Head, Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
Moscow, ID 83844-2351
August 21, 1996
A paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists, San Diego, August 30, 1996.
It is my perception that there has been a significant decline in the number and quality of archival publications. Increasing publication costs, a reduction in grant funds, and a decline in staffing appear to be contributing factors. Once it was expected that an archives as a professional obligation would publish a guide to its collections. With the increasing availability of on-line bibliographic networks, this role has been transformed. What became an expectation of reporting manuscripts to NUCMC has passed to an on-line bibliographic database. Many institutions have moved their focus from guides to exhibits as their mode of promotion of treasures and attraction of both donors and researchers.
Nonetheless, archival publishing has a long and distinguished history. I have found mention of an 1875 guide to Virginia manuscripts (Palmer, William P. et al. Calendar of Virginia State papers. Richmond, 1875-1893. 11 v.), as well as a guide to French manuscripts published some 150 years earlier. (Mountfacon, Bernard de. Bibliotheca Bibliothecorum Manuscriptorum Nova. v.1. Paris, ca. 1738.) This activity may have reached its peak with the guides published by the WPA Historical Records Project prior to World War II. A second peak may have been reached about 1980 as the boom in academic institutions was magnified by the relatively large influx of grant funds.
By the late `80s the decline had set in; a function of increased costs as much as it was alternative formats. In addition, federal grant funds became focused on bibliographic systems of description rather than guides to collections or published inventories.
And now we have the World Wide Web. Growing from almost nothing less than three years ago, the web is now a significant factor in archival publication programs. It has been noted that using the web means the library or archives "is becoming a publishing medium. ....[It] contributes to the scholarly repertoire. [The library's] Special Collections pages are the library's first unique publications." (Koopman, Ann and Sharon Hay. "Large-scale application of a web browser." C&RL News, (January 1996)15) Many archivists, particularly those in academic institutions, found themselves in an "early adoption mode." With access to the computers and the networks, these pioneers were quick to see the outreach benefits of web publication. Carole Prietto, of Washington University, attracted a standing room only crowd at last year's annual SAA meeting where she outlined the challenges and rewards of HTML and web browsers. (And published it on the web: <http://library.wustl.edu/~prietto/spinning.html>) Based on the list of repository web-sites I have been maintaining <http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html>, there has been a 95% growth in archival and special collections use of the World-Wide Web over the past year. Archivists, it seems, are taking to the web much faster than they did to the printing press.
The printing press revolutionized the western world. Among other things, it created the dichotomy between what we now call archives and libraries. And archives and libraries were to make use of it as a information dissemination tool. Although we are not yet prepared to give up this tool entirely, I would suggest that new technologies are taking over some of its functions. Libraries, for instance, once published their catalogs in books. On-line bibliographic systems have assumed that function. Directories of resources and repositories were, not too long ago, published as books. Today, that kind of publication is either on-line or in some other electronic format, such as CD-ROM.
The advantages of electronic publication for some sorts of materials is quite clear. In on-line formats, electronic data is easy to update, it is stored in a compressed format until accessed, distribution is solely to those who want the information, and the costs of publication, distribution, and storage are, in some environments, almost nil.
There is one other feature of on-line technology that has been identified as a plus. This is the "dog recognition" factor. According to the famous cartoon, "On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog." <http://info.bellcore.com/BETSI/betsi.html> In the context of archival sites on the World-Wide Web, this means that both the Library of Congress <http://lcweb.loc.gov/spcoll/spclhome.html> and the local historical society <http://edweb.sdsu.edu/edweb_folder/SDHS/HistSoc.html> occupy equivalent spaces. This is certainly an advantage to the historical society. In fact, in many ways, it is easier for the local historical society than it is for the Library of Congress to establish and maintain a web presence.
