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Abbot Bernard Pennings

Abbot Pennings with students.

February 2011


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Library boosts state heritage portal

Sally Cubitt, head of technical services for the Mulva Library, contributes this update on St. Norbert College’s role in a digital archive of state history.

As participants in the Wisconsin Heritage Online (WHO) program, we at the Mulva Library have loaded thousands of the college’s archival photographs into a web-based cultural heritage portal. Now we need help from the St. Norbert community to make those images more enlightening to portal users statewide.

WHO provides digital access to cultural heritage resources that reside in institutions around the state. An ever-growing number of libraries, archives, museums and historical societies are providing digital forms of photographs, manuscripts, books, articles, sound recordings, diaries, artwork and artifacts to the program. Currently, there are more than 55,000 such resources available through the WHO portal.

The goals of the program are to:

•    Expand access to content digitized by Wisconsin’s cultural heritage institutions.
•    Encourage and facilitate digitization by offering support, training and hosting services.
•    Maintain infrastructure to support digital collaboration.
•    Make content accessible in one place.
•    Assure that content is adequately indexed.

One of the major achievements of this archive is the ability to search the collections of member institutions in a way comparable to that with which you would search your local library for information. Not only do members provide a digital image, but they also supplement the image with metadata – fields of information describing it.

Metadata is sometimes called data about data, and the combination of metadata with the object it describes is something comparatively new in the library world. The catch: providing metadata can prove challenging.

We at the Mulva have added 2,000 images to WHO at this time, along with the corresponding data that we have for each item. We hope to add another 1,000 by the beginning of March. The college’s archives contain almost 7,000 photographs already scanned and available in digital form. Unfortunately, most of them include little information on the subject or date of the photo.

We are adding what information we have and are turning to the college community for help. If you can provide information about anything you see in WHO, we would love to hear from you.

We anticipate adding other materials from the college archives, including yearbooks and course catalogs. The Center for Norbertine Studies has also indicated that some of its holdings would be valuable in providing users with a sense of the college’s history and mission.

The WHO program was developed in 2005 as a collaboration of Wisconsin Library Services, the Milwaukee Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s division for libraries, technology and community learning. From June 2009 to May 2011, major financial support has been provided by the Nicholas Family Foundation.

Feb. 1, 2011

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