Magnifying Gwendolyn Brooks: Creating a digital collection at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign

Ana D. Rodríguez, Kate M. Vasquez-Braun, Angela M. Waarala, Rachael Johns, Stephanie M. Luke, Ruthann E. Mowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library is describing and digitising the Gwendolyn Brooks collection as part of the Saving America’s Treasures grant. This project began in the autumn of 2021, with the goal of making Brooks’s work visible and accessible. This paper discusses the first two stages of the project — the Red Album and the Black Scrapbook — objects that are full of mementos from Brooks’s personal and professional life. The paper focuses on the workflow and digitisation practices that the project team employed to create the first digital representations. It also reviews the team’s decisions, which would set the procedural policies and standards for all the remaining materials in the collection. The Red Album and the Black Scrapbook contain a variety of physical formats and materials, resulting in display issues for the digital collection. Collaboration between stakeholders from disparate units allowed for a streamlined approach from the initial description of the material through the hosting of digitised materials on the institution’s Digital Collections platform. This paper discusses challenges, the curatorial process, metadata, the process of description, digitisation, technical aspects and lessons learned from this project. Due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, the project’s expected completion date is summer 2023. This paper reflects on the processes and lessons learned throughout the project. It also discusses the most valuable lesson from this project, which is that the digitisation of large and complex collections must be adaptable in order to successfully meet the challenges that such materials offer.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Digital Media Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • digital library
  • digitisation
  • Gwendolyn Brooks
  • metadata
  • photo album
  • scrapbook


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