Reviewed February 2020
Allie Thome, Systems and Web Librarian, Concordia College
The Carnegie Hall Digital Collections is a free, online website for searching, viewing, and downloading 80,000 images and documents from the Carnegie Hall archives. Students researching music, history, and art will enjoy diving into this rich database of historical artifacts related to Carnegie Hall, including photographs, programs, films, flyers, and more. The website is easy to navigate and includes a variety of methods for discovering content, including a simple search, advanced search, result filters, and curated lists of popular content. Users do not need to create an account to access these digital collections.
The site’s layout and design are intuitive and make for a good user experience. The advanced search features will be helpful for in-depth research, but casual searchers will enjoy the simple search box at the top of the page, as well as the curated lists of content on the homepage. Each of these curated lists is presented with an engaging image, a description of the content, an explanation of the content’s importance to Carnegie Hall, and a link to a page where items can be viewed.
The advanced search allows for searching by keyword, exact phrase, file extension, and ‘asset number’ (for finding one or more exact archival artifacts), as well as limiters for date, document, color, and orientation. Users can refine results using filters and sort them by date or relevance.The layout of results can be customized by altering the size of thumbnail images, switching to a list format, and changing the number of results per page. One site feature may be slightly confusing: the linked Carnegie Hall logo in the upper, left-hand corner takes users back to the Carnegie Hall homepage, not the digital collections homepage. If searchers want to start over, they must click on the ‘Home’ link in the upper, right-hand corner of the page.
The database includes a variety of asset types, including videos. Clicking on an individual asset brings the user to a page with a thumbnail image and metadata. Some metadata is hyperlinked, including related names, content type, concert season, and collection, so users can easily click to see all of the assets associated with a subject, for example, or all the items associated with a conductor. Many assets have a link to ‘View Event Details.’ This unique feature leads users to a page detailing the associated event held at Carnegie Hall, including a hyperlinked program where researchers can click on a work or artist to find additional information or related assets. Each asset shows a group of ‘conceptually similar’ assets. These hyperlinked elements of the site will help users discover new avenues for their research and quickly identify other items of interest. Users can click on the ‘View’ link to open a new tab with a browsable version of the document, where they can zoom in to view fine details on these high-quality scans. Each asset also includes a rights statement detailing how the user can responsibly use the document and a link for downloading the image. The site uses standardized rights statements from rightsstatements.org.
Users of this website will appreciate that the site’s features are comparable to the digital collections of other museums and archives, including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian. Users of these other popular repositories will appreciate the inclusion of similar features, including an intuitive search interface, the ability to download and save objects for later use, and the multiple avenues for accessing content, but will also appreciate the uniqueness of the content and discoverability in this collection. Advanced researchers as well as users who are generally intrigued by Carnegie Hall will find high-quality, engaging content on this site.