Friday, February 26, 2016

Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data

With a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), OHSU Library is digitizing historical collections on public health in Oregon, and providing open access to the scientific data they contain.

We are pleased to announce that a pilot presentation of our work is now available as an online exhibit, titled Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data.

In addition, all materials digitized for this project are being added to a collection in OHSU Digital Commons.  The collection currently contains over 200 items, including public health surveys, early medical journals, records of the People’s Institute and Portland Free Dispensary, papers from the early career of Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, records of state institutions, and more. Currently, users can download PDFs of digitized items. Work underway includes transcribing and normalizing datasets from these original materials, and adding them to the collection as Excel files.

In 2016 and early 2017, we will complete transcription and normalization of data, and make enhancements to the project based on direct feedback from public health professionals, historians, librarians, and archivists. We are thrilled to make our unique collections available to a broad audience through digitization and data curation.

The project director is Maija Anderson, Director of Curatorial Services. The project team includes Max Johnson, University Archivist; Shahim Essaid, Ontology Development Group; and student assistants Rachel Blume, Sherra Hopkins, Lacey Legel, and Grayce Mack.

This project is supported in whole by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library. We are eager for feedback on our work: Please contact Maija Anderson at for more information.

New Acquisitions: Oversize materials from Al's Clinic

I'm back!  And it didn't take an entire week either.  I just received some great materials from Al's Clinic--the former Industrial and Immigration Clinic on NW 22nd and Pettygrove.  HC&A Student Assistant, Sylvie Huhn, and I went down to the clinic a few weeks ago and boxed up a wide variety of materials (another blog post in the future, perhaps).  This week I wanted to pass along the visual feast which are these great materials I am about to show off.

Poster:  The Muscular System

Poster: The Skeletal System

First off, we have your standard fair for a clinic; nice illustrations of the inner workings of the human being.  Both in great condition and very detailed.

X-rays . . .

Pregnancy and radiation don't mix.
We found these great posters in the X-ray room (naturally), both are excellent examples of circa 1970s design.  They are in decent condition, with some spotting, missing chunks, and bend lines.

Vision tests

Lastly, we have some vision test charts.  I am not sure if we have anything like that in the archives currently, so they are great additions.

We also got this chart as well.

Vision, humor test?
It appears to be a joke chart, but I was having trouble reading all of it.

Till next time,


Digital Archives: Part I - Files and their relationships

Whoa, he's back!

It's almost been a solid two months since I graced these electronic pages with my portentous ramblings on archival concepts and practice.  As part of a year-long (yeah, let's see if I can sustain this) blog series on digital archives I am going to jump into some "beginning" concepts.  It's a big topic so I wanted to start in some familiar territory; let's talk the relationship of formats in a repository environment.  Shall we - - - -

We are going to start simple with the concept of the Master copy and the derivative copy, or access copy.  This relationship is commonly constructed when digitizing archival materials for a number of reasons:
1) Master copies tend to be large files
2) Due to that file size they are hard to provide access to in a web environment
3) Master copies are not always system-independant
4) Master copies can be considered the "authentic" version, copy or original

Whereas, access copies tend to have these qualities:
1) Much more system-independant sometimes
2) Usually compressed in some manner to save space, but not loss information
3) Easier to provide access to in a web environment

So, brass tacks means that when scanning a photograph from a family album or other legacy source, we will typically create one master copy and one access copy.  They are both maintained to archival standards and both get a full suite of metadata, but the master copy rarely is accessed or opened and usually lives in a "dark archives."  <-- A repository for master copies, rarely, if ever, accessed by patrons.

We format these files according to standards used by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which specifies these standards for the production of digital master files and digital access copies:

Master copy
DPI: 600
Color:  RGB
Bit-depth: 8 bits per channel
File Format:  TIFF
*Typically no adjustments are done to the photograph with the exception of rotation to ensure a level representation.  Images may be cropped to within a few pixels of the item border.  We sometimes refer to this as an "evidentiary border" because it provides evidence of the completeness of an item.

Access Copy
DPI:  300 (down to 200 in some cases)
Color:  RGB (derived from Master copy)
Bit-depth: 8 bits per channel (derived from Master copy)
File Format: JPEG
*Adjustments are inherited from the Master copy.

After the items are created, one is stored in a dark archives and the other is uploaded to a public facing access-portal (this could be an online exhibit, EDRMS, CMS, or other access-system).  The patrons and users are able to access the files as needed and get what they are looking for, and we can be assured that we always have an "original" master to make a derivative from in case the original gets corrupted, deleted, or we need to verify an access copy against the master (I haven't seen this happen more than once, but that doesn't mean it might not become more common as people become more aware of what can be seen--and hidden--in a digital file/space).

I hope you enjoyed this brief dip into digital archival waters.  I'll be back in the next week or so with more information and hopefully pictures!

All the best,