Introducing the School’s Newest Star!
It’s the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science Digital Media Projects Lab, or WSU SLIS DMPL for short. Opened late 2012, the lab is located on the third floor of the Kresge Library on Wayne State’s Detroit campus. You can find out more specific details about the lab HERE. The lab represents a serious change in the professional requirements of library, archive and information science students. It is designed in response to the transition of media and information resources from an analog environment to a digital one. Helping students develop the skills to both manage and lead in this transition is the reason this lab, and the programs and projects it supports, has been developed. The lab is utilized in both classroom instruction and individual student and group projects.
The great analog and digital debate, of course, is which format is “better.” I put that in quotes because there are any number of different quality standards, and in the digital and analog arena, each has their strengths and weaknesses. The point to be made, however, is that in digitizing material, we can get the best of both worlds. We have an analog item that we can continue to preserve, and a digital item that, while it may not have the form of the original, has all of the information. The more interesting debate is, when we digitize an item, what exactly is it that we are trying to capture? For example, a black and white photograph from the 1940’s. Let’s say, in this example, that the photo is of a library, and the photograph has some creases and worn areas. This image has three distinct reference points: 1) How the library actually looked when the photograph was taken 2) How the photograph looked when it was first developed and 3) How the photograph looks now. Which of these three states are we hoping to preserve? The digital media project lab gives us an opportunity to capture all three. The lab provides the hardware tools to capture the original data, as well as sophisticated software tools to post process and digitally restore lost or damaged information.
Over the summer of 2013, the school’s National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) worked on a project involving the digitization of the Detroit Sunday Journal. The Journal was a weekly paper published by striking workers from The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News in the mid to late 90’s. The project served several purposes: It helped students become familiar with the process of digitization, it provided digital material for the creation of a digital archive, and it provided material for use in the upcoming anniversary of the Journal’s Publication. One of the more recent additions to the lab is the ATR 100 Series, 2 track reel-to-reel reproducer. This reel-to-reel playback device allows us to digitally capture audio from reel-to-reel tapes. It is currently being used in a student led project, digitizing oral histories from the American Folklore Collection at Wayne State Universities Ruther Library.
The ability to digitize materials is only half of the equation. Accurately ingesting them into a repository, cataloging and supplying metadata, and making the material accessible is also part of the process. Both of the projects listed above involve these tasks, and students are using tools such as Cindex, Dspace and Fedora Commons to accurately and efficiently create fully functional repositories for the information they have digitized. Text based objects can be made fully searchable using industry leading software platforms such as ABBYY Finereader. All of the work can be done in the lab, and all of the information generated by these projects is stored on the school’s dedicated servers. Most if not all of these student’s begin work on these projects with little or no experience. The dedicated members of the school’s faculty and staff have both the technical background and the education skills to introduce students to this technology and help them create professional grade collections. The lab provides students with the ability to develop real world skills in a comfortable environment.