Content, Context, and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina

Date posted: 2013-02-01

http://www2.trln.org/ccc/ Accessed 23 January, 2013.

Reviewed by Alexandra A. A. Orchard, SEIU Archivist, Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University [PDF Full Text]

Large-scale digitization motivates the Triangle Research Libraries Networks’ (TRLN) Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) project. The project’s home page expresses two goals. First, CCC seeks to increase the accessibility and thus research potential of the Long Civil Rights Movement (LCRM) as it took place in North Carolina from the 1930s through the 1980s. Second, the CCC project enables the development of workflows, standards, and practices, “provid[ing] a proof of concept for a collaborative approach to large-scale digitization.”[1] Indeed, CCC benefits both researchers and archivists, and lends itself to evaluation on two levels. First, the project may be considered as it has been developed for researchers, that is, digitizing LCRM materials and enhancing accessibility. Second, the project may be evaluated on a meta-level for archivists, as a case study in large-scale digitization. Work on CCC began in summer 2011, and continues through 2014; thus it is still in progress, and this review only discusses its current state as of January 2013.

CCC’s mass quantities of digitized LCRM materials result in Search TRLN (TRLN’s single search interface that retrieves results from all TRLN participating libraries) acting as a central linkage system. Search TRLN reveals a multitude of relationships between record creators, holding institutions, and the records themselves. In addition to these important relationship links between LCRM content and its creators, Search TRLN provides users with free access to all of the digitized LCRM content in the CCC project.

On a meta-level, CCC also succeeds in providing extensive documentation, revealing the relationships between its data, implementation guidelines, and practices. Indeed, it is through the inclusion of this multitude of project metadata that CCC fully embraces the archivist as DJ concept.[2] CCC’s website proffers multiple tracks of large-scale digitization information, allowing the archivist to read about and engage with the information found in these tracks individually, within the Content, Context, and Capacity tabs on the CCC website. Here the archivist may garner a full understanding of the project from a high level, such as the intellectual property strategy, to the digitization progress of individual collections, all the way to a low level understanding of the mechanics of how to create the graph that TRLN created to display their digitization progress. When TRLN puts the needle on the record, spinning all these tracks at once, the result is the CCC project. Providing such detailed records facilitates other archivists in the implementation of their own large-scale digitization projects.

CCC is less successful, however, when the project itself attempts to adopt the archivist as DJ concept. While the user is able to access all the digitized LCRM content through the CCC website and Search TRLN, the user experience of viewing this content varies based on the institution which holds the physical original of the digitized content. While this may not generate confusion in the user who accesses the digitized content while visiting an individual, siloed TRLN membership institution, it may be jarring for a user who seeks content from a centralized location such as Search TRLN. However, as previously noted, the project is still in process, and perhaps as TRLN continues to work toward its goal of “develop[ing] shared standards and practices for large-scale digitization among the TRLN Libraries,” interface design, particularly that of the image viewer, will become more streamlined.

While CCC has nearly another two years before the project is fully realized, it already serves as an intriguing and successful case study in large-scale digitization. The project provides exhaustive documentation details, through which it successfully tells its story through a series of informational tracks, which when put together create a content community that describes its process. Similarly, the LCRM content, whose accessibility and research potential TRLN’s CCC project seeks to enhance, is off to an excellent start. Subject-related digitized LCRM content is retrieved together regardless of physical location, connecting and effectively sharing the records’ story within its own archival content community; although, the presentation of the display tool and other aspects of the user experience would benefit from enhancement and consistency. Overall, the project succeeds for both researchers and archivists, making it an exciting and engaging resource to track.

[1] https://lcrm.lib.unc.edu/blog/index.php/2011/09/08/announcing-content-context-and-capacity-a-collaborative-large-scale-digitization-project-on-the-long-civil-rights-movement-in-north-carolina/ (para 4)

[2] Jon Voss discussed the “DJ as archivist” concept in his SAA 2012 plenary speech.

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