Major museums and libraries have much to offer their colleagues at smaller heritage groups in terms of technical assistance and access to important collections of archival materials. While smaller heritage groups--museums and historical societies in neighborhoods, suburbs and rural areas--may not have expertise to share, they typically hold important collections that complement those of the larger institutions.
At the beginning of the 21st century, major institutions and community-based organizations face similar challenges: each has important primary research materials; each has demand from students, educators and lifelong learners for convenient access to these materials; and each lacks resources to meet the demand. An efficient solution to this problem would utilize technology to provide access to each organization's important collections, create a sustainable means of enhancing metadata through training of community volunteers, and would go one step further to create a means of simultaneously accessing an assortment of collections that relate to a metropolitan area and its surrounding suburbs and rural communities. This final step would help museums, libraries and smaller heritage groups take a leadership role in serving the public by providing a comprehensive resource for learning about the history of the region.
King County, Washington of which Seattle is the county seat, is a geographically diverse county comprised of dense urban areas on the shores of Puget Sound, affluent suburbs east of Lake Washington, rural farming communities farther east in fertile river valleys, and remote towns in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Like many metropolitan areas in the United States, Seattle and surrounding communities have experienced tremendous growth in the decades since World War II. The population of King County has grown from 504,980 in 1940 to 1,507,319 in 1990, and 1,737,034 in 2000. (US Census)
The history of Seattle (settled in 1851) and King County (founded in 1852) is remarkably well documented in photographs. In the Seattle and King County area, the leading private heritage organization is the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI). Only a small portion of MOHAI's collection of 1.2 million historic images is accessible via the web (http://www.mohai.org/). The University of Washington (UW), which is also located in Seattle, and is Washington's largest educational institution, has posted online thousands of images--only a small percentage of the total--from its Special Collections division (http://content.lib.washington.edu). Though these online collections represent a tiny fraction of each institutions' holdings, the rich use of metadata by both MOHAI and the UW have made their respective Web sites a valuable, if somewhat limited, resource to researchers, students and lifelong learners.
While the MOHAI and UW images reveal much of Seattle and King County's history, the REM Project of 1997 (http://www.bcc.ctc.edu/cpsha/myweb/) identified numerous additional collections held by smaller historical societies and museums around King County. These collections contain critical pieces of information that complement the MOHAI and UW collections, and fill in geographic, ethnic and subject matter gaps in local history. Some of these organizations are unknown outside of their immediate communities. Many of the collections held by smaller groups are stored in private buildings, and are accessible to only the most determined scholars. Even the ones that are better known are often hampered by the short hours, and insufficient collection display space that characterize most small local history organizations. Many collections are in danger of deterioration, and many groups are run by aging volunteers in possession of knowledge at risk of being lost forever. The groups want to address preservation and access issues, but lack the resources necessary to do so. Most are members of the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO), a group for whom MOHAI has provided various forms of technical assistance for many years. MOHAI has also successfully worked with the University of Washington before on history and research related projects. The majority of these small organizations have never worked with the University, nor have all of these groups ever worked together in a concerted effort.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries proposes creation of a community-based partnership that will result in separate online searchable databases of images and metadata for MOHAI, UW and each of ten AKCHO-member organizations in the Seattle/King County area. Each organization will maintain ownership and control of their images. Each organization will create, with an appropriate amount of help, its own Web site and searchable database of its images. However, the entire collection of Web sites will also have its own "super Web site," a comprehensive online photo research collection for a single metropolitan area, where scholars, K-20 students and lifelong learners will be able to access all these databases in a single search.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries will create a training program to enable AKCHO-member group staff and volunteers to learn how to research and create metadata. Other MOHAI and UW staff and Advisory Committee members will develop training materials for issues such as image selection for digital projects, copyright and intellectual property, and choosing a fulfillment house or e-commerce solution. The project will utilize CONTENTdm, a multimedia database management system developed by the University of Washington Center for Information Systems Optimization (CISO) and provided to each participating group at no cost.
Specific project goals for Crossing Organizational Boundaries are to:
Groups who have agreed to participate in this project and have committed to its success represent a broad cross-section of both geographic (see map), subject matter and ethnic diversity. Participants include:
Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Seattle, WA
Over a two-year period, MOHAI and UW staff will work with temporary staff funded by this proposal to select, scan and create LC metadata for 12,000 images (approximately 4,000 from MOHAI, 4,000 from UW and 4,000 total from AKCHO member collections). All images chosen will be of King County, creating a valuable resource documenting the change and variety of the region. Examples of materials from the various participants' collections that will be included as part of Crossing Organizational Boundaries include:
This group of images will be made accessible via the Internet, with varying amounts of metadata. The metadata will grow richer over time, as volunteers and permanent staff conduct additional research and add more information to their individual databases (with quality control and approval of trained staff). By training staff members and/or volunteers from each participating AKCHO group to do the necessary research, and providing continuing professional oversight and quality control, Crossing Organizational Boundaries will spread valuable research skills around the Seattle/King County region. Further, by providing CONTENTdm database software, web design and permanent server space to AKCHO groups, the project will result in a consistent user interface for a comprehensive photo and metadata online database, giving researchers, educators, K-20 students and lifelong learners unprecedented access to primary research materials about Seattle and King County.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries will have far-reaching national impact by creating a model whereby a large private museum and a large public university (both with professional staff) partner to provide technical assistance and services to a large assortment of small heritage organizations and community museums. Specifically, Crossing Organizational Boundaries will transfer skills in research, image selection and metadata creation from two large professional organizations to small heritage organizations in the neighborhoods, suburbs and rural areas in and surrounding Seattle.
