Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Assignment #7 - who does the Library of Congress say that I am

I had not used the Library of Congress website reference or information before this assignment, but I had been to the site. It is so dense with collections and tools that it took me a little while to get my bearings. At the top, there is a button linking to Library Catalogs. What kind of Library is so huge that it needs multiple catalogs? It seems like there are catalogs built for different collections, like the SONIC collection of sounds, the picture and print collection, the regular print holdings of course, and then a catalog of Library Catalogs! It gets overwhelming.

On the left are some of the search options including 'browse by subject'. If you use this, you can find photographs by LC subject headings, which I found really interesting. Cataloging pictures with the standard subject headings would allow them to be found in a search that might otherwise just find print materials. It also helped quickly answer my doubt as to whether "Identity" would find many pictures or not. It was not one of the main subject heading, but I decided to return to the main page and search by keyword anyway. This gave me 76 results, but most of them there identity cards, issued by a government. Others were about confirming identity. Still others were included precisely because their "identity is unknown". There were only a few that presented some sense of self. I used the LOC site to keyword search for 'identity' in the subject headings, but got no results. I finally settled on 'self-expression', but when I searched for that in the picture collections I found one self portrait.

More than a few of the pictures were not available in sizes larger than thumbnails. There were links leading to information about obtaining originals and copies, but I was interested to read that "The Library of Congress generally does not own rights to material in its collections and, therefore, cannot grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute the material."

There is clearly a difference between the type of collections in the Library of Congress and Flickr. I put the search term "african american men and music" into both, and in each case got about a dozen results (I might not have quite the right terms because that seems like a small number to me). The difference in the results seemed to lie in the time periods represented. While both had images of well dressed men playing guitar and kazoos, only Flickr had men on stage with microphones and sunglasses. I can see how this relates to the Generator's View of the World and the Generator's anticipation of the User's Needs. The Library of Congress has a particular view of what information it wants to save and rightly so, there is too much out there to catalog everything. Instead, it seems like it has settled on a niche of information relating to the historical social character of America. Just to test this, I looked up the names of some modern rappers. Here's what came up:

Black Aleck Dickinson and his dog Snoop.

1 comment:

  1. Good observations of the LOC site and comparison with Flickr.