Digitizing Civil Rights: An Omeka-based Pilot Digital Presence for the Queens College Civil Rights Archive

 The following chapter excerpt is from the first section of Digitization in the Real World; "Small is Beautiful: Planning and Implementing Digitization Projects with Limited Resources."  Download the entire chapter (PDF). or purchase online at Amazon.com.

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Authors

Valery Chen, Jing Si Feng, Kevin Schlottmann (Queens College, CUNY)

Abstract

QCMarchThe Queens College Civil Rights Archive of the Department of Special Collections partnered with the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies to create a pilot web presentation using the open-source Omeka platform.  Phase I of the project, conducted during the Spring 2010 semester, outlined a method for institutions of limited means to enter into the world of digitization using existing resources while highlighting the difficulties involved with metadata and IT support, and the advantages of involving graduate students. 

Introduction

In the spring of 2010, the Queens College Civil Rights Archive of the Department of Special Collections partnered with the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies to create a pilot web presentation using the open-source Omeka platform.  The synergy created between the technological skills found in the library school faculty and student body and the desire of the Civil Rights Archive to begin digitization of key holdings allowed the rapid creation of a powerful web presentation platform.  The process also outlined a method for institutions of limited means to enter into the world of digitization. 

Queens College Civil Rights Archive

The Civil Rights Archive of the Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives collects published and unpublished works relating to civil rights activities such as personal papers, community materials, organizational records, non-print materials, and artifacts. It also conducts oral histories to supplement its collections. The archive is particularly strong in materials documenting civil rights work by Queens College students during the early 1960s.  The Archive seeks to provide evidences of the under-documented Northern involvement in the civil rights movement.

The Archive was founded in late 2008 around an estimable collection of personal papers donated by alumnus Mark Levy.  Since then almost a dozen other personal collections relating to civil rights work in the 1960s have been donated by College alumni, and the Archive continues to actively collect in this area. 

Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies

The Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies prepares library/information service professionals to meet the information and literacy needs of the New York metropolitan region and beyond. It is the only American Library Association accredited program for library and information studies within the City University of New York.  The school prepares graduates to serve a broad segment of the metropolitan area’s multicultural, multiethnic and multi-lingual population in a variety of institutional and informational settings. Through research, publication and other forms of scholarly activity, the school contributes and transmits new knowledge to society and the profession.  The faculty provides opportunities for students to attain the competencies needed to participate in the evolving electronic age by providing a technologically rich teaching/learning environment. 

Project Origin

The Queens College Department of Special Collections, wherein the Civil Rights Archive is located, was acutely aware of the need for its collections to have a digital presence.  It will soon be true that archival materials that are not electronically accessible in some way, whether via an OPAC or on website, will be no better served than in a dark archive.  Given the limited resources of an urban public university, the Department had been unable to secure sufficient financial and technological support for an independent digitization project.  Head of Special Collections Dr. Ben Alexander is also teaching in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, and he approached Dr. Kwong Bor Ng to discuss a mutually beneficial way to begin the process of building a digital presence.  Drs. Ng and Alexander decided to expand the Special Collections Fellowship program, which provides archival graduate students at Queens College with a broad range of professional archival experience, to include a technology component.  Dr. Ng selected two graduate students with extensive coding skills to do the actual work of creating an Omeka presentation website.  The hope was to create a mutually beneficial arrangement: under Dr. Ng’s supervision, the two graduate students were able to gain real-world experience in building an Omeka platform, while the Civil Rights Archive was able to lay sufficient groundwork to seek grant funding in support of a larger digitization project.

Download the entire chapter (PDF) or purchase online at Amazon.com.

 References

Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. (2010). Omeka: about. Retrieved from http://omeka.org/about/

Ebellempire. (2009). Adding Lightbox to Omeka. Retrieved from http://omeka.org/codex/Adding_LightBox_to_Omeka

Digital Library of Georgia. (2009). Welcome to the Civil Rights Digital Library. Retrieved from http://crdl.usg.edu/?Welcome

Graham, S. R. & Ross, D. D. (2003). Metadata and authority control in the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive.  Journal of Internet Cataloging 6(10), 33-42.

NC ECHO. (2007).  North Carolina Dublin Core implementation guidelines.  Retrieved from http://www.ncecho.org/dig/ncdc2007.shtml

University of Southern Mississippi Special Collections. (2006). About the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive.  Retrieved from http://www.lib.usm.edu/~spcol/crda/about.htm

University of Southern Mississippi Special Collections. (2006). Guidelines for digitization.  Retrieved from http://www.lib.usm.edu/~spcol/crda/guidelines/index.html