Digitization is an issue facing museums and libraries of all sizes everywhere at the dawn of the 21st century--each is wrestling with the logistics and the costs of selecting images, creating metadata and posting both on the Internet. Crossing Organizational Boundaries proposes a creative solution that digitizes inaccessible collections held by small groups and trains volunteers to create accompanying metadata. These collections are then placed in context with images and metadata from large institutions, creating a region-wide collection with wide accessibility, and raising the profile of every participating organization.
This project will result in creation of a model and training materials that could be of use anywhere in the United States. Small museums and historical societies will learn about every step involved in digitization, including image selection; working with scanning companies; and creating metadata to national standards. Trainings will also address issues surrounding sale of image licenses and prints.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries will create a national standards-based model readily adapted to other communities in the United States. Many metropolitan areas have similar hierarchies in place--one or two large professional heritage organizations with large collections, a major university with large collections, and small, mostly volunteer-run historical societies and museums in the surrounding neighborhoods, suburbs and rural areas with critical primary materials not held by the large institution or the university. Every community with this basic "ecology" of collecting organizations could adapt the Crossing Organizational Boundaries model to meet their specific needs and produce a comprehensive database of images and information. The results of this project, particularly the training materials, Web sites and underlying database software, will all have application in these communities.
The design of Crossing Organizational Boundaries maximizes the resources and expertise of MOHAI and the UW, uses IMLS funds to hire temporary project staff and consultants, and harnesses the power of dozens of volunteers at heritage organizations around Seattle and King County by giving them the skills necessary to create metadata and the resources necessary to participate in bulk scanning. This proposal represents an efficient use of IMLS funds to create a cost-effective means of creating public access to 12,000 historical images and their accompanying metadata.
The AKCHO member groups have the images, but lack the expertise and resources to provide wide access. MOHAI and UW have the expertise in metadata and national standards; the specialized CONTENTdm software and the server space, but lack the staff time to coordinate this project and lack the resources to fund the scanning. Each collection involved in Crossing Organizational Boundaries will continue to be held by its respective owner, yet all collections will be searchable as a whole. Use of CONTENTdm software enables posting of "works-in-progress"--images with only basic metadata--allowing more comprehensive metadata to be input, and immediately searched on, later. It also allows new images to be added at any time during or after the project, with immediate access to all.
The lead organization in this project is the Museum of History & Industry. The Co-Principal Investigator for MOHAI is Mary Montgomery, Associate Curator/Librarian. The Co-Principal Investigator for the University of Washington Libraries is Kody Janney, Digital Initiatives Coordinator. The Project Manager is Rachel Howard, who has been hired by MOHAI for the duration of the project.
The Project Manager will serve as liaison between MOHAI staff, UW staff and AKCHO-member groups. The Project Manager will also supervise the temporary research staff (Metadata Specialists) hired for this project. The Project Manager will work with permanent MOHAI and UW staff to coordinate project development, AKCHO trainings, on-site scanning and overall project quality control.
Fiscal oversight for the duration of the project will be the responsibility of MOHAI's Chief Financial Officer.
Scanning will be performed by Conservation Imaging Systems, an experienced local vendor with a proven track record chosen by competitive process in a preliminary round of bid review conducted for this grant proposal. Conservation Imaging Systems is a full service digital production facility with both on and off-site capabilities. Their parent company, Digicolor, is currently operating a scanning facility at the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Current projects include scanning a selection of approximately 100 atlases dating back to the 1400s, as well as a large collection of flat sheet maps. Tom Martin, Principal, Conservation Imaging Systems, has been involved with the Library of Congress in an advisory position since the beginning of the National Digital Library Project, working primarily with the Geography and Map Division. Conservation Imaging Systems is scanning directly from original materials using equipment that meets the strictest handling requirements of the conservation departments. Other institutions to whom the firm is currently providing services include Museum of Natural History (New York); Peabody Essex Museum; Mystic Seaport; New York Botanical Gardens; Maritime Museum (London); Museum of Flight (Seattle); and the Moscow State Historical Museum.
