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  The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science
Collection Development Policy


Presented to LIS 563 on February 19, 2004 by
Darren Chase; Anna Fishaut; James Harris; Susanne Lischer; Thomas Stieve
(updated: April 8, 2004)

I. Purpose and Aims of the Library
A. Purpose and Mission Statements
B. Intended Audiences of the Library
C. Copyright Statement

II. Overview of the Bentley Snowflake Collection (Analog)
A. Description
B. Condition
C. (Physical) Location

III. Principles and Priorities for Collecting: Primary Priorities
A. Images of Bentley’s Snow Crystal Photomicrographs

IV. Principles and Priorities for Collecting: Secondary Priorities
A. Images Illustrating the Breadth, Range, and Physical Condition of the Analog Collection
B. Technical Contextual Information
C. Biographical Contextual Information
D. Other Contextual Information
E. Offsite/External Contextual Information

V. Digital Library Creation Process

VI. Preservation Concerns

VII. Future Prospects



I. Purpose and Aims of the Library

A. Purpose and Mission Statements

Purpose Statement: The Wilson A. Bentley Snowflake Digital Library is a contextualized image resource for all who seek inspiring examples of the sublime natural artistry of snow crystals and knowledge of the science behind snow crystal formation. Central to our mission is to provide and maintain access to exceptional digitized images of the unique, fragile photomicrograph glass plates of snow crystals made by Wilson Bentley, and to signify each image within the context of empirical meteorological observations recorded by Bentley at the time of image creation. As current access to Bentley’s glass plate photographs and recorded observations are seriously limited due to handling restrictions motivated by conservation concerns, we regard digitization as the best practice in response to the seemingly competing goals of physical access and conservation. Corollary to this, our mission is to include information and access to information of determined value that furthers understanding and appreciation of snow crystal science, Bentley’s photomicrographic process and other relevant technical information, and succinct biographical information about Bentley. In addition, because of advancing deterioration of the emulsion on Bentley’s glass plates, our digital library strives to serve as a lasting means of preserving Bentley’s snow crystal images.

Buffalo Museum of Science (BMS) Mission Statement:
“ The Buffalo Museum of Science, through collections, research, education and interpretation, provides opportunities for all people to develop a scientific understanding of the natural and cultural world with an emphasis on the Greater Niagara Region. The Museum challenges everyone to use their knowledge of science to enhance respect for each other and the environment.”

The Wilson A. Bentley Snowflake Digital Library Mission Statement:

1. Our intention is to develop the Wilson A. Bentley Snowflake Collection for universal access, research, and education by incorporating it into an online environment in the form of a tightly organized digital library of exceptional images and relevant, authoritative contextual material.
2. Our intention is to promote the BMS.
3. Our intention is to provide the BMS with a lasting high-quality digital archive of the Bentley Snowflake Collection using the least invasive techniques possible as a means to preserve the resources digitally for future users, while conserving the actual original resource materials.


B. Intended Audiences of the Library

Online access allows for a nearly universal audience; while still mindful of this we recognize audiences with which our Library has particular value:

1. Adult online users including researchers; librarians; individuals whose interests include science, nature, and museums; the snowflake-curious; general web surfers
2. Middle- and high-school students and their teachers
3. BMS personnel

C. Copyright Statement

While the Buffalo Museum of Science holds the copyrights to the Bentley Snowflake Collection, all other resources included in the Library should be carefully reviewed and selected only as copyright allows.

Recommendations of the Copyright & Compliance Team.


II. Overview of the Bentley Snowflake Collection (Analog)

A. Description:
The Wilson A. Bentley Snowflake Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science (BMS) consists of 8,908 glass plate negative originals, some cut and uncut duplicate negatives, and some inter-positives of the 5,381 photomicrographs of snow crystals created by Wilson Alwyn Bentley from 1885 to 1931. The Collection is organized chronologically into two extensive groups: a scattered range of plates 11 through 5,381 numbered by Bentley, and plates received unidentified by the BMS and consequently assigned numbers BMS 1 through BMS 924. In addition to the snow crystal glass plates, the Collection includes glass plate photographs of other objects, nine of Bentley’s detailed notebooks dated 1884-1931, correspondence dated 1899-1931, and various articles published by Bentley. This collection is unique in scope, size, and scientific and aesthetic value.

B. Condition:
The collection requires conservation treatment. The emulsion is “lifting off” many of the glass plates, and chemical and mechanical manifestations of decay are present throughout the collection. In addition, excessive handling significantly contributes to deterioration. Access to this collection is severely limited by the special care that must be taken to protect these items. In its document “Strategic Preservation Plan for the Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931) Photographic Glass Plates Collection: Condition Evaluation, Environmental Assessment, Recommendations for Preservation,” RIT’s (Rochester Institute of Technology) Image Permanence Institute outlines observations on the condition of the collection, and details specific recommendations and guidelines for current and future treatment of the Collection.

