June 3rd, 2004
BY MONTE MAXWELL
WVU has taken up digital domain in the Smithsonian Institution.
Links to four WVU Libraries digital exhibits appear on a Smithsonian Institution Libraries Web site. The site, “Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web,” lists nearly 3,000 library-related exhibits from more than 25 countries. In 2003, close to 16,000 people visited the site.
“We’re honored that the Smithsonian has taken notice of our
work in the digital arena,” WVU Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien said. “Electronic resources and archives quickly became commonplace in academic libraries, and we want not only to compete in the field but to make an exceptional offering.”
The Smithsonian provides links to the following WVU Libraries exhibits: “A Devoted Life: Grace Edwards Waters,” “Jesse Stuart Web Exhibit,” “Season’s Greetings: Holiday Cards from the West Virginia and Regional History Collection” and “Vintage
Valentines from the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.”
The Smithsonian site can be found at http://www.sil.si.edu/silpublications/online-exhibitions/online-exhibitions-
WVU Libraries have several other digital exhibits, including one for the Isaac Asimov collection, which has gained international attention. This online display, designed by Web Services librarian Beth Toren, features visuals and descriptions of some of the more than 600 books, games, audio recordings, videos and wall
charts included in the Libraries’ Asimov Collection.
The exhibit received a mention in www.researchbuzz.com, and its guest book has been signed by visitors from Spain and Belgium.
“For me, that’s the whole idea of the Web, to transcend geographic, among other boundaries,” Toren said.
Toren sees great potential in the Internet for libraries because it is a simple way to make voluminous amounts of information accessible to a large audience at any time and any place around the globe.
She pointed to the antique Christmas and Valentine card exhibits as an example. While the cards were stored away in the archives, no one could see them unless they knew to go to the West Virginia and Regional History Collection and ask to see them.
Even if a physical display were created, still only relatively few people would see them. But having something on the Internet opens the gates.
“We have thousands of people coming to our Web site,” Toren said.
A popular new addition of the WVU Libraries’ offerings is
“Changing Stages: 100 Years of Theater,” a commercial video series composed of six 60-minute videos. The online Benedum Lecture Series also quickly became a favorite among researchers and students. The series was originated two decades ago by
then Benedum professors who had an interest in fostering an enhanced intellectual dimension for the University. The Web site provides access to digital recordings of nearly 90 of the presentations.
“The users are definitely demanding more digital resources,” Toren said. “They don't want just the latest material to be digitized, but historic things to be digitized, too.”
The WVRHC stepped in again to answer that call with an exhibit of 200 historical photos of Storer College, the first African-American college in West Virginia. Established Oct. 2, 1867, in Harpers Ferry to educate former slaves, Storer College existed until 1955 and had two black men serve as president.
Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, abolitionist and author, delivered a speech at Storer College on the subject of John Brown in 1881. Some of John Brown’s captors were said to have been present during the speech. In 1906, Storer College was the site
of the Niagara Movement headed by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. The Niagara Movement later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
New digital projects are currently under way at the WVU Libraries, and Toren expects the focus on posting scholarly material to continue to increase.
“I think not just at our library but at all libraries we’re going to see their primary research materials, the things nobody else has, being digitized and made available, I hope freely, for researchers around the world,” Toren said. “I hope that becomes the model.”
WVU Libraries digital exhibits can be viewed online at http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/exhibits