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About the Environmental History Project


Funded by: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Division of Preservation and Access

Lead Institution: New York State Archives

Partner Institutions: Adirondack Museum, Cornell University, New York State Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Warren and Ulster County governments

Project Time: October 2002 - September 2005

NEH Funds: $260,628 (Participant cost share:$309,784)


The project focused on a pivotal facet of America's environmental history: the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Partner holdings were integrated into a virtual collection that

  • Takes a thematic approach thematic rather than an institutional approach
  • Unifies geographically distributed collections
  • Provides balance to different perspectives on environmental history
  • Employs an integrated approach to web-accessible access tools, ranging from a traditional Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) to a union database of EAD-encoded finding aids, and digitized reproductions of archival material.


  • Developed and/or revise descriptive tools for a 162 collections relating to the Adirondack and Catskill Parks from seven partner institutions.
  • Created encoded finding aids and provided links between US MARC records, finding aids and digitized images.
  • Provided Web access to over 3200 historical maps, photographs, documents, and graphic materials of high interest drawn from partners' collections.
  • Developed a common method for creating electronic finding aids and mounting them on the Web
  • Developed shared guidelines and best practices for finding aid content, EAD markup, and item digitization that will help other New York State repositories
  • Developed the necessary infrastructure for housing the finding aids and making them available
  • Laid the foundation for the future growth of this and other topical sites on New York State history
  • Built a rich research resource for historians, geographers, educators and other humanities scholars

Technical Information

Indexing and searching

All of the information about the Virtual Research Collection has been encoded following Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) guidelines. There are, however, three separate sources of information that use three different markup languages and document type definitions (DTD):

  • The finding aids for the collections and series. The archival finding aids were encoded according to the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) guidelines published by the Library of Congress and Society of American Archivists and following standard archival format
  • MARC records. Each collection or series has been cataloged according to USMARC standards. The MARC records have been made available either through Excelsior, the State Archives online catalog that holds records for both the State Archives and for historical record repositories throughout the state or by the partners' online catalog.
  • Digital Image metadata is created using Dublin Core fields, including name of collection, host repository, image title, ID number, brief and expanded description, format, subjects, geographical location, and landmark. The image database is searchable by repository, themes, and genre.  


The bulk of the material (3115 images) was digitized through a contract with Cornell University Library Digital Consulting and Production Services (DCAPS).

Equipment used included:

  • Epson 1640xl oversized flatbed scanner,
  • Epson Scan ver 1.11E for letter and legal sized text documents, pamphlets, and photographs
  • Epson 3200, Epson Scan ver 1.28A for high resolutions of lantern slides and microfiche maps
  • Epson 10000xl 12" x 17" flatbed for lantern slides, photographs, text, broadsides, and maps
  • Betterlight Super 6K-2 overhead camera for maps, surveys,   and broadsides needing higher resolution
  • Zeutschel 10000 overhead bookscanner Omniscan ver A2 and A2 for maps, text documents (especially pencil or faint print) and publications
  • Zeutschel 10000TT for fieldbooks
  • Nikon D100 camera shots for publications and scrapbook photographs
  • Nikon Coolscan 5000 for 35mm slides

Adobe Photoshop ver 7.1.0 was used with all scanning equipment to generate derivatives. Images were scanned to 8-bit grayscale or 24-bit color tiff files.   A small group were also bitmapped LZW tiffs. Ulster County created 357 images using their own equipment, following rigorous project standards.