Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the Turn of the 20th Century was made possible by a Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) collaborative digitization grant awarded in the fall of 2011 to the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) partners the Frick Art Reference Library and the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives. The grant enabled the recipients to accomplish two distinct goals. First, the digitization of the ephemeral materials included in the project significantly increased access to these unique items while also laying the groundwork for future expansion of the Gilded Age digital collection. In addition, the project allowed the partners to formulate best practices, workflows, and procedures to guide both the continued internal digitization of high-use collections and the ongoing preservation of the structured digital content resulting from digitization.


The Documenting the Gilded Age project digitized select items from the collections of The Brooklyn Museum Library and Archives and the Frick Art Reference Library. The scanning of the items contributed by Brooklyn was executed by the off-site vendor Digital Conversion Solutions, a division of The HF Group. Scanning of the items contributed by the Frick was conducted onsite by Susan Young, with the assistance of the Digital Lab. One challenge to determining digitization technical specifications was the heterogeneity of the materials selected for the project. The variety of item sizes, bindings, and encapsulations necessitated multiple scanning methods and item-level tracking during both the digitization and quality assurance stages. Imaging technical specifications were created in compliance with the Digital Library Federation’s “Benchmark for Faithful Digital Reproductions of Monographs and Serials.” As well, a full conservation assessment was performed on each item prior to scanning.

Items digitized: 363
Digital objects created: 10,538
Imaging: 400ppi, 24-bit color scans
File output: uncompressed TIFFs and text-searchable PDFs
Scanned by: The HF Group and the Frick Digital Lab
Equipment: Flatbed & overhead scanners 


MARC records were created for the digital versions of the exhibition catalogs and imported to the Arcade catalog. A full list of the digitized texts is available in Arcade. Based on the MARC records for the physical versions, these bibliographic records altered multiple existing fields and added numerous fields, included the 042, 506, 533, 538, 583, 588, 856, and 906 (local project identifier) fields. The 347 MARC records for the digitized versions are available for download. A list of OCLC master record numbers for the records created are also available. MARC records are also available for Phase I of this project. Please see the Metadata section of the Phase I website for more information.  

Selected descriptive metadata was embedded into the header code of each TIFF file using Adobe Bridge. Also, Dublin Core (DC) metadata was created for use in the Omeka online collection software. The DC metadata is a combination of the descriptive metadata from the existing MARC records and additional metadata applicable to the access surrogates.

Finally, supplementary metadata was created to upload the preservation master TIFFs into a digital asset management system. These additional metadata elements facilitate the composition of Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) records, specifically the metadata necessary for creation of the METS <structMap> element. 

Project Document

The first phase of this project created a basic best practices guide for use by other small, cultural organizations and special collections, undertaking similar digitization projects. This document can be downloaded from the NYARC website. METRO also maintains a digitization guide that can be a valuable resource for digitization information.


Digital Project

Project Manager: Sean Leahy, NYARC
Project Adminstrators: Deborah Kempe, Frick Art Reference Library, and Deirdre Lawrence, Brooklyn Museum and Archives
NYARC Project Coordinator and Systems Manager: Lily Pregill, NYARC
Conservation: Kelly Piotrowski, Frick Art Reference Library, and Keith Duquette, Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives
Scanning: Susan Young, Frick Art Refererence Library
Metadata and Technical Support: Luciano Johnson, Frick Art Reference Library

Website and Online Exhibition

Exhibition Design: Sean Leahy, NYARC
Content Contributors: Sean Leahy, NYARC; Suz Massen, Frick Art Reference Library; Sophia Walter, Frick Art Reference Library; Cynthia Biber, Frick Art Reference Library; Nimisha Bhat, NYARC; Maud Johnson, Frick Art Reference Lirbary; and Madeline High, Frick Art Reference Library 
Bibliography: Suz Massen, Frick Art Reference Library

The exhibition was built using Omeka software.

Special thanks to METRO for its generous support of the Documenting the Gilded Age project.