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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

No more hidden treasures in the library: some multimedia projects at Lund university library

Kerstin Dahl, Automation Department, Lund University Library, Lund, Sweden


Throughout the world libraries are keeping special and sometimes very precious collections. These collections are often very valuable, vulnerable or too fragile to be available to ordinary library us ers. Old books, for instance, have the dilemma of being both a carrier of current information and an antique object. To make sure that these collections can be available even for future generations t his paper describes some in house produced multimedia projects.


One of the most solid phenomena in the world is the library. A place where human knowledge has been gathered, kept, preserved and passed on from generation to generation. And in spite of the enormous technological revolution in disseminating information the real library is still there, even if the virtual ones try to threaten from cyberspace and very persistently state that it is in cyberspace t hat all possible knowledge exists.
Every day we are told that we are living in an information society, a society which gives us a world without limitations and a world without boundaries. We can transfer megabytes of information from one part of the world to another within a fraction of a second. We just have to push the button to get to all the answers that float around out there provided that we ask the right questions.
As librarians we talk about information simply as information, as one concept, but in reality information exists in two different worlds. In the human world or the real library world and in the compu ter world or the virtual library world. Very often the two worlds are mixed up and the result is confusion. Information in the computer world is transmitted in bits [binary digits] representing zeros and ones, all according to well formulated and well functioning mathematical theories. An image in a digital code means nothing to a human being if it is not decoded. In the human world information does not come in bits. And information transmitted in the human world is not there until the receiver/user starts to interpret it. The human brain immediately starts to look for the signifiance in the information, while the harddisk, part of the computer’s brain, passively loads and stores the constant flow of information.
We can go on storing information in libraries and in computers and keep it there forever. But who would know it is there? Information does not exist by itself in books or in computers. It comes alive only when someone starts to do something with it. A computer can not by itself make use of or handle its information and a book can not read itself.
It is said that the more information the better. Better for whom? We might thirst for knowledge but drown in the information flood. Who can handle and make use of all the information that comes march ing towards us on the electronic highways. There are limits to our cognitive capacities and what we really need is information presented to us in the right format and in ways that make sense to us. W ho can help? Real librarians! But while they help us finding the information of today, the libraries throughout the world start loosing the information of yesterday. The information that is kept in o lder, precious special collections, collections that are too vulnerable, too valuable or too fragile to be available for the library users. If nothing is done to these collections they might fall apa rt, due to the environment they reside in, or simply fall into oblivion. They are the hidden treasures of the libraries and they might get a new lease of life with help of modern technology.
Multimedia might be the solution and it could be like Open Sesame!

Multimedia is a rather new term. According to The Oxford English Dictionary Multimedia is designating or pertaining to a form of artistic, educational and commercial communication in which more than one medium is used. It was first mentioned in Times on February 26, 1962. Today Multimedia relates to the computer world and means more or less the interaction of information between text, sound and images. In the human world we have mass media, which refer to the one way information we get through radio, TV and newspapers. Internet, the net that connects thousands and thousands of co mputers all over the world, can provide us with mass media information through a computer, thus combining the human and the computer worlds to a multimedia environment.
Apart from all commercial multimedia products that exist on the market, there are many things in a library that could be ‘multimediated’ in house. The use of multimedia technology can faciliate acces s to archives and special collections and once they are digitized they are preserved and can easily be reproduced.
There are many steps to be taken before you can have a multimedia environment. First of all you need time, some money, equipment and a lot of patience! Once those minor details are in place the ident ification of the special collection or archive to digitize starts. A special collection could deal with a specific subject, belong to a specific geographic area or to a certain period of time. Specia l collections come in many different formats like

When the collection is identified the material needs analysing and a strategy for indexing must be adopted. Then follows the preparation for digitizing and scanning.
The scanned material must go through quality control which might result in some rescanning. The images must be processed and stored and finally they must be retrievable.

