A New Dimension for our Collections: Introducing the Digital Collections Podcast

Imagine a world without sound. Your favorite music – gone. No more conversations with loved ones, oral tradition is extinct, beloved stories lose their impact. A world without sound would be a world without texture, without emphasis.

This is the world of document-based archival collections. The printed word is great for many things – conveying information, documenting events, preserving history. But it can lack the urgency, the emotional connection of information delivered in someone’s voice, through the power of sound. It’s the difference between reading a piece of piano sheet music and actually hearing it performed the way an audience in 1906 would have experienced it: played by a musician on a jazz joint upright or in a grand concert hall on a Steinway grand.

Here at the Digitization Projects Group, we wanted to give our users a new way to experience our collections, an aural avenue for connecting with the materials we digitize and put online every day. In short, we wanted to add a new, audible dimension to our materials, and that’s why we created the Sound in Collections podcast, the first episode of which is available to stream at the end of this post.

The name Sound in Collections is a play on the phrase “found in collections,” a phrase collections managers use to describe objects they come across in their collections that they weren’t expecting to find there. In museums, that can mean an item in a box that wasn’t listed on the deed of gift, or something tucked in a corner with no accompanying paperwork whatsoever. Those items are marked “FIC” and added to a list of things for a curator or collections manager to investigate for future disposition.

For us, we liked the idea of highlighting items from our collections that you may not expect to experience in a sound-based format. We plan to offer things like dramatic readings from our Civil War letters collection, readings (in Russian and English) of items from the Keston Digital Archive, and performances of musical pieces from our Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music, plus interviews and in-depth analysis of materials in our collections.

If you have an idea for something you’d like to see in upcoming podcasts, email us at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu or comment on this blog post. We’ll incorporate your requests and suggestions into upcoming episodes. Once we get a few episodes under our belt, we plan to add them to Baylor’s selection of materials available in iTunesU.

So enjoy our first foray into audio excellence; we hope you’ll agree that this new feature from the Digitization Projects Group will be music to your ears.

Click below to listen to episode one of Sound in Collections.

 

Checking In

We wanted to post a brief note to let you know the good folks at the Digitization Projects Group are alive and well, despite our noticeable lack of blog posting of late. Spring Break hit the campus of Baylor University two weeks ago, and this past week, we’ve been very busy getting things spiffed up for one of our oldest collections in preparation for a new focus on its unique assets. (More on that to come very soon!)

Also in the works is our announcement of a new channel for connecting with our collections, an introduction to the team behind our Digital Collections, and another installment of Hidden in Plain Sight, our regular series of closer looks at panoramic photos from the Texas Collection.

So don’t be dismayed that your RSS feed has been a little lighter this past week. We promise it’ll be worth the wait!

A Post for the Statisticians in the Audience (Or, Who’s Been Looking at Our Stuff?)

The phenomenal success of the Browning Letters Project did more than just expose the world to the first digitized images of more than 1,400 pieces of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s correspondence. It also exposed the server that hosts the collection to more than 1,000,000 page views in just three days! In fact, over the course of a week, the collection was accessed more than 1.3 million times by researchers and curiosity seekers from around the world, including users in the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, India, Singapore and New Zealand.

Here’s what that kind of access assault looks like in graph form:


Darryl Stuhr, our Manager of Digitization Projects, gathered gigabytes’ worth of data on how many people accessed our Digital Collections during the week of the Browning Letters Project’s launch. He looked at what sites referred the most people to the collection (Wellesley College’s domain, Facebook, and the New York Times were the top three, with Google and Baylor coming in in the top 10), what times of day were the most popular for access (between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on the day of launch), and what kind of domain referred the most users (domains ending in .edu accounted for 85% of visits).

The week of the Browning Letters Project also saw residual statistical increases, like:

–       9 new fans on our Facebook page (+13%)

–       331 hits on our blog (+212%)

–       1 television news interview (+100% from previous week)

Keeping track of information like who accesses our collections, when they do so, and where they come from can help us better target where we promote our collections, when to schedule regular maintenance on our server, and even when we’re being crawled by Google’s spider bots.

Of course, numbers aren’t the only way to quantify how our collections are impacting users around the world. Take this recent quote from George Raffensperger, a direct descendant of Henrietta Hardin Carter Harrrison, whose marginalia illustrations were featured in this post.

As a direct descendant (Henrietta Harrison is my great, great, great Grandmother), I was online looking over family history and came across your post. I enjoyed viewing these sketches very much. I have read that she was a fine artist and enjoyed creating decorations at her home at Tehuacana Retreat. Her artistic ability was passed on to my mother, Ruth Harrison Wood, and my children, who enjoy drawing and painting as well.
Thanks you for sharing these.
Best Regards,
GTR III

However you choose to evaluate our collections, we hope you’re checking back often, as we’re adding new content on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, here’s one last number for you: within the next few days, our collections will be home to more than 165,000 items. Now that’s a number even the arithmophobics* among us can appreciate.

* Arithmophobia is the fear of numbers, as you no doubt guessed.