CarLibrary.org - News
April 7, 2016
The processes recommended in the CarLibrary.org Table of Contents, added over a four-year period, had significant redundancy and lacked good flow from topic to topic. Editing and reorganizations was started! This was the planned revision to the Table of Contents:
January - March 2016
I joined the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) in February and received a recent issue of their Journal and a membership directory in March. Both are great resources, as is the access to ALL the SAH publications since 1969 on their website - very well cross-indexed. Highly recommended!
Google announced on February 12, 2016 that Picasa, its desktop photo editing and management program, would not be supported after March, 2016. The Picasa Web Albums, the online feature of this program, would transition to Google Photos.
Several webpages of this site have recommended using Picasa for basic photo captioning and metadata tagging, including location tagging. "Desktop" Picasa will function indefinitely for this use. Software ("app") program recommendations will be updated as replacements become known.
January - December 2015
All of the webpages on this site, most which are in the Table of Contents, were reviewed and revised in November. Comments and suggestions for further improvement are always welcome!
As prices drop for USB drives, Linux Mint and Greenstone were put on a 32 GB drive after a "clone" and simple file copy from the original - and very useful - 16 GB drive. This promises easy, portable access to many separate collections, every massive ones! The same techniques could be used to put a Linux-based open-source CMS on a USB drive. Further, an announcement by Intel of the forthcoming "Compute Stick" promises a more independent capability for Windows-based CMS and their collections. A museum, archive or a personal inventory in your pocket!Prof. Gordon Nickerson, University of Western Ontario, sent a link to Greenstone "how to" videos he created on his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/
Prof. Nickerson also started a Facebook Greenstone group: "If anyone is interested in joining it is LIS 9720 - Digital Libraries. While geared to the students in (his) course, it does has a lot of useful info."
July - December 2014 Status
The digital archive for the Fabulous Fifties newsletters was updated, with all available back issues on December 15. Newsletters not originally in PDF format were scanned to PDF/text and all can be reviewed by date and title or the complete collection can be searched in full text. Enter the "vault" above to access this archive.
In November, the ExifTool webpage was updated to add a second "how to" video and examples of using this software to read metadata into standard CSV files over many directories with thousands of image and PDF files. This use of the ExifTool can be a great first step in the formation of a collection. Trials also included using Picasa's "face detection", which can save peoples names to standard metadata locations. Trials will next include the ExifTool function to write geo-data into photos from standard GPS track files.
Trials continued with the PastPerfect CMS system. Its ability to create custom fields specific to car collections are a real plus, as is its excellent import and export functions. Any collection using Excel to manage assets should download and evaluate the PastPerfect trial version, easily available on their website.
Two on-site demonstrations of PastPerfect were made at Los Angeles area car collections; one collection owner seems ready to implement PastPerfect. Although there is great flexibility for describing cars, documents and photographs because of the 20+ custom fields/categories in each of these segments, is there a "standard" for these categories that will ease data exchange in the future? Draft lists of categories were sent to several collection managers for comment.
A visit to two auto marque archives in England in September was very informative. Each has done tremendous organizing of their documents and photographs and seems ready for the next step - choosing a CMS.
These visits caused a renewed emphasis on mastering the ExifTool to determine its practical usefulness as a first step in collections management. Although the ExifTool has many powerful functions, it must be run from the Windows command line ("CMD") or in a Mac (or Linux) terminal window. This can be daunting, but practice makes perfect! The ExifTool created a very useful Excel inventory of 2000+ photos in 53 subfolders. Later, the ExifTool "write" function put metadata into 822 travel photos from England.
These can be excellent first steps for any collection when the ExifTool (command line) is used with the ExifToolGUI and Picasa. Highly recommended!
April - June 2014 Status
After attending the international World Forum and NAAM conference at the Petersen Automotive Museum late in March, a detailed evaluation of the PastPerfect collections management software was initiated. PastPerfect was found to be a practical and relatively low-cost system that should provide excellent "collections management" functions to an auto collection/museum. Email me for a link to a two-part video review of this system.
The Greenstone Frazer Nash archive was enhanced in late May with the addition of nearly 40 magazine articles on the AFN Ltd company, the prewar and postwar cars. The articles were scanned in "PDF text" format and the Greenstone "search" tab will locate all articles containing any search term. The articles were categorized in Greenstone solely with "embedded metadata." Click the vault logo above to access this archive and browse for the articles under the "documents title" tab.
January - March 2014 Status
On a visit to New Zealand in February, we learned about the new "STQRY" service being used by two auto museums. Initial review shows this should be an efficient and inexpensive method for a museum/collection to interactively provide detailed information about each auto or exhibit. More details here.
A report and summary list of CMS software was added to this site in February 2014. This draft invites your comments!
"Portable Greenstone" USB flash drives were mailed or delivered to four auto museum/collections managers. More drives are "under construction." These 16 GB USB drives contained a full Linux distribution, the Greenstone software and several prototype digital collections.