C. (Physical) Location:
The Buffalo Museum of Science holds the Collection, and possesses both physical and intellectual ownership. The Collection is housed within Special Collections and is cared for by the Registrar.


III. Principles and Priorities for Collecting: Primary Priorities

The digital library should be composed of the following components, listed here in their respective order of significance:

A. Images of Bentley’s Snow Crystal Photomicrographs
Bentley’s snow crystal photomicrographs are the vital component of the library and will serve as the major source of its contents. The Buffalo Museum of Science desires to use this digital library as a means of dramatically increasing access to these slides.

The following guidelines should be followed when selecting plates for digitization and inclusion in the digital library:

1. Preference is given to best-quality plates without evidence of degradation. See section: Preservation Concerns.
2. Selection should be systematic according to the Magono and Lee classification scheme. Specifically, plates should be chosen with the objective of creating as balanced as possible a representation of image examples across the schemes. To aid in this, the BMS Access database will be used to determine the classification code and crystal structure of each snow crystal. Only a small fraction of the entire Collection has yet been classified, and these samples seem to be falling mainly within the P division. It is implicit that a plate lacking a classification should not be included until it is classified, nor should a plate be included that is missing vital descriptive information. See section: Technical Contextual Information: Descriptive records of images.
3. Favor is given to items in the Bentley number 11 through 5,381 range, an exception being instance of an item in the BMS range determined to be a distinctly remarkable example of a particular class [Magono-Lee scheme] of snow flake.
4. Selection should be made from the plates that show negative, rather than positive, images.
5. Plates must possess appreciable contrast—excessively dark or light plates make poor images.
6. Though the Bentley Collection includes glass plates that are duplicates of other plates, our Library should provide only a single best-quality image of any particular snow crystal.
7. Plates selected should be those that contain an image of only one snowflake; composite images, or images that contain multiple snowflakes as a single sample, should not be considered a priority.
8. For greater archival and aesthetic value, the entire glass plate—not the snowflake image alone—should be digitized and represented.


IV. Principles and Priorities for Collecting: Secondary Priorities

A. Images Illustrating the Breadth, Range, and Physical Condition of the Analog Collection

A small number of plates should be selected to constitute a secondary image collection. These should be selected to highlight the following features, for historically technical purposes:

1. Different degrees and/or types of degradation
2. Composite images
3. Inter-positives and other experimental images

The Collection involves two values of digitization:

1. Archival-Quality, which we define as the highest-value possible, possessing the greatest image detail, clarity, and resolution—specifically a resolution of [ ].
2. Web-Quality, which is a quality of lower resolution that allows for rapid online access, while at the same time protecting the intellectual property rights of the BMS over these images.

Achieving these two values of digitization may require two distinct digital images to be made, or may simply require the creation of an initial archival-quality image that can later be copied and expressed as a web-quality generation.

B. Technical Contextual Information

Descriptive records of images
Transcriptions from Bentley’s daily logs are noted on each glass plate’s acid-free envelope. Because this brief data corresponds directly with an individual snow crystal, it is considered relevant contextual information and should be incorporated into each image’s descriptive record (metadata).

Recommendations of the Metadata Team.

Bentley’s transcribed notebooks (or their representation in the BMS Access database) should be used to derive all information, as the state of deterioration of Bentley’s original notebooks prohibits handling.

The Magono and Lee classification scheme is to be used in classifying and ordering the collection. The BMS Access database includes the Magono and Lee class number for many items. For an expanded review and more detailed application of this scheme, consult: LaChapelle, E. R. (2001). Field Guide to Snow Crystals: International Glaciological Society.

C. Other Contextual Information
Other technical contextual information should be included in the Library so as to enhance understanding of snow crystal meteorology, the photographic techniques Bentley used, and photographic preservation. These materials are selected according to the following criteria:

1. Resources must be of superior quality -- “superior” being defined as having a proven or appreciable value that is holds up against material analysis and qualified critical evaluation.
2. Resources should be brief and succinct. Favor should be given to bibliographic records, bibliographies, and website links.
3. Digitized documents should be limited to approximately three images and should be representative rather than comprehensive.
4. All excerpted and quoted material must be properly cited.
5. Concerning Bentley’s techniques: favor should be given to citations of articles or excerpts of articles written by Bentley, and to first-hand reports and expert accounts of his work written during his life.
6. Historical resources, such as Bentley’s journals, should only be digitized if determined to be in acceptable condition for handling; otherwise, transcriptions should be utilized.
7. Resources should provide direct context to the collection without straying from the Library’s mission.
8. Selection/inclusion of contextual resources is directly dependent upon copyright clearance.
9. Contextual sources should address the various users laid out in Section I.

