About the Collection
At the close of the 19th century the U.S. Department of Agriculture, along with individual state agencies, began the collection of vast amounts of pedogenic information for the sake of not only farmers but also for developers and industry. Much of this compiled information was released and distributed in the form of Soil Surveys. These books with accompanying maps were prepared to explain the soil classifications on the county level for the entire United States. This information could then be utilized to determine an area's suitability for various types of agricultural and industrial endeavors based on the soil's classification. The USDA continues to issue updated versions of these soil surveys which have much more detailed information than the originals done in the early years of the 1900's.
The true value of the original soil survey is not in their soil information but in the basic cultural data which was overlaid on the base map. Today archaeologists, historians, and environmental engineers are among the many researchers that rely on the older soil survey collection. The older maps contain information of significance that is not available on updated soil surveys or even the USGS topographic maps. Examples of this are: old rail lines, schools, churches and other structures as well as entire towns that no longer exist.
Thanks to the Map Library's Ross Taylor and Gypsye Legge (2005, MLIS Library Science), for preparing this collection and allowing the Digital Activities Department to scan it. The project could also not have been completed without the work of Tony Branch from the Systems Department, Kate Boyd, Lauren Glaettli (2005, MLIS Library Science) and Kevin Gilbertson (2005, MLIS Library Science) from the Digital Activities Department, and Douglas King of Cataloging.
Creating the Digital Collection
Ross and Gypsye began conserving and preserving these maps in the Fall of 2004 at the Conservation Lab. Lauren finished the process and scanned them in the Spring of 2005. The 40 maps were scanned on a Ideal Crystal Tx40 wide format scanner. Lauren scanned the images as color TIFFs at 24-bit and 300 ppi. From the TIFFs she created high quality JPEGs, which were then uploaded to CONTENTdm and compressed as JPEG2000s at that time. The TIFFs will be maintained as the archival masters on a SAN server, backed-up to DVD and tape.
Kevin created a home page for the collection, and Doug and Kate created the metadata in an Excel spread sheet. Ross wrote a brief introduction. The metadata records follow the Western States Best Practices Dublin Core format and were uploaded as a tab delimited file at the same time as the images. Kate reviewed the collection and uploaded the images to the CONTENTdm database. Tony Branch is the systems administrator for the CONTENTdm database and helps to manage the computers and scanners in the Digital Activities Department.