Central Library of Edinburgh, take two

My consultation with Alison Stoddart of the Edinburgh Central Library went quite well, really- she’s quite easy to work with.  She told us (me and Jamie) about the mass digitization push that got started in 2006.  The initial shove is long over, and the digitization team now considerably smaller than it started. That’s quite normal for digitization pushes with libraries… the interest and novelty (and funding) fade, and the work goes on as it can.

The initial push worked on the Edinburgh collection naturally enough- the library works hard to tie their digital collections to community events such as WWI memorials, building anniversaries, anything that’s coming down the pipe. The hard part is getting things digitized enough in advance to have them fully ready and loaded to the web before the event occurs.

Ms. Stoddart discussed their stance on copyright, orphaned works, and the public domain. Whenever possible, the library tracks down the copyright holder of a particular image, but that is not always easy to determine. This has long been a real problem in the copyright world- works that can’t be released to public domain because they either don’t have an owner, or the owner can’t be located without far more time and energy than the work is worth. The library takes a rather relaxed approach to photographs from the 19th century; copyright for them has almost certainly expired. 20th century photographs are viewed with a bit more caution.

Copyright is a very funny beast when it comes to digitization, and by “funny” I mean “incredibly frustrating.”

One of the more interesting products of the library’s digitization efforts is the “Then and Now” section of Our Town Stories site. Our Town Stories is a collaboration of the community, sharing their stories and memories. the Then and Now section is one of photographs, where someone (usually Kevin, the in-house photographer) takes an old photo of the city, finds the same vantage point today, and both photos are posted on top of each other. A slider bar lets the user fade between the two images, or see both at the same time.

Ms Stoddart actually took us up to meet the photographer, Kevin, who has a job that my father would probably fawn over, and equipment that he would swoon over.

picture of photography equipment

Kevin’s setup

There will (obviously) be far more about all of this, up to and including my opinions on open source software (SO FASCINATING) in the project itself… so if any of my intrepid readers want to check that out, yell at me in September and I’ll shoot you a copy. 😉


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