May 20, 2010

UW General Catalog archive now available online

By admin

Last August, the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) posted on this blog (and other places on campus) an archivist internship position. Today, just six months after finding the right person, the OUR is proud to announce the first fruits of that internship: the University’s General Catalog archive, available online, searchable, in PDF format, and available now.

What’s included?

The archive comprises the UW’s General Catalogs from the current 2008-2010 biennium going backwards to the original 1890 edition. Notice that the name of the documents change over time. The early publications were called the “Annual Catalogue of the State University of Washington,” later editions used the term “Bulletin” before switching to the current “General Catalog” (dropping that word’s archaic -ue suffix).

A note on the files themselves. Each is a PDF file so it is viewable by any computer, but they vary in how that PDF was created. Newer editions (through 1998-00) were generated from the software that created them, and are therefore smaller files and look sharper. Earlier editions had to be scanned as images, which results in larger file sizes (some as large as 90 Mb, though most are in the 15-30 Mb range). They do, however, retain the charm of actual printed pages especially the oldest editions that show their age with ragged pages and dog-eared corners. Luckily, optical-character recognition (OCR) software is good enough to recognize the words on the page so that each file is searchable. Just enter a word(s) in the search field your PDF software.

Additionally, the General Catalogs will soon be included in the University Library’s Digital Collection. The Library’s content-management system, CONTENTdm.

Why is it important?

Publishing these General Catalogs online has broad, positive implications for our University. Some of these include:

  • Other institutions of higher education rely on our catalog to understand the content of UW course and program offerings over the years.
  • Family members interested in their parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents educational experience can learn what educational programs were like during that time. The same can is also true for children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
  • Employers benefit from the catalog by gaining a better understanding of prospective employees’ UW educational background. For example, what knowledge would someone who earned a UW degree in, say, materials science in the early 1980s have compared to one who graduated more recently? The answer can be found by comparing that program’s descriptions in each era’s catalogs;
  • Historians and librarians regard the catalog as an invaluable source of UW institutional history.

A few words of thanks

Such a large project could not be accomplished without the efforts of many people. Specifically, the OUR would like to acknowledge the hard work of:

  • Intern Talea Anderson, UW MLIS graduate student – Talea worked closely with the OUR’s general catalog office and the UW Libraries to formulate a plan to digitize the General Catalogs and prepare them for online use; and
  • Anne Graham with the UW Libraries’ Digital Initiatives Program – Anne provided her domain expertise to the project, oversaw the disbinding of the physical catalogs, and advocated for the content to become a part of the Library’s digital collection.

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