Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Always with the Banjo: Rapid Capture Digitization at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

How we roll: live banjo music during the RCPP open house. Photograph by Ben Sullivan.

The last week of April, after months of preparation, the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections participated in a week-long Rapid Capture Pilot Project (RCPP) supported by the Smithsonian's Digitization Program Office (DPO).  The DPO has organized these projects at a variety of Smithsonian units, and we were very excited to join the club.

Colin Moore placing a mechanical board on the copy stand as Ed and Diana Coderre of Digital Ark get ready to capture it. Photograph by Ben Sullivan.

The goal of a RCPP is to digitize a large volume of similarly-sized objects using high-throughput digitization workflows and equipment and make them available to the public online in their highest resolution. The Rinzler Archives chose to digitize a large portion of the cover design mechanicals, or pasteup boards, for Folkways Records, due to their importance in the history of design and the beautiful original artwork found on many. Though it required months of preparation, the RRFAC was able to digitize 1,022 oversized folders of cover designs during the 5-day pilot, creating 2,345 unique images (some mechanicals contained multiple layers that required multiple shots). These images were embedded with metadata, sent to the Smithsonian's digital asset management system, and linked to the Collections Search Center for public viewing during the same week.

To promote the use of rapid capture processes, the Rinzler Archives also held an open house for the archives, library, and museum community to come observe the work and ask questions. Talking, being on our feet, and doing repetitive movements all week could have made for very long days, but we're lucky enough to work with some amazing musicians at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, including processing archivist Greg Adams. Greg got us through the week by playing his banjo for us and our 125 visitors throughout the week. When a visitor asked Jessica Beauchamp, a program officer from the DPO, why we had live music at our open house, Jessica replied, "It's just their way here."

Cover mechanical for FW04237 (FE 4237), Music of the Miskito Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua, c. 1981. Moses and Frances Asch Collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.

The Rinzler Archives has never before been able to push digitized content out to the public in this quantity or quality--this, combined with the live music and beautiful materials, energized and motivated us, and made the RCCP week the most fun in the archives in recent memory.

Special thanks to the Digitization Program Office, OCIO, the DAMS team, and the Digital Ark for all their support for this project. This was truly a (BIG) team effort, and we are so proud to have been a part of it.

To view the materials digitized for this project, search for your favorite Folkways album cover by its number in the Collections Search Center, or see some of our favorites here:
FW02319 American Ballads sung by Pete Seeger
FW03863 Radio Programme III: Courlander's Almanac: Familiar Music in Strange Places
FW04008 Songs and Dances of Norway
FW07451 Jill Gallina - Lovin' Kindness
FW06846 Jamaican Folk Songs sung by Louise Bennett

Cecilia Peterson, Digitization Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

No comments:

Post a Comment