Frequently Asked Questions
In the world of libraries, the term "Americana" usually refers to collections that specialize in the history of the Americas. Before becoming known as "The John Carter Brown Library", the JCB was known as the "Bibliotheca Americana" of John Carter Brown. As a result, "Americana" was engraved on the limestone architrave above the front entrance of the library: it is in our birth certificate!
In addition, for the team that developed this digital library, Americana also meant a new information architecture inspired by the cultures of the Americas. But that's another story...
When Americana was first conceived, our goal was to bring users closer to the experience of visiting the John Carter Brown Library. This includes the ability to talk to other readers, visit exhibitions, consult with librarians or curators, participate in academic talks, and much more.
To achieve this, we needed to move away from the traditional logic of a digital repository, where users simply search for an item, download it, and read it. Instead, Americana allows users to create and publish their own projects, encouraging the development of new pathways into the collection and the creation of a community of knowledge.
We are committed to continuously designing and developing new tools for our community of knowledge.
Currently, Americana does not support the uploading of new items by users. However, this feature is planned for future versions of the platform. Our goal is to allow users to incorporate new items into their projects by using IIIF manifests. IIIF is a framework of interoperability adopted by digital collections worldwide, and it will enable users to incorporate Open Access items from different institutions with the assurance that they have been cataloged correctly by specialists.
Furthermore, we are exploring opportunities to partner with other Open Access collections.
Any project created through Americana is made public under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license. This means that anyone can use and share it for non-commercial purposes, as long as proper credit is given. The authors of a project or exhibition retain copyright over their text, and are free to reuse, republish, and withdraw their project from Americana as they please.
The John Carter Brown Library is steadfast in its dedication to the enduring digital preservation of Americana projects. This ensures that, if ever a need arises for JCB to transition Americana to a different information architecture in the future, the projects highlighted by Americana will be accorded the same meticulous care as all other digital content curated by the JCB.
We advise our Americana users to maintain local backups of their projects as an additional layer of security. Looking ahead, we're excited to share that future versions of our platform will offer users the capability to download their projects in a database format. This feature will enhance user control, enabling the personal safeguarding of their projects.
While the John Carter Brown Library and Americana strive for the highest degree of reliability, like all digital platforms, occasional technological hiccups, including unexpected downtime or data disruption, can occur. As a proactive measure, we recommend users keep personal backups and employ good security practices. We aim to provide as seamless an access experience as possible, but there may be rare moments when uninterrupted access is challenged. We truly appreciate your understanding and assure you that your use of the library's resources is valued. Remember, our commitment is always to your service, and we navigate these digital landscapes together.
While we are in the process of crafting a comprehensive framework for inter-institutional collaborations, there's a multitude of avenues for your library, museum, or department to engage with Americana.
One potential collaboration could involve curating projects and exhibitions. This not only broadens curated access to the JCB collection but also contributes to a collective understanding of the capabilities and potential challenges inherent in our digital curation technology.
Americana eagerly anticipates your insights and feedback on our digital objects, metadata, projects, and digital tools. Our commitment to the progressive evolution of Americana has us continually envisioning the future landscape of digital collections.
Your thoughts on potential collaborations are invaluable to us. We're all ears and can't wait to hear from you, so please don't hesitate to reach out!
Americana was primarily developed in Python, because of its flexibility, and uses Wagtail as its Content Management System.
Our books and maps are digitized using Scribe scanners, from the Internet Archive. For preservation, a redundant copy of our digitized materials is stored in Luna, which also functions as the backend for the images that you see in Americana—thanks to a strategic collaboration with Luna Imaging.
The JCB's bibliographic records are created in MARC, and managed through Ex-Libris Alma.
Americana's digital images comply with IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) and our object viewer is built around Mirador, an open-source image viewing platform. Fabrique customized Mirador’s UI to conform to both the visual style and design principles of Americana.
At present, there are three key ways in which individuals can contribute to the growth and development of Americana:
Firstly, consider making a donation to the John Carter Brown Library. Your generosity can aid in acquiring unique materials, support the continuous digitization of our vast collection, and fuel the ongoing enhancement of Americana, including the development of innovative tools.
Secondly, your creative contribution in the form of projects can carve new access routes into our collection, enriching our global user community. The interconnections you establish between items and your thoughtful annotations can refine our search functionality, leading other users to discover previously unnoticed materials.
Lastly, your feedback about Americana is highly valuable. Do you find our platform appealing? Have you identified an error? Or perhaps you've conjured up an idea for a novel tool we could develop? We welcome your insights and encourage you to share your thoughts with us.
We've poured significant effort into crafting an information architecture that allows you to establish a Project even with items that possess a bibliographic record but have not yet been digitized. You can even annotate the placeholder image of non-digitized objects.
When the item eventually undergoes digitization, it will automatically link to your project. Furthermore, any annotations made to the placeholder image will automatically transition to the first page of the newly digitized item!
Adding non-digitized objects to your project also plays a crucial role in shaping the JCB's digitization priorities: adding non-digitized objects to your project essentially flags them for potential prioritization in our digitization queue, thereby influencing the direction of our digitization efforts.
At Americana, we deeply respect your privacy rights and recognize your ownership of the content you generate.
If you wish to delete your account, along with your projects and annotations, please reach out to us via the email associated with your account.
Please be mindful that upon deleting your account, all your personally created projects and annotations across all collaborated projects will be permanently removed. However, projects initiated by other users that you've participated in will remain intact. Your decision to delete your account impacts only the content you've directly contributed.
While we'd love to keep some excitement under wraps, we can't help but share a little about our future plans. Apart from routine bug fixes and data enhancement, we have an array of exciting new features in the pipeline for the next version of Americana.
We aim to further refine the "desk view" introduced on the home page, where items are showcased in their relative dimensions, offering an intuitive and visually engaging browsing experience.
We're also crafting innovative avenues to publish your project, going beyond the current options of public projects and exhibitions. And the functionality of our annotation and download features is set for an upgrade, all to ensure a more seamless user experience.
But that's not all - a significant transformation in the way you search for items on Americana is on the horizon!
We warmly welcome your suggestions for new enhancements. Feel free to share your feedback with us.