(Read and View English & American Literature)
Project REVEAL has been a year-long project designed with the three-fold purpose of increasing access to the Ransom Center's manuscript and archival resources, enhancing the online user experience for the Center's researchers, and creating workflows and institutional best practices for future large-scale digitization projects at the Center. Over the past year, 25 manuscript collections of some of the best-known names from American and English literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been digitized in their entirety and made available online via the Center's digital collections portal.
The Writers of Project REVEAL
A primary goal of Project REVEAL was to increase access to a selection of the Center's manuscript collections by digitizing entire literature collections believed to be in the public domain, recycling descriptive metadata from finding aids containing item-level metadata, and delivering this content online via the Center's CONTENTdm site. This approach of digitizing collections in their entirety, rather than selecting and digitizing only the exceptional documents, is a departure in practice for the Ransom Center, and one that we believe has created more efficient workflows and, in turn, has produced an increased quantity of available content for our users.
Enhancing the User Experience
Another goal of Project REVEAL was to create a stronger connection between the manuscript collections and their digital surrogates. To do this, we started with the metadata. For each REVEAL collection, we mined the rich item-level descriptive information from the finding aids (finding aids are tools that describe the contents of archival and manuscripts collections) and repurposed that data to construct cataloging records for each digital object using the Dublin Core Schema. We also arranged the objects within each digital collection in the same order that the original processing archivist used to arrange and describe the physical collection. To provide an enhanced visual experience within the finding aids, we employed an open source tool called FancyBox to link finding aids to the REVEAL digital collections using a virtual light box display. This makes it possible for users to easily have a quick preview of what a collection contains before diving in.
Example finding aid: Thomas Hardy
Project REVEAL provided the Center's staff with the opportunity to refine and test digitization capacity and other production workflows. During the initial selection stage of the project, manuscript collections were considered for inclusion based upon several criteria, including theme: nineteenth and twentieth century American and English writers; rich metadata: each collection had to have been cataloged at the item-level; and openness: be free of any known copyright restrictions. Once the 25 collections were selected, each collection was assessed in order to determine the best method of digitization and to identify any parts of the collection that required special handling or conservation treatment. Each collection also underwent a page count. This activity was time consuming on the front end but proved worthwhile overall as it allowed the project team to budget time and to have the ability to plan in advance and to anticipate when the digitization for individual collections would be complete. Other workflows developed as part of this project include the conversion of finding aid metadata into Dublin Core compliant records, the creation of a scalable file naming convention that correlated to the Box/Folder/Item arrangement of archival collections, and the development of a scalable method for researching and identifying manuscript content believed to be in the public domain.
The mission of the Harry Ransom Center is to advance the study of the arts and humanities; Project REVEAL contributes to this mission by delivering the fully digitized collections online of many significant writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century to its users. As part of this project, 24,842 image files of collection material were generated with 22,739 of these files made available for use, by anyone, without restriction or fees. Project REVEAL has concluded, but the Center will continue to develop new projects to connect students, scholars, and the general public with its wealth of collection material.
Project REVEAL staff:
Liz Gushee – project director
Kristin Law – project manager
Joan Sibley – project advisor
Heather Hughes – scanning technician
Ann Merkle – scanning technician
Thank you to Susan Floyd, Heather Hamilton, Chris Jahnke, Ancelyn Krivak, Emma Martin, Olivia Primanis, Rich Oram, Rachel Panella, Pete Smith, Alan Van Dyke, Rick Watson, Rachel Winston, Antoinette Yost, and Daniel Zmud for their contributions to Project REVEAL.
The Harry Ransom Center is grateful to an anonymous donor for making Project REVEAL possible.