A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Calisphere Expands Digital Collections Across the UC

October 7, 2015

More than 400,000 digital photographs, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, works of art, sound recordings, moving images and other formats are available in Calisphere, a University of California libraries' project developed and maintained by UC’s California Digital Library (CDL).

A new version of Calisphere, released to the public in beta mode in September, marks the culmination of a multi-year project to implement the UC Libraries Digital Collection. While many items have been available via the previous Calisphere site and individual library websites, the new site boasts a 70 percent increase in the number of digital items available over its former version.

Calisphere now features about 50 new collections contributed by UC campus libraries, including:

  • Costume renderings by UC Merced Professor Dunya Ramicova;
  • Three photographs of Merced's Chinatown from the first decade of the 20th century, held in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley;
  • An 1860 map of central California showing a practicable route to enter the state with a Pacific railroad, held in the special collections at UCLA; and
  • Twenty-one issues of The Mercedian, a newsletter produced by Japanese-American internees at the Merced Assembly Center in 1942, digitized by the UC Merced Library.
Emily Lin, head of Digital Assets at UC Merced Library, was a member of a 2009 UC Digital Library Services Task Force that developed the vision for the UC Digital Collection. That vision emphasized an integrated approach to digital collections to enable richer and deeper discovery of materials over the content silos that often result from individual, stand-alone projects and websites.
Lin also chaired a Next Generation Technical Services task force that challenged the libraries to rethink access to special collections, archives and digital primary sources and was a member of the Next Generation Technical Services management team that steered the UC libraries toward this implementation. 

The new Calisphere site harvests digital items from across the system — regardless of where they are hosted — and brings them together. While visitors may find their way to an item in Calisphere via Google or another search engine, the new Calisphere highlights, in a highly visual way, both the context of each item (what collection and what institution it is a part of) as well as related items that might belong to other institutions.

Digital Preservation

A less visible component of this implementation is the underlying infrastructure that provides a system for libraries to manage their digital assets and provides a pipeline to feed Calisphere content to the Digital Public Library of America. The 2009 task force recognized the unevenness in terms of campuses’ capacity and technology infrastructure to manage digital collections. This implementation has enabled smaller campuses like UC Merced to manage and contribute digital content alongside larger, well-established libraries like the ones at Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego.

This collaborative effort has resulted in an improved resource, and UC Merced librarians contributed in a significant way.

The UC libraries are stewards of incredible research collections that deserve greater visibility and use in new, digital forms. The work is far from over: the UC Merced Digital Assets team continues to work with the CDL team to identify issues and improvements to the new Calisphere site and local collections. The UC Merced Library looks forward to making available content from projects that are both underway and under development in the years to come.