Happy 2017, Pennsylvania! This month, we present a new segment of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature. “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, as well as their insight from experience as contributors to the DPLA. This month, we are pleased to hear from Kelsey Duinkerken, Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University’s Scott Memorial Library. Check out some of Thomas Jefferson University’s collections in the DPLA!
Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role with Thomas Jefferson University’s digital collections?
Kelsey Duinkerken, Thomas Jefferson University: Of course! I have been the Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University for the last three years. With this job I have feet in both the very physical aspects of our Archives as well as the digital side, which is not only a lot of fun but gives me the opportunity to see items throughout their journey – from initial accession to description to digitization to online access, to put it simply. My involvement in our digital collections spans a number of areas. I manage all of our digitization projects, and make that material more accessible through inclusion in our institutional repository (Jefferson Digital Commons), our Instagram and Twitter accounts, our website, and, of course, the DPLA! I am also in charge of web archiving and other digital initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University.
AC: Do you have a favorite collection or two that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)
KD: I’m not sure about collection, but my favorite item would have to be the Oregon Trail journal of Harmony A. Smith. Growing up loving history (and playing Oregon Trail) it’s so neat to read about someone’s actual experience. The first half of the journal contains lecture notes from Smith’s time as a student at Jefferson Medical College, and the second half details his time on the Oregon Trail, from May 10 to July 6, 1850. He describes his experience attending a Mormon church service, visiting Salt Lake City, and celebrating the 4th of July on the trail. And for those who played the computer game, there are plenty of references to fording rivers, trading and bartering, interacting with different Indian tribes, bad weather, Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, Laramie Fort, dangerously steep hills, and broken axles! We also have a transcript available if you don’t have the time or desire to decipher the handwritten pages.
AC: How did you and your colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?
KD: I first heard about PA Digital from Doreva Belfiore at a meeting of area digital managers and was intrigued about its potential to make our collections accessible to an even wider audience. Especially once we learned that an ingest would be fairly easy from bepress to the DPLA, we were sold. We’re a fairly small repository so being involved in the DPLA helps get our name out and increase our online presence with minimal work and no extra cost for us. As I’m sure most cultural heritage institutions would agree, with limited funding and staffing, this was a perfect fit.
AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for these collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?
KD: One of our more popular collections has been our medical college yearbooks. They present a rich history of how medical education has changed and evolved over the years, not to mention style and student life. They are a particularly rich resource for the graduates themselves, family members, and genealogists. In the future we are hoping to also digitize our nursing yearbooks, but they are more difficult to scan so it may be a little while.
AC: Do you recommend any resources that were particularly helpful to you at any stage of building your digital collections, or bringing your digital collections to PA Digital?
KD: If your content is housed in bepress, be sure to reach out to your representative! They are extremely helpful for getting your content ready – whether that is changing settings on the backend or giving you tips for how to make batch edits to collections. I will also give a shout-out to the members of PA Digital! They have always been quick to respond to my questions and have provided detailed feedback to make sure our collections are ready for ingest. They have made the overall process of adding collections to the DPLA smooth and simple.
AC: Is there anything that you know now about the process of bringing collections into the DPLA that you wish you had known beforehand? What would you suggest to any colleagues who might be considering contributing to PA Digital?
KD: Start small and go for it! Unless your metadata is robust and in perfect condition, you will need to spend time making it better before it can be ingested. While this might seem overwhelming at first, you don’t need to add all of your digital content to the DPLA at once. Just start with a few collections so you can understand the process and see how it works. From there you can prepare other collections for subsequent ingests. This is the model we have followed, and it’s been very successful. We’ve contributed new content in several waves, which has made the process really manageable. If you’ve been thinking about contributing content to the DPLA, just go for it. Start with one or two collections and before you know it you’ll have a huge chunk of your content in the DPLA!
AC: Thank you so much for all your thoughts, and for your time, Kelsey!
KD: Thanks, Anastasia, it was great talking with you!