Kylie Harris 2014-02-12 14:25:27
The Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform provides centralized access to archival resources documenting the aqueduct and serves as a platform for scholars to share engaging research to further contextualize the aqueduct’s history. Many California cultural heritage institutions worked tirelessly on digitization projects, educational programming, and water resources research to commemorate the centennial on November 5, 2013, of the Los Angeles Aqueduct’s opening. These projects aimed to increase discoverability of records that document the aqueduct’s history and impact, as well as to highlight the future of water conservation. The Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Library Special Collections (LSC) developed the Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform (LAADP) for two primary purposes: to provide centralized access to archival resources that document the aqueduct and to act as a platform for scholars to share research that contextualizes the aqueduct’s history. The site currently hosts digitized resources from LSC, and it will soon include digital content from six institutional partners that participated in related digitization projects. Prior to the commencement of these digitization projects, most of these materials were inaccessible to the general public and the scholarly community. Integrating the resources of these six partner institutions into the LAADP will allow LSC to provide the research community with unprecedented, centralized access to thousands of archival materials relevant to water resources in Southern California. In a departure from typical digitization projects, UCLA took an innovative approach to developing this platform by asking scholars in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), a program within LSC, to create original scholarship that contextualizes the Los Angeles Aqueduct through the lens of their own academic disciplines. During the summer quarter, Sara Torres, a PhD candidate in English, and Matthias Stork, a PhD candidate in cinema and media studies, used archival resources from UCLA’s holdings to create projects based on their scholastic interests, including photo essays on construction and American history, civic resistance to the aqueduct, and a video essay on history and myth in Roman Polanski’s film Chinatown, which documents California’s water wars. Current CFPRT scholars are also creating tertiary resources, such as maps, timelines, and annotated bibliographies. Future iterations of the site will encourage community involvement through an interactive component. Developing the Platform As a library and information science student at UCLA, I was immediately drawn to the LAADP project. I specialized in archival studies, so the opportunity to work on such an interesting and monumental digitization project and provide access to essential archival materials was a pivotal experience. As the digitization scholar in the CFPRT, I managed the digitization elements of the project. During this twelve-week position, my main responsibilities were to conduct a comprehensive survey of materials potentially relevant to the aqueduct, develop a digitization workflow for the project, digitize and create metadata for priority materials, and establish protocols for quality control. During my first week on the LAADP team, LAADP Project Manager Jasmine Jones shared with me a compilation of resources to build my knowledge of digitization projects, including case studies from other institutions, digitization guidelines, and metadata standards. One of the most useful of these resources was “From Investigation to Implementation: Building a Program for the Large-Scale Digitization of Manuscripts,” developed by University of North Carolina Southern Historical Collection. This helpful resource included documentation of the project they developed. Many institutions are facing the same challenges with digitization projects, and sharing these resources allows institutions to learn from each other so they don’t reinvent the wheel for each project. During this first week I also surveyed collections that potentially had relevant materials based on a list Jones developed after performing a keyword search of LSC’s finding aids on the Online Archive of California. I selected and inventoried materials using a decision matrix that Jones created based on a model implemented by UNC. We prioritized collections based on a number of criteria, namely whether the collection had visual materials and the dates of a collection’s creation. I also met with the rest of the LAADP project team to discuss our work. This conversation gave me an idea of what materials and collections could potentially be used for their scholarship projects. While I surveyed archival materials throughout the first half of the summer, I shared the items I thought might be of interest to them. As they reviewed those materials, they flagged items they wanted to use. We prioritized those materials in our digitization plan to ensure they would be digitized and described in time for the release of the platform. The Digitization Workflow Throughout the summer, I developed and implemented a digitization workflow to efficiently digitize the vast quantity of items in time for the release of the platform in November. I then began scanning and creating metadata for the aqueduct-related materials. Based on a cost-benefit analysis, we decided to digitize all the items in house using Epson flatbed scanners for the majority of the materials and a Canon digital camera for oversized items. Due to time constraints, I captured the most basic required metadata elements in Excel spreadsheets as I scanned (CFPRT Digital Initiatives Scholar Julie Kalmar worked to augment that metadata). To increase productivity, I also trained an undergraduate student to assist in scanning and creating basic metadata. Quality control efforts would have to be efficient given the large quantity of materials being digitized and mounted online in such a small window of time, so I developed a training guide for the intern and a spreadsheet to easily monitor quality control efforts. Within four months, the project team digitized and created metadata for resources from fifteen collections, spanning upward of 1,200 archival objects and more than 4,000 pages. Throughout this work, the project team collaborated with a number of UCLA librarians and archivists in Special Collections, as well as in the Digital Library Program and the Cataloging and Metadata Center. This collaboration was essential to the project to ensure our work adhered to best practices and national standards, as well as local practices. Looking to the Future UCLA Library Special Collections is working to increase its capacity to facilitate large-scale digitization projects. These projects call for efficiency, standardization, and established procedures that can be repurposed for other projects. The LAADP project worked as a case study for LSC’s future digitization projects. Working on the LAADP project provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn about and gain experience with digitization projects. Being able to develop a digitization workflow for this large-scale project and participate in making such significant archival materials related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct accessible to the public was extremely beneficial to my development as an archives professional.
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