New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Getting It Out of Your System: Services You Didn’t Know Your System Provided

   New York Heritage Digital Collections, a service of the NY3Rs Association, Inc.

By: Debby Emerson, Executive Director, Central New York Library Resources Council


New York Heritage Digital Collections (  is a service of the NY3Rs Association, Inc.  The collections represent a broad range of historical, scholarly, and cultural materials held in libraries, museums, and archives throughout the state. Collection items include photographs, letters, diaries, directories, maps, newspapers, books, and more. is a research portal for students, educators, historians, genealogists, and anyone else interested in the Empire State’s history. It is freely available to anyone who’s interested, and provides a gateway to more than 160 distinct digital collections that reflect New York State’s long history.

How does the site work?

When a user searches from the search box, the website locates items that match the search criteria in all collections in all NY 3Rs CONTENTdm sites. Search results may include items from only one collection or multiple collections, depending on the topic. When the user clicks on a particular item in the search results a new window will open directly into the regional 3Rs CONTENTdm site and specifically into the collection in which the item is housed.

We hope all libraries will promote New York Heritage with their users! What a great way to access unique historical documents from anywhere in the state, at any time and without having to travel to distant locations.

Six of the state’s nine “3Rs” systems manage New York Heritage services for their member libraries, and the other three make their digital historical collections accessible through a special search feature on the NY heritage site. Participating 3Rs provide an installation of OCLC’s CONTENTdm software for each

contributing organization in their region, and provide assistance with the digitization process, metadata creation, and uploading. Each 3Rs council pays a fee for participation in New York Heritage, and provides the services to their members at little or no cost.

Training for CONTENTdm, metatdata creation and scanning are arranged as needed by the 3Rs when new project participants join. Group training sessions on particular New York Heritage topics of interest are also held periodically at participating councils.
For eligibility information and instructions about how to join the New York Heritage project, please refer to your NY3Rs council:

• RRLC (Monroe, Wayne, Ontario, Livingston and Wyoming counties)
• WNYLRC (Niagara, Orleans, Erie, Genesee, Chatauqua, and Cattaraugus counties)
• SCLRC (Allegany, Steuben, Yates, Seneca, Cayuga, Tompkins, Courtland, Schuyler, Chemung, Tioga, Broome, Chenango and Otsego counties)
• SENYLRC (Delaware, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties)
• CLRC (Onondaga, Oneida, Madison, and Herkimer counties)
• NNYLN (Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Essex, and Oswego counties)
• CDLC (Hamilton, Warren, Washington, Fulton, Saratoga, Montgomery, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Schoharie, and Albany counties)
• METRO (New York, Queens, Kings, Richmond, Bronx and Westchester Counties)
• LILRC (Nassau and Suffolk counties)

      Lily Dale postcard collection from Chautauqua, NY

Institutions contribute to New York Heritage through a series of small projects that have concrete deadlines and measurable goals. A project could be an entire collection or a batch of related objects. If you are interested in contributing materials to the wealth of New York Heritage, you will be asked to think about some questions.

Selecting Materials for New York Heritage

What type of projects should you do? Think about your institution’s vision and goals. Are there collections that you own that relate to this vision? For instance, if you work for an education institution, what do you have that you can digitize to assist students and scholars?

What materials warrant increased access? Most contributions to New York Heritage will be public and will point researchers back to your institution.

Which items are popular? Do you receive repeated requests to copy materials from certain collections? Consider digitizing them for your users.

What is difficult to access? Are there materials that are in a format that’s currently hard to access (example: wax cylinder)? Are there fragile materials that you currently deny public access to because of their condition?

Which materials are of value? Do you own unique materials that are not available anywhere else? What about materials not currently available online?

New York Heritage highlights items of regional interest. If you are unsure about where to begin, check out our New York Heritage Topics List.

Finally, consider copyright issues. Is the item in the public domain (i.e. before 1923)? Will posting the item online invade the privacy of a person living today (e.g. educational or medical records)? Can the item be considered an original work of art or literature? If so, will posting the artwork online deprive the author or artist of income?

If you have selected a large collection to digitize, it is recommended that you digitize a sample of approximately 5 to 25 digital objects to determine the amount of time that it takes to digitize items and the workflow for your organization. We also recommend that you begin with a format that is straightforward, like postcards or photographs. You may then consider adding additional collections over a period of time.

Contributing organizations are responsible for: Creating the digital files (e.g. scanning or transferring audio or video clips to a digital file, etc.) You can create the digital images at your organization. You might be able to borrow a scanner from your library council, and some library councils offer digitization equipment for use at the council.

Creating the descriptive information about the object (i.e. the metadata). Select a person who is knowledgeable about your collection to create the descriptive metadata. They will be trained by your regional library council on how to create the metadata and how to adhere to the New York Heritage metadata style guidelines. You may already have information about the original resource in some other location like a library online catalog or an archive automated system like the PastPerfect museum software. This information may be a starting place to build your metadata records for your collection.

Uploading the digital files and metadata to the New York Heritage server. The last step in the process is to approve and upload your records to the New York Heritage server. Typically this final step is performed by the New York Heritage project manager for your organization.

New York Heritage is always seeking new collections and new participants. You are encouraged to contact your regional NY3Rs council if your organization is interested in participating.