The Marriott Library’s digital collections page is a gateway to various formats of digital content including text, sound and video (to name a few). The Marriott Library is diligently working to expand its digital audio collections such as the Western Soundscape Archive and the Doris Duke Oral Histories. The Digital Technologies department is presently trying to perfect certain facets of the audio format workflow such as file compression, format selection, long term preservation and accurate representation of the compressed files. The recent focus on audio makes WSA (Western Soundscape Archive) a well deserved candidate for this week’s show and tell.
The Western Soundscape Archive collection has benefited from much deserved attention in the form of press releases and podcasts, and is now also being aired as a weekly radio series on KUER. This is a unique and searchable online collection featuring audio recordings of species and of their natural environment in the western United States. The source audio files are recorded by a team of recording engineers and are handed off to the Marriott Library where they are compressed and streamed as MP4. In September of 2007, the WSA collection was a recipient of a three year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and it has accomplished much since then. The collection varies anywhere from sound recordings of species in their natural habitat, to ambient recordings of soundscapes, and spectrograms (visual representations) of acoustic observations of the Natural Sounds Program, conducted by the National Parks Services.
If you care for a wonderful alternative to sitting down and replying to a work email, or sweating over the deadline for that dreaded report, then look no further; follow a crew of biologists trekking through the grounds of the Beaufort Lagoon of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and listen to the whimsical call of an arctic fox (because I know that is something you have always wanted to do!):
You can also follow Jeff Rice (co-Principle Investigator for Western Soundscape Archive) to the beautiful Red Butte Gardens of Salt Lake City while he records the rattlings of a Great Basin rattle snake :
Or better yet, check out the Burrowing Owls of Snake River, Idaho while they mimic rattle snakes!:
As I searched mindlessly for inspiration for this blog entry, visions of shelf upon shelf of dusty forgotten volumes tucked away in isolated corners of the Marriott Library loomed in my head. In the midst of the current digital transition period, the end user greatly appreciates the occasional stumbling upon a useful article or an electronic book resulting from a keyword search that relates to a research paper or a homework assignment, thus making digital archiving an important and significant service in the preservation of our heritage. As a freshman in college, I remember heading off to the library on a mission to research a term paper. I wished back then that the library provided grocery carts as a service as I clumsily made my way down the aisles and my stack of books grew, while my arms ached miserably under the weight of the literary writings.
The current world of digital content has thrown libraries at a cornerstone of research and development. How does one judge what materials hold archival value for digital preservation? The digital collections showcased in our Content Digital Asset Management system are a product of the Marriott Library’s commitment to explore and establish the best practices for digitization, digital preservation, online access and presentation of materials that hold value to our digital collections and are of interest to the end user of the contemporary world. Today’s freshman does not need to roam the aisles of the library, while scouting water fountains on the way, in order to quench the thirst caused by exhaustion and fatigue resulting from the trek through five floors of stacks; or the thirst for that perfect segment of resource that will satisfy the final provision for that dreaded history paper. Today’s researcher can slide out a ritzy paper without having to leave the confines of a comfy lab chair. The world of digitization has made so much available at our fingertips that it must not be taken for granted.
The Marriott Library proudly showcases a repertoire of many a unique digital collection. The Arabic Papyrus and paper parchment collection at the Marriott Library for example is the third largest in the world and consists of 700 Arabic documents on papyrus, 1300 on paper, and several pieces on parchment. The heartland of early Arabic world is unfolded in the various facets of this rare collection. The collection covers eight centuries of rich Middle Eastern history and dates back from the eighth century CE. This collection was donated by Professor Aziz S. Atiya, the founder of the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. Atiya spent several years gathering fragments of the collection from all over the world. The complete digitization of the Arabic Papyrus collection is still underway and it has presented researchers from around the globe with an opportunity to understand the history of the Middle East by allowing them a glimpse into the development of early Islamic civilization by featuring a very large and very diverse collection of pre modern Arabic documents in the United States. The digitized material is full text searchable, with JPEG2000 images that load quickly and can be zoomed in for detail: