What is a collection?

From UA Libraries Digital Services Planning and Documentation

A collection is a gathering of items, or documents, which bear some relation to one another in the mind of the gatherer.

Much of our online content is being drawn from a multitude of analog collections, which are organized by provenance. However, online these may be combined topically to create a variety of digital collections which mix and match content from the analog collections.

In addition, a collection created by a user selecting from a variety of our holdings -- perhaps also including content from elsewhere -- is still a collection. We recognize that whatever we call a digital "collection" may vary from time to time, from place to place, and from user to user.

For purposes of productivity, we have therefore altered our conception of how we need to organize our content online. We originally created collections online to resemble the analog collections from which they originated. However, as we began to digitize multitudes of tiny collections, we had to rethink our approach. Our current stance is as follows:

'Containers for CONTENTdm are constructed chronologically with the exception of "University of Alabama" which is broad and topical. The person entering the materials into the initial metadata spreadsheet will assign the appropriate container by looking at the date range for the materials in question and identifying where the majority falls, then indicating it in the "Container" column in the spreadsheet. Questions and clarifications on determining the appropriate container can be referred to Donnelly Lancaster Walton.'

Archivists will determine the topics and content to be highlighted in "splash pages" which provide context to "virtual collections" that are then made available with canned links into the holdings. We thus move toward standardization of our descriptive metadata, standardization of upload procedures, and an organization of digital containers which will allow us to scale our production. We rely on metadata to provide us with "virtual collections" of desired content, and a variety of access points. The analog collections will still be accessible, however, via "canned links" (again, relying on the metadata to support the creation of virtual collections.)