Skip to Content

University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

Celebrating ten years of Digital Collections



Digital Collections at the University Libraries celebrated ten years of sharing USC’s unique collection materials online in 2015.

"Ten years ago, the Libraries made available their first digital collection: the Otto F. Ege Manuscripts," said Kate Boyd, Digital Initiatives Coordinator, shown below at left. "Today the Libraries have more than 150 digital collections, with more than half a million images available online."

Generally, digital collections provide free and open access to print, pictorial and audio-visual collections that reside in library and archive special collections. The national move to create digital collections began in the early 1990s.

Newest Digital Collections

Rosenwald Schools of South Carolina: An Oral History Exhibit

Tin Pan Alley sheet music

The William Gilmore Simms Digital Edition

The Gamecock Newspaper

South Carolina Aerial Photographs

Browse all

"My introduction to what a digital collection could be began in library school," Boyd said. "I scanned spy letters at the Clements Library at the University of Michigan for a digital collection 'Spy Letters of the American Revolution.' I later worked at the Library of Congress on their 'American Memory' project and primarily on their first international digital library, 'Meeting of Frontiers,' a large collection of primary resources on the history of Alaska.

"I came to USC as a reference librarian in 2001," Boyd said. "Our dean at the time, Paul Willis, was from the University of Kentucky, where they had a robust digital collections department. In 2004 he asked if I would start a department here. Other institutions in South Carolina were thinking about digital collections at the time, so we started to get together to share ideas. We’ve now formed several partnerships, and one of those resulted in the SC Digital Library, one of the first service hubs for the Digital Public Library of America."

The Digital Collections department at USC doesn’t have its own collections. Instead, it works closely with special collections areas to digitize and make available their materials. A strong team of library faculty and staff have dedicated themselves to making this happen.

"Ten years ago, the Digital Initiatives Team was pulled together with representatives from all of the special collections, and that group is still with us today," said Elizabeth Sudduth, Director of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. "We work together very well, and we still meet on a regular basis. It's a large group and everyone has an interest in digitization. We also have a Digital Preservation Committee, and a Digital Oversight Committee, which is made up of the heads of the digitization units. That group looks at overall scheduling and planning. These committees do a great deal to foster conversation about digital collections and collaboration across library units.”

Government Information and Maps is also one of those library units.

"Digital Collections has meant many things for Government Information and Maps, from maintaining access to the 1899 Census of Cuba, public health pamphlets from the 1950’s and 1960’s to being able to scan all of our aerial photography for the Lowcountry Counties of South Carolina," said Bill Sudduth, Head of Government Information and Maps. That project now includes more than 22,000 images.

From the beginning, students have been instrumental in the growth of the department.

"Library science and public history students play a big role in what we are able to accomplish, because they do a lot of the scanning of materials and data entry," Boyd said. "Working with us also gives them the chance to learn the technology, to learn how to create metadata, and to practice project management skills. And many of our former student workers are now in digital collections departments across the country."

Shown in the photo above right is Santi Thompson, a graduate of USC's dual master's program in library and information science and public history. Thompson worked in Digital Collections as a student and then as a new graduate. He is now Head of Digital Repository Services at the University of Houston Libraries.

Browse all of the University Libraries' Digital Collections here.