The Washington State Library illuminates rural digital collections with visual mapping

With OCLC’s CONTENTdm, libraries can increase the visibility of digital collections and make them more discoverable. CONTENTdm enables the storage, editing and display of digital collections, making them accessible online for searchers worldwide.

Last year, the Washington State Library added a visual mapping tool to several of its digital collections, which are powered by CONTENTdm.

The Washington Rural Heritage Collection and the Colville National Forest Heritage Collection use StoryMap JS, a free, open source tool for geo mapping created by Northwestern University’s Knight Lab. The Washington State Library has embedded this tool in its CONTENTdm websites, allowing users to browse maps and explore collections geographically. Users can click on map locations of Washington state, and can view links and short blurbs about digital collections from specific areas. Digital items such as images and videos are available from these collections.

This visual mapping makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for in the digital collections sites, and it provides for novel uses of the state library’s data. The state library’s institutional partners, such as the United States Forest Service, are helped by the sites, which draws attention to lesser known communities and collections in Washington. In the near future, the state library’s items will also appear in the Digital Public Library of America’s (DPLA) map.

The visual mapping functionality is made possible by adding geo-referenced information (latitude and longitude coordinates) to the digital collections. The state library works with library staffers at institutions throughout the state to add these coordinates; interns and volunteers also contribute to the effort.

The Washington State Library also uses the CONTENTdm API and Timeline JS, also from Knight Lab, to tell the story of a pioneer family. This collection, the Mount Baker Foothills Collection, features a timeline that calls up images directly from the library’s digital collections using the CONTENTdm API.