There is also a benefit to the larger organization. At the University of Idaho, the library's web page <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/> was recognized by the editors of Point Communications as among the "Top 5 Percent of the Web." They explicitly recognized "Digital Memories" <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/special-collections/dgtlcurr.html>, a part of our Special Collections effort, as "the real star" of the library's site. "The University of Idaho's Library site brings you all the info you need about the institution's library system, plus some cool add-ons from their Special Collections and Archives," the review notes. "It's a fascinating piece of the past, and we'd love to see more interpretive pages like this coming online." The Dean of Library Services was quoted as remarking on the benefit to the larger audience of displaying fragile historical documents. (Idaho Register, 8:43(June 7, 1996) 1) It should go without saying that this kind of publicity is of great benefit to both Special Collections and the library as a whole.
Internally, there is a specific benefit, as well. Much of what we have placed on the web are informational guides that we use to answer inquiries, solve problems, and respond to reference requests. Having a web site is a way of networking information for all the staff. Information sharing is now possible in a way that we could only hope for before, and we are a relatively small organization. The benefits to larger institutions should be obvious.
In early 1995 Frank D. Jackson of Emory posted to the Archives & Archivists list a summary of archival use of the World Wide Web. (Frank D. Jackson <fjack01@EMORY.EDU>, "Internet Gems," Archives & Archivists <ARCHIVES@MIAMIU.BITNET>, Fri, 3 Feb 1995 10:11:45; see also William Landis, "Archival outreach on the World Wide Web," Archival Issues, 20:2(1995)129-147.) These provide an initial basis for evaluating archival content on the net:
In May of this year, I noticed that the list of archival web sites that I had been compiling and making available (at <http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html>) had grown to just over 1000 entries. I realized that selecting every tenth item would give me a manageable sample of 100 web-sites to analyze. I would be able to see what, at this very early stage in web development, was actually taking place in archival, rare book, manuscript, historical photographs, and other special collections. In addition, the 100 sites selected would be perfectly proportional to the entire database.
The 100 sites selected automatically from the database included 65 from the United States, six from Canada, thirteen from Europe, five from Asia and the Pacific, and one each from Africa and South America. Three refer to lists of sites and not specific repositories. These numbers compare quite closely with the distribution of the entire database. The entries in the sample list ranged from those web sites over a year old to those less than a month old. They range from small, local repositories to large, national research centers. As such, they provide a useful overview of a rapidly growing phenomenon, the archival (and special collections) web site. (For another analysis of archival web pages, see: Ibl, Jane Helen. World Wide Web Pages and Academic Archives and Manuscript Repositories in North Carolina: A Survey and Recommendations for Standards. A Master's paper for the M.S. in L.S. degree. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science, April, 1996. A summary is posted at <http://ils.unc.edu/~iblj/masters.html>.)
In June, I spent several days reviewing the content and format of the sample 100 web pages. Often called "home pages" (a term I abhor) these are the primary entry points for archival, manuscript, historical photograph, special collections and other repositories of primary sources. The results were interesting and informative.
Nearly 10% of the sites had changed address since I had looked at them last. This is not surprising since, according to the National Laboratory for Applied Network Research "the mean lifetime of a URL is only 44 days." (<http://www.archive.org/webarchive96.html>) Although I sometimes had to scramble to find the new address, none of the sites had completely vanished, which was surprising to me.
Eighty percent of the pages sampled included graphical elements such as logos or colored bullets; 23 percent included illustrations of one sort or another. Only thirteen sites relied solely on textual elements, and only four merely offered a list of links to subsidiary pages. All but one were hypertext sites, although there was one that merely echoed a Gopher text display. The Gopher technology has clearly lost to the World-Wide Web. None of the sites used frames, a new feature of modern browsers that allows the different parts of the displayed windows to scroll independently. Six links referred to parts of more comprehensive pages using the <NAME=> tag and "#" target.
I also examined the sites for meta-data; data about the site and the page, a level of abstraction above the contents of the page, not to be confused with the HTML <META=> tag. Here there were some surprises. For instance, over a quarter of the sites did not include the name or address of the repository. Less than half the pages included an archivist's name or email address, although many included the email address of the institution's web guru. This is a function of an evolving technology. The links, graphics, and source code are expected to break or not function as expected. The person to fix those needs to be notified. But that is not the person to ask whether the papers of Henry Jones include letters from his sister Samantha.
