“Yes, it’s a blog, but it’s a very cool blog. I like how it essentially provides a space for processors, donors and researchers to interact around the processing of the collection, and I see that commenters sometimes provide identification or additional context for digitized materials that are posted. People argue for transparency in what we do–this is a great example of someone actually taking that step.”
That’s how one juror concluded comments on the winner in the Best Use of Web 2.0 Technologies category–“A View to Hugh.” If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the context provided on their “about” page:
In early 2007, Julia T. Morton, wife of prominent North Carolinian, entrepreneur, tourism booster, conservationist, environmental activist, sports fan, and prolific image-maker Hugh MacRae Morton, donated his extensive photographic archive (estimated at half a million transparencies, photographs, and negatives, and 60,000 linear feet of motion picture films) to the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With very little existing internal order, and material dating from the 1930s through the early 2000s, the Morton collection presents a major, multi-year processing undertaking for the staff of the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.
This blog is intended to provide information about our progress, to provide glimpses into how photographic archivists work, to highlight interesting discoveries we make along the way, and to foster discussion and input from the many “Friends of Hugh”– residents of the state to which he devoted his life and any other interested parties.
It was an inspired idea. “A View to Hugh” achieves many goals at once–it gives readers insight into the mysteries of processing, it allows readers to contribute their own knowledge, it provides an ongoing progress report, and it allows some degree of access where none would previously have been available.
The site has an attractive, easy to navigate design. It uses simple blog technology. The posts are informative, well-written and give a sense of the personality of the archivists. Best of all, it gets results. People actually do write in with information about the images.
This is a model other archives should consider. Another judge summed it up like this:
“This is a great way to publicly process a collection. I’m looking at this and thinking of a collection I oversaw several years ago that had a loyal and interest user/supporter base that would have loved to see the arrangement and description come together instead of having to wait for years as multiple people worked on it.”
A great deal of blog ink has been virtually spilled talking about the Library of Congress’s foray into Flickr, including virtual ink on this blog. What the Library of Congress has done on Flickr isn’t particularly new–other archives and special collections were there earlier. The comments they are getting on their images seem, for the most part, to be just appreciative, rather than contributing knowledge about the item. But the Library of Congress on Flickr clearly rated an honorable mention in this category. As one judge noted:
“LC isn’t the first archival repository to use Flickr, but clearly this is an important milestone, where rich and abundant archival content meets Web 2.0 technology. I really like that a user doesn’t need to be thinking ‘archives’ or ‘old stuff’ to discover this. As such, this site has a much larger potential audience than most of the other nominees.”
The Library of Congress has to be recognized for bringing its tremendous resources and high-wattage star power into the world of Flickr. But “A View to Hugh” had the edge on the LOC in this award category because it did something new, and it did it very, very well. Congratulations, again, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives!