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The Brooklyn Collection's Fulton Street Trade Card Collection and Viewshare

In 2005, the Brooklyn Public Library's (BPL) local history division and special collection, The Brooklyn Collection, received a grant to digitize part of its collection of late 19th and early 20th century trade cards. The main advertisements of their day, trade cards were one of the primary means by which merchants promoted their services and hawked their wares. The Brooklyn Collection's trade card collection was centered around merchants located on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, NY. This retail thoroughfare was the vibrant heart of an expanding borough.

These colorful cards document not only the advertising themes of their time, but also the social and commercial history of the area. While BPL has created a user interface for browsing these images within the library's website, search functionality and data manipulation are limited. Viewshare offers another means of discovery and allows users to interact with the collection in new and different ways.

Using the spreadsheet created for cataloging the collection during the digitization process, the pre-existing metadata was able to be transformed into novel, interactive views of the data. With just a few minutes of preliminary data clean-up, such as bulk standardization of place names and address formats, the data was ready for upload into Viewshare.

Viewshare's data augmentation features allowed the street address from the metadata to be converted into latitude and longitude coordinates for the purpose of locating each item on a map. In addition, Viewshare's list extraction augmentation allowed for the subject headings -- which were grouped into single cells in the spreadsheet -- to be auto-extracted into single, discrete elements. This feature allowed for faceted searching and data manipulation by single subjects and formats.

How Viewshare can enhance collections like the Fulton Street Trade Card Collection

By viewing the map or chart view of the collection and using the faceted search features on the sides of the views, users can manipulate the appearance of the views. For instance, the user can limit the map view to display only grocers or department stores. Clicking on the map icons will bring up those items which correspond to that location. The map view, thus, provides geographic contextual information not available in a standard list or gallery view. Likewise, using facets and the "view by" function of the pie chart view, users can create data on which types of businesses used which types of subjects in their advertisements or vice versa. Clicking on individual slices within the pie chart will provide total and percentage numbers of that element within the limited search. A familiar list view can also be created in Viewshare featuring thumbnail images, metadata elements selected and ordered by the view creator, and external links. The canvas in which the views are displayed also allows for the insertion of logos, institution images, and free text. 

The Fulton Street Trade Card Collection provides a distinct example of the ways that Viewshare can provide new ways of viewing and interacting with collection and can also support collection-level data analysis and research use in ways not available through many means of standard online collection display. Allowing for both item-level engagement with individual items and collection-level interpretation and data analysis, Viewshare provides a tool for enhancing the accessibility, promotion, and use of vivid, unique cultural heritage collections such as these ephemeral trade cards.

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