Web-pages are constantly under revision which makes cute little "Under Construction" graphics or textual apologies particularly annoying. What is helpful is to know when the page was last updated. Less than half of our sample provided such a date. What might be worse are those that declare a coming revision but fail to keep to the announced timetable.
Some users of the web have complained that printing out a page or saving it to one's hard-disk seldom keeps track of the original URL for the page. Accordingly, it is useful to the reader to have that URL indicated in the text, perhaps in the <ADDRESS> tag. Only 9% of our sample adopted this practice.
A general description of the parameters of the collection is always helpful as an introduction and 70% of the sample provide something of the sort. 30% provided information or links to the hours the repository was open. Planning a trip to some remote repository is aided by information on hours, addresses, telephone numbers and so on. Few sites have followed Lee Miller's lead at Tulane <http://www.tulane.edu/~lmiller/SpecCollHomePage.html> and included a specific page for visitors from out of town. It gives information about accommodations and parking that is critically important to the visitor from afar.
Approximately 50% of the sites included links to additional descriptions of collections or to container lists and registers, and twelve sites specifically linked to information on rules and/or procedures. As was noted above, few institutions expect to hear from their readers; only 14 linked to lists of staff.
Nearly 30% of the pages contained links to other sources or other sites. This is a small number when you consider that one of the primary benefits of the World-Wide Web is the ability to provide the reader with links to additional information or other sources of similar information. Sites with an emphasis on civil war era materials would give their users additional value by linking to reenactment buffs, genealogical groups, or museums with a civil war focus.
Subjectively, it seemed that half of the sites were constructed "top down" and about half were developed "bottom up." The top down group includes those where there is an institutional web control committee. Often, the information about the library was extracted from some broader publication, such as a university catalog, and posted without much input from the archives staff. Institution-wide logos, navigation bars, and webmasters were frequently an indication of top-down design. Many of these sites correctly used HTML and included graphic elements, but often the content was limited. (For an example, see: McClements, Nancy and Cheryl Becker. "Writing web page standards," C&RL News, (January 1996)16-17.) The "bottom-up" developers were more interesting. These were the sites where the archivist or special collections librarian put together information matched to their unique customer base. Often these stressed content over institutional uniformity.
Graphics, illustrations, and hot buttons enhance the visual attractiveness of web pages. However, it is important to keep in mind the essential use of the World-Wide Web for archival institutions. The web makes it possible to present information on the institution's holdings, services, and procedures in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Archives have always bemoaned their rather narrow audience; the web makes it possible to target that audience with specific information and, as well, to make available the institutional resources to that broader public should they look for it. Publication on the web is not "broadcast" like newspapers and television, it is neither broadly distributed nor cast out among the masses. It just sits there waiting for the individual with the need to access the information. It attracts readers rather than assaults readers.
These characteristics are relevant to the design of web documents. The key to effective design on the web is to focus on content not appearance. (For guidance from a print source, see: Callaway, Erin. "The web is a different world for GUI design." PC Week, (November 13, 1996)26; for archival criteria, see: Colati, Greg. "Creating a sustainable Internet presence, October 21, 1995. <http://www.bowdoin.edu/dept/library/arch/man/toc.htm>) If we can believe the techno-culture mavens, what is needed to sell the Internet is "content." Paul Roberts, in "Virtual Grub Street: Sorrows of a multimedia hack," (Harpers, 292:1753(June 1996)71-77) reveals that content in many multimedia products, a close cousin to the web, is pretty thin gruel. He notes that as a contributor he was to write 100 words about 30 classical composers, a bit of writerly discipline he had previously never studied. The author's task, in providing content for a multimedia production, is "to absorb and compress great gobs of information into small, easily digestible, on-screen chunks. Brevity and blandness: these are the elements of the next literary style." (p. 71)
In this sort of environment, we have the edge. Information and content are the stock in trade of libraries and archives. This is where the web has most promise. We don't have to be boring and bland, and we can, thank the web, be information providers. And we can give it away! Libraries and archives have always been information providers, the web is just making it easier for us. Accordingly, it is important that we design for content not style.
