BLOG: Unlocking dLOC: A Guide to the Digital Library of the Caribbean: Part One by Kiran Baldeo

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I am pleased to continue the “Teaching with H-Latam’s Research Corner Blog” series. If you have used archival materials in the recent past, whether in person or online, or if you work in a research repository that we have not covered yet, I would love to hear from you. I’m currently looking for posts that I can edit over the summer and publish in the fall. Please email me at gkpierce@ship.edu or fill out this Google Form to express your interest in blogging.

Kiran Baldeo is a History Ph.D. student at Rutgers University. Her research interests center on British Guiana during the era of indentured labor. Baldeo received her MA from the City College of New York. Her thesis titled, “The Dark Underbellies of the Littles: A History of the Indo-Guyanese Diaspora, Race and Identity,” explored transnational migrations, diasporic identity formation, and settlement patterns of the Indo-Guyanese population in New York City. Baldeo’s current work explores the systems of colonial medicine in the post-emancipation British Caribbean. Research for this project has fostered an extensive engagement with the Digital Library of the Caribbean and thus, serves as the basis for this post.

Unlocking dLOC: A Guide to the Digital Library of the Caribbean: Part One

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) is a collaborative, public online archive dedicated to bringing Caribbean material from many sources under a single domain.1 dLOC was initiated by the University of Florida in 2004 but emerged from the collaborative efforts of archives and libraries across the globe working towards the shared goals of digitization, preservation, and increased access. dLOC’s success and wide breadth of documents from the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean is attributed to its growing number of partners (from just nine in 2004 to seventy-eight as of 2021) from across the Americas and Europe who contribute archived materials to the database. In this blog post, we will explore how to navigate the website, the archive’s organization, and its search features. This blog comes shortly after the dLOC released its new website, so it is relevant for those unfamiliar with what the online archive has to offer, as well as long-time users looking for a quick breakdown and navigation guide for the new website interface.

The dLOC holds a total of well over 300,000 documents from or related to the Caribbean or circum-Caribbean and its multitude of associated empires. Archived materials range from the 1600s to the present and include but are not limited to newspapers, maps, oral histories, archives of Caribbean leaders and governments, legal and government documents, and travel accounts. For a complete list of source types click here.

In the website's recent transition, the dLOC has branched out into different websites to help facilitate the technical side of archive maintenance; however, https://www.dloc.com/ remains the primary website to access archived materials. See Figure 1 for the former homepage and Figure 2 for its new look.

Figure 1: Former dLOC homepage [https://original-ufdc.uflib.ufl.edu/dloc1].

Figure 2: Current dLOC homepage as of April 24, 2022. [https://www.dloc.com/].

Some of the major changes for users include:

  • An updated interface
  • Searches within titles or by dates                 
  • Downloads of large JP2 images
  • “Ask Us” feature that connects you with a librarian at the University of Florida
  • Citation page before being shown the full image of a document.                                     

For a complete list of changes and details on using the old website, click here.

On the dLOC homepage, you can use the dark orange drop-down menu on the top right side of the screen to change the language from English to Spanish or French. The homepage also has a green tab on the right side labeled, “Ask Us!” which opens a chat box for you to speak with a librarian from the University of Florida (see Figure 3). At the bottom of the homepage, there are three boxes labeled “Collections and Partners,” “Title Sets,” and “Types.” Each of these clickable boxes generates a different classification and organization system to help you navigate the archive’s materials. 

Figure 3: Current dLOC homepage. The two red circles indicate the language drop-down menu and the “Ask A Librarian” tab.

Collections and Partners

The Collections and Partners page allows you to search materials based on their collection or their donors (i.e. you can search the Caribbean Newspaper Digital Collection or all the documents contributed by Brown University). The page has an alphabetical list of the collections and partners, but you can also use the search box on the left side of the screen labeled “Filter Collections and Partners” to conduct a keyword search to help navigate the list (see Figure 4). However, it is important to note that this search function will only yield results with your keyword either in the title of the collection or in the partner name. In other words, this search feature does not locate keywords within the collections. 