D. Biographical Contextual Information

Select Bentley biographical resources should be included. These documents should be selected to give the user an accurate impression of Bentley’s life, goals, and professional and personal achievements.

1. Resources must be of superior -- “superior” being defined as having a proven or appreciable value that is holds up against material analysis and qualified critical evaluation.
2. Resources should be brief and succinct. Favor will be given to annotated bibliographic records (specifically materials published by or about Bentley during his life) and website links.
3. Digitized documents (e.g. Bentley’s journals or correspondence) should provide a biographical “snapshot” rather than a comprehensive history.
4. All excerpted and quoted material should be properly cited.
5. Historical resources, such as Bentley’s journals, should only be digitized if determined to be in acceptable condition for handling; otherwise, transcriptions should be utilized.
6. Resources should provide direct context to the collection without straying from the Library’s mission.
7. Bentley’s hometown of Jericho, Vermont must be referenced through a link to the website of the town’s historical society.
8. Selection/inclusion of contextual resources is directly dependent upon copyright clearance.
9. Contextual sources should address the various users laid out in Section I.


E. Offsite/External Contextual Information: Secondary Collection

Linked web sites should be selected according to the criteria laid out in this section and in Part F. Website links to offsite sources should be evaluated with these criteria in the fore:

1. Must have clear and obvious contact information and an active email address; if in doubt, email the contact person to verify.
2. Must have a copyright or “updated” date of no earlier than 18 months prior to today’s date. If in doubt about a site’s currency, email the contact person to verify.
3. In general, the link should not point to a personal webspace URL (such as Geocities, Earthlink, AngelFire, RoadRunner, etc.), although a valid exception to this is a pertinent faculty webspace in a .edu domain
4. Author of site must have reputable affiliation or appropriate credentials and have valid email address and/or other contact information clearly noted
5. Site must contain appropriate content fitting with the Bentley collection, providing complementary or supplementary information about snow crystals or Bentley, and not stray from the library’s purpose or the museum’s mission.


V. Digital Library Creation Process

In order to document the creation of the digital library, a special section of the website should contain both photos and text depicting and describing the individuals involved and the sensitivity of the materials, the care taken when working with them, and the processes used to capture those materials in digital format. The creators of the digital library are the members of the Spring 2004 Digital Libraries course offered at the University of Buffalo, under the auspices of Dr. June Abbas and Buffalo Museum of Science Collections Manager Katherine Leacock.


VI. Preservation Concerns

A. Glass plates
The condition of the glass plates necessitates considerations for proper storage, care and handling of these items. Related to these considerations are two evaluations of the condition of the glass plates performed by Dr. Virginia Cummings of BSM during the 1970s and 1980s, and RIT’s Image Permanence Institute in 2002. Dr. Cummings’ analysis was comprehensive, and defined four degrees of condition: Good, Good Cut (describing Bentley’s cut-out negative technique), Deteriorating Cut, and Deteriorated Cut. Dr. Cummings’ assigned condition quality for each glass plate is available in the BMS Access database, and should be consulted when selecting images digitization—with favor given to items qualified as Good or Good Cut.

The evaluation conducted by RIT’s Image Permanence Institute found evidence of chemical and mechanical decay of the material on the glass plates. In addition, RIT specifically noted that “improper handling of the glass plates could further damage deteriorating plates.” With this and other guidelines recommend by RIT in mind, handling of glass plates must be kept to a minimum and restricted to items manifesting little decay, with superior-quality digital images being created so as to make these useful now and in the future as preservation duplicates.

B. Images
Recommendations of the Digitization Team.


VII. Future Prospects

A. Continued additions to the Collection should conform to the mission, policy, and standards specified in this document, within the reality of given financial constraints.
B. The Digital Library promotes the continued safe storage of glass plates, and endorses the guidelines recommended by RIT’s Image Permanence Institute.
C. It is anticipated that in the future the Collection Development Policy will require expansion to detail the digitization and collection of other items, including: deteriorating and deteriorated plates; low-contrast and indistinct glass plate images; a measured analysis and development of the BMS range of glass plates; and Bentley’s other glass plate photographs of varying subjects. In many ways, this library and its policies should be considered a prototype, which the Buffalo Museum of Science may further tailor to its changing needs.
D. In order for this library and its collection to have value to the user, and to secure accessibility over time, it is essential that the stability and integrity of the system be consistently and professionally maintained. The establishment of standards of maintenance following accepted professional practice and a regular schedule by which the maintenance is performed are essential elements of the digital library.

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