Changes to Digital Collections platform promise enhanced access to over 67 collections

Mar 10, 2021 · Nacuya Rucker

Whether it’s been a few days, months, or longer since your last look around our Digital Collections as part of your research, mark your calendar for March 15. Starting Monday, materials like photographs, manuscripts, artifacts, books, and audiovisuals will be accessible via Islandora – a free, open-source software designed to help institutions, like Iowa State University, and their audiences collaboratively manage and discover digital assets using a best practice framework.

Islandora boasts a powerful search and discovery system along with active user communities that drive timely new features and upgrades. Consistent descriptions across digital collections enhance readability and searchability, modernized viewing options allow a page-flip option for users to thumb through books and pages, search terms are highlighted within the image, rather than the text, and the implementation of the same platform between multiple Iowa Board of Regents universities facilitates greater collaboration and consistency among our digital collections. In addition, users of the Iowa State University Digital Repository may also quickly spot similarities between the two, thus easing the transition between one library platform to another.

Although Islandora is a much-needed update for users and contributors, Digital Collections has achieved unprecedented growth with over 124,000 items and 67 unique digital collections. In 2020, collections were accessed over 141,000 times worldwide – a testament to Iowa State’s land-grant mission at work. The student yearbook, Bomb, remains the most popular digital collection with over 80,500 visits in 2020.

For over 17 years, our Digital Collections has served as a catalyst for research and information for not only the Iowa State community, but the world. Round-the-clock availability of unique, one-of-a-kind materials held by the library grants unlimited access to users whenever, wherever; and item-level keyword search capabilities provide an alternative option for researchers unable to sift through archival boxes. For many, our Digital Collections upends accessibility barriers to scholarship and primary sources, and creates an environment conducive to research and innovation, especially in the area of digital scholarship.

As of 2016, Digital Collections falls under the burgeoning Digital Scholarship and Initiatives Department (DSI), which supports research, teaching, and learning through collaboration with staff, students, and faculty on digital scholarly research. DSI provides free, open access to digital materials that embody the scholarly, cultural, and creative activities of Iowa State and the community, including the University Library’s rare, unique, and uncommon local cultural heritage collections. Recent work from DSI includes but not limited to Tracing Race at Iowa State University, the Digital Repository’s recent upgrade to a user-friendly digital platform, the launch of Avian Archives of Iowan Online (avIAn), and the creation of the Art on Campus Digital Map (in collaboration with University Museums).

To identify and innovate new collaborative opportunities with Digital Collections and Digital Scholarship and Initiatives, contact: