College's Collections Going Digital


Abigail Pile

St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow.
Gift of M. Carey Thomas.

In October 1996, the Library began work on a pilot project aimed at digitizing 100 vintage documentary photographs from the College's Collections and making them available to the Bryn Mawr community via CD-ROM. The goal of the project is at least two-fold: to increase access to the images and at the same time to enable better preservation of the original photographs.

Funded with a generous grant from the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL), work has progressed rapidly and 600 photographs have already been scanned and stored in image databases.

Many of the photographs, which are of architectural monuments in European cities, were collected by M. Carey Thomas and Mary Garrett during their travels around the turn of the century. They include a series of photographs taken at Oxford and Cambridge and used by Thomas in designing Bryn Mawr's own early buildings. Other cities documented include London, Paris, Rome, and Moscow, as well as Germanic architecture in many cities. Once scanned, the photographs are stored by city along with information such as title, photographer, and photographic process. Users will be able to view a city's entire collection or search for images matching criteria they choose, such as a specific photographer.

Completion of the first CD-ROMs will coincide with the opening of the new Rhys Carpenter Library for Art, Archaeology, and Cities and with the subsequent remodeling of classrooms in Thomas. These classrooms, equipped with computer workstations, will be ideal for the use of the CDs. Professors in departments such as Growth and Structure of Cities or History of Art will be able to borrow them from the Library, view the database on the classroom computer, and simultaneously project the images through an overhead projector for their entire class to see. Individual students and other researchers can find the CDs cataloged on Tripod and then use them in the Library by requesting them at the reference desk.

The digital workstation, which includes a Power Macintosh, flatbed scanner, and CD-recorder, is now a permanent part of Special Collections and the department is already planning further ways to use the equipment.

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