By Brynko, Barbara
Information Today , Vol. 30, No. 4
In 2012, nearly 30 million visitors walked through the doors of the Smithsonian Institution, billed as the world's largest museum complex with 19 museums, nine research centers, and more than 140 affiliated museums worldwide.
And the Smithsonian's massive collection of priceless historical artifacts and research materials are now on their way to being preserved and digitized through a new partnership with Cengage Learning.
"We did a project with National Geographic about a year ago, which put us into the mode of working with major cultural institutions," says Frank Menchaca, executive vice president of research solutions at Cengage Learning. Initially, the Smithsonian was interested in digitizing and archiving the 40-year backfile of its two magazines (Smithsonian and Air & Space), he says. But the Smithsonian was also interested in reviewing options for digitizing its collections, and that's where Cengage Learning stepped up to the plate with an innovative strategy to preserve and archive the museum's wide range of materials online.
"Really, what we conceptualized was creating not just a set of digital assets of the Smithsonian's content, but an entire research environment that would be closer to what we are doing with our 19thcentury project," says Menchaca, referring to special collections from Gale, part of Cengage Learning. (Its Nineteenth Century Collections Online pulls together primary source materials, including monographs, newspapers, photos, and maps, into one intuitive platform for researchers in academic libraries, schools, and enterprises; likewise, the Eighteenth Century Collections Online gives researchers access to digital full-text versions of primary source materials from the 18th century.) This new partnership with the Smithsonian "not only curates and brings together great content, but it also creates tools and a research environment that would really take Smithsonian content and put it in the pathway of faculty and students worldwide as a research experience," he says.
As with every Gale product, the primary market for these special collections is libraries worldwide, says Menchaca. …