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Number: 71
Year: 2002
Author: Johann Van Reenen, Editor
Title: Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces. Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age

A case study of the online archive of New Mexico

      The University of New Mexico General Library was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant in1999. The purpose of the grant was to create a technology center to support the conversion of finding aids to more than one thousand manuscript and oral history collections held at four libraries and museums in New Mexico. The four participating institutions are the UNM Center for Southwest Research, Rio Grande Historical Collections at New Mexico State University, New Mexico State Archives and Records Center and the History Library at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. The collections offer a representative sampling of more than 400 years of rich cultural history held in these four institutions. The project is scheduled for completion in May 2001. The participating institutions will contribute more than half of the costs required to complete this project.

      More than 13,000 pages of finding aids will be encoded in SGML (Standard General Markup Language) using the standard Encoded Archival Description (EAD) Document Type Definition (DTD). The EAD is jointly maintained by the Society of American Archivists and the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress (see the EAD web site at for more information).

      Approximately half of the original finding aids are in a paper-only format. Most of these finding aids were sent to a service bureau for conversion to an electronic format using SGML. The other half were already in an electronic form (mostly ASCII word processing or data base formats). Those documents were converted in-house using SGML authoring tools and ASCII text editors by encoding specialists assigned to the project.

      To accommodate the search form and display for the end-user, the EAD finding aids in the SGML format are converted to HTML by a PERL script.  The archival version of the finding aid will remain in the SGML format for future use. The published version of the finding aid will remain in the HTML format insuring accessibility from standard web browsers at the end-users desktop. Long term goals include converting the SGML to XML (Extensible markup language).

      A demonstration project within the larger project will provide access to more than 400 digital facsimiles of selected documents, photographs and/or audio clips from the collections being indexed. Images from the collections will be scanned and linked from URLs within the container lists of the digital finding aids. These images will be scanned at 600 dpi as TIFF formatted images for archival storage. They will be converted to smaller JPEG and/or GIFs for public display.

      Open access to the finding aids will be facilitated by the project web site as well as by collection-level MARC records. Those MARC records will be created and loaded into the project union catalog maintained by the University of New Mexico ( and in the OCLC WorldCat database. URL links to the full text of the finding aids are embedded within the 856 field of the MARC record.

      One project manager, 1.5 FTE encoding specialists (actually three employees assigned part time to the project) and the half-time assignment of a systems analyst comprise the central technical team.  At the beginning of the project, intensive training in SGML and the EAD were required for the project staff at the central technology center and for the project coordinators at the participating institutions. Four days were devoted to the training and developing “best practices” among the project participants. Experts from the Online Archive of California and the University of Virginia conducted the training.

      A new web server was acquired and installed in early 1999 to host all of the UNM General Library web services as well as host the online archive project.

      The OANM web server and web environment consists of the following:

1. Dell Poweredge 6300 with (2) 500MHz Pentium III processors with 512MB memory.
2. Storage space on the server is controlled by an ICP Vortex GDT6528RD PCI-to    Ultra2SCSI RAID controller and consists of (5) hot swappable 9.1G drives operating as a RAID 5 disk array.
3. 100 baseT switched Ethernet network connection.
4. Operating system: SuSE Linux v. 6.1 running Apache server v. 1.3.6
5. Currently SGML is being converted to HTML with a PERL script written by Alvin Pollock using Perl v.5.005_02. Both the SGML file and the derived HTML files are stored on the server.
6. Full-text searching is done using sgrep v. 1.92a.   

      A public launch of the OANM was made at the annual meeting of the New Mexico Library Association in March of 2001. The New Mexico State Library will be leading an end-user and reference evaluation process to determine the effectiveness of the web site (i.e. navigation, collections, presentation). An Advisory Board of historians and librarians from around the state has been formed to help guide the future developments of the OANM. A requirement of the grant is to articulate a plan for the ongoing addition of new participants and collections. Thus far, unofficial previews of the web site have resulted in very positive comments from teachers, public, school and academic librarians.

      This collaborative project has provided four institutions in the state of New Mexico with the opportunity to acquire and apply the technical expertise required to add current and future unique collections resources to the growing national and international digital library initiatives.