UW General Catalog archive now available online

Last August, the Office of the Uni­ver­sity Reg­is­trar (OUR) posted on this blog (and other places on cam­pus) an archivist intern­ship posi­tion. Today, just six months after find­ing the right per­son, the OUR is proud to announce the first fruits of that intern­ship: the University’s Gen­eral Cat­a­log archive, avail­able online, search­able, in PDF for­mat, and avail­able now.

What’s included?

The archive com­prises the UW’s Gen­eral Cat­a­logs from the cur­rent 2008–2010 bien­nium going back­wards to the orig­i­nal 1890 edi­tion. Notice that the name of the doc­u­ments change over time. The early pub­li­ca­tions were called the “Annual Cat­a­logue of the State Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton,” later edi­tions used the term “Bul­letin” before switch­ing to the cur­rent “Gen­eral Cat­a­log” (drop­ping that word’s archaic –ue suffix).

A note on the files them­selves. Each is a PDF file so it is view­able by any com­puter, but they vary in how that PDF was cre­ated. Newer edi­tions (through 1998–00) were gen­er­ated from the soft­ware that cre­ated them, and are there­fore smaller files and look sharper. Ear­lier edi­tions had to be scanned as images, which results in larger file sizes (some as large as 90 Mb, though most are in the 15–30 Mb range). They do, how­ever, retain the charm of actual printed pages espe­cially the old­est edi­tions that show their age with ragged pages and dog-eared cor­ners. Luck­ily, optical-character recog­ni­tion (OCR) soft­ware is good enough to rec­og­nize the words on the page so that each file is search­able. Just enter a word(s) in the search field your PDF software.

Addi­tion­ally, the Gen­eral Cat­a­logs will soon be included in the Uni­ver­sity Library’s Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tion. The Library’s content-management sys­tem, CON­TENTdm.

Why is it important?

Pub­lish­ing these Gen­eral Cat­a­logs online has broad, pos­i­tive impli­ca­tions for our Uni­ver­sity. Some of these include:

  • Other insti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion rely on our cat­a­log to under­stand the con­tent of UW course and pro­gram offer­ings over the years.
  • Fam­ily mem­bers inter­ested in their par­ents, grand­par­ents, or even great-grandparents edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence can learn what edu­ca­tional pro­grams were like dur­ing that time. The same can is also true for chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, and great-grandchildren.
  • Employ­ers ben­e­fit from the cat­a­log by gain­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of prospec­tive employ­ees’ UW edu­ca­tional back­ground. For exam­ple, what knowl­edge would some­one who earned a UW degree in, say, mate­ri­als sci­ence in the early 1980s have com­pared to one who grad­u­ated more recently? The answer can be found by com­par­ing that program’s descrip­tions in each era’s catalogs;
  • His­to­ri­ans and librar­i­ans regard the cat­a­log as an invalu­able source of UW insti­tu­tional history.

A few words of thanks

Such a large project could not be accom­plished with­out the efforts of many peo­ple. Specif­i­cally, the OUR would like to acknowl­edge the hard work of:

  • Intern Talea Ander­son, UW MLIS grad­u­ate stu­dent — Talea worked closely with the OUR’s gen­eral cat­a­log office and the UW Libraries to for­mu­late a plan to dig­i­tize the Gen­eral Cat­a­logs and pre­pare them for online use; and
  • Anne Gra­ham with the UW Libraries’ Dig­i­tal Ini­tia­tives Pro­gram — Anne pro­vided her domain exper­tise to the project, over­saw the dis­bind­ing of the phys­i­cal cat­a­logs, and advo­cated for the con­tent to become a part of the Library’s dig­i­tal collection.

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