Our story opens at the Berry College Archives at Berry College in Rome, Georgia in a cascade of uncataloged correspondence and papers penned by the school’s founder, Martha Berry. Even with papers of significant cultural importance, the digitization and indexing process “can be technically demanding, time-consuming, and expensive.” Berry College sought to create a sound yet sustainable process firmly rooted in the participatory web.
The archives chose Omeka as their digital repository for its suite of helpful plugins and flexibility. The college has a deeply entrenched work study program and though it could be argued that digitization efforts don’t always represent the “meaningful, real-world employment” offered by the program, the culture of the school offered a work-oriented student force and careful thought was put into sustainable roles and training for self-support within the team. Still, repetition and the “spreadsheet shuffle” cannot be fully divorced from a project such as this, the student team was responsible for scanning, maintaining an original image file for preservation, and creating a compressed file for upload into the repository. Work progress was recorded on a series of individual and group-level sheets. A dropbox plugin was used for batch uploading and auto-fill of some universal fields and then the records were turned over to a student digital editing team for metadata creation and quality control. A crowdsourcing plugin was used so the college community could help augment the finished records.
While Berry didn’t break the digitization mold, their process was very thoughtful and the result is a fast, “virtually error free”, and highly-sustainable process. The rise and growing utility of open source library systems is something we should consider in our next iteration of Pocket Knowledge. The pickings were slim during our initial development of the system, but current offerings are much more flexible.