Thursday, July 9, 2009

Duke Digital Collections iPhone App

I am not sure if this is an oddity or a glimpse of the future, but Duke Digital Collections has developed what I believe is the first iPhone app for a digital archive. The app is really nicely designed and takes advantage of many of the iPhone's capabilities. Here is the demo they put up on YouTube:



And yet--I can't see using my iPhone to do historical research. What do you think, dear readers? Is this a very impressive novelty or something more?

[Hat tip to the frequently valuable Duke Digital Collections Blog--a nice example of an institutional blog.]

6 comments:

Bill Youngs said...

Larry, this is a very interesting post. I ordered an iPhone SDK a few weeks ago, knowing it would be a good feeling to be thus enabled to create an app -- but that's as far as I've gotten. So far for me it's a whim based on a vague sense that one could do some interesting things with historical apps beyond "just" putting the Declaration of Independence on a phone -- not that that's a bad idea. But surely one could do something more comples to use the technology. I think the Duke site does that something more. You ask a good question about how useful such a site will really be. But by the same token folks once scoffed at the idea of our reading books on the iPhone, which lots of people now, even reading more now that they can carry the book anywhere. So anyway, back to Duke. That film was quite persuasive that you could do preliminary (or supplemental) research on many a topic by scrolling through Duke's records -- a project on early soap ads, for example. (And you could collect the images you wanted with screen shots from the iPhone.) Sure, you can do it better from a laptop or desktop computer -- but one of many things that the iPhone shows is just how many idle moments most of us have when we can read a book or, now, do a little research from our ultra-portable smart phones. I'd write more, but I have a research project on soap adds to complete....

Larry Cebula said...

Bill, you make a good point that a mobile app shouldn't be compared to a desktop app, they are used in different situations. Have you played around with the app yet?

Bill Youngs said...

"Have I played around with" the iPhone SDK yet?
Glad you asked: I bought it. It's on my computer. I like having it there. I like the fact that professors are using it with students in the classroom to create apps. I think we could do some cool history apps here at Eastern Washington University.

Now, have I actually used it yet? Well, I bought it. It's on my computer.......

Debbie said...

I stumbled across this post while doing some research into digital archives collections. Thanks for the link to the Duke Digital Collections iPhone App. It looks great.

I agree that one can't compare a desktop app and a mobile app and that both can be useful in different ways. For example, Philadelphia's Department of Records has an online database called PhillyHistory.org that contains tens of thousands of images from Philly. The database is accessible online at www.phillyhistory.org but is also accessible via iPhone at http://phillyhistory.org/i/. The app is great because it's based on geography so you can search the photos by geographic criteria (address, intersection, neighborhood).

I think that searching the website from a computer offers users a chance to see beautiful historic photos from the comfort of their homes. But being able to pull up the database on an iPhone as you walk through Philadelphia and see what your location looked like a hundred years ago is a pretty powerful feature that you can't get from being at a desktop.

Larry Cebula said...

Debbie: Thanks for the tip. I saw a presentation from the PhillyHistory.org people (you?) at the NCPH and it looked to be a great project.

Debbie said...

Larry, I think you may be thinking of PhilaPlace, a web-based project on Philly's communities that should be launching this fall. I believe they were at NCPH. It's another great project on Philadelphia history.