Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

We have a NEW blog!!!


incircDearest Highlights readers,

We are going to be publishing our blog in a new location on the Museum’s website! You can follow everything the Museum libraries are up to there, and also check out some of the Museum’s other blogs!

Our new blog, In Circulation, can be found at

Thanks for reading and enjoy our new blog!

Digitization on Demand

The Interlibrary Services department at Watson Library supports the research activities of Metropolitan Museum of Art staff by obtaining books, print or electronic copies of journal articles and other texts that are not available in the Museum’s libraries.  Interlibrary Services also supports the research needs of colleagues around the world by lending our materials or providing digital scans when possible.

Periodically, requests are received for items that, due to age or condition, are not be able to travel.  Since September 2011, Interlibrary Services has been digitizing these items rather than canceling the borrowing library’s request.  This initiative has been named “digitization on demand” because the items that are digitized have not already been pre-selected for digitization.

One example of an item that was digitized on demand, The Eglinton Tournament: dedicated to the Earl of Eglinton, 1839, came in as a loan request from the Wells Library at Indiana University:

Title page

Title page

According to WorldCat, this item, published in 1839, is only available in six libraries (three of which are in the US).  This fascinating account of a tournament held at a castle in North Ayrshire, Scotland will be of interest to scholars studying chivalry, arms and armor, lithographs and related subjects.

The work begins with a detailed textual account of the tournament, followed by nine plates of lithographs that capture spectators viewing the event, various tournament battles, and scenes from the post-tournament ball.


The Lord of the Tournament as Victor Presented to the Queen of Beauty


The Melee at the Eglinton Passage of Arms


Ball Room at Eglinton Castle

Other Interlibrary Services requests that have been filled by the digitization on demand initiative include:

These books are now available to all our users in the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection.

The digitization on demand program supports the “Watson Library Digitization Initiative to expand access to the Library’s rare and unique materials by developing, supporting, and promoting a distinctive digital collection of these items” and by making “them accessible to support the scholarly endeavors of Metropolitan Museum of Art staff and an international community of researchers” as stated on the Digital Collections homepage.

Top 10 Most Popular Items of 2013

2013 has been a great year for the Digital Collections.  We got a new scanner, were interviewed about out work with Wikipedia, and created new collections like the Brummer Gallery Records. We’ve also seen a significant increase in usage over the last year, jumping from just over 135,000 pageviews in 2012 to over 500,000 in 2013!

To commemorate 2013, we’d like to share a list of the most popular items in the Digital Collections. All ten of the items come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection.

#10 – Hatshepsut: from Queen to Pharaoh (2005).  This exhibition catalog had 1,782 pageviews.

High10#9 – Netsuke: masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981). This collection catalog had 1,807 pageviews.

High9#8 – Painters of reality: the legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy (2004). This exhibition catalog had 1,839 pageviews.

High8#7 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder: drawings and prints (2001). This exhibition catalog had 2,048 pageviews.

High7#6 – German masters of the nineteenth century: paintings and drawings from the Federal Republic of Germany (1981). This exhibition catalog had 2,713 pageviews.

High6#5 – Age of spirituality: late antique and early Christian art (1979). This exhibition catalog had 3,610 pageviews.

High5#4 – A handbook of Chinese ceramics (1988). This collection catalog had 3,800 pageviews.

High4#3 – Prints & people: a social history of printed pictures (1971). This book had 3,965 pageviews.

High3#2 – Vermeer and the Delft school (2001). This exhibition catalog had 4,562 pageviews.

High2#1 – Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle (1983). This exhibition catalog had 7,286 pageviews (almost 20 pageviews a day!!).

High1Thanks for helping make this such a great year for the Digital Collections, and we’ll see you in 2014!

