Racing Ahead with Mass Digitization

By Vargas, Mark A.; Bright, Jessica | Computers in Libraries, September 2017 | Go to article overview

Racing Ahead with Mass Digitization


Vargas, Mark A., Bright, Jessica, Computers in Libraries


One of the largest online photographic archives in the world is available through The Revs Institute (TRI) in Naples, Fla. As of April 2017, more than 460,000 images are online, and, on average, 6,000 more are added each month. In this article, we will provide the context and lessons learned from a mass digitation project that began in 2012. The topics include selection, copyright, metadata, staffing, monetization, and next steps.

The automobile is the transformative object of the 20th century. It revolutionized transportation, housing, social mores, travel, and commercial enterprise and altered the rural and urban landscape. Any car today contains engineering and design developed from motor racing, often at a very high price in lives and lessons learned. TRI is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization and houses 115 significant automobiles built between 1896 and 1995. The automobiles on display at TRI are some of the rarest and most important cars ever built at anytime, anywhere. TRI is not a car museum; it is a living art museum with cars.

TRI is also a library and archive for scholars, preservationists, and passionate connoisseurs of automotive history, and it reflects the legacy of the transformative impact the automobile had on 20th-century society. To ensure that legacy continues, the library is the world's leading repository of historical automotive artifacts, books, journals, and photographs. Its mission is to advance the scholarly study of the automobile by providing research collections and services that support it. The library cultivates, maintains, and makes accessible diverse and unique collections that are essential to the study of the history of the automobile. It is the definitive leader in automotive libraries and the premier destination (physical or virtual) for automotive research.

The heart of the library is its photographic collections. Through the years, TRI has acquired materials from some of the world's most significant automotive photographers. The images document the dawn of the motoring age and the golden age of racing, and they dive into the 21st century. The types of images include glass plate and nitrate negatives, slides and transparencies of all sizes, and born-digital pictures. The collections contain about 1 million negatives and slides and around the same number of prints.

In 2012, TRI decided to make the images available through a mass digitization project with an ambitious goal to add about 100,000 images per year to a digital library. The focus was on images of racing at Grand Prix, IndyCar, endurance, rallying, and other events. After extensive consultation, the work was divided into three parts. First, Stanford University Libraries (SUL) hosted the Revs Digital Library on its website. The Stanford team spent about a year building a complete infrastructure and workflow, including a pipeline for importing the digitized images and metadata, preservation storage, and web-friendly derivative copies. In addition, the SUL team was instrumental in training and advising TRI library staffers on proper metadata protocols, adoption of standards, and vetting the third-party digital contractor. At the time, no one at TRI had the expertise or experience for such a large-scale project, but soon did with the assistance of SUL.

Additionally, a staff and volunteer team at TRI selected and prepared images and developed the process of rapid organization and preparation of Excel worksheets (also in conjunction with SUL). Digitization was outsourced to a private firm. That process worked very well and created a workflow that ensured digitation on a mass scale. In 5 years, more than 460,000 images were made available and, on average, 6,000 were added each month. In 2017, TRI undertook a major review of all its financial, physical, staffing, and technical resources for its operations. Following that review, TRI decided to move to OCLC's CONTENTdm software as the home for the Revs Digital Library. …

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