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Beyond Size and Search: Building Contextual Mass in Digital Aggregations for Scholarly Use

Carole Palmer, Oksana Zavalina and Katrina Fenlon

(Submission #213)


At present there are no established collection development methods for building digital aggregations. However, to realize the potential of the collective base of digital content and advance scholarship, aggregations must do more than provide search of sizable bodies of content. Informed by empirical understanding of scholarly information practices, the IMLS Digital Collections and Content project developed an aggregation development strategy to build Opening History, one of the largest digital cultural heritage aggregations in the country. The approach applied policy-driven collecting based on the principle of contextual mass and conspectus-style evaluation of collection-level metadata. The evaluation determined measures of density, interconnectedness, diversity, and small/large collection complementarity to discriminate subject concentrations and thematic strengths, areas that can be prioritized for future collection development and as organizational structures for browsing and visualization. The strategy models how scholars build their own personal research collections, as they follow leads from collection to collection across institutions near and far, and adds value that cannot be realized through conventional retrieval and browsing at the item level.


Program Track:  Track 5 - Information Use
Submission Type:  Research Paper

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