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July 30, 2004

David Rumsey: How Online Digital Libraries Provide Access to Culture

OSCON Day 5's first keynote is David Rumsey presenting an incredible collection of maps and a tool built to enable new ways to interact with them.

David suggests that having access to historical maps and images reveals the source code of cultural systems. Fair use, interoperability, content aggregation and cross site search capability seem to align with the ideals of open source.

10,000 maps in the repository, several terrabytes of images, largest being ~2G. Have a java client that lets you do all kinds of interesting things with images, load multiple at a time, zoom in, see relative sizes. Images have great deal of meta-data. One feature is to allow people to create a narrative with the images. Example is looking at a large-scale map of Mexico, zoom in on a top view of a volcano, open up a sketch of the volcano and then open up a small map which shows elevation from the sea.

David opens up a map made by Lewis and Clark, then overlays the current state boundaries and GIS plots of each of the camps. You can click on any of the camp-site dots and get GIS coordinates and information about the stay.

David opens up four maps of a small section of SanFrancisco, in a grid where you're looking at ~50 year time spans and talks about how difficult it would be to physically do something similar in a library. Looks at a small (10-block) chunk of LA and fades in different periods of time to get an idea of how the shoreline was developed over the past 100 years.

Are doing similar things with texts, gravestones, artwork (takes a look at an old Shakespeare book, comparing four different versions).

The application can search across repositories, and also use a local repository so you can put your own images.

All images are in OCLC with a URL to the repository. All images are Googled as well.

David saves the best for last, they took an old map of Yosemite, which has shading to show depth. They took an elevation map and merged the two creating a 3-D representation of the old map. The result is the power to do a fly-through or have an interactive, rotating image to zoom around.

Posted by mike at July 30, 2004 9:48 AM