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Digital Collections

Program overview

The Bowdoin Library Digital Collections Program creates, disseminates, and preserves select digital content drawn from the Bowdoin College Library’s collections. These rich digital resources support the Library's mission to “advance the pursuit of knowledge by providing access to the world of information and ideas.”In the spirit of promoting open access, the program aims to make digitized and born-digital[1] archival and library materials with significant research value and curricular relevance as freely and broadly available online as possible. To this end, program staff curate and maintain digital collections, as well as manage supporting workflows for digitization, digital archival processing, web archive capture, and digital preservation. The program is managed by the Digital Archivist and overseen by the Digital Collections Advisory Committee. 

Materials included in the Bowdoin Library digital collections are selected from Library assets, the collection of which are governed by the Library Collection Development Guidelines and the Department of Special Collections & Archives Collection Development Policy.


The digital collections of the Bowdoin Library represent a broad range of formats, including manuscript and archival materials, books, photographs, sound recordings, and video recordings. They consist of both born-digital originals and digital surrogates of analog material:

  • Born-digital materials include, but are not limited to, archival records and donor-created digital surrogates. Purchased materials for which Bowdoin does not have rights to redistribute online, such as e-resources, fall outside the scope of this program.
  • Materials considered for digitization under these guidelines may come from the Library’s Special Collections & Archives or general collections.Small-scale digitization performed by the Department of Special Collections & Archives at the request of researchers falls outside the scope of this program.

Criteria for selection

Digital collections are developed strategically, with materials selected for inclusion based on a balanced assessment of teaching and research needs, preservation and intellectual property concerns, access issues, and the aspirations and collecting strengths of the Library. The following considerations guide the selection of material for inclusion in the Bowdoin College Library digital collections:

  • Intellectual content and research value of materials
    Collections containing material of scholarly interest; collections which include information which is not otherwise well-documented; collections of local, national, or international significance; and collections which will be enhanced by improved functionality through digitization and online presentation.
  • Current or potential use
    Material that is heavily used; material for which there is planned programmatic use; material to which access is currently inhibited by physical condition or handling restrictions; and material that will attract use from beyond Bowdoin. 
  • Curricular relevancy
    Collections which will support teaching and learning at Bowdoin or for which there is planned curricular use.
  • Relationship to collection strengths of the Library’s Special Collections & Archives
    Materials that complement or build upon the collection strengths of Special Collections & Archives or which fill in gaps left by existing collections. Building complementary digital collections through collaboration with other institutions is also of interest. 
  • Relationship to the historical record or current priorities of the College
    Records of enduring value and those which complement or support the current priorities of the College.
  • Copyright status & restrictions
    Materials for which Bowdoin owns the copyright or which are in the public domain and which do not carry any access restrictions. Consideration will also be given to materials for which Bowdoin can secure permissions from the copyright holder.
  • Preservation
    Materials at risk of becoming obsolete and/or unusable because of their format and/or condition, including digital material such as websites. The benefits of digitization must definitively outweigh the risks of potential harm to physical collections during reformatting. The need for conservation work will be considered prior to digitization.
  • Intellectual control
    Materials which are well-organized and described to a level required to manage the resulting digital surrogates, e.g. cataloged books, processed archival collections, and donor-created digital surrogates which are accompanied by technical capture information.
  • Funding sources/grants/etc.
    Materials for which funding opportunities are available.
  • Innovation

    Collections which provide inspiration for innovative applications of technology, teaching, and learning.

  • Security concerns
    Projects which would digitize materials at high risk of theft.
  • Technical feasibility
    Projects which can be completed using the Library’s resources, though projects requiring the work of a vendor will also be considered. In addition, the Library must be able to digitally store, present, and preserve the resulting materials.

The considerations above serve as general guidelines. Special Collections & Archives in concert with the Digital Collections Advisory Committee may make exceptions to the selection criteria at their discretion.

Donors planning to digitize originals should consult with Bowdoin’s Digital Archivist before undertaking the project.


As with all library collections, digital collections materials are subject to review and may be considered for deaccession because of copyright, storage, or other concerns. Such issues will be considered by the Digital Collections Advisory Committee, the Department of Special Collections & Archives, and other parties as is appropriate.

[1] “Born-digital” is a term used to describe materials created in electronic format and distinguish them from digital surrogates of physical materials created through digitization.

