Digital Commonwealth, begun in 2007, hopes to do two things: to facilitate the creation of digital collections within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and to provide a central site for access to these collections. Funding for Digital Commonwealth has come from two sources: the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and membership fees. There are fees for participating members. For of small institution the fee is $50.00. For a larger one it is $100.00. For Group Sponsoring Organizations it is $500.00. (For more information on membership, see the Membership Information link below.)
The Boston Public Library has also long been committed to developing and maintaining free digital access to library material. The initial funding for the BPL’s scanning and digitization lab came from a portion of the insurance money received as a result of the August 1998 flood that took out much of the library’s basement. They also have received grants through various sources, including the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). In 2007 the BPL committed to a two year project to scan their government documents collection, which took a major hit during the flooding. In 2008 they partnered with Open Library/Internet Archive with the ultimate goal of digitizing all their public domain books. (The genealogy books located in the Social Sciences Department have all been done. ) The main building of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square has two labs, one for the Internet Archive (see my earlier post of 15 October below) and their digitization lab, where the pictures included in this posting were taken on 18 July 2012.
Digital Commonwealth partnered with the Boston Public Library in November of 2011. A letter of agreement between Digital Commonwealth and the BPL “states that Digital Commonwealth will take the lead on planning outreach activities and conferences and that the BPL will take the lead on developing and maintaining the technological infrastructure, creating user-friendly instructions, and providing some customer service for participating members.” (Click on the previous sentence to learn more about the agreement.)
Who can have material digitized? Massachusetts libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies can have collections digitized. The Digital Commonwealth considers itself a resource for all libraries in the Commonwealth. The group hopes to build a broad based, state wide coalition. Even individuals can have material digitized and added to Digital Commonwealth.
What can be digitized? Basically, if it can fit through the door they can do it. Digital Commonwealth works with books, maps, glass slides, photos, objects, even Helen Keller’s bathing suit … If a map is too large, they will do it in sections and Photoshop it back together again. There is, however, one exception. They do not digitize newspapers. Think of the difference between the setup of a book and a newspaper. Digitizing newspapers is a whole different ballgame. It requires separate, specialized hardware and software.
What do you need to do and how much will it cost? My understanding is that Digital Commonwealth will do the digitization for free, through an LSTA grant they receive. However, if you want them to digitize your material, there is a certain amount of work that needs to be done in advance. First, if needed, the material must be conserved. Digitization is never a replacement for conservation. After you have the original material conserved, then you must create a specific description for each item. Digital Commonwealth can advise you on what information needs to be included. You may need a grant to get all of this done. Again, check with Digital Commonwealth. They can come to you to assess what is needed to digitize your material, to give you advice on how to proceed and, when ready for digitization, to pick up and return your material. Another point of note, this should not be considered a piecemeal project. They encourage the digitization of entire collections, not a bit here and a bit there.
To learn more, click on:
Digital Commonwealth Collections (listed as the Collection Tree) Once here, click on an individual library and then click on the specific collection of interest to access the material.
The Boston Public Library’s blog, the BPL Compass, published a series of blog postings about Digital Commonwealth in March and April of 2012. I have listed the links below.
vea/3 January 2013/links updated 7 January 2012
Newton Free Library
Library website: http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog: http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Exploring Newton’s Past (a LibGuide): http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy?hs=a