METRO Interview on Wikipedia

In an interview with Metropolitan New York Library Council published last week, Watson Library’s William Blueher discussed how we’ve been adding links to relevant articles on Wikipedia to items in the Digital Collections.  The interview, titled “Wikipedia for Special Collections: A Conversation with Watson Library’s William Blueher,” discusses both what we’ve been doing with Wikipedia and how this initiative has helped to increase usage of the Digital Collections.


As discussed in two previous posts (here and here), Watson Library has been adding links to Wikipedia articles for just over a year.  At this point, we’ve edited over 1,500 articles (see William’s userpage to see some of the articles we’ve edited), and we’ve created a Wikipedia article “stub” on Watson Library. We’d love it if people wanted to expand on this stub, helping us flesh it out into a more robust article. As with all Wikipedia articles, everyone is free to contribute.  (See these 10 simple rules for editing on Wikipedia if you’re unsure how to start.)    

The following, excerpted from the interview, discusses the impace of this initiative:

We have been monitoring the success of this initiative by using Google Analytics. Over the last 30 days, we have had 14,898 visits to the Digital Collections.  Over the same period a year ago, we only had 4,928 visits.  This is an increase of over 200%, with nearly 10,000 more visits in a single 30-day period this year than last.

Of the 14,898 visits over the last 30 days, 57% were referred by Wikipedia (8,570), whereas a year ago, only 31% came from Wikipedia (1,552).  As we’ve put more into Wikipedia, it has referred more back out to us.

Here is a look at some of the data we see, taken from traffic to the site on November 19th:


On this particular day, Wikipedia drove over 62% of the traffic to the Digital Collections. This is just slightly higher than average, but it still illustrates the very positive impact this initiative has had on increasing usage of the Digital Collections.


William Loring Andrews, Book Collector and First Met Museum Librarian

HighlightAndrews1In 1878 William Loring Andrews became a trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as its first librarian beginning in 1882. Today his portrait hangs in the administrative office of the Thomas J. Watson Library, just outside our Chief Librarian’s office.

Andrews was a prominent collector of rare books of English and American literature and a founding member of the Grolier Club and the Society of Iconophiles. In 1865 Andrews began to self-publish books in which he was also the author or editor. These works were published in his own style, through his own direction, and are marked by exquisite taste in type, paper, illustration, and binding. In their production, he engaged the services of engravers Edwin Davis French and S. L. Smith, who designed and engraved bookplates for the Metropolitan Museum, and printers Walter Gillis and Theodore De Vinne. From 1865 to 1908 Andrews issued thirty-six volumes, twenty-six authored by himself.

The 2011 recipient of the Art Libraries Society of North America Internship Award, Bailey Diers (now at the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis), elected to intern here in Watson Library. Part of her internship was to create a digital collection—including materials selection, retrieval, scanning, editing the metadata, and uploading the content to our Digital Collections site. She decided to work on a selection of books authored by Andrews, and due to her efforts the William Loring Andrews Books on Book Collecting and Bookbinding collection is online and comprises part of our Bookbinding and Book Collecting digital collection.


The frontispiece of one of these titles, volume 1 of Andrews’s 1900 work Gossip about book collecting, provides the reader with a glimpse of his personal library. Gossip about book collecting was produced by the Gillis Press in a very limited edition of 157 copies using two varieties of high quality paper, depending on the intended destination. Here is the cover to volume 2 of the same work.


The Watson Library is fortunate to own one of the thirty-two copies made on Imperial Japan paper, and this is the version that Bailey digitized in 2011. The William Loring Andrews collection helps present an interesting dimension of a figure important to the history of Watson Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York City.

Scanning: Taking it to the Next Level

We recently purchased a new Atiz BookDrive Pro scanner to augment our digitization activities here in Watson Library. This complements the Zeutschel overhead book scanner that we acquired in 2010, and two Epson flatbed scanners that we’ve had for about two years.


As you can see, the Atiz is pretty large! It’s actually not quite as complicated as it looks, though. There is an adjustable metal arm on either side, each holding a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera. These excellent cameras allow us to get far more detailed images from books than we can with the Zeutschel.

