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The one that got away…

Not all artifacts of material culture are able to be readily digitized; there are a number of physical and intellectual hurdles to be crossed before an item makes it to the scanner. Each candidate item must evaluated to determine if it can by scanned without damage to the object, at the same time each item is examined to see if it is even possible to scan the item due to some physical characteristic such as the nature of a very tight binding, or a binding that obscures the text. Finally each item is examined to determine the copyright status. Here are some sample items from Villanova’s Special Collections that are candidates for scanning but due to a physical or intellectual impediment scanning is not possible:

Too fragile

Too tightly Bound

Too small (and too tightly bound)

In copyright
(This copy of the Secret Life of Salvador Dali has the author’s distinctive signature with hand-drawn illustrations).

Scrapbooks and albums present unique challenges in digitization. Component parts of these works often are physically and intellectually possible to scan, but display and presentation issues make it difficult to show the interrelationships between distinct objects. As well, objects contained within other objects often are physically connected, making opening and closing the parts and pages and scanning the front and back of each item problematic. Below are 4 images from two scrapbooks in Special Collections that highlight these difficulties. Images 1 and 2 are pages from a scrapbook created to show the related early historic preservation efforts in the creation of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and the U.S. National Park at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This work contains bits of wood from buildings at both locations along with photographs, postcards, and pamphlets. Thus it is possible to scan all of the component parts of this work but showing the physical relationships of the component works in our existing digital library software is problematic. Another scrapbook from Special Collections, depicted in images 3 and 4, collects the hundreds of congratulatory letters (still contained in their stamped envelopes), and telegrams sent to Robert Maitland O’Reilly upon his appointment as Surgeon General of the United States on September 7, 1902, as well as the newspaper clippings announcing the appointment. Image 4 is one of these letters, authored and autographed by the then President of the United States – Theodore Roosevelt. The letters can be scanned individually but then they lose the relationship to the scrapbook as a collective whole. Some libraries have experimented with creating a distinctive scrapbook interface to present these works in a more complete and rich form; this is an area of future investigation and development for us at the digital library. For now these rare works must still be accessed in person.






Filmmakers Discover Irish Images in the Digital Library


This 2008 film, “Cromwell in Ireland,” also marketed as “Cromwell: God’s Executioner,” features numerous images, plates and maps from Villanova University’s Digital Library. In 2007, writers and researchers working on the film’s script were seeking archival images depicting individuals, locations and events pertinent to the story of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland. During this invasion, which spanned four years (1649 to 1653), an estimated 500,000 people, one quarter of the population of Ireland, died from war, disease and starvation, making this the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the country.

After browsing the Joseph McGarrity Collection of the Digital Library, the scriptwriters noted several specific images of interest for their enterprise. The writers, after contacting the Digital Library staff for permission to use these images, requested assistance in locating other images that were proving difficult to find. An extensive search of the print McGarrity Collection and the Early European rare book collection produced a considerable number of rare sources with plates and maps that fit the filmmakers’ needs. These materials were soon digitized and added to the Digital Library for use by the international filmmakers and by scholars studying these tragic events.

King William
The film, produced by Irish national broadcaster RTE and the UK’s History Channel, aired on Irish television in September, 2008, and is scheduled to be broadcast on the UK History Channel this November. The filmmakers hope that the series will be broadcast on a North American channel such as Smithsonian Networks or the History Channel in 2009.

Directed by two-time IFTA Award-winning director Maurice Sweeney, the cast includes a host of international stars. The film also features commentaries by leading historians of this period of Irish history, including Micheál Ó Siochrú; John Morrill, professor of history at University of Cambridge; Jane Ohlmeyer, professor of history at Trinity College, Dublin; Pádraig Lenihan, lecturer in history at the University of Limerick; Nicholas Canny, professor of history at NUI Galway; and Ronald Hutton, professor of history at the University of Bristol.

Cromwell in Ireland is presented and largely authored by Dr. Micheál Ó Siochrú, a vibrant young Irish historian who has just published a full-length study of Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland, God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Throughout the film, he and the other historians guide the viewer through the historical narrative and action, offering challenging new insights into the war and its legacy.

The historical figures that the film features most prominently are Oliver Cromwell, England’s famous general and a Puritan deeply inimical toward the Irish Catholic Church; Henry Ireton, his second-in-command and successor; Sir Charles Coote, his uncompromising lieutenant in Ulster; Owen Roe O’Neill, Gaelic Ireland’s great leader; his kinsman Hugh Dubh O’Neill; and the Marquis of Ormond, the ineffectual leader of the doomed Royalist coalition.

