to company newsletters, and finish with as much promotional material as we could until the funds ran out.



Priority 1 - bottle and jar designs
Priority 2 - Company newsletters

Priority 3 - Advertising and promotional material

Next, we had to figure out metadata. For those of you who aren’t professional librarians, metadata is information about an image. The right metadata can not only let viewers know what they are looking at, it can also make it easier to find that image in the first place. The trick is figuring out the right metadata for the project. When we collaborated with the Chemung County Library District on a digital collection of historic flood photos our metadata fields included photographer, location, date, and flood. Since those fields wouldn’t work for the Thatcher bottle designs, we settled on project number, client, bottle type, designer, and date(s) of creation.

With our plan in one hand and a big wad of cash in the other, we hired Corning Community College student, Christina to do all the scanning and data entry. She got started working back in December and has already fully digitized 570 items. At this rate we will be on schedule to have the collection on-line by this time next year.

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