It is easy to be seduced by the new capabilities of browsers and servers, but these often tend to focus our attention in the wrong direction. We might, in fact, be seeing something of a backlash. Karen Schneider, the "cybrarian" columnist for American Libraries, recently ranted on PACS-L: "Now there is a sort of noblesse oblige rampant on the 'net, in my grumpy old mind at least, where folks coming in with old equipment, character-based (or simply non-NS) browsers, slow modems, and little or no access to user education are simply trampled over as site designers indulge in onanistic, bandwidth-sucking, browser-specific, hoi-polloi-be-damned webpages that are most definitely not focused on getting information to the people." (Schneider, Karen G. "Grumpy old cybrarians and Adobe Acrobat." Public-Access Computer Systems Forum <PACS-L@UHUPVM1.UH.EDU>, Mon, 1 Jul 1996 15:21:27 CDT) Similarly, one of the computer gurus at the University of Idaho has declared: "We are pleased to announce that these pages are ... Background free. We believe that backgrounds are a huge waste of network bandwidth that add virtually nothing to a web page and are quite possibly a conspiracy by Internet Service Providers to increase your online time." (<http://www.uidaho.edu/~chris/>) Even the local newspaper, in explaining its new web page, announced "until there are faster modems, it is silly to design pages that require [illustrations]." ("Letter from the Editor," Moscow/Pullman Daily News, May 11, 1996.)
In addition, as some have pointed out, the use of graphics as text limits the automatic searching capabilities of the web indexers (Koopman, Ann and Sharon Hay. "Large-scale application of a web browser." C&RL News, (January 1996)12-15). This can be offset by use of the <META=> tag to precode search terms and an abstract. (<http://www.stack.urc.tue.nl/~galactus/html/>) It is also important to remember that graphics files can be stored in a multitude of formats, not all of which are readable by all browsers. I have chosen to standardize on GIF files rather than JPEG in order to maintain a level of backward compatability, in spite of the fact that JPEG files are preferable for some kinds of graphics. (For guidance on Web graphics, see Jurist, Susan. "Top 10 rules for creating graphics for the Web." C&RL News, (July/August 1996)418-421.) Audio and video files, although huge, are increasingly available on the web, but so far I have not been tempted to load one onto our site.
Backlash or not, we see this antisocial tendency when sites announce that they are "enhanced" for a particular version of Netscape or Microsoft Explorer. One site <http://www.geo.Arizona.EDU/saso/> even proclaimed "This page is Mosaic and Lynx hostile." And it is.
It is sometimes useful to keep in mind that one of the original ideas of the World-Wide Web technology was that documents would be formatted by the recipient's machine and software and not by the producer or distributor of the document. You can illustrate this by testing your site with different browsers. Each has a different presentation mode. Lynx is a browser program that runs in text-only mode; it gives a very, very different view of web sites. It is, however, extremely functional for those that have restricted bandwidth. Alternatively, even within Netscape, for instance, there are options that allow one to control what appears on the screen. You can set your own colors and fonts, and turn off the automatic reading of images. This is very useful if you are using a modem to dial into a server, particularly during periods of heavy use. According to comments from those who have examined their server logs, about 10% of the viewers use Lynx, and 20-30% have turned off the loading of graphics entirely.
Remember that not everyone has equipment as modern and as fast as you do. Browsing the web from an older, slower computer through a modem is not enhanced when one must wait for illustrations or graphics to load. Turning off the graphics speeds up the display for them but makes me wonder what the tradeoff is between attractive pages and angry users. Some sites are promoting their concern for their users. As one site phrased it: "The [page] has no graphics. By eliminating them and keeping it to under 10K, this page loads much faster. This helps blind genealogists using Braille Lynx and others using 386 computers, slow modems and buggy browsers. For *50 meaningful pictures*, see our Map Room."<http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~feefhs/> For guidelines on resolving design problems for blind users, see: Dixon, Judith M. "Leveling the road ahead: Guidelines for the creation of WWW pages accessible to blind and visually handicapped users." (Library Hi-Tech, 53/14:1(1996)65-68.)