The Library makes every effort to ensure that it has appropriate rights to provide access to its digital collections and that content does not violate the privacy of any individual or individuals.

Parties who have questions or who wish to contest the use of specific content may complete and submit a Takedown Request Form. All such communications must include the following:

  1. The full name and contact information of the requester.
  2. The reason for the request.
  3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity or which has created the privacy concern. Information reasonably sufficient to permit the Library to locate the material is required. Providing direct URLs to the material in question is the best way to help the Library locate content quickly.

Bowdoin College Library will respond to all correspondence within five College business days. If within five College business days Bowdoin College Library is not able to determine that it is permitted to provide access to the work(s) in question or whether a violation of privacy has occurred, the Library will cease providing access to the work(s) until or unless it can determine that such uses are permitted.

The Digital Archivist will consult with the Director of Special Collections & Archives, the Digital Collections Advisory Committee, and other appropriate members of the campus community to review the request and determine an outcome. The potential final outcome of a Takedown Request will be communicated to the requester, and may include but are not limited to the following options:

  • The material is not changed and is returned to public view.
  • The material is not changed, but access is restricted to users on Bowdoin’s campus, either temporarily or permanently.
  • The material is permanently removed from the Bowdoin College Library’s Digital Collections.

In accordance with its charge to preserve College records of enduring value, Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) seeks to archive web content created by the Bowdoin administration and the Bowdoin community to document College history.

The primary focus of Bowdoin’s web archiving effort is the official college website (, including its subpages (e.g. and subdomains[2] (e.g. The capture of official Bowdoin content also includes Bowdoin-managed social media accounts.

Other non-official web content created independently by members of the Bowdoin community, primarily students and student organizations, is also archived (e.g. the website of the Bowdoin Orient).

Tools and storage

Nearly all web archiving activity at SC&A is done through a subscription with Archive-It using the Wayback Machine technology of the Internet Archive. If sufficient capture is not possible with Archive-It, other technologies may be employed including the free tool Conifer. Whenever possible, web archives are captured in Web ARChive (WARC) format and stored in Archive-It (regardless of whether they were captured with Archive-It).

Scheduled crawls

For a core group of sites for which reliable parameters have been established by SC&A staff, regular crawls are scheduled to occur automatically (see table below). At the discretion of SC&A staff, additional sites or pages may be scheduled for recurring crawls on a limited-time basis (e.g. the weekly crawl of Bowdoin’s COVID FAQ pages during the pandemic). Scheduled crawls are checked periodically for quality and adjustments are made as necessary.

Website Crawl frequency
Bowdoin College Library website Quarterly
Bowdoin College Athletics website Quarterly
Bowdoin Orient website Weekly

Non-scheduled crawls (one-time and test)

Certain sites, because of their size, complexity, or frequency of capture are crawled using one-time crawls that do not repeat automatically (e.g. the Bowdoin College Catalogue site, which is captured by a one-time crawl at the beginning of each semester) or test crawls which must be saved after being evaluated for quality (e.g. crawls of the Bowdoin main site are run quarterly as tests because of the site’s size and complexity, in order to avoid inadvertent, irreversible capture of too much data). All sites which are being crawled for the first time are test crawled to determine the best crawl schedule and parameters. 

Website Crawl frequency
Bowdoin College website Quarterly
Bowdoin College Catalogue site Semesterly
[Sites not expected to change, crawled for preservation] One-time

Acknowledgement of inadvertent impact of human choice

A variety of choices are involved in the process of capturing Bowdoin’s web presence. SC&A staff choose which sites (or “seeds”) to crawl, which rules are applied to broaden or narrow the scope of crawls, and which crawling technology is used. The goal of these decisions is to capture the most accurate version of a site without including excessive amounts of data (since the storage budget is limited). Despite that goal, these settings and adjustments to them can nevertheless have an inadvertent, direct impact on what is and is not captured and retained as a part of this web archive. Material that should have been captured may not be, and vice versa.

Crawling of non-official web content

Non-official web content created by the Bowdoin community is also considered for inclusion in our web archive in order to more fully document Bowdoin’s web presence. Material that may be considered includes but is not limited to the social media accounts and ( websites of Bowdoin student organizations and other student-run social media accounts which have broad relevance to the Bowdoin community.

Non-official sites are identified for potential crawling in two ways: (1) SC&A staff locate them in the course of their duties via news article links, word of mouth, etc.; and (2) a nomination form. Any current member of the Bowdoin community may fill