Digitization | Just a click away

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has over 200,000 digitized images that can be viewed on its Web site. More than 81,550 objects from the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery are presented online. The MacMillan Center just launched an online interview show, the MacMillan Report, with a new video available each week.

Though there is no shortage of digital content emanating from Yale, University officials acknowledge that the various collections and materials are scattered and in many cases difficult to find. A soon-to-be-unveiled effort to present links to Yale’s digitized materials together on one Web site promises, the officials say, to increase access for researchers and also to make the general public more aware of offerings for which they may have never even looked.

“We have many, many digital projects going on around this University,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview. “It’s just that nobody knows where all of them are.”

Now, a new Office of Digital Dissemination has been formed with the goal of making access to all these projects easier. Lucas Swineford, the office’s director, said a new site — tentatively dubbed Open Yale — will be launched later this semester in an effort to present links to many of Yale’s online initiatives together on one page.

Paul Lawrence, director of the Yale Center for Media and Instructional Innovation, which built Open Yale, called the new site a “kind of directory service.”

In this way, the University will finally unite a set of online offerings that is as fundamentally diverse as it is physically dispersed. Yale’s most prominent Web programs will be included, from Open Yale Courses, the widely publicized program that has so far put 15 full Yale College courses onto the Internet, to the various talks and lectures available for download on Yale’s section of Apple’s iTunes U.

Visibility is not much of a problem for Open Yale Courses and iTunes U, Swineford said, but other University initiatives could use the added exposure that will come with a centralized listing of sites.

Science Saturdays, a program that brings school-aged children to Yale for special lectures from science faculty, also posts videos of the sessions online. But few who do not know about the program would ever find those videos, Swineford added.

Another project, Citizens All, tells a multimedia story of blacks in Connecticut from 1700 to 1850. Organized by history professor David Blight, the project features video and maps, as well as other historical documents and tables. But again, except for those Internet users specifically looking for the project, few will stumble upon it.

“The goal,” Swineford said, “is to make all of these assets more discoverable.”

Where the dissemination work headed by Swineford is largely related to organization of existing materials, other branches under the also-new Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure to which he reports are generating new online projects at a quick pace, Lorimer said.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Yale course, “Faith and Globalization,” is being taped for its own Web site. But that site goes one step farther than Open Yale Courses, in that videos are posted after each lecture and more multimedia course materials are available beyond just the lectures.

The former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, John Walsh, teaches a graduate-level History of Art course that is also being filmed separately from Open Yale Courses. This course, which examines the holdings of Yale’s art galleries as a way of understanding art, will not only help global viewers learn to appreciate art, Lorimer said, but it will also help promote Yale’s own fine-art holdings.

Yale is also promoting its more intellectual holdings, through the creation of two online-only magazines, Yale Global and Yale Environment 360. All of these sites will make their way to Open Yale, and, Lawrence noted, they will each gain from the added visibility.

And if nothing else, Lorimer added, online visitors to Yale will for the first time be able to find what they might not have even known existed.

— Esther Zuckerman contributed reporting.

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