Aviation portal CLIR’d for take-off

Aviation portal CLIR’d for take-off

"The Day Pan Am Blew up the World" cover photo from the March 1958 Clipper newsletter, which was published every month by and for the personnel of Pan American World Airways, System General Office.

All images from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records, Special Collections, University of Miami Libraries

By Barbara Pierce, Special to Library Communications

"The Day Pan Am Blew up the World" cover photo from the March 1958 Clipper newsletter, which was published every month by and for the personnel of Pan American World Airways, System General Office.

All images from the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records, Special Collections, University of Miami Libraries

Aviation portal CLIR’d for take-off

By Barbara Pierce, Special to Library Communications
Council on Library and Information Resources grant fuels digitization and dissemination of treasured Pan Am troves for University of Miami, Duke University, HistoryMiami Museum, and Digital Public Library of America.

Millions of people alive today have never known Pan American World Airways as a travel transportation option. Yet Pan Am, “the world’s most experienced airline,” maintains its mystique as an icon of modern aviation decades after its last touchdown.

Pan Am—in its heyday the United States’ largest international air carrier—declared bankruptcy after a series of crises and economic difficulties and ceased operations in December 1991. Left in the airline’s wake is a diverse trove of documents and memorabilia tracing its extraordinary technological, corporate, and cultural trajectory.

By early in 2021, thousands of these items will be available to scholars, students, and everyone fascinated by aviation history, thanks to a $275,786 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CLIR 2018 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Award supports “Digitizing the ‘World’s Most Experienced Airline’: Pan American World Airways Resources at the University of Miami, Duke University, and HistoryMiami and Development of an Aviation Portal.”

The grant will enable University of Miami Libraries (UML) Special Collections, Duke University Libraries, and HistoryMiami Museum to digitize a significant portion of the varied Pan Am historical resources held by each. The three institutions will, in turn, collaborate with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to post the newly digitized Pan Am materials online alongside numerous other digital aviation resources. Access will be available on each organization’s website as well as on the DPLA’s unified aviation portal.

The legacy of Pan Am—its lofty ambitions, visionary innovations, soaring successes, and lasting impact—is unmatched in the history of U.S. aviation. The materials to be digitized depict the complexity and reach of the airline’s operations while also reflecting its carefully crafted public image. The selected items offer high research value, strong potential for digital scholarship, and relevance to current research trends across a variety of disciplines and communities.

UML’s extensive Pan Am holdings comprise administrative reports, clippings, corporate records, logbooks, manuals, periodicals, public relations and marketing materials, timetables, and more than 2,000 folders of photographs. The Libraries’ aviation portal project team will digitize 121,000 items pertaining to flight and route development, press releases, speeches, and company histories.

“We look forward to working closely with our partner institutions to create public, online access to these valuable materials,” says Charles D. Eckman, Dean and University Librarian.  “Aggregated into the DPLA aviation portal, our collections will attract a wide, diverse audience among students, teachers, and researchers interested in various aspects of air navigation and travel.”

Duke University’s Pan Am collection includes 11,500 print and billboard ads from the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives and the Wells Rich Greene collection. “Pan Am played a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions of air travel, using advertisements, press releases, and marketing tools to glamorize flying and build brand recognition that persists to this day,” says Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs at Duke University.

“Duke is very pleased to be partnering with the University of Miami and HistoryMiami on this project to open up the Pan Am archive. Making these materials available to researchers and the general public through DPLA will reveal key facets of social history and spark new insights.”

HistoryMiami Museum’s vast collection of Pan Am artifacts includes uniforms, amenity kits, dining sets, and airplane models. With museum staff providing the metadata to identify and facilitate searches of online assets, UML will manage the technical aspects of the digitization process and create a HistoryMiami-branded Pan Am collection within its Digital Collections.

“Through this partnership with the University of Miami and Duke University, we will be able to digitize 500 artifacts from our collection,” says HistoryMiami Museum Executive Director Jorge Zamanillo. “We are proud to be part of this partnership and look forward to putting all of these resources at the fingertips of researchers around the globe.”

“Hosting this content as part of the DPLA provides access to related curated materials from more than 3,000 other institutions around the nation, all through one interface,” says Michele Kimpton, director of business development at DPLA.

“We look forward working with the project partners and our extended network to develop a compelling and complete set of aviation-specific materials, complemented by digital exhibitions and toolkits, to facilitate in-depth analysis and reuse by researchers and educators around the globe.”

UML has a longstanding commitment to the preservation of digitized and native digital content. “The CLIR grant allows us to build on our recently completed National Historical Publications and Records Commission Pan Am digitization grant,” says Laura Capell, head of digital production at UML.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance access to one of the library’s most heavily used archival collections, which has a truly global following. By facilitating new ways to interact with the collections, the aviation portal will foster the generation of new knowledge in this sector.”

Eckman notes that the project also offers proof of concept for future initiatives: “We anticipate that the experience of co-developing and co-curating the DPLA aviation portal will provide a useful model for developing other industry- and subject-focused portals.”

About the University of Miami Libraries

The University of Miami Libraries (library.miami.edu) provide faculty, students, researchers, and staff with the highest quality access to collections and information resources in support of the University's mission to transform lives through research, teaching, and service.

About CLIR

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit www.clir.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.