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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 8 months ago

Creating Access for Historic Texas Soil Surveys: A Digitization Case-Study

Fall 2006/Spring 2007

reserve stipulations

back to Reviews & Professional Writing

back to TXSS Paper Notes


need to keep presentation to only 20 minutes

estimate of paper length for presentation: 2-6 pages (1250-3750 words)

include time for slides (workflow, metadata records, collection displayed in Portal to Texas History interface)


current word count: 800+



About the Project

The Texas Soil Survey Collection encompasses all Texas soil surveys published prior to 1950 (about 99 in all; those not owned by UNT were ILL-ed). Soil surveys are (INSERT blurb about them from proposal). These surveys were collected and digitized not for their current scientific value, but for their cultural and historic value, as well as their revelations about science during the first half of the twentieth century. The soil surveys are valuable documents for the study of geography, soil history, the history of science, and government documents.



Background & History of Soil Surveys

The earliest soil surveys were created by the U.S. Agricultural Field of Operations, Bureau of Soils. The order of their issue is uncertain, as the years marked on maps and books that were issued together sometimes vary. The level of detail and size of each map varies, although most use the same 1" = 1 mile scale.


The original audience for the soil surveys is uncertain. They were created before the 1930's soil erosion problems began. (SEE Nancy's book for further information on early audience.) They are now used for farmers, gardeners, and builders; each map includes a key for soil types, and later maps tell what each type of soil is good for (as far as crops, building, etc.). They can also be used to determine some land-grant boundaries. They are fascinating cultural records, as many recorded landmarks such as schools and churches. Some of the books include photo plates, figures and tables.


We are currently in the process of digitizing (book title) to enhance the collection by providing a historic background of the project.


Digitization Process


  1. Sorting
  2. QC (Quality Control)
  3. Deskew
    1. During the deskewing process, images are correctly aligned, so that they are easy to view and to read.
  4. ReSize
  5. OCR
  6. Metadata
  7. ToUpload
    1. automated process: scripts
  8. Uploaded
  9. (Display Interface)

(ask Mark if can include his screen shots for each)


while the object is in the lab

  • quality control of image is checked
  • metadata is created
  • ideal (particularly for descriptive metadata)



The soil survey books were scanned on the Zeutschel; a few were scanned on the Betterlight scanback camera (QC bitonal). Maps were scanned with the Betterlight. They were placed on a vacuum easel and supported by magnets; this helped keep the map smooth and decrease fold lines. Each was scanned with a color target crosstick (magnetic ruler) for reference. (Have they been color profiled yet? Ask Nancy.)


Scanning specifications--need dpi, size, etc. (was there a standard? different for books or maps? Ask Nancy).



The metadata for each book and map were created separately (and usually at different times). Because most of the books and maps displayed different dates (although they were presumably issued together), the record for each displayed the book date as the date of publication, and the date printed on the map as the coverage date. All dates, including those placed in the notes field, are searchable as keywords. We advocate notes and full records; metadata creators are able to add keywords that aren't controlled vocabulary. However, we use Library of Congress Subject Headings for the Portal to Texas History's browse function.


The metadata records for each object contain "soil survey" somewhere so that they can be easily pulled together as a collection. The objects are not otherwise labeled as a collection at the present time. The records are under the broad "Texas History Collection" label assigned to the Portal to Texas History.


Each record contains many creators and contributors. The parent agency changed several times: U.S. Agricultural Soil Survey Department, U.S. Agricultural Experimental Station, corporate authors (also sometimes U.S. AES). Corporate authors only are assigned to the books, and cartographers are added to the map records as contributors (double-check with Nancy).


Eventually, the relation field will have a permalink (once all soil surveys are uploaded - check) to the matching book or map. For the moment, the DC Relation field links each soil survey map with its appropriate book volume. The relation field contains:

  • Relation field (for map): title and volume number of the book.
    • MAP TITLE has part: BOOK TITLE, VOLUME #.
  • Physical Description field: volume # of #.


The maps tend to contain more description than the books. Types of features have been listed when available. The book descriptions are taken from the table of contents for each, and the counties contained in each soil survey have been added to the description to aid discovery. Each book will be OCR'ed to further aid discovery (ask Mark about QC and cost/benefit for page highlighter/keyword).



We're utilizing Zoomify for magnification and navigation in the Portal to Texas History. (Would need more maps to justify a better portal viewing application.)

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