MOHAI and UW Libraries have individually and jointly completed major digitization projects in the past. The URLs below demonstrate successful projects:
UW and MOHAI staff experienced with complex programs and image digitization projects developed the project budget. Crossing Organizational Boundaries aims to make the most of cash support and cost sharing in the form of in-kind resources and volunteer labor (in the form of research work done by volunteers from AKCHO member groups). IMLS funds are sought specifically in support of temporary personnel and contract services (scanning and system administration).
The cost for scanning 12,000 images is based on a preliminary bid from Conservation Imaging Systems. Conservation Imaging Systems was selected based on price, qualifications and experience. Fees for a web design consultant are based on local going rates; selection of consultant will be by competitive bid. Fees for a system administration consultant are based on local going rates; selection of consultant will be by competitive bid.
A substantial level of matching contribution accompanies this request, slightly in excess of 1:1. Both MOHAI and the UW have pledged resources and time of key staff. Each informal partner (the AKCHO member groups) has committed the time necessary to select images, to attend workshops to learn how to generate metadata, and to create metadata for the online database during the project period and beyond.
Specific contributions are as follows:
Crossing Organizational Boundaries will draw upon the expertise of local authorities on history, photographic collections and image digitization for the Project Team and for the Advisory Committee.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries will be evaluated in terms of initial, intermediate and longer-term outcomes. Project staff will utilize the evaluation model described by Peggy D. Rudd in her IMLS-published article Documenting the Difference: Demonstrating the Value of Libraries Through Outcome Measurement to measure not what is accomplished, but instead, what changed for the multiple stakeholders identified in this proposal as a result of Crossing Organizational Boundaries.
Our evaluation will consist of both quantitative and qualitative measures of select criteria, taken periodically over the life of the project (and beyond the two-year funding). While we will not measure every aspect of the project, we have chosen the following key areas that correspond to our project goals:
We will also periodically evaluate the "outcomes" of our evaluations-so that the data we collect and reports we create are useful to us and to our stakeholders as we progress through the project. All data collected will be compiled in a final written report that will be posted on the project Web site.
As a web-based project, the ongoing activities of Crossing Organizational Boundaries will be widely available beginning in spring 2002. The project Web site will include a "Progress Report" section providing timely information about the project. The project partners will utilize a variety of media to inform the museum, library and heritage communities about Crossing Organizational Boundaries throughout the life of the project and beyond. The Museum of History & Industry and the University of Washington Libraries will present findings at local and regional conferences. Co-Principal Investigators will write papers for submission to publications such as RGL DigiNews. We will submit information to general web search databases and directories, as well as subject specific and academic ones (Pacific Northwest, history, digital image, etc.). Examples of specific Web sites include ARL Digital Initiatives Database; Clearinghouse of Image Databases; Academic Info; UNESCO-IFLA; SunSITE, Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web; and Digital Libraries Federation newsletter.
Key staff will give talks at national conferences such as American Association for State & Local History, American Association of Museums, American Library Association, Digital Library Federation, and ACRL. Key staff will also give ongoing progress reports at local and regional museum and library conferences, including the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild (held annually at MOHAI), the Pacific Northwest History Conference; state SLA; and ASIS&T. We will also seek to publish in appropriate professional and subject journals, such as D-Lib and ALA.
Use of the database as a curriculum tool will be explored with participants in MOHAI's Teachers Institute in Pacific Northwest History, an annual conference for K-12 educators held at the museum. Specific curriculum materials may be developed with support from the King County Landmarks & Heritage Commission in ensuing years.
MOHAI and UW will issue joint press releases to highlight project milestones, and invite print and electronic media to learn more about the project and produce feature stories for newspapers, magazines, Web sites, radio and TV. A web site (http://www.crossingboundaries.org) will be produced which documents the project's progress.
Crossing Organizational Boundaries is designed to live beyond the two-year project period. Training in metadata development for AKCHO member groups, with materials funded by IMLS and developed during the project, will continue on an annual basis as part of MOHAI's yearly plan of work. The training Web site will be maintained as a part of the project. Metadata for images scanned and posted during the project period will continue to be enhanced as more information becomes available. The University of Washington will permanently host individual Web sites and the databases for each AKCHO member group. Additional funding will be sought from non-Federal sources, foundations and corporations to scan and post additional images from MOHAI, UW and AKCHO collections. MOHAI and UW staff will continue to make themselves available to provide technical assistance to AKCHO member groups. There will also be broad access to project findings via the Internet and other means of dissemination (see above).
The sustainability of Crossing Organizational Boundaries may be further enhanced in ensuing years with support from other donors (King County Landmarks & Heritage Commission, Seattle Public Schools, corporate and individual donors and foundations) to develop curriculum, consistent with Washington States Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), for use with the database, and to fund scanning of additional images. Also, there is potential for each partner to realize increased (or new) revenue from sales of prints and/or licensing of images and direct that revenue toward costs of additional scanning. Management of photo sales and licensing (including copyright protection, permission rights, deciding whether photo sales and image licensing makes sense for a particular organization, and selecting means of order fulfillment) will be covered in detail in the project workshops.