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In January 2005, the "Office of Digital Collections and Research" began digitizing and building a digital repository based on the Fedora architecture. In January 2012, the newly-formed Digital Programs and Initiatives Department within the UMD Libraries' Digital Systems and Stewardship Division assumed curation of Digital Collections. The University of Maryland Libraries, like many academic libraries, include not only the familiar books and journals of the general collections, but many rare and unique materials. The digital collections available here are a part of the University of Maryland Libraries' efforts to make many of our holdings more ubiquitously available in digital form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are these collections available?

The materials available in Digital Collections represent a fraction of the Libraries' collections. Decisions about what to digitize may be based on any number of factors, such as funding opportunities, the condition of the original object, staff availability, user demand, and materials that support the teaching and research mission of the University.

Where are these things from?

All of the digital objects currently available are from the holdings of the University of Maryland Libraries. The records that accompany each digital object indicate the digital collection to which it belongs. If there is an analog equivalent, the original collection to which the the object belongs is also indicated (increasingly, the Libraries is accessioning items in digital form only). Since this is a work in progress, more materials from collections are constantly being added, as well as born-digital materials (i.e. objects that exist in digital form only).

Are they unique to the University of Maryland?

For the most part, yes. Several collections represent unique or rare images and documents selected from University Archives, the Art and Architecture Library, and the Library's Historical and Literary Manuscript collections. Films@UM is a digital collection developed from commercial films in the Nonprint Media Services Library. The Jim Henson Works is a unique digital collection curated by the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library.

How much more is there?

A lot – the Libraries' hold over 5 linear miles of archival materials, and more than 3 million book titles, approximately 4 feet of which have been digitized. This amounts to less than 1% of our total holdings.

Will it ever all be digitized?

Not in the near future. Projects such as the Google Book Search digitization project and the Open Content Alliance may make digitization of many of the materials in our general collections redundant. Digitization of unique, archival analog materials and materials relevant to the teaching and research mission of the University will continue to be pursued by the Libraries. As a useful example of what the effort to digitize those materials entails, a recent article in the New York Times estimated that it would take 1,800 years for the National Archives to digitize its text holdings at the current rate of digitization.1 Although the University of Maryland holds far fewer documents than the National Archives, the number of years it might take to digitize is still significant.

Will we add more?

Yes, the Libraries are constantly adding to the repository, and are committed to making more of their collections available online. In addition to the materials found here, the University of Maryland Libraries has also digitized and made available materials via the Internet Archive

Who can use these collections?

Most collections are available to the general public. However, due to copyright restrictions, certain collections have restricted access.Films@UM is available only to UMD-affiliated users on campus or off-campus using VPN. The Jim Henson Works is available only at certain designated computers in the UMD Libraries. The books in the Prange Digital Children’s Book collection are available only on the University of Maryland, College Park campus.

Are the collections available for OAI-PMH harvesting?

Yes, records from our Digital Collections repository are available for OAI-PMH harvesting (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting). Service providers may request to harvest University of Maryland Digital Collections metadata at For questions about the records, please contact us.


Archival collections

Archival collections are usually unpublished, primary source materials that document the activities of an individual or organization. For more on the definition of archival collections, see Research Using Primary Sources.


Born-digital refers to any item that was created in an electronic environment. Examples include Microsoft Word documents, digital images taken with a digital camera, government documents available only as an HTML page or PDF file, etc.

Digital collections

Digital collections are collections of materials that are available digitally. They may include analog materials that have been digitized, as well as items that were "born-digital."

Digital object

A digital object refers to a discrete digital image, text, video, etc. Digital object can also refer to a single discrete "package" that includes the digital image or text and its related metadata. A "complex" digital object may refer to a multi-part digital object, such as a book, with multiple image files making up a single digital object.

Finding aid

Finding aids are indexes to archival and manuscript collections. For more on the definition of finding aids, see Research Using Primary Sources.


Gateway refers to "theme-based" bibliographies of hyperlinks to relevant web resource.

General collections

General collections refer to the circulating collections of the library as well as microfilm, journals, and newspapers that do not circulate.


Metadata refers to information about a digital object or objects, including the title, subject, description, rights, and technical information. The University of Maryland Digital Collections uses a locally defined metadata standard called UMDM and UMAM (University of Maryland Descriptive Metadata and University of Maryland Administrative Metadata).

Special collections

Special collections have characteristics that set them apart from other types of collections in libraries. These special aspects may include rarity (books, manuscripts, etc. that are unique or very old), format (photographs, maps, artworks, etc.), and comprehensiveness (materials that related to a particular subject of individual). For more on the definition of special collections, see Research Using Primary Sources.


Tools are software designed to take advantage of objects or files in digital form to allow for specialized manipulation, analysis, research, or visualizations.

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