University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee shares history with students and the world through CONTENTdm

Since 2002, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee has been using CONTENTdm to showcase its collection of more than 130,000 digital objects. The library staff likes CONTENTdm because it allows them to broadly share their digital collections, and they find the service is easy to use. Ann Hanlon, Head, Digital Collections and Initiatives and DH Lab, shared that the university is fortunate to have a library school. The library hires a lot of student interns to work with their digital collections, training many of them to use the CONTENTdm project client, which the students find simple to use.

Recently, the University of Milwaukee Libraries migrated to CONTENTdm’s new responsive interface, and Ann noted that the whole process went very smoothly. The transfer of all of their digital objects went well, including easily corrected issues with compound objects, such as newspapers and oral histories. Ann added that the CONTENTdm team provided excellent assistance with this migration.

Because of the type of content in the library’s collections, staff have completed a number of customizations to the CONTENTdm responsive website. They use a streaming player called Kaltura, so their Application Development Specialist, Jie Chen, worked with the CONTENTdm team to make customizations to integrate the Kaltura player seamlessly into the library’s CONTENTdm audio and video collections. The library also uses Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS), an open source application to help make oral histories searchable. By joining Kaltura and OHMS together in CONTENTdm, the library has created a very nice experience for their users.

“We are really happy with the new interface, and we prefer it to previous versions of CONTENTdm,” said Ann. “We have received positive feedback about the new image viewer from students and the curators from our special collections and archives departments.”

The library’s March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project collection is its most heavily used in classrooms. Several classes use this collection to do research because students can download materials from the site to create their own digital projects. The collections stored in CONTENTdm provide the students with the freedom to engage creatively with the digital collections in ways that they would not be able to with the physical collections. Students have used the StoryMapJS tool to create projects with the collections. Ann said that the library’s digital collections team has worked with many graduate and undergraduate classes, especially history classes.

The American Geographical Society’s Asia and Middle East collection and the Milwaukee Polonia collection are also very popular. The AGSL Asia and Middle East collection attracts an international user population, including many in China and Russia, and includes selections from several important photography collections. The Milwaukee Polonia collection features more than 32,000 glass plates and negatives from a studio photographer from the south side of Milwaukee who took photos during the early to mid-twentieth century.

The library is very excited about CONTENTdm’s work with IIIF and the potential it brings to deliver their 100,000+ images to researchers around the world, allowing them to have more creative use of their digital objects and to do comparative research. In the future, the library will be exploring the many possibilities with CONTENTdm and IIIF.

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee