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July 2015

On Friday 26 June I attended ‘Turning digital: delights, dangers and drama’ a digitisation seminar for the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector at the State Library of NSW.

The featured speaker was Rachel Frick from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Her presentation started with her upbringing in Nitro, West Virginia, and referenced something I have heard many times in recent years – how people from every kind of background have had formative experiences in free public libraries that were accessible by public transport. Although her talk was mostly about metadata (a topic that can cause even librarians’ eyes to glaze over) she held the audience spellbound with stories of making library, museum, gallery and even government agencies’ collections accessible to the world through a single searchable metadata store.

The DPLA is a network and a platform – a way of aggregating information about the digital resources of libraries, archives, government agencies, museums and more across the USA. Metadata about items digitised is fed into the platform, and the aggregated data can be downloaded and manipulated using an Application Program Interface (API). This allows members, or in fact anyone, to analyse the digital collections. Rachel showed examples of data visualisations that had been done using the API – the scope of material about ‘western Pennsylvania’, images using the colour ‘navy’, and an interesting one which showed the variety of permission statements used. This led to a wider discussion about the need for greater understanding of the rights inherent in digital copies of collection materials, particularly for those where the original item is in the public domain (out of copyright).


Postcard with donkeys, Cyprus

Photo by Athena Lao (7 December 2012) via Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Working donkeys, once a common sight in Cyprus, have become easier to spot on postcards than in real life. I looked at the same images during every trip to Cyprus between 1994 and 2004 – a donkey laden with baskets, or piles of dried twigs, and an elderly Cypriot walking by its side or perched on top of the load. These postcards saw better days and reflected different times, and different Cyprus. With every visit the contrast became more pronounced.