Increasing Online Access

Increasing Online Access

The dramatic rise of online social media activity has given the Museum a new platform to reach a younger and wider audience. These internet resources allow us to share our collection with aviation enthusiasts and researchers around the world, who would otherwise not know about our collection, let alone be able to visit the Museum.

And, in today's high-tech information environment, the use of technology enables rare and unique materials to transcend their physical boundaries. Photographs, films, and rare books are fragile; and the deterioration process is accelerated through handling, exposure to light, and climate fluctuations. Through digitization, this process can be mitigated so that archival material is not lost. Digitization is expensive and time-consuming, but it provides easy and comprehensive access for researchers, while preventing damage from handling.

The Library & Archives has continued to improve online access to our collection through digitization.  We launched our online catalog system, AeroCat, in 2008 and, to date, we have uploaded over 135,000 digitized images to, as well as over 300 rare films to YouTube.  Since we have begun placing photos on Flickr, we have seen an increase in our e-commerce revenue, and expect there will be additional requests as access to our collection grows.

It is especially noteworthy to note that our page has received over four million views, in less than eighteen months. Our image and film collection now online is thought to be the largest of its type in the world, but it represents only a small part of our total collection, likely less than 5 percent. In addition to increasing collection visibility, our platform has both allowed and encouraged the online community to identify images, and to add information to our catalog system. Thousands of useful comments have been received.

The Great Explorations project planned is a two-year effort, which will 1) develop requirements and standards for catalog record formats and metadata for archival materials, 2) connect our library system (EOS.web) to a digital asset management system (DAMS) to reduce duplicate data entry, 3) connect other collection databases to EOS and the DAMS, and 4) continue to add materials to these systems, with consistent metadata to aid in easy and effective searching for both staff and the general public.

We will partner with the Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC), a group dedicated to helping institutions in the Park with advanced technology applications. We have worked closely with BPOC since 2009, funded through a $100,000 Legler Benbough Foundation grant. The Benbough Foundation grant provided funding for a focused two-year effort, resulting in the digitization of 70,000 additional photographs and the 300 films. This more than doubled our online presence. Our volunteer effort had digitized only 65,000 photographs over the previous ten year period. We have also worked with BPOC to integrate an advanced DAMS, which will launch in 2012.

We will evaluate the correctness and usefulness of Flickr and YouTube comments received, and will then integrate meaningful input into our system to enhance our database. The dissemination of this information would not have been possible without initiating online digitization of our general collection. It is important to continue this effort, as well as initiate digitization of our special collections (e.g., Ryan and Convair image collections), which will likely generate even greater interest because of the unique subject matter.

Our current special collection finding aids, however, are fragmented and lack clear navigation paths among collections and collection types. We plan to develop a system which will provide navigation hyperlinks to Encoded Archival Descriptive (EAD) finding aids from broad-based keywords or name searches within our catalog system. Eventually, those links will also lead to digital representation of archival materials themselves on Flickr and YouTube, and be integrated into our digital asset management system.

By utilizing various platforms, we will be able to attract researchers from commonly used websites, such as YouTube and Flickr, and direct them to the Museum’s web page. Once there, users can search a comprehensive catalog listing, from books and periodicals, to personal collections, photographs, films and videos, oral histories, log books, and technical drawings and manuals.

The work flow for the project, including the specific steps for each material type is attached.

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