Down below, there is a V-shaped book cradle and corresponding V-shaped glass plate to secure the books. This V-shaped cradle was one of the things that appealed to us about the Atiz – it’s much safer than a flatbed for scanning brittle books or books with fragile bindings.


Two LED lamps shine light evenly across the surface of the scan bed. The black curtain around the whole contraption (the thing that makes it look so large and intimidating) keeps ambient light away from the scanning surface, so we don’t have to scan in a dark room like we do with our Zeutschel scanner. This is important for us because the room containing the Atiz is used by several people throughout the week for a variety of tasks such as archives processing, rare book storage, and meetings. So someone can be scanning while any of those other activities takes place.

image_1 (2)

As straightforward as the physical machine is, we’ve come to learn that nothing is ever simple when it comes to implementing a new piece of equipment! The Atiz comes with its own software suite for capturing the images from the Canon cameras and post-processing the files into formats we can use. While it always takes time to learn new software and develop efficient workflows, in this case the computer itself and the Atiz software refused to be friends for several weeks! During testing, the simple act of selecting a file to process within the Atiz software would generate incoherent error messages such as this:

BookDrive Editor error

After countless emails, WebEx sessions, software upgrades, and phone calls (including a conference call between us here in New York, our very patient Atiz rep in California, and the software developers in Thailand!), we identified the primary source of the problem.  It’s too boring and technical to write about in detail here, but essentially the default permissions on the computer are too restrictive for the software to function properly, so we’ve had to have our IS&T people change the default permissions on just that computer.

Now that we’ve finally worked all the kinks out, the process of scanning (well, photographing) books is fairly straightforward: turn on the cameras, turn on the LED lamps, place the book on the scan bed under the glass plate, open the image capturing software, take pictures, lift the glass plate, turn the page, and so on until you’re done! The only thing you have to pay close attention to during shooting is that you don’t skip any pages, and that the book remains stable.

Once a book has been photographed in its entirety, we pull the files into another software program to do actions such as cropping and deskewing (which is the act of straightening a crooked scan). We also generate our archival master TIFFs, which are the unprocessed master files that are for long-term storage, and our “production master JPEGs,” which are the files we use to upload to the web. These post-processing steps occur with every item we digitize, no matter which scanner we use or what format the original object is.

Post processing

It took about three months to get everything in place with the Atiz – not only did we have to install it and work all the kinks out with the software, but we also had to have the cameras and monitor calibrated for color and resolution, which is a pretty involved process. But, we’re finally at the point where we’re training Watson Library staff on the machine.

Soon we’ll be scanning books at a fairly good clip. We’ve already got variety of projects in the queue for this scanner, so stay tuned for future posts on those digital treasures!

Page-turning viewing option now in Digital Collections

The content management software we use for our Digital Collections site is called CONTENTdm. Its development and maintenance are coordinated by the library cooperative organization OCLC in consultation with the CONTENTdm user community.

The software is updated about four times per year; last week we received the most current update (version 6.5), which included a feature that we have been looking forward to for some time:  an optional page-turning interface for viewing items. The “Page Flip View” button is located next to the Download and Print buttons, just above the window where the pages are displayed, as indicated here:


When the button is clicked, the page-turner opens and, after loading the document, looks like this:


Turn the page by clicking on a page: click on the right side to advance, and click the left page to go back. Another option is to view pages one at a time and scroll vertically through the document like this:


The Page-Flip View is a beta feature offered to CONTENTdm users in order to gather feedback to guide further development, so expect improvements over the next couple of development cycles. We acknowledge that it needs some work to be a really great feature, but this is a very welcome step in the right direction. Feel free to send your thoughts about it to me via email (dan[dot]lipcan[at]metmuseum[dot]org) and we’ll pass them along to OCLC’s CONTENTdm team.