Figure 4: the alphabetical list presented on the Collections and Partners page, with the search box and the “About” and “Browse” options circled in red. [https://www.dloc.com/collections]

Each collection or partner on the page also has an “About” and “Browse” button in its box (see Figure 4). Clicking on the “About” tab will give you a brief description of the documents in the collection. This page also includes numerical data for the collection, such as the number of items, how many views and queries it has, and how the quantity of materials has changed over time (see Figure 5). If you hit the “Browse” option, you are taken to thumbnail images of each item in that particular collection (see Figure 6). On the left side of the screen, you have the option to filter the documents by media type, subjects, creator, language, and collections.

Figure 5: statistical breakdown for partner Brown University. [https://www.dloc.com/collections/ibrown]

Figure 6: thumbnails of sources on partner Brown University’s “Browse” page, with the filter options circled in red and search bar in yellow.

You can also narrow down a particular collection by doing a keyword search using the search bar located towards the top of that partner or collection’s page. To help generate a more curated list of results, you can use the “other search options” button located underneath the search bar to conduct a “basic search” or “advanced search” (see Figure 6). A basic search lets you enter a search term and generates a search for the term within full text, titles, creators, publishers, donors, and subjects (see Figure 7). There is also guide on the basic search page that shows you what phrases to use to conduct a Boolean search and what symbols can be used, such as quotation marks and parentheses, to refine your search. An advanced search allows you to assign your search term a specific tag, such as title, subject, country, or media type. You can also enter a phrase in the advanced search page and filter by date range (see Figure 8).  

Figure 7: partner Brown University’s basic search screen, with tag drop down menu displayed. [https://www.dloc.com/search/]

Figure 8: partner Brown University’s advanced search screen. [https://www.dloc.com/search/]

Your search results will appear as thumbnail images. Hovering over the thumbnail image will tell you the title, type of material, and the “source institution” (see Figure 9). Clicking on the image will present you with the citation page and metadata. To go to the full-screen version of a document, click on its image on the citation page (see Figure 10).

Figure 9: information displayed when hovering over a thumbnail image.

Figure 10: sample citation page of a source contributed by partner Brown University. [https://www.dloc.com/AA00010895/00001/citation].

Title Sets

Clicking on Title Sets at the top navigation bar brings you to a list of serial publications, such as newspapers, journals, magazines, and newsletters. As the blurb on the side of the page explains, it presents you with the default search results for the term “Caribbean” (see Figure 11). To change this, simply enter your search term in the search box at the top of the screen. This search will yield publications with your search term in its name. Once you click on a title, you are shown thumbnail images of each issue organized by date. Similar to the Collections and Partners format, you have the option to now search for terms within the publication and can conduct basic or advanced searches. Likewise, hovering over an image displays the type of material, creator(s), publisher, place of publication, and source institution. Clicking on the thumbnail image takes you to its citation page and the link to access the full-size image. 

Figure 11: Title Sets page with a default search on “Caribbean.” [https://www.dloc.com/title-sets].

Types

The Types page presents collections organized by 194 different genres such as non-fiction, newspapers, and marriage records. You can use the “filter types” search box on the left side of the screen to search by type name (see Figure 12). Clicking on a type from the list takes you to the now familiar system of thumbnail images, citation pages, and search options. Using the Types organization feature is ideal for scholars looking to make trans-Caribbean connections, as it pulls together materials based on content rather than location or source. 

Figure 12: Types page with sample source types. [https://www.dloc.com/types].

Now that we have covered the major organizational categories on the dLOC website, stay connected for part two of “Unlocking dLOC,” which explores how to navigate images and how to utilize the “Map Search” and “Dates” features!


______________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 For two brief discussions of the dLOC and other Caribbean resources, see Manley 2 and Manley 3.
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