CHARTing our Course: Digitizing Brooklyn’s Visual History, a Collaborative Project

Demonstration
Leah Loscutoff, USA , Caridad Bojorquez, USA, Brandi Copher, USA

Project CHART (Cultural Heritage, Access, Research and Technology) provides the next generation of information professionals with the skills needed to be effective digital project managers and curators for digital collections within cultural institutions. This demonstration will discuss the project’s approach in combining multiple asset management systems in an open source Drupal environment and exhibit how these cultural institutions display their content cohesively, while maintaining their individuality and the ownership and control of materials.

Project CHART, funded by an IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant, is a collaborative effort of Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science (SILS), the Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Public Library. The project’s focus aligns with the goals of the IMLS on building digitally inclusive communities. CHART participants digitize historic images of Brooklyn in order to make them accessible to broad and varied audiences during year-long internships that are combined with a new Pratt curriculum focused on digital management for cultural heritage. This program specifically recruits a diverse pool of interns and allows students to delve into digital archives, social media strategy, digitization, and digital preservation. The interns work alongside institutional staff to develop the project’s shared website, http://www.brooklynvisualheritage.org, a cohesive online digital gallery that allows user access to all of this rich visual information, unifying collections without requiring the partners to rework their already established workflows, and institutional goals. The website is under active development, and will be completed in the spring of 2013.

This demonstration will focus on the managerial and technical processes that allow CHART to create a single online digital gallery across three distinctive institutional environments without disrupting pre-existing workflows. A central challenge of this project is the sharing of resources and melding of environments between the partners. Many collaborative digitization projects have one large institution at the forefront that provides infrastructure and leads smaller institutions in a partnership, but with this collaboration all three partners have maintained a high level of autonomy in that each institution continues to use a different metadata scheme, different digital repository, and displays its digital material in its own way. In addition, the project work is being carried out by students in the internship program, allowing them to develop these hands-on skills for professional development and educational purposes.

The technical aspects and workflow of the project will be highlighted in the demonstration. While the collaborating institutions have thematically similar photographic and visual materials, their IT infrastructure, workflows, and procedures vary. Bringing these collections together into one image portal is a great step toward furthering public access and use of these materials. CHART is balancing institutional independence and collocation of content through the Brooklyn Visual Heritage website.