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University of Michigan unearths digital 'pearls' with OAIster

The University of Michigan has begun work on a project to make previously difficult-to-access digital resources easily available and the project will use the metadata harvesting specification produced by the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) to make it happen.

"Our goal is to create a wide-ranging collection of free, useful, previously difficult-to-access digital resources ... that are easily searchable by anyone." is the bold claim stated on the OAIster website.

The problem with some digital resources is that they are "hidden" from the view of search engines such as Google and Altavista. This is because the resources are generated by CGI scripts or exist within repositories that search engines cannot delve into and index.

OAIster plan to use the OAI metadata harvesting protocol (MHP) to unearth these 'hidden' resources and make them available for searching. MHP provides a protocol for interrogating databases and library systems to retrieve metadata about their contents. The protocol is relatively 'light' and a large number of repositories are making their contents accessible to MHP 'harvesters'.

The project is similar in its objectives to the DP9 project, that provides a "gateway" to allow OAI-compliant archives to be indexed by search engines. However, OAIster intend to provide their own "one stop shop" search service rather than provide access by existing search engines.

OAIster is funded through a Mellon grant, and is being developed by Kat Hagedorn and Mike Burek of the University of Michigan. For more information, visit the OAIster website.

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