AUSTIN, Texas The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has launched a new platform of freely available digitized images of collection materials on its website.
The new site, http://hrc.contentdm.oclc.org, contains more than 8,000 items and will continue to grow as newly digitized images are added on a regular basis.
Presently the collection includes photographs by Lewis Carroll, manuscripts by Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Harry Houdini’s scrapbooks, works by artist Frank Reaugh and items from the Ransom Center’s extensive circus collection, which includes materials related to showmen such as P. T. Barnum, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey.
The digital collections platform provides access to the Ransom Center’s collections for students, scholars and members of the public who are unable to visit the Center. It also provides a way for visitors to access fragile materials or collections that exist in challenging formats, such as personal effects and costumes. One example is a collection of glass plate negatives that documents theater performances in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The fragile collection was previously inaccessible, but the negative plates were digitized and converted to positive images for the digital collection.
Another digital collection, the Frank Reaugh art collection, includes all of the more than 200 artworksmostly pastel landscapesfrom the Ransom Center’s Reaugh collection. The front and back of each piece of art has been digitized both inside and outside its frame to create a complete photographic record of the original object. Online visitors can see parts of the works that would not be visible if the framed works of art were viewed in the Center’s reading room.
“The mission of cultural institutions such as the Ransom Center is to advance scholarship,” said Ransom Center Digital Collections Librarian Elizabeth Gushee. “By providing collections of rare materials online, the Ransom Center is fostering further opportunities for scholars to interact with these materials, facilitating new and potentially transformative uses of the Center’s unique collections.”
Visitors to the Ransom Center’s website can search within collections or across collections, often revealing related materials. Additional tools provide users with the ability to virtually flip through books, enlarge images and compare page images with accompanying transcripts, which are text-searchable.
Collections are being added on an ongoing basis, and planned digitization projects include the photographs of 19th-century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and photographs and ephemera from the Fred Fehl dance collection.
This project was made possible with funding from the Booth Heritage Foundation.