Friday, August 11, 2017

Collaborating with Digital Vendors: Going over to the dark side?

I have been approached by several vendors of digital packages over the years who were interested in including materials from the James Ford Bell Library in new digital products.  These vendors scan and package a variety of digital materials, drawn largely from archives and special collections, and then sell the packages to schools and universities.  I resisted.  Although these vendors situated the images within a well-researched historical context, something I favor over letting the images float about with a context, selling this material seemed wrong;  it should be made freely available to anyone who asks.  After two years of dithering, I changed my mind.

I realized that it might be years before this material could be scanned in-house and be made available through our own digital repository.  Participating in one of these programs would get the material out there much sooner.  Second, and I learned this during discussions with Adam Matthew Digital with whom we eventually partnered, our institution received Master TIFFS of all of the images, along with any new metadata that AMD creates for the image.  Third, we receive royalties from sales, which can help us scan more of our own material.  Yay!!!    Fourth, participating in the project did not prevent us from sharing these materials with our researchers on an individual basis;  we are only restricted from including them in a competing large-scale digital project, and we could include scans of items from the collection that we already had that were pertinent to the project;  these items would be under no restrictions, but still would be shared with a potentially broader audience through the project. And fifth, I could help shape the context in which the images were were viewed.

A colleague in another unit in the U of MN Libraries also decided to participate in a different ADM project, so we developed the contracts, procedures, and protocols together, which will now serve as a model for any future projects we or our colleagues may pursue.

The Bell Library is partnering with Adam Matthew in the "Age of Exploration" package, scheduled to be released in 2018.  If you are interested in this or other Adam Matthew Digital projects, check out their web site:

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