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SPRI Review 2009: Freeze Frame: historic polar images

Freeze Frame: historic polar images

The comprehensive website relating to this JISC-funded project to digitise some 20,000 images from the Institute's historic photographic collections was launched in March 2009. Work adding new images from additional expeditions and more text continued throughout 2009. The project allowed the Institute to fulfill two core aims for the photographic section of its heritage collections; those of improving preservation and access. The web site provides free access to researchers and a means of using an otherwise inaccessible set of materials. Through the digitisation process we have been able to capture high-resolution digital copies of the original items preserving for the future what, in many cases, were extremely fragile images.

In 2009, JISC allocated a further grant which enabled SPRI to embed a selection of the images and their related metadata in web portals and to monitor the success of placing images in these portals, creating a final report for use by SPRI and other FE and HE institutions that may wish to follow a similar path to making their collections more visible in this way. Monitoring of, and reporting on, any increase in traffic enables SPRI staff to assess the effectiveness of this approach for future strategic development of the site. This has already led to discussion on the redesign of the Picture Library web pages.

Development of the Freeze Frame web site was carried out within Cambridge University by CARET with close liaison with the Freeze Frame project team. The Freeze Frame website was developed using Wordpress. This allowed the easy addition of modern browsing functionality such as social book marking, tag clouds, and so on, and a fully customisable design and style. However, Wordpress needed to be customised extensively to meet the demands of a picture library project. The plugin architecture was sufficiently flexible to meet these demands and many of the plugins developed are currently being prepared for reuse in similar projects elsewhere. Data is stored in the University's repository DSpace@Cambridge, and accessed via a DSpace SOAP interface.

The Freeze Frame project team wish to thank Mrs Angela Murphy, Portals Project consultant, and the JISC representatives, particularly Mr Alastair Dunning and Ms Paola Marchionni, for their support throughout the project. Programme meetings were useful ways to keep in touch with other projects and much was learned from others' experiences. JISC responded quickly to requests to discuss areas where additional support or information was required, for example in evaluation and metadata standards, and provided an excellent programme of training.

Heather Lane and Julian Dowdeswell