The film consists of two 52-minute episodes, each including credits featuring the contributions of Villanova University’s Digital Library. 

A screening of the film, “Cromwell in Ireland,” will be held in the new Griffin Room, Falvey Memorial Library, on Thurs., Nov. 13, 2008, from 12:00-2:00.

Please join us for the screening.  R.S.V.P. michael.foight@villanova.edu .

(Column adapted from the Blue Electrode 26 September post by Michael Foight)


U.S. Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection (Lexis-Nexis)

This digital collection starts with the American State Papers in 1789 and includes reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives up to 1969. Trial until until November 30, 2008.

Since this database is on trial, it is under consideration for purchase. Please leave your comments/votes below if you would like us to keep this resource.


U.S. Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection (Readex)

This digital collection starts with the American State Papers in 1789 and will include reports, documents and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives up to 1980 when completed. Maps can be searched in a separate module.  Trial ends November 30, 2008.

Since this database is on trial, it is under consideration for purchase. Please leave your comments/votes below if you would like us to keep this resource.


Usage Statistics point out growth and unique treasures

Implemented during the summer of 2008, the usage statistics module of the Digital Library provides a glimpse of the active user population, currently and back to the inception of the Digital Library in Fall 2006. In addition to the number of users and their paths through the Digital Library, and the most viewed items and collections, the most searched for terms and keywords are also identified. All of the collected statistics are for users that are accessing the Digital Library from off-campus locations, this is done in order to eliminate the page views used by staff in describing the specific materials. Given that the Digital Library does have many additional users on campus, these statistics and patterns are qualified and conservative.

In January 2007 the number of monthly unique visitors to the Digital Library was 1,797; by January 2008 that number had risen to 2,343 and by March 2008 had grown to 4,163. September 2008 showed a near equal figure to March with 4,100 visitors. The busiest days of the week are Wednesday and Thursday, and the busiest times are 1 to 5 PM.

In 2007, the most frequently visited collections were the Joseph McGarrity Books Collection and the Image Collection.

In 2008, the most frequently visited collections are the Catholica Collection, the Joseph McGarrity Personal Paper Collection, and the Cuala Press Broadside Collection. For 2007 and 2008, the most frequently visited item is the Portrait gallery of pugilists of America and their contemporaries from James J. Corbett to Tom Hyer. This Philadelphia-published richly illustrated volume, from the Pennsylvaniana Collection, provides biographies and photographs of the best boxers of the late 1800’s. A search of the national bibliographic database Worldcat shows only 8 other institutions beyond Villanova University owning a print copy of the work.

The next most popularly viewed title and the one linked to the most frequently searched keyword phrase – “Baldwin Locomotive Works” – in the Digital Library search software is the Baldwin locomotive works : illustrated catalogue of locomotives. This work provides a richly illustrated view of the sale offerings of the Philadelphia-based Baldwin Locomotive Works for the year 1871, the perfect work for a railroad tycoon to read in their own Pullman compartment while contemplating the newly opened (1869) Transcontinental Railroad!


Go on… Read a banned book… They won’t bite!

Banned Books

Stephen King, renowned fiction writer and author of scary dog book Cujo, was featured in Falvey’s Banned Books display, “Closing Books Shuts Out Ideas.” Some of the reasons offered for banning King’s fiction classics, from Carrie to The Shining, are that the books are “corruptive and obscene” and “profane and sexually objectionable.”

Joanne Quinn and Bill Greene, with help from Laura Hutelmyer, organized the first floor display, which was up through the beginning of November. 

Photograph by Alice Bampton


CAMIO : Catalog of Art Museum Images Online : trial until October 30, 2008 Expired


  • The database contains about 95,000 works of fine and decorative art.
  • The images come from more than 20 museums, located in the United States and abroad.
  • All content is rights-cleared for educational use.
  • The collection ranges from 3000 BCE to the present, representing premiere examples of Asian, African, Latin American and Western art.
  • Includes difficult-to-find contemporary art.
  • Users can download high-resolution images, and e-mail images and metadata for further study.
  • For more information on CAMIO, click here

Since this database is on trial, it is under consideration for purchase. Please leave your comments/votes below if you would like us to keep this resource.



Last Modified: October 1, 2008