Evaluation of the New Jersey Digital Highway

Article excerpt

The aim of this research is to study the usefulness of the New Jersey Digital Highway (NJDH, www.njdigitalhigh way.org) and its portal structure. The NJDH intends to provide an immersive and user-centered portal for New Jersey history and culture. The research recruited 145 participants and used a Web-based questionnaire that contained three sections: for everyone, for educators, and for curators. The feedback on the usefulness of the NJDH was positive and the portal structure was favorable. The research uncovered several reasons why some collections did not want to or could not participate. The findings also suggested priorities for further development. This study is one of the few on the evaluation of cultural heritage digital library.

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The New Jersey Digital Highway (NJDH, www.njdigitalhighway.org) is a digital library for New Jersey history and culture, including collections of New Jersey libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies. The NJDH, funded in part by the 2003 National Leadership Grant of the Institute for Museum and Library Services, is a joint project by New Jersey State Library, the New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management at Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey Historical Society, and the American Labor Museum. As part of the project, the NJDH identifies 686 cultural heritage institutions (public libraries, archives, historical societies, and museums). As of November 2007, there are more than ten thousand objects (pictures, records, and oral histories) in the repository. More are being added daily. The NJDH, at this writing, is still very much a work in process. The principal investigator of this project continues to extend opportunities to more communities to link their sites and scan their images. (1)

The NJDH provides portals for four different groups of people: everyone, educators, students, and librarians and curators. Its mission is to develop an immersive, user-centered information portal and to support the New Jersey learner through a collaboration among cultural heritage institutions that supports preservation of the past, new access strategies for the future, and active engagement with resources at the local and the global level for shared access and local ownership.

The NJDH uses FEDORA (Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture) as a platform to mount participating institutions' digital objects and metadata. FEDORA is developed jointly by Cornell University and the University of Virginia and is currently supported through an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant that is customizable and allows local institutions to have true control over what they digitize and post. (2) FEDORA is built on XML with core standards that support flexibility and interoperability such as METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmition Standard, www.loc.gov/standards/mets) and OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting, www.openarchives.org) functions. FEDORA is chosen for the NJDH because it can effectively accommodate and manage a broad array of information sources with the flexibility to integrate with other information repositories.

The NJDH uses a metadata structure based on MODS (Metadata Open Description Schema, www.loc.gov/standards/roods), METS, NISO, and PREMIS (Preservation Metadata, www.loc.gov/standards/premis) metadata standards to support preservation of digital objects, to ensure scalability for projects and interoperability with other systems through OAI-PMH. This hybrid approach enables NJDH collection managers and metadata creators to provide information through multiple presentation standards in a schema easily understood within distinctive cultural heritage organization communities. MODS is used for descriptive metadata, provides and retains standard bibliographic cataloging principles, and is therefore easily mapped to MARC. The NJDH therefore includes a mapping utility that allows the export of records from the NJDH to online catalogs for any organization that wants to make its digital objects accessible within its integrated library system. …