SILS 603 Image Database, Individual Paper

Book Review and a complied list of bibliography

Yu-Ling Fan Oct. 13, 1995

Title: The Digitization of Primary Textual Sources
Author: Peter Robinson
Publisher: Office for Humanities Communication Publications
Publishing year: 1993

This book is intended for scholars working with texts and having a considerable amount of primary material (manuscripts, early printed books, and photographs) want to record, study, distribute, and preserve in digital form. Though this book does not focus on digitizing images, like art works, the basic concepts, principles, and equipment are almost the same. Accordingly, this book is also a good guide for beginners to get knowledge of image processing.

Since this book assumes that the scholar knows a great deal about the material to be digitized, but not much about digitization, the author tries to explain concepts in an easy way to understand. On the one hand, the author avoids using many technical terms; on the other hand, a glossary at the end of this book is provided for users to look up if they are not sure about meanings of certain terms. The author also doesn't intend to deliver complicated concepts and processes. Rather, he sets out the choices to be made and possibilities available in commencing a digitization project.




The author discusses both advantages and disadvantages of various media, like Photo CD and CD-ROM, and different formats, like JPEG and TIFF. By stating and comparing them clearly, readers can first get the knowledge of the usage and difference. Consequently, the sense will help them to decide what methods they can use to best meet their own needs.

The book deals with more image concepts than practical step- by-step description, and this feature will let the value of this book last long. With fast technology changing and progressing, the software used today might not be suitable for tomorrow. What can last long is the principle and concept. Once the main ideas can be got and applied, no matter what software of media will be used, the way of presenting information should still be logical and reasonable.

Several project surveys have been selected in this book, though they are not well-known by the public. The reasons why the author chooses these instead of famous ones are partly because the author thinks that they are less well known than they deserve to be, and partly because the author himself has a good knowledge of them. This approach makes readers have more chances to get informed of various ongoing projects.

The topics covered in this book are almost the fundamental concepts and knowledge about imaging. In general, reading the whole book can really give readers a rough idea about what an image database is, what should be taken into consideration in both technical and administrative aspects.


The book discusses fewer issues on database maintenance. In fact, keeping an image database of high quality is very time- and effort-consuming. What needed is not only thoughtful consideration with careful design the structure at the first stage, but also the following continuous efforts of adding, editing, cataloging, reviewing, maintaining and revising (if needed) records. Furthermore, concerns should also include the issues of public access, including access points and availability, cataloging and classification system, indexing and abstracting services, searching tools/engines, and technical support or consultation.

During the whole book, network issue is only mentioned once at the Image Storage section. Of course, the publishing year should also be taken into consideration. This book was first published in 1993. At that time, World Wide Web hasn't been developed so prosperously like now. Accordingly, not many museums or archives have come up with such an idea nor have enough budget and manpower to complete this task.

In fact, current image database development can not be totally exempted from networking surroundings. Not only wanting to catch up with the tide of using Internet, but also for being able to be widely used by the public, and overcoming the obstacles of time and distance. By doing so, the original works can be prevented from being touched, allowing more people to appreciate at the same time, and not being limited by the space of arrangement, and the number of works which can be displayed simultaneously. Another feature in some modern systems, like EmbARK used by some museums now, including the University of Michigan Museum of Art, is allowing interactive responses generated by the visitors. Thus, the museum can get feedback from the audiences and keep that in an automated database.


More graphics, pictures and charts should be provided in this book. Compared with other books concerning the same issue, this book seems full of texts and descriptions with less pictorial presentation. For example, when comparing different levels of resolution or explaining color hue and saturation, using pictorial presentation should be a better and easier way for readers to understand.

More discussion about legal issues should be included and concerned. The author has reviewed applicable aspects of copyright law in Great Britain and then discussed some of the attitudes of owners of primary materials to the prospect of digital imaging. Since it is only limited to the situation in Great Britain, and not covers a long time period, readers could not get the whole picture of the current status and the changing process about this issue. Thus, more historical background and detailed information are suggested to be presented.

Though this book does not focus on discussing hardware and software applications, undeniably, readers (especially beginners) still want to get informed of what equipment is needed and suitable. That does not mean the information about how-tos should be provided, nor certain brands/models will be suggested in this book. Rather, the varieties of choices should be presented in an analyzed and compared way. That is, advantages, disadvantages, and limitation of the equipment or software can be listed, which will let readers easy to understand. After clarifying their own needs, the choice of equipment can be made wisely.

The perspective about the future of Image Databases can be discussed more. Not only concern about the technical advancement, but also the impact to the culture, public, and management method used by the owner, e.g. museums, archives, or libraries. How image databases influence or change the patron's way of visiting and using, and how museums/archives/libraries adjust themselves in such a strong force of changing, should be important issues needed to be thought thoroughly.


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