Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


Images for the Web: Managing Digital Access Projects

Peter B. Hirtle , Cornell University, USA
Carol A. DeNatale , H.F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, USA

Session: Workshop 4

At the core of every museum web site are digital images. This workshop will explore the issues involved in planning and executing digital access projects designed to produce images for the Web. It will be directed by the co-project directors of an ongoing project at Cornell University to digitize the holdings of its art museum. During the first six months of the project, over 6,000 images have been successfully digitized using a combination of a high-end digital camera capturing directly from the original work of art; scanning of photographic transparencies of works of art; and conversion of slides at a service bureau. Web access to lower resolution derivatives of the digital images using Java or Javascript clients will be available by the time of the Museum and the Web conference.

The workshop will stress the importance of clear program goals in any web digital access project. Until you know what you want the digital images to be able to do, it is impossible to know what kind of digital capture to undertake. Potential projects should consider especially whether the digital files are going to be used for multiple purposes, such as web presentation and high-end printing, and also for how long the images need to be of use. With clear program goals in mind, discussion can then turn to the range of digitization hardware and software options available that can meet those needs. The workshop will also consider requirements for digital storage needs, access mechanisms, and the staffing and work flow arrangements needed to produce digital images. Finally, the workshop will address management issues associated with the creation of metadata to accompany digital images. Digital images by themselves are of little use, unless they are accompanied with metadata that can describe, control, and provide access points to the images. Managers of digital access projects must also consider options for the staffing, work flow, and costs associated with metadata creation.

Throughout the workshop Cornell's experience in creating and controlling digital images for delivery on the web will be cited as a real-life case study. Participants in the workshop should leave with a better understanding of, and some possible solutions for, the complexities (and some of the pitfalls) associated with managing a large digital access project.

Background on the Cornell Project:

1) Overview of the project:

2) Newspaper article on the project's launch: