The Digital Archive


Hello! I need a million images...
Greg Zick1996
Boy pointing at computer monitor (Helping One Student to Succeed)

Boy pointing at computer monitor (Helping One Student to Succeed)

The arrival of the Internet age in the mid 1990s challenged the traditional books-and-paper model of university libraries. UW Electrical Engineering Professor Greg Zick walked up to the UW Library, and asked for a million images to digitize and organize. He found librarian Geri Ingram, and they developed a unique collaboration.

Zick was in search of a testbed collection to scale up the software his team had developed for medical imaging. Ingram was eager to open Web access to the UW’s extraordinary collections. Both had the end user foremost in their planning. The idea was to store visual media in a searchable database and to develop full-text access using a standard graphical browser. And it must be fast – a search should take less than one second.

CONTENTdm was the result, developed as an integrated software program to create an online digital repository. Sold to OCLC in 2006, CONTENTdm was a smashing success, adopted by hundreds of libraries to organize thousands of collections including millions of photos, letters, diaries, books, newspapers, and music and video files. Time was, these materials were held in restricted special collections; CONTENTdm protected the rare originals and made them readily available for use.

Screenshot of CONTENTdm

Screenshot of CONTENTdm

Additional Resources

Geri Bunker and Greg Zick on collaboration

“American Indians of the Pacific Northwest,” one of the first collections using CONTENTdm