Among the "hoi-polloi-be-damned webpages" are those that embed the institution name in an image that disappears when the graphics are not loaded. These are designed by those who forget that HTML provides the <ALT=>; tag to aid those not using graphic browsers. By the same token, when an imagemap is used for menuing, the page still needs the menu choices in plain text . One demonstration site I have seen includes portraits of individuals as menu choices, but no text access. Not only do you have to see the graphic to make the choice, but you also have to have a monitor good enough to distinguish one person from another. And you have to know which face is which. Do your users have to jump through these kinds of hurdles?
In addition, we must design for access. Note that web search tools allow one to jump to specific pages of interest rather than wander through whatever hierarchical system some authoritarian organizational compulsive has set up, like hurdler's hoops. Jumping into the middle of the hierarchy is disorienting without directional clues, but we can never assume that users will approach the material we present in the way we had designed. If the links are A to B to C, we can assume that someone will jump into B and will need a link back to A. Similarly, I discovered and created a link to an old backup copy of a page, rather than to the correct page -- identified as "file.bak" and not "file.html," because that is what turned up in the search.
It is also important to stress the importance of maintenance of the site. Links to external locations should be monitored for possible changes. Internal links should all be tested before inviting in the public. The spelling should be checked. An HTML verification service (one is at <http://www.webtechs.com/html-val-svc/>) is useful in ensuring that your coding is up to standard and that it should be readable by all browsers. Maintenance, like upgrades, are a constant that must be built into the planning.
Keeping track of the "hits" on one's site can be instructive. At the University of Idaho, we average 20 "hits" per day on our main web-page, while approximately 7-8 people a day use our reading room. We've received mail and email reference, local and long-distance, questions based on our web pages. So far, at least, it has not been overwhelming, but it is increasing. We are also receiving questions that are misdirected, such as the one from Australia about recreation activities among civil war soldiers. Idaho is neither Iowa nor Ohio, thank goodness.
Alternatively, we've been able to say "Do you have Web access?" in response to inquiries, and let them begin their research from their home or office by directing them to the relevant sites. We are starting to see researchers come in the door carrying printouts of our web data. (For other "impacts," see: B.C Archives and Records Service. "Internet implementation report," 1995; as distributed at the NWA/BCAA meeting, Penticton, 4/26/96; for the summary of a survey of Internet researchers, see: James Henderson, "Re: Planning a WWW site," Archives & Archivists List <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tue, 25 Apr 1995 15:40:53; also Shuster, Robert <rshuster@DAVID.WHEATON.EDU>, email summary of research responses, Thu, 25 Apr 1996 10:21:48.)
While it is important to have a sense of the audience one is preparing this work for, it also seems apparent that given the nature of the technology, archives will be more mainstreamed than they have been before. I mean that the web will make it possible for the average citizen to discover that archives and special collections may have materials of interest. The same citizen would not ordinarily contemplate visiting an archives but a link to a web page may suggest that thought. Archives need to be prepared to meet what are often naive users in a gracious and welcoming fashion. We will undoubtedly use the web to do that, as well.
When I began to think about what I wanted to put out on the Web to represent our repository, I immediately thought of the brochures, handouts, guides, and inventories that we currently distributed. Almost all were in word processing form and were, therefore, available for digital manipulation. I am a strong believer in retaining electronic files for later use and reuse. I also mine the old files for paragraphs and phrases when necessary. This work is aided by the search function in my word processor software. The basic description of the collection exists as a handout that we had originally duplicated by photocopying on colored paper paper. <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Primary.Sources.html>
If we had started from scratch, I would have devoted a lot of time to considering the "best" way to present things on the web. Is a hierarchical subject approach easier to use? Can we help the user navigate by developing a "geographical" model; organizing things by location, as some internet shopping malls have attempted. Do we need a virtual reference desk, reading room, stack area, or conservation department to aid the user in getting around the text that we provide for their assistance? These are valid design questions, but ones that I skipped. I took what I had and threw it into a conversion and posted it for all to see. Organizational refinements will come later. And besides, at the University of Idaho, things are on a different scale than they are at, say, the National Archives.
