Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just like the real thing

Before I started as a student worker with the NC Religion project through the UNC-CH division, I knew the basics about the Internet Archive, but I hadn't spent much time browsing through its vast holdings. Now that materials are live on the site, I have renewed awe for the project.

There's something satisfying about seeing a finished product, like a deep sigh of completion. My job usually involves detail work prepping the titles for digitization, so I am concerned with the physicality of the texts. Generally, I focus on getting my hands on the correct item and double-checking topics such as page count, possible conservation woes, potential difficulties with digitization, etc. So it's easy to lose the forest to the trees.

Once a month, I drop things off to Wilson Library's Digital Production Center and I ogle at the Scribe machines (they are so, so neat), but that's about as close as I get to cutting-edge technology. And, at heart, I tend to be a misty-eyed Luddite in a brawl between the analog versus the digital. With archival materials there are many ambiguous issues to hammer out. Are we trying to convey the information or the thing itself? Which is more valuable if it comes down to it, informational content or physical context? Well, luckily, this project is able to document and preserve both aspects.

Flipping through the pages of the pamphlet pictured above, one of the first items to be digitized back in September, I am amazed at the rich, texturized quality of the images. They look like you can reach out and touch them. Take a peek! Thanks to hard work and planning, this digitization endeavor is freeing up volume after volume of religious information to the public.

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