A new archive was added for the WOW/Classic Cars Museum. This archive also was made using embedded metadata written into nearly 150 personal photos. The ExifTool was used to both "read from" and "write into" metadata to the photos. Click the vault door above to review this or any of the other archives.
The Southward Car Museum archive was revised and improved, using the same approach as for the Frazer Nash archive - see below. It uses "best practices" accession numbering for the digital objects and the archive was built using embedded metadata in the digital.
July - December 2013 Report
In December, the Greenstone software was installed and tested with several sample collections on a 16 GB USB drive under the recently released Linux Cinnamon Mint 16. Greenstone works well, as do all the programs included with Mint, such as LibreOffice, GIMP and several media players. More than 10 GB of the USB drive can be used for collections. A "How To" webpage for this project is here. This is a good development and allows a full working digital library to be easily carried around and shared with others by plugging into nearly any PC.
We worked on a volunteer project for a Los Angeles-area car museum to select and implement a "Collections Management Systems" (CMS) for six months during 2013 but no system met the owner's requirements and a new team took over the search. One positive result was a report and summary list of CMS software that was added to this site in February 2014. See "Collection Management Systems - An Introduction" in the Table of Contents.
The Greenstone team continues to improve the software and release new versions. Although the Car Library archives are on version 2.85, there is a re-designed version 3.06 available, with tutorials and templates to customize the appearance of collections. All Car Library archives now use only "standard" interface so the features of this new version will be explored.
The Frazer Nash archive was revised and improved with archive "best practices": digital object accession numbering and adding embedded metadata to the archived objects. New material added to the archive will use these techniques. The improvements are described on a new webpage. These improvements were much more efficient than prior practice. We highly recommend using a numbering system and embedded metadata as a "first step" for digital assets irrespective of any plans for an archive, collections or other management system. Get those documents and photos properly identified! The ExifTool was used to both "read" and "write" metadata from and to photos in large batches. Comments are invited and appreciated.
The newly named "Guide to Improved Identification and Classification of Digital Photos, Images and Documents" (former "Digital Photo Identification") webpage is now a more concise "how to" process for identifying digital photos and other documents for an archive or library. This page also contains specific, preliminary recommendations for classifying (and scanning) various types of digital assets. Check the Table of Contents.
The ExifTool - Reading and Writing Embedded Metadata was added. It describes a very good tool, free to download and use, to prepare photos and documents - very useful and strongly recommended!
Why? If you would rather avoid multiple iterations of inputting identifying/descriptive information for your digital assets, these webpages can help. Greenstone, the primary focus of this website, normally creates a library/archive by adding descriptors (metadata) to digital assets externally, either from an import of a descriptor file to Greenstone or within the Greenstone program. The two webpages referenced above show how a library/archive can be made using "embedded metadata" that is written into each photo or document (your digital assets). This is a "good thing" even if the library/archive is delayed or never built!
The ExifTool - Reading and Writing Embedded Metadata also describes how the ExifTool (and the GUI) can make a CSV list of digital files in a directory which can be read by Excel (or a database). These lists are a great step towards organizing your digital assets; the lists can then be imported into Greenstone or other databases or management systems. See separate webpages on "imports" in the Table of Contents.
Finally, the early steps and trials used to make these guides are in Trials and Tests with Picasa, Metadata, Greenstone and the ExifTool. It's optional reading!
April 2013 Report
A prudent first step for many before considering a digital library archive is to prepare items - digital photos, documents, articles, etc. Are these files well-identified - including captions and key words? There are recommendations for identifying files on the "Digital Photo Identification" webpage. This page provides a photo and document identification overview and procedures that follow long-term archive ID practices. This step will simplify adding documents and photographs to a Greenstone library/archive.
Also recommended is a free, online training course for digital archives, "Digital Libraries, Repositories and Documents". I have used it and found much useful information. The module is described as:
First Project Inquiry: Databases
One approach to organizing collection "items" is using a traditional database. An older version of the Microsoft Access database program was used to create a simple database, using a list of cars and club members provided by the Frazer Nash Car Club. Theses were Excel files, imported to Access to make one table (list) of club members and car owners and a separate table of Frazer Nash cars. The initial goal of this database was to produce on-screen and printed reports to show all owners, over time, of the prewar and postwar Frazer Nash cars. This sample data produced good results, but the research and data-entry required for a complete history of all the 400+ cars and owners is an extensive task, likely best done by more-knowledgeable FN Club members. However, these database functions can be expanded to perform all traditional car club tasks - member information, event planning, mail lists, etc.
The same database techniques were then adapted to organize the inventory and basic data on individual autos in a car collection, a task likely now done on paper files or a spreadsheet. Another simple Access 2000 database was made. Templates of these databases are available by request.
Second Project Inquiry: A Digital Library/Archive
In a step beyond a database, "digital library" software seemed most promising for organizing automobile-related images, reports, video, websites, history, specifications - nearly any item in digital format. A digital library can be a repository of the digital version of these items - the actual digital photographs and scanned documents. This is different from using a database, which typically is only a catalog or inventory of the items.
