About the AAEC Editorial Cartoon Digital Collection

Introduction | Database Management  | Image Capture & Standards 
 | Descriptive Data |  Ownership & Access Issues

The AAEC Editorial Cartoon Digital Collection project will result in the creation of an Internet-accessible, fully searchable database of digitized versions of original editorial artworks by more than 300 artists from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The cartoons date from 1782 to 1980, though the bulk of the collection was created since 1960.  In executing this effort, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries seek to: 1) enhance access to primary source material, 2) preserve original materials by creating digital surrogates, and 3) create learning opportunities for remote users.

For researchers and students, editorial cartoons provide a caricature of social and political thought in the past. Cartoons survive as an art form and as journalism. They present educators with engaging and effective instructional resources. As a part of its Editorial Cartoon Collection, the University Libraries hold more than 6,500 examples of this format. Originally prepared for newspapers, magazines, and in some cases television, the cartoons address a spectrum of topics ranging from presidential elections to high school sports. The collection presents artistic commentary on the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, and the Vietnam War. Some of the artwork reflects changes in American social and political attitudes. A pro-segregation cartoon from the early 1960s, for example, depicts a civil rights worker peering from behind bars that spell out "white power." Other cartoons seem almost timeless, lampooning government bureaucracy, taxes, and political corruption.  

Since the fall of 2000, USM Libraries Special Collections has been working to make their editorial cartoon collection available online. Approximately 600 cartoons have now been digitized and will soon be available through this Website and USM Libraries' Digital Media Archive.

Image Capture & Standards
Digital Lab staff is using a professional-quality camera to capture the images for this project. It is a single-lens reflex Nikon D1 with a 17-35mm Nikkor lens (f/2.8), and a 2.74 megapixel CCD (36-bit). The camera is set up on a microfilming stand adapted for this use and attached directly to a 500 mHz Pentium III computer with a firewire cable.

Two sets of images result from the digitization process. Though the primary goal of the Lab is to provide electronic access to records, an off-line master set of images is created in anticipation of future needs and changing standards. The cartoon masters are captured in 24-bit color at 600 dpi. They are saved in uncompressed TIF file format, the industry standard. The access images, derived from the masters, are 24-bit JPEG compressed images, 72 dpi.

Descriptive Data
The Dublin Core metadata standard is used for digitization projects. The metadata describes the various characteristics of each file, including its format, source from which the image was derived, relation to other sources, and rights management information. The metadata identifies each file's size, type, compression, and resolution. It includes user-searchable characteristics such as creator and subjects covered.

Database Management
The Special Collections Digital Lab will employ the Hyperion Digital Media Archive product by Sirsi Corporation as the database software for file management, searching, and browsing. The database will be Internet accessible to a worldwide audience.

Staff will make decisions regarding long-term storage of digital files with an understanding that no electronic media currently available presents an ideal solution; none can be considered of "archival quality." As a result, they will communicate awareness that there is a need for a continuing schedule of reformatting to new media as the old becomes obsolete or otherwise endangered.

USM will employ optical disks to store the archival masters of digital items and magnetic drives to store the much smaller access-quality derivatives.

For the source material itself, the imaging process is an opportunity to evaluate collections regarding traditional, physical preservation needs.

Ownership and Access Issues
In addressing ownership and access issues, the Lab incorporates a multi-layered approach to rights management. Each descriptive record includes rights management metadata. The digital archive presents its derivative access images in a lower-resolution view quality, insufficient for print reproduction for publication. The Lab will provide copies of master images only upon special request.

Avoiding technological methods that restrict user access to primary source material, the project participants have implemented a process which includes identifying potential copyright holders, opening a channel of communication with affected individuals, and providing contextual information. The process is as follows:

1. An annotated list of rights holders was created.

2. Using Internet and other reference sources, as many of these individuals as possible were located.

3. Rights holders were contacted, offered information about the project, and asked for permission to include materials under specific conditions.

4. A copyright statement is attached to each item in the digital archive to inform users and discourage infringement.

5. Names of remaining individuals will be posted to the Web site. The list will be accompanied by a statement requesting that they contact the project coordinator.

6. If any individuals with a valid copyright or privacy claim object to the digital provision of access to their materials, the materials will be removed from the Web site.