Cataloging and Digitizing Photographic Collection from Aerial Photography, Inc.

Project Summary

Submitted by Ann Whiteside of Frances Loeb Library, GSD.

In 2003, the Frances Loeb Library purchased a collection of 150,000 aerial negatives from Aerial Photography Inc. The company and a predecessor firm had been flying over and taking images chiefly eastern Massachusetts from the 1920s-2002 when API closed. The collection has since been stored at the Harvard Depository with no HOLLIS record, making it truly hidden. The negatives measure 9” x 9”, are stored on plastic spools (like microfilm) and lack descriptive metadata. Simply creating a HOLLIS record for the collection without digitizing images from it would provide a disservice to researchers since FLL has no tool to allow staff or researchers to look through the images on the spools.

FLL proposes a project that creates workflows for selection, digitization, cataloging, and conservation of this collection, plus a test of the workflows with 200 images of Boston neighborhoods. FLL will take responsibility for selection of images that best represent a particular area. The project will also answer the following questions: is it most cost effective to digitize a whole spool? FLL will partner with Imaging Services to determine how to work with the spooled images in order to digitize them. Is it more cost effective to outsource this format to a vendor? FLL will work with the Metadata Creation team in ITS on cataloging. What is the right tool for metadata creation? Can the images be found in discovery tools such as the Harvard Geospatial Library?

Amount requested is $20,000-30,000.

Expected Results with Partial Funding

Digitizing fewer images could be done with partial funding.

Estimated Follow-on Activities and/or Costs

FLL will store the digitized images in the DRS and will add those storage costs to future annual budgets. With experience and data from this project, FLL can plan in future annual budgets for further digitization and metadata creation. There are 150,000 images in the collection and, while FLL does not expect to digitize all of the images, targets can be set for several years to digitize a portion of the whole collection.

Benefit to Harvard Scholars and Patrons

API took aerial photographs of eastern Massachusetts at regular intervals for 50 years making this documentation a unique resource that shows changes in the landscape and urban fabric over the course of the last 50 years. Access to this content will support research across a variety of disciplines that study the environment, urban and rural growth, social and cultural history.

Ways the Project Supports Cross-Unit or Cross-Discipline Activities

We believe that in addition to all of the disciplines taught here, social historians, urban policy students, and undergraduates will us these images for their research on urban issues, cultural history, and social history. By making latitude and longitude required metadata fields, the images can be the base for GIS, which is heavily used at the GSD and beyond.

Resources the Sponsoring Library Can Support or Will Need Support For

FLL plans to support this project with the time of the Alix Reiskind, Digital Initiatives Librarian who will have the role of project manager and the time of Ardys Kozbial, Collections and Outreach Librarian who will have role of liaison to Metadata Creation. They will spend an average of 2 hours per week (each) on this project.

Other Approaches to Achieving Goal or Result

FLL could outsource all digitization of the images and provide the cataloging.

Risks if Proposal is Not Approved

The collection will remain hidden until FLL has the opportunity to write a grant proposal to a funding agency outside of Harvard.

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