[Web4lib] Low Cost Digitization of Manuscript Collections

Jody DeRidder jody at jodyderidder.com
Tue Mar 1 21:00:40 EST 2011

(Apologies for cross posting)

For Immediate Release
Contact Person:  Jody L. DeRidder
Email: jlderidder at ua.edu
Phone: (205) 348-0511

Completed UA Libraries Grant Project Provides Model for Low-Cost
Digitization of Cultural Heritage Materials

The University of Alabama Libraries has completed a grant project which
demonstrates a model of low-cost digitization and web delivery of
manuscript materials.  Funded by the National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA) National Historical Publications and Records
Commission (NHPRC), the project digitized a large and nationally important
manuscript collection related to the emancipation of slaves:  the Septimus
D. Cabaniss Papers.  This digitization grant (NAR10-RD-10033-10) extended
for 14 months (ended February 2011), and has provided online access to
46,663 images for less than $1.50 per page:

The model is designed to enable institutions to mass-digitize manuscript
collections at a minimal cost, leveraging the extensive series
descriptions already available in the collection finding aid to provide
search and retrieval.  Digitized content for the collection is linked from
the finding aid, providing online access to 31.8 linear feet of valuable
archival material that otherwise would never be web-available.  We have
developed software and workflows to support the process and web delivery
of material regardless of the current method of finding aid access.  More
information is available on the grant website:
http://www.lib.ua.edu/libraries/hoole/cabaniss .

The Septimus D. Cabaniss Collection (1815-1889) was selected as exemplary
of the legal difficulties encountered in efforts to emancipate slaves in
the Deep South. Cabaniss was a prominent southern attorney who served as
executor for the estate of the wealthy Samuel Townsend, who sought to
manumit and leave property to a selection of his slaves, many of whom were
his children.  Samuel Townsend’s open admission to fathering slave
children and his willingness to take responsibility for their care,
combined with the letters from the former slaves themselves, dated before
and after the Civil War, will inform social and racial historians. Legal
scholars will be enlightened by Cabaniss' detailing of the sophisticated
legal mechanism of using a trust to free slaves. Valuable collections such
as this have a promise of open access via the web when the cost of
digitization is lowered by avoiding item-level description.

Usability testing was included in the grant project, and preliminary
results indicate that this method of web delivery is as learnable for
novices as access to the digitized materials via item-level descriptions.
In addition, provision of web delivery of manuscript content via the
finding aid provides the much-needed context preferred by experienced

Jody DeRidder
Digital Services
University of Alabama Libraries
Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487
(205) 348-0511
jody at jodyderidder.com
jlderidder at ua.edu

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