But how to convert it to HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language)? When I started this project, the tools available were very primitive and so I learned HTML the hard way. Now, I primarily use an HTML converter that is an add-on to the word processor. It applies the correct codes and eased the process of converting the documents. Because of its limitations, however, I do have to hard-code parts of the document myself. It is not capable of understanding the nearly obsolete <CENTER></CENTER> sequence, for example. I know there are now much better tools available but I am reluctant to take the time to retrain myself.
As might be expected, the knowledge that I will be converting documents to web pages has impacted the formatting of the text. I am more apt to use the word-processor's standard paragraph formats when I know that they will be readily converted to equivalent HTML codes.
My intent in recoding inventories for the web was to do it simply and quickly. Accordingly, I have not bothered about stylistic niceties that I would worry over if the document was going to become enshrined in print for all time. These are provisional documents, in a sense. I can revise them and refine them continuously, but my purpose right now is to get them out there where they can be, even if haltingly, used. For an example see <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu:80/special-collections/Manuscripts/mg189.htm>.
And once I converted the nearly 250 inventories and loaded them onto the web, I am now ready to go back and start on the 100 or so that were created before word-processors. This is in response to the studies which indicate that researchers most want access to finding aids and descriptions. (See, for example, Daniel German's <email@example.com> comments "re: Archives and the Net" to Robert Shuster <rshuster@DAVID.WHEATON.EDU> as posted in an email summary on Thu, 25 Apr 1996 10:21:48.)
I want to stress that I do not claim any degree of fulfillment of some of the goals identified here for the pages developed at the University of Idaho. My intent was to get stuff up quickly and inexpensively, without any extra costs except my own time. And my time has been very much occupied with this task over the past two years. It was only recently that I was able to go back and add some refinements and correct some errors in the first group of pages loaded; addressing, in the process, some of the criticisms raised by Bill Landis (Landis, William, "Archival outreach on the World Wide Web," Archival Issues, 20:2(1995)135). In the meantime, however, we had a web presence. There is no point in waiting until everything is perfect; since perfection is never realized.
Another source of useful links, not to be overlooked, are the efforts of our fellow archivists. If someone else has prepared a useful guide to conservation of materials and placed it on the web, then it is reasonable for you to link to that site rather than sit down and write something on your own. I offer my own effort to compile a list of archival and special collections web sites at <http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html> as something you can make a link to for your clientele. It should not be necessary for you to duplicate my effort. You can, however, support the project by notifying me of bad links, or changes in your site address.
Converting text to HTML seems more difficult than it is. I have asserted that HTML is not rocket science. Trevor Hing, information technology director of Blackwell's, has been quoted as saying "Any fool can set up a Web site, and most of them have." (Publisher's Weekly, (October 9, 1995)23.) With that kind of competition, you can hardly lose. To keep up with the ongoing upgrades to browsers and HTML, monitor the newsgroup <news://comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html>.
The traditional way of learning HTML was to view the source code of a good page and learn from it. However, one commentator noted that this method should be called "defect replication." (Glen Blankenship <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Re: #### Somebody...teach me HTML please!!!!!! ", <comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html>, Sat, 20 Jul 1996 12:14:22) For more functional guidance, Sun Microsystems, Inc. has prepared an excellent guide, with additional links, to Web style at <http://www.sun.com/styleguide/>.
