Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oxford Ephemera

Electronic Ephemera: digitized selections from the John Johnson Collection

The project

By their very nature, many of the items contained in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera were intended to be short-lived and disposable, and it was only because of the vision and dedication of John de Monins Johnson and his supporters that so many have been preserved to provide the unique record that survives today. Funded through the JISC Digitisation Programme, this innovative joint enterprise between the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford and ProQuest CSA will result in the digitisation of more than 65,000 complete items (well in excess of 150,000 images) from the John Johnson Collection and so provide a unique insight into our nation’s past. The Collection offers direct access to rare primary source materials and evidence of our cultural, social, industrial, and technological histories. It is particularly valuable to anyone interested in the everyday lives of ordinary citizens.

These lost treasures of everyday life will be digitised to the highest standards and made freely available to all teachers and researchers working in the UK’s HE and FE sectors, and to the general population via the 32,000 supported terminals in the UK’s 4,200 public libraries. Moreover, the rigorous and extensive metadata that will be specially created to accompany these digital objects will be searchable by anyone with access to the Internet. Until now, it has only been possible to make these materials available to a relatively small number of scholars owing to both geographical and physical constraints, and the fragility of many of the materials themselves which makes browsing the material a slow and often unwieldy process. The creation of expertly described, high-quality digital surrogates will expose these hidden resources to a far wider audience than could ever be achieved via any other means, and enable readers to find what they are looking for much more quickly and to work simultaneously on the same items.

The Electronic Ephemera project will take place between 2007 and 2009, and it is anticipated that images and associated metadata will start to become available through ProQuest's delivery platform by the end of the first year. Meanwhile, core documentation, including the working plan, progress summaries and the final report, will be posted on this page during the course of the project.

The content

In excess of 65,000 items will be expertly digitised in their entirety as a result of this project, which will result in more than 150,000 images and associated OCR data. Five major areas of the Collection will become freely available to the UK HE and FE sectors, namely:

19th century entertainment material: falls into two distinct groups: theatre material and non-theatrical entertainment material. Both categories of material provide a wealth of insights into 19th century leisure activities, popular and high culture (especially the performing arts) and the development of different types of entertainment.

Booktrade material: examples include publishing material (e.g. prospectuses of books and journals) and bookplates. The former items will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the publishing industry; the latter will prove invaluable to those interested in the provenance of books, or in design history.

Noteheadings and Popular prints: these items provide a record of locations and landscapes, architecture, and popular tastes for artistic works and humour.

Crime, Murders, and Executions: these resources give insights into the judicial system and its punishments, notably the application of the death penalty and of transportation. The Murders and Executions broadsides are currently much used for a variety of research.

Advertising: social and economic historians, historians of popular culture, trades and industries, students of typographic design and many others will find that these items provide an invaluable insight into the past.

The process

Digitisation will be carried out by a dedicated production company, Capita Total Document Solutions, in collaboration with ProQuest CSA, who have extensive experience of delivering scholarly historical resources over the web. Cataloguing of the digital surrogates will be undertaken by the specialist staff based at the Bodleian Library. They can draw on the extensive network of expertise, training, and systems support that forms a fundamental component of the library’s role as both a Library of Legal Deposit, and the UK HE sector’s largest and most sophisticated library service. Metadata will initially be captured in a dedicated bibliographic database that has been specifically configured to support the complex requirements of the John Johnson Collection, while offering full support for the extensive and detailed description of digital objects. The web-based application that will allow users full access to the metadata and enable the display and download of the images will be developed and hosted by ProQuest CSA.

University of Oxford’s Electronic Ephemera - Google Search

Sun EduConnection Newsletter: November 2007, Oxford Preserves Rich History with Sun-Powered Digital Library: "As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford is a rich blend of old and new. Its main library, the Bodleian Library, was established by Sir Thomas Bodley over 400 years ago and serves as the United Kingdom's library of record, similar to the U.S. Library of Congress. Oxford's permanent collection includes some of the oldest and most valuable manuscripts in existence.

At the same time, Oxford is at the forefront of digital technology. The library maintains an extensive collection of digital media such as electronic journals and e-books. Much of its historical collection is made available to scholars as electronic 'surrogates' to improve access and to prevent wear and tear on priceless original manuscripts. Oxford collaborates with Google and other Web 2.0 enterprises to incorporate technologies such as search and digital archiving."

eWEEK's Top 10 Storage Stories of 2008: "eWEEK Senior Writer Chris Preimesberger ranks the top 10 storage stories of the year. Online backup, private cloud systems and vastly improved overall capacity for disks, flash memory, and even tape all make the list for 2008."


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