Category Archives: Public domain

The Flora of Forfarshire: A publication of historical and botanical value available in modern collections and public platforms.

During the spring semester 2017, UT Libraries and the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center worked together to digitize the Flora of Forfarshire and make it available to the public through the Texas ScholarWorks repository.

pic3The Flora of Forfarshire is an emblematic botanical work by the Scottish botanist, William Gardiner (1809-1852), a poet and botanist, well known among the botanical establishment in 19th Century Europe. Published in 1848, The Flora of Forfarshire comprises +300 pages of plants, fungi, lichens, and algae growing in Forfar (Angus) county, Scotland. Since the publication of the book was an ambitious project, Gardiner funded its project by recruiting patrons who were rewarded with folios of pressed samples of representative species listed in thebook, accompanied by taxonomic and geographical information. Most of these folios no longer exist, but one of them, along with the main book, are accessioned at the University of Texas Libraries.pic2
The Flora of Forfarshire has historical and scientific value because of Its age, the adverse economic conditions the author had overcome to publish it, the excellent preservation of the pressed plants in the complementary volume and, the botanical information of a region that has changed a lot since the XIX century, among other reasons. In order to make the book and the folio accessible to the public and providing an accurate and updated version of the information contained in the Flora, The Plant Resources Center and UT Libraries worked in a joint project offering the opportunity to Jessica Wigley, a Museum Studies student to have hands-on experience in digitizing, georeferencing, and updating the taxonomic information of each of the records.pic1 A total of 135 records were digitized and barcoded, 74 required taxonomic update, and 54 localities had their localities georeferenced. Jessica presented her final results in a poster at the conference Botany 2017 in June 2017 and all the products of the project including downloadable versions of the poster, the books, and a spreadsheet with all the information, were uploaded to the Texas ScholarWorks repository during the fall 2017. The Flora of Forfarshire collection can be accessed and consulted here: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/47236

Post submitted by Amalia Díaz, Ph.D., Assistant Curator, Plant Resources Center.

OpenScore

There is an interesting project going on that aims to digitize public domain sheet music to make it more accessible to music fans everywhere. It’s called OpenScore and they are going to be enabling crowdsourced transcriptions to create the digital sheet music. All crowdsourced scores will be checked and reviewed to make sure they are accurate. All the digitized scores will be available under a Creative Commons Zero license which allows unlimited reuse options.

Public Domain Day

January 1st of every year is Public Domain Day. This is a day to celebrate the items that have entered the public domain. In the United States, we’ll have nothing to celebrate this year, as nothing will enter the public domain until 2019. That is because the 1976 Copyright Act changed the terms of copyright to 70 years after the author’s death or 95 years after publication for corporate works. This means the items that would have become public domain on January 1st, 2014 under the previous copyright act, won’t enter the public domain until 2053.

Duke University’s, Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a great site on this topic: http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/index

Digital Public Library of America

DPLA logoThe Chronicle featured a post about the DPLA Tuesday morning, so I thought I’d go over and check it out. DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America, has as its goal to aggregate the records of mostly open content from libraries, archives and museums all around the country. So, for example, let’s say UT has a map collection online — in theory, our collection could be included among the resources that one can access through the DPLA portal. In addition, there is an API open to developers who want to use the metadata behind the digital resources to create interesting ways to get at what’s there. And finally, DPLA is clearly advocating on behalf of libraries, archives and museums, emphasizing the importance of the role we play in preserving works, creating metadata that describe them, and providing access to the great store of cultural materials that are in our public domain.

So, I did a bit of looking around, looked up some things on Zen, Texas history, and polar bears, and I compared the results I got with those I got from doing the same searches on the global Internet.

Wow. It’s like two completely different worlds. DPLA is ultra-refined searching, narrowed down to what’s mostly, but not entirely, public domain, and digital, whose records have been contributed to the DPLA by a partner library, museum or archive. Sort of like Creative Commons searches, when I want to find only those materials I can reuse, but much narrower. Because there is so much content out there that is not available through DPLA, I sure do appreciate the steps current-day creators take to tag their works with the privileges they freely share with the public. Otherwise, we wait decades (let’s say it’s roughly 100 years now) to be able to say, “I can actually use this wonderful work that you posted online as I wish!” Becoming public domain takes a long, long, long, long time in this country.

And I appreciate all that metadata that libraries and archives and museums have been steadily adding to the records for the works in their collections, the metadata that allows us to let machines do the job of sorting through things for us, and finding just what we’re interested in.