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English 1213: Composition II: What are Digital Collections?

Digital collections contain the digitized material from an analog (physical), or born digital, archival collection that are displayed online and are, generally, available to the public. A collection is a grouping of material, usually centered around a particular subject or topic, gathered by an individual or institution. A collection can contain many different types of items in one collection (papers, letters, books, tapes, photographs, videos, discs, slides, digital materials, etc. For example, at OSU, we have the Angie Debo Papers, which is a collection of materials Dr. Debo used as research materials for her books. It also includes manuscript drafts of her books, photographs, correspondence, cards, and diaries.

The materials in a digital collection are cataloged, similar to how books are cataloged in a library’s catalog. The cataloging information for digital materials is called metadata (lit. “data about data”), which will give important information about the digital item. Metadata usually includes a title, description of the item, a date the item was created/published in its analog format, an author or creator’s name, format of the item (photograph, manuscript, video recording, etc.), and copyright information. Other information, such as running time of a video/audio recording, physical size of the analog item, language the item was written in, subject headings, etc. may also be included.