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SMU presents rare special collections with CONTENTdm

Southern Methodist University (SMU) has been showcasing its digital collections using CONTENTdm since 2008. SMU presents more than 50,000 image, text and audio/video files in 56 digital collections on SMU Central University Libraries’ CUL Digital Collections website. The collections include strong concentrations in railroads, Mexico and the US West, with special emphasis on Texas history and art.

Researchers have used CUL Digital Collections to illustrate many areas of study. The Mexico: Photographs, Manuscripts and Imprints collection, for example, receives thousands of hits from users and researchers across Mexico. The George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image collection, containing thousands of images and documents relating to Dallas and Texas, is also growing in popularity. Over the last two years, the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions (nCDS) received TexTreasures grants, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, to digitize thousands of items from the Cook Collection.

Scholars from many fields of research have used CUL Digital Collections, including Texas history, African-American history, women’s history, art history and others. Recently, for instance, a professor from a nearby university used a photograph from the Texas Artists: Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper digital collection to identify a sculpture found in storage at a local church and help determine the cost of having the sculpture conserved.  

CUL selected CONTENTdm in 2008 because the libraries lacked staff to provide customization and code development for open-source solutions, according to Cindy Boeke, Digital Collections Librarian and Assistant Director of the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions (nCDS). SMU recently transitioned from its locally hosted instance of CONTENTdm. After looking at a number of alternative providers, SMU selected OCLC’s hosted CONTENTdm service because it was still the best solution and allowed SMU to continue its workflow seamlessly.  

“One really compelling benefit was that we were able to port over our full set of digital collections as is, including reference URLs,” said Cindy. “The process went much smoother than I expected. We worked with several members of the CONTENTdm team and they made everything very easy for us. OCLC answered all of our questions quickly and thoroughly, and helped us overcome some very specific technical issues that were unique to our collections. The OCLC team was very flexible and came up with solutions that met our needs.”

‪Going forward, nCDS is excited to work with its university partners to develop new priorities for digitization and to track outcomes of the usage of its digital collections using the CONTENTdm service.

Palacio Municipal - costado - (City Hall - side view)

Palacio Municipal - costado - (City Hall - side view), ca. 1885–1890, by A. Lagrange y Hermano, DeGolyer Library, SMU. This image is one of five photographs of Monterrey, Mexico, that are being used to illustrate the architectural history of the city. According to a Monterrey researcher, the five photographs are “probably the oldest pictures available of our city.”