A side effect of the ease of access to the web and the "simpleness" of converting to HTML is that there is an explosion of creative development taking place as archivists rethink the descriptive tools they provide users. Jon Reynolds at Georgetown University <http://gulib.lausun.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/>, for instance, is trying a new approach to inventory construction through automation. At Duke, they have established a "Digital Scriptorium" <http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/> to experiment with digitizing documents. Tyler Walters at Iowa State University recently announced the availability of archival inventories linked by their URLs to the MARC record in the ISU Library's online catalog. (Walters, Tyler <WALTERS@STAFF1.LIB.IASTATE.EDU>, "Linking MARC records to web finding aids," Archives & Archivists <ARCHIVES@MIAMIU.ACS.MUOHIO.EDU>, Thu, 11 Jul 1996 09:29:38 CST) The many archival exhibits, as documented by Carole Prietto <http://library.wustl.edu/~prietto/exhibits/>, are another example of experimentation with the new technology. At Berkeley, "Team Pitti" has reformulated the content of inventories to make them amenable to web publishing <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/FindingAids/>. This has developed into the EAD (Encoded Archival Description), an emerging archival standard. These are just a few examples of the ferment taking place within the profession. When all this settles down, which isn't likely to happen soon, we may indeed have invented new and more useful tools for researchers.
Search tools such as Alta Vista <http://www.altavista.digital.com/> or Excite <http://www.excite.com/> are part of the new paradigm for finding information. They are also useful to historical researchers who wish to find information about a repository or a collection. The latter is particularly true as on-line inventories make their appearance. Using a search tool to get meaningful results is still difficult. For some searches, mediation through an experienced librarian may be the best approach for a scholar. For the archivist, it is useful to note that there are several methods for increasing the precision of searches that reach your site. One way to control the search robots is with a "robots.txt" file in your HTML directory. This guides the robot web searcher either towards or away from files and directories. Information about robots can be found at <http://info.webcrawler.com/mak/projects/robots/norobots.html>. Additional control is provided through the META= tag where subject phrases and other information can be placed to ensure the robot properly categorizes your pages <http://www.stack.urc.tue.nl/~galactus/html/meta.html>.
In any event, using the web searching tools can lead to surprises. This site illustrates the difficulty of searching using the words "special collections." Without graphics, note the imagemap graphic navigation bar at the bottom. To find out where this site is requires a jump back up the imposed hierarchy. <http://184.108.40.206:80/~library/DEPARTMENTS/SPECIAL/special.html>
Another example of the results of a search on "special collections."<http://sjcpl.lib.in.us:80/homepage/Reference/SpecialColl.html>
This is my favorite "special collections" site. I don't know what it means, but there it is. <http://www.wakhok.ac.jp/zou/elephant/elephant.html>
Abraham, Terry. Repositories of Primary Sources. <http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other.Repositories.html>
Alta Vista <http://www.altavista.digital.com/>
B.C Archives and Records Service. "Internet implementation report," 1995; as distributed at the NWA/BCAA meeting, Penticton, 4/26/96
Berkeley Finding Aids Project <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/FindingAids/>
Blankenship, Glen <email@example.com>. "Re: #### Somebody...teach me HTML please!!!!!! ", <comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html>, Sat, 20 Jul 1996 12:14:22.
Brewery inventory <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu:80/special-collections/Manuscripts/mg189.htm>
Callaway, Erin. "The web is a different world for GUI design." PC Week, (November 13, 1996)26.
Colati, Greg. "Creating a sustainable Internet presence, October 21, 1995. <http://www.bowdoin.edu/dept/library/arch/man/toc.htm>
Digital Memories <http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/special-collections/dgtlcurr.html>
Dixon, Judith M. "Leveling the road ahead: Guidelines for the creation of WWW pages accessible to blind and visually handicapped users." Library Hi-Tech 53/14:1(1996)65-68.
Duke University "Digital Scriptorium" <http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/>
Engelfriet, Arnoud. HTML information <http://www.stack.urc.tue.nl/~galactus/html/>
Engelfriet, Arnoud. Meta tags <http://www.stack.urc.tue.nl/~galactus/html/meta.html>
FEEFHS FrontPage WebLetter <http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~feefhs/>
Georgetown University Special Collections <http://gulib.lausun.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/>
German, Daniel <firstname.lastname@example.org>. "re: Archives and the Net" to Robert Shuster <rshuster@DAVID.WHEATON.EDU> as posted in an email summary on Thu, 25 Apr 1996 10:21:48.
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