© Creative Commons. University of Salford's Photographic Collection (USP/1/1) Royal Technical College sewing class, c1930s.
The University of Salford Archives and Special Collections has been contributing to the Archives Hub for a number of years, originally starting with collection level entries, and subsequently enhancing these to create detailed multilevel descriptions. The next logical step was to start adding links to electronic representations of some of the described materials. These are known as digital archival objects (DAOs), and mean that users can begin to get a taste of the actual content of the collections and so add real value to their research experience.
The Archives Hub now provides the opportunity to link to digital content, and contributors can do this by using the EAD editor or by manual encoding. Detailed guidelines on how to this can be found here: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/dao/.
Due to the number of repositories on the Hub, it cannot hold digital content itself so it must be available from the contributor’s server and accessed by a persistent URL (permanent web address). The University of Salford is currently working on a project to add samples of digitised material from its archive collections into its Institutional Repository, USIR: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/. The content on USIR has persistent URLs, which makes it ideal for adding links to EAD files.
Two archive collections have initially been placed on USIR, the most substantive of which is the University’s Photographic Collection. Selected examples of material from this collection have been uploaded onto USIR, and it currently holds over 900 images (the entire collection consists of many thousands of photos). Creating links in the EAD record is a fairly straightforward process, thanks to the <dao> tag and related EAD elements. <dao> is a linking element that connects the description to the content. Of course, a link needs to be placed in each relevant <did> section, so adding links to 900+ photographs is fairly time-consuming! But the results are well worth the effort, as can be demonstrated by viewing the record on the Hub [http://archiveshub.ac.uk/search/record.html?id=gb427usp]
This functionality is not restricted to photographs, or for that matter images. You can add links to document files such as Word or PDF and to audio files such as mp3 files, in fact anything which has a persistent URL.
The other archive collection currently available on USIR is the Richard Badnall papers, which consists of letters, drawings and other documents. A detailed EAD record for this material already existed on the Hub, so it was just a case of adding the relevant <dao> information for each item, and these links are now live: [http://archiveshub.ac.uk/search/record.html?id=gb427rbp].
As well as creating links to digital objects from a record on the Hub, it is also possible to embed an image to display within the description. Digital objects can be displayed either at collection level or, as Salford has done, lower levels.
With thanks to Ian Johnston, Archives & Special Collections Coordinator, University of Salford for writing this month's feature.