Lund university library in Sweden is an old fairly large library with a lot of special collections. The library has existed in different forms since the 11th century, when it belonged to the church. In 1671 the book collection - known as the Bibliotheca antiqua - was given to the university. Through the years the collection has grown to approximately 4.5 million volumes. Six years ago we instal led the VTLS automated library system. Only literature from 1958 and onwards can be found in the system (900.000 records) and so far only bibliographic records. To make available some of the special collections that are hiding in the library we have, with the help of VTLS Infostation, a hypermedia information access and authoring system for library automation, created some prototypes of in-hous e-produced multimedia products.

Through the Infostation you can search the OPAC - online catalogue - for an author. You retrieve the bibliographic record of the item you want. The retrieved item can be linked to an image, text, dig itized sound, audio CD, Kodak Photo CD, animation, full motion video or a WWW URL [World Wide Web Uniform Resource Location], by a tag in the MARC record. The MARC record is used to specify the name and location of multimedia files and/or objects. The infostation interprets the local tag, retrieves stored multimedia information and displays it on the workstation. It integrates with any word processor, image scanner, OCR [Optical Character Recognition], animation software, WWW browser etc.

Listed below are some of the topics we thoroughly discussed before getting started:

In an add for a scanner we read: A scanner is a remarkable device; it gives you the power to put any kind of printed material into your computer. You can take scanned data and reformat it the way you want it; catalogue information in a way that makes sense to you; and create enormous databases that you can store online.
And yes a scanner is a remarkable device; it creates an image of a document page; the OCR [ Optical Character Recognition] software converts the image into a textfile and it can be stored either as a n image in TIFF [Tag image File Format] or as text in ASCII format.
How much time we have put into these experimental projects is hard to tell. We have proved, however, that it is neither too difficult nor too expensive to produce our own multimedia environment. It i s also possible to make the collections available over Internet on a WWW server and thus solve the dilemma of precious collections to be both carriers of important information and antique objects. So let us start ‘multimediating’ and let our hidden treasures be available for generations to comeand let us make sure that the library will continue to reamain the solid phenomenon it has always bee n.


From Ching-Tê Chên to Canton: A short illustrated story about porcelain making in China.
The story is based on a series of 50 watercolours in the format 41 X 31 cm, joined together to a 20 meter long suite and folded between silk covers. Probably from around 1730. Lund University bought this watercolour series in 1759 at an auction in Gothenburg to the price of ‘58 daler och 16 öre silvermynt’ the equivalent of about ....... Porcelain has been made in Ching-Tê Chên a small town in the South of China since the middle of the 6th century. At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, at the end of the 14th century, almost all porc elain production took place in and around Ching-Tê Chên and at the end of the 17th century 80 % of the Chinese porcelain came from there. Everything from exclusive porcelain made for emperors to simp le ordinary china to be used in China and for export to the Orient and Europe.

The revelations of St. Bridget.
An exhibition of Latin manuscripts and editions printed between 1492 and 1992. Saint Bridget (1303-1373), canonized on the 8th of October 1391, patron saint of Sweden and founder of the Brigittine Order. A mystic whose revelations were influential during the European Middle Age s.
Birgitta Birgersdotter had from an early age remarkable religious visions that influenced her entire life and outlook. In 1316 she married and gave birth to eight children. On the death of her husban d in 1344, Birgitta retired to a life of penance and prayer near the monastery of Alvastra. To the prior she dictated the revelations that came to her and he tranlated them into Latin. In 1350 she we nt to Rome and remained there for the rest of her life. Bridgets revelations were first published in 1492

The Schubertiana-collection.
In 1969 a man called Otto Taussig donated this very unique collection to the university library, just a couple of months before his death.
Frans Schubert was born near Vienna in Austria in 1797, where he also died in 1828. He is noted for the melody and harmony in his songs and chamber music.
It is said that Schubert’s place in the history of music is equivocal, for he stands between the worlds of classical and romantic music. He can however be considered as the last of the great classica l composers. He set to music many poems by Goethe, Mayrhofer and Shakespeare.