The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center was created about four years ago to help smaller cultural heritage institutes get their collections online in an efficient and cost effective manner. The impetus of creating the Center was that the state polled the institutions and there was a lot of interest from a number of them to digitize their collections. Rather than have a bunch of smaller online collections that would need staffing, funding, hardware and software, the state library felt it could fulfill these responsibilities. The digital library address is digitalnc.org hosted by the UNC-Chapel Hill University Library, and is maintained by the UNC Library staff and the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
“The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing program housed in the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Digital Heritage Center works with cultural heritage institutions across North Carolina to digitize and publish historic materials online. The Digital Heritage Center provides libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions with the opportunity to promote and increase access to their collections through digitization” (DigitalNC.org/about).
The mission of the North Carolina Digital Heritage center is to support “community engagement and lifelong learning by promoting and increasing access to North Carolina’s cultural heritage.”
At this time the Center works with about 130 partners (libraries, museums, archives and other cultural heritage institutions around the state whose collections are open to the public). These partners select what they want digitized based on their own user needs. The key users that the Center works with are the partners’ library, archive and museum professionals whose users include genealogists and local teachers who are researching local history and people and creating local content for college level courses. The digital library has three full time staff, three student employees (working 20 hours per week) and one part time employee.
The Center is in close relations with other institutions with their own large digital libraries such as East Carolina, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill (where the Center in physically housed). The Center is also a hub for the Digital Public Library of America and works within the region to share expertise and experiences with large collections.
The Center is supported by the State Library of North Carolina with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library and Services and Technology Act, and by the UNC-Chapel Hill University Library. The Center must apply for grant funds annually. The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill provides funding for staffing salary, overhead and the technology infrastructure.
The Center does not have a collection development policy at this time and they do not determine what materials are digitized; their partners select what is important to their users. Lisa Gregory, the Digital Projects Librarian at the Center, states that the content they receive to digitize is manageable at this time. This digital library has 58,962 objects in our collections on 893,717 pages. The objects include yearbooks (about 2,000), newspapers, images, memorabilia and city directories. The number of items online is a moving target, with new collections added all the time. Ms. Gregory believes that the number of yearbooks will decline as many are already digitized. They expect to see an increase in the number of newspapers to digitize and will be transitioning to a new viewer to ease user access. Also on the list of media to be added are collections of audio and video materials.
The items are organized by collections and browsable also by type. Using ContentDM, metadata is included to define the image title, description, location, subject, format and dimensions. The image collection, exhibit, contributing organization is also described. The copyright owner and their contact information is included so users know how the materials can be used and who to contact for permission and linking the digital library collection to the physical library. When asked how the digital and physical libraries are connected, Ms. Gregory stated, “In some cases, the items have call numbers or accession numbers, or are linked to named collections at the contributing institutions. If it’s provided to us, the information is included in the records. Contributing institution and contact information are required fields.”
“The Digital Heritage Center provides digitization and digital publishing services to cultural heritage institutions in North Carolina. All digitization is done in the Digital Production Center, a unit of the UNC-Chapel Hill University Library. The Digital Heritage Center can capture high-resolution images of a wide variety of materials including photos, books, newspapers and maps”(digitalNC.org). Information about the scanning equipment used to digitize the collections is available on the website. Video and audio material digitization is not currently available, but is being planned for in the near future.
The collection is available through free access to anyone with an internet connection. Search services are provided through a simple search, advanced search, search within search results, add or remove collections to your search. The RSS feed notifies users regarding additions to collections but at this time does not notify users by item type or subject. The Center also publishes a blog and uses Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to share collection stories.
Selection and browsing is managed through a menu of collection item types and collections as a whole. Types include city directories, yearbooks and memorabilia. Collections and exhibits include Chatham County Funeral Programs from the Chatham County Historical Association, the Cumberland County Tax Records from the Cumberland County Public Library and and North Carolina Samplers from several colleges and museums.
The Center provides a FAQ page and help documentation on their website and are also available for other reference service needs through their contact us form online. The staff contact information is also provided on the website. The Center also provides help for contributing organizations on selections materials to be digitized.
Overall my assessment of DL interface and system from end-user’s perspective is this digital library is easy to browse and search. I did find that the viewer used for yearbooks was easier to use than the one used for the city directories and newspapers. Ms. Gregory noted that these objects were digitized through ContentDM. The yearbooks were digitized using Internet Archive (the same company who provides the Way Back Machine). They provide mass digitization services and hosting through archive.org. Additional information is available at:
Ms. Gregory stated that “Other than that, the “front end” or our website is WordPress”.
“DigitalNC Case Study: Interview with Lisa Gregory, Digital Projects Librarian.” Telephone interview. 13 Feb. 2014.
“DigitalNC: North Carolina’s Digital Heritage.” DigitalNC. North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. <http://www.digitalnc.org/>.