NECC ’09: Library of Congress Session

In case it’s not obvious, my regular patterns are somewhat disrupted this week, because I’m at NECC (the National Educators Computing Conference).  At the moment, I’m in Room 151A of the Walter E Washington Convention Center with something like 100 other people waiting for a presentation on the Library of Congress.

1. Presenter needed to download RealPlayer night before, but waited until session was almost ready to begin.

2. Issues with Library of Congress website – hard to find materials, hard to find materials again.

3. explanation of how to find an image in Library of Congress: image of Sojourner Truth… “I sell the shadow to support the substance”.  Presenters suggest terms like “african american history” “photograph” “sojourner truth” and “slavery”.  She explains that there are no such subjects or tags attached to this particular image!

4. Learning to find content on Library of Congress website. Go to main website.  http://www.loc.gov/ Go to topics: http://www.loc.gov/topics/

4a. American history section is organized by both time period or thematic issues.  BUT I NOTE, there’s no ability to tag or create folksonomies on the LOC website.  There’s no way to expand the search process.

4b. separate page for http://www.loc.gov/teachers/ The old “learning” page has been replaced with this new page.  Separate topics under classroom materials like baseball.

5. Each thematic collection has a related list of search terms.  So if you’re looking for baseball items, you can go to a list of search terms used to categorize all baseball memorabilia.

6. Searching “service station” reveals 641 items.  But searching “filling station” results in 995 items. Searching “franklin Roosevelt” pulls up 332 items, many of them connected with photographs of mountains..  But searching for “franklin d roosevelt” results in 253 DIFFERENT items, many of them of the president.  Searching “roosevelt, franklin” results in many, many more.  MUST search many different keywords to find many things.

7. This is particularly important! Any URL of a specific item in the collection that originally pops up is a temporary URL ID that lasts about a half-hour.  Use the instructions here on finding a permanent URL.

8. Most maps in the collection are highly scaleable.  You can download complete maps, or details of those maps. They’re scanned at very high resolution, so you can see them very closely. (Hope I made this link right).

9. The Library of Congress is also the home of the Copyright Office, so you have to be VERY careful about following their copyright guidelines, and acknowledging which materials are public domain, and which items are not.

10. Each general department of the Library has a reading room. (here’s the link to the Prints and Photos reading room).  Most such reading rooms have a researchers’ toolbox, with tools, tips and tricks for teaching people how to make use of that particular collection. (here’s the researchers’ toolbox for Prints & Photos). From 2-4pm you can also do synchronous chat through the website on weekdays! wow.

11. the WORLD DIGITAL LIBRARY.  I saw this yesterday and was absolutely AWED. It’s a partnership with libraries all over the globe to put rare and unusual materials online, organized by continent, time period, theme, and item type.  Everything from Napoleon’s science staff’s Description of Egypt to Sumerian business documents to maps of South America.  Cool.

12. Summer institutes and visitor programs available for teachers.

13. TPSDirect.  Teaching with Primary Sources.  Teachers can build a collection of primary sources for themselves and their students for regular use and reuse.

IN OTHER WORDS, you need to be trained by a Library of Congress employee in order to find materials… which means sticking around the site for long periods of time.  The training is not particularly hard, but you do need to understand patience and attention to detail.  Exactly like Gladwell’s point about mathematics last night.

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