A real gem for archivists and others who love to delve into the past, this site can take up simply hours of your time: plan accordingly. The catalog of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke, it also includes some full-text collections which have been digitized.
The layout is simple and somewhat linear. Much is contained here, and it is all relatively easy to find. Usually one or two clicks will get to a selected area - thank you, designers! Frames are actually useful instead of being intrusive, and serve as a Table of Contents for each section. Navigation is simple and direct, making it score high on the "ease of use" scale. The "Recent Additions" section offers a quick update of new materials for regular users.
One of the new collections, which figure prominently at the top of the home page, is Historic American Sheet Music, which "provides access to digital images of 3042 pieces from the collection, published in the United States between 1850 and 1920". The collection is browsable by subject content, illustration type, advertising, date, and title. It is also searchable by over twenty fields, including all the browsable ones and some pleasant surprises - engraver, lithographer, arranger, dedicatee, first line, refrain, series, lyricist, LCSH, composer, etc., etc. Some cataloger went simply wild and had his or her way
with this collection - good news for us!
Currency is not so much as issue for an archive site, and is addressed by the "Recent Additons" section. Since this is an historic collection, currency refers to the rate at which data is digitized and added. I could find no indication of future plans for digitizing specific other pieces of the collection. The "last updated" date listed was November 17, 1997.
Most of the materials available in the Library are still on paper and reside there. Notable digitized collections are "Civil War Women", a collection of diaries, papers, and letters, and "The Urban Landscape", over 1,000 images pertaining to this theme. Many pieces of the collection deal with regional interests or topics, but may find an audience anywhere.
All in all, this is an excellent site, for both content and design. In fact, it could be a model for others. Giving the user less clutter and more access points can only make us, in the words of Emeril Lagasse, "Happy happy".
Lisa K. Miller
Paradise Valley Community College Library