(Originally posted on March 10, 2012 for IST 677 – Creating, Managing, and Preserving Digital Assets at Syracuse University.)
Metadata: Above is the standard view for a digitized image from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, in this case an image of Del Howard, a player for the former San Francisco Seals. I selected the most recently digitized image from the collection, found by visiting the What’s New Online page. The metadata attached to this image is pretty standard: title, call #, date, description, (physical) location, reproduction rights, notes, subject, series. Some of the metadata contain links, as in the case of the following: location, reproduction rights, subjects and series. Most of this information is pretty useful. The provided metadata allow the user to search for images through a number of search queries. Clicking on the subjects will also lead the user to other similar images. The photo ID # may not be very helpful for the user though, as it likely would not mean anything to the user unless she had saved it from a previous search. To the user, the photo ID # is just an arbitrary selection of letters and numbers. Users also have the option of viewing the MARC display of the metadata, although it is difficult to imagine when that may be useful for the average user. The metadata display does not present any inherent problems either, as it is a straightforward list of information.
Search: From the search homepage, users have several search capabilities available to them: keyword, subject, date, photo ID, photographer, neighborhood and the What’s New Online page. In the left-hand side bar, the program also provides links to Featured Galleries and other photo collections that have not yet been digitized. Advanced search criteria include material type (black and white or color), year, and time period. Search tips are also provided, including Boolean connectors, adjacency, truncation and proximity. Overall, the search capabilities provided for users are easy to understand and use, and are no different from other standard search capabilities that many users are likely familiar with.
Eventually, it may be useful to develop a more attractive method of browsing available digital images, particularly by neighborhood. The World Digital Library comes to mind, which has a map of the world on its home page. Since San Francisco is a much smaller area, a map of the city and county would be both attractive and informative, as those who are unfamiliar with the area can see how some images relate to one another geographically.