The capabilities of the digital library software were confirmed after several weeks using the tutorials and workshops provided on the Greenstone website.
Greenstone is an open-source program (free!) developed at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. It was partly customized to be "car data friendly" and initially three sample "collections" were made and put on a self-running (data) DVD, with the goal to promote interest, discussion and use by the owners of car collections, auto historians or car hobbyists.
There is a similar open-source program, DSpace, developed by MIT and HP, primarily for academic use. The DSpace site states that more than 300 institutions use this system, mostly in the U.S. The programs are compatible at the "data-level". Greenstone provides a tutorial to show how to move a digital collection from DSpace to Greenstone and vice-versa. Internet comments and comparisons of both systems seem to confer no advantage to either and note that meta-tag classification of item using either software system is preserved.
Because there was specific interest in Greenstone from several car collections and archives, we made a basic step-by-step guide to importing an Excel file of car-related data into Greenstone. A second version includes examples of the computer screen for each step.
Project Inquiry - 2013 Update: Collections Management Software (CMS)
Related to software for digital libraries and archives is proprietary and open-source software for museum collections management. This category of database software pre-dates "digital archives" and offers many choices. In general, a CMS is more focused on the management of "objects" in a collection museum - their source, descriptions, locations. Objects can include documents, books and photographs and the digital representation of all. Although these systems almost always include direct display (or links to) for the Internet browsers, they typically do not have the full text search and display that is essential for a digital library/archive.
A comprehensive overview of CMS offerings and functions , though not recent, is available on the the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) website.
Early in 2014, this website added a table describing the CMSs available currently from many vendors - 38 total! Also a webpage introduction to CMS.
CarLibrary.org has distributed data DVDs (see link below) with prototype "library collections" of old racing magazines, data (documents and photos) from the Petersen Automotive Museum and digital material related to the Frazer Nash car.
This is a video progress report, to be Part 1 of a series, on the improved Frazer Nash portion of the project made on January 9, 2012. I think the results are very successful. Part 2 is an 11-minute demonstration on adding records (photographs) to the Frazer Nash collection and selecting metatags for those photos. The video also shows the Excel source for the "Frazer Nash owners" collection and explains how that Excel file was imported to Greenstone. The final Excel file was put together from several sources, including an export from the trial Frazer Nash Access database. More details about the Frazer Nash digital archive is on this webpage.
In April 2012, there was a conversion/import from the catalog of the Bristol Heritage Trust archives on Excel files into Greenstone for the Bristol Owners Club.
In September 2012, a prototype collection was made using a list of cars and motorcycles in the Southward Car Museum (New Zealand) and 150 photographs.
In February 2013, a archive was made with 188 digital photos taken at the Mullin Automotive Museum, classified in Greenstone using only captions and keywords added in the Picasa photo organizing/editing software.
Some of the sample Greenstone collections were initially mailed or distributed on data DVDs (see below). Making and mailing nearly 100 DVDs was tedious and, except in rare circumstances, should not be necessary if the samples are available on the Internet. Work began in February, 2012 to make these samples/prototypes available on the Internet.
It was not too difficult to make Greenstone run "locally" using Ubuntu (Linux) server software (on a 10+ year old Shuttle computer). After more experience with the Ubuntu Server software, and with expert advice from the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato, the sample collection became "Internet accessible" on May 15, 2012 - a real stretch of my computer capabilities! This demonstrates that Greenstone software, running on a Linux server, allows vehicle (or history) collections with modest computer budgets to make their library accessible on a local network, or the Internet, at very low cost.
American Library Association Conference
On June 25, 2012, I visited this conference to learn more about modern library systems. A report is here which lists specific tools which can assist car collections. One discovery is LibraryThing and this is a small sample car library.
1. A webpage is planned to outline the steps needed to get Greenstone on Ubuntu Server 12.04 - without my false starts and dead-ends!
2. For researchers or entities interested in using "best practices" to survey and acquire open-source or commercial digital library offerings - and professional implementation assistance - we are reviewing and drafting technical specifications (requirements) and a statement of work for a digital library project. I am using Requests for Tender/Proposal from four public agencies as models. One checklist is complete. Target completion is mid-year 2014; a link to the completed, free-to-use draft(s) will be posted here.
3. We have significant older data resources in "image only" PDF files, such as the Sports Car Library (link below) . These can be converted to text-searchable PDF files in batch mode using commercial OCR software, such as FineReader. The Sports Car Library would be much more useful to auto historians in a searchable format, so this will also be a future project.
The Sample Car Library Data Disk
If you would like to have a working Greenstone collection containing sample collections, send me an email with your address and I'll send you the "car collections" data DVD. The cost will be $5 (or less), to include postage anywhere.
Contact me if you would like help starting a digital library. If you send me a digital list (Excel preferred) of your photos, documents or items to be in the library, I'll make it into a Greenstone collection starter and include it on the above-described sample DVD - no extra charge!
Email me with any questions! Bob Schmitt, email@example.com