While searching for other things I came across an interesting article from the May 1994 issue of The Numismatist discussing the pros and cons of issuing a CD-ROM of back issues of the publication vs creating a printed index. In a world where everything seems to have been digitized and made searchable online, it's an interesting view of the state of technology some 27 years ago.
The Case for Imaging, by Brandon Dennings
I HAVE HEARD that the ANA is kicking around the idea of capturing every issue of The Numismatist on CD-ROM. I, for one, think it’s a great idea. Microfilm and printed indexes can’t compare to having 100-plus years of this historic, numismatic journal at your fingertips.
Although this would be no small task with regard to finances or time, entire issues of The Numismatist on CD-ROM could prove immensely valuable to numismatic researchers. Equipped with a CD-ROM player, you could, for example, pop in a disk and instruct the unit to search for every mention of the 1804 dollar. It would flag not only news items and feature articles, but advertisements as well. (A printed index would include just editorial material, not advertising.)
And how about the ANA member who wants a complete set of The Numismatist but can’t afford the shelf space or the price, which can run thousands of dollars? A CD-ROM collection of all the volumes (text only) could be made available to ANA members for less than $500.
In this day and age of electronic information, ignoring the possibilities of
indexing The Numismatist on CD-ROM would be a sin. Publishing houses have squeezed dictionaries and entire sets of encyclopedias on disk using CD-ROM technology.
The Case for Indexing, by William Gilbert
THIS YEAR MARKS the 107th volume of The Numismatist, but surprisingly the last time a cumulative index was published was 1978, more than 15 years ago. The magazine’s 100th anniversary in 1988 (or the Association’s centennial in 1991) would have been a perfect time to create a new, improved index.
However, it is not too late. I would welcome a comprehensive, cross-referenced index of every article, author and subject that has appeared in The Numismatist since its debut more than a century ago. Without an up-to-date index, all the valuable information contained in the magazine’s pages is useless.
Despite all the discussion that print has become an obsolete mode of communication with the advent of computer and CD-ROM technology, I think a printed index would be of the greatest use to ANA members. True, such an index might be a bit ungainly, easily comprising
1,500 pages or more, but it would be great to keep on the
bookshelf with my volumes of The Numismatist.
A printed reference is always accessible; you do not need expensive, complicated equipment to use it. In addition, I suspect that many ANA members do not have CD-ROM players — or even computers — in their homes.
Andy Newman writes:
"And here we are, over a quarter-century later, with technological progress yielding dramatically
better image quality
lower cost, and
Len Augsburger writes:
"As I recall legal concerns were raised following publication of this notice. Did the ANA have the right to provide electronic access to The Numismatist, without explicit permission from the individual article authors? The law, by definition, always lags new technology. At some point the ANA solicited authors for permission to distribute their content electronically. I doubt that authors universally consented. In the end, the Exact Editions online copy of The Numismatist went live in 2015.
"A different form of this question was raised in the 1930s. Should the ANA reprint the (rare) first six volumes of The Numismatist, in order to provide wider access to collectors? The Chicago collector, William Dunham, who owned a copy, called the idea an
injustice to the fortunate few who possessed copies. We now have poetic
justice – Dunham’s copy was eventually acquired by Eric Newman, and, long out of copyright, scanned in 2016 by the Newman Portal."
Handmade indexes are a wonderful tool, and still of great use.
Yet they are time-consuming and expensive to create, and immediately out of date. Search engines can help users find electronic content at scale, but are far from perfect and users are often overwhelmed by the number of results returned. A perfect answer to the problem may not yet exist.
However, I do find myself sometimes reaching for Dave Bowers' centennial history of the ANA and looking in its hand-compiled printed index to locate articles about particular people or topics.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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