Building Digital Archives, Descriptions, and Displays: A How-to-do-it Manual for Archivists and Librarians

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Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2003 - Computers - 229 pages
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"Noted archivist and library educator Frederick Stielow provides a comprehensive guide to efficiently adding content to the Web - and to creating Web-based descriptions and finding aids that will draw surfers to the library's, museum's, or other repository's Web site that houses them. All major digital approaches and languages - SGML, XML, and EAD (Encoded Archival Description) - as well as established descriptive standards such as the Dublin Core and Open URL are covered. Options for capturing images, sounds, and video resources and automated techniques for converting optical characters are explained step-by-step. As he did is his earlier critically acclaimed Creating Virtual Libraries, Stielow provides much more than just technical guidance: he also discusses how to integrate digital archives (and their associated records) with turnkey library automation systems and provides a thorough discussion of policies regarding what to digitize and post. Here is the ideal primer for project management and the perfect general guide for managing digital archives."--Publisher's description.

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Building Digital Archives, Descriptions, and Displays: A
How-to-Do-It-Manual for Archivists and Librarians, by
Frederick Stielow. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.,
2003. 229p.
Frederick Stielow's Building Digital Archives, Descriptions,
and Displays: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Archivists and
Librarians contextualizes the role of today's librarians and
archivists engaged in digital archives, within the broad historical
evolution of the information revolution. He offers clear
direction to those pursuing online access to collections. Though
the manual is consistent with other manuals in the How-to-Do-
It-Manual series that describe a variety of applications, including
guidelines for implementation and resources for future
reference, Stielow uniquely elaborates trends and developments
in how information is transmitted throughout contemporary
cultures. Archivists and Librarians should approach
automation and digitization not simply to be doing the latest
and greatest but because the way society stores and retrieves
information is changing and so, therefore, does workflow in
cultural repositories. And perhaps most importantly this
manual demystifies digitization by explaining how any
archivist or librarian who has used a word processor can build
a digital archive.
The manual's eight chapters begin with an introduction to
the evolution of information technology and a discussion of
how to plan for digital projects including reconfiguring existing
workflow as well as how to retrospectively convert former
iterations of bibliographic control. The antecedent chapters
introduce technologies and applications in a straightforward
progression from automating finding aids to markup languages
and databases, automation systems, digital imaging, website
development, and finally maintaining and preserving digital
archives. A clear delineation is made between shallow and
deep web. Shallow web is achieved with web museums offering
overview and limited access to collections and is compared
to deep-web portals creating virtual research enviromnents. It is
up to the repository to decide whether to build a shallow or
deep web.
A salient caution throughout Stielow's manual is to temper
ambition and excitement for building digital collections (either
born or refornatted analog) with attention to solid project
management. Regarding XML, for example, Steilow advises
builders of archive and library websites to forego XML if a
computerized version of the fax machine is the goal. He
compares "flat" html presentation of finding aids to the
delivery of paper finding aids using the fax machine. The
medium is different but the mode of transmission is parallel. So
unless an archive is prepared to go beyond a moderate
transformation of the workflow, standards like XML or online
delivery of databases are best left for repositories prepared for
more complex automations. For those archives and libraries
ready and poised to consider developing digital libraries
(virtual research collections) the author identifies historic and
contemporary resources including: Anne Kenney's Digital
Imaging Tutorial, Z39.50, XML and XHTML, as well as
multiple metadata structures from Dublin Core to METS. He
also describes the roles various segments of society plays in
developing standards including government agencies like the
Library of Congress, Department of Defense, NASA and
NARA, who have created standards including OASIA, IMLS,
NDL, NDIIPP, as well as academic products like DLXS and
He writes, "Lilce the copying mission of monastery libraries
in the Dark Age, libraries are asserting a new preservation
mission, which assumes the digitization of analog treasures and
creation of web museums. But major libraries are also seeking
to assert their stewardship over new born-digital genre (ebooks,
ejournals, & web sites) and multimedia" (p. 189). Early
publishing, he says, set the precedent for the current revolution.
It took 300 years to evolve into its stable


Understanding Digitized Finding Aids
Creating Effective Web Finding Aids
Considering SGML EAD XML

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Common terms and phrases

About the author (2003)

FREDERICK J. STIELOW, Associate Professor of the School of Library and Information Science at Catholic University, is best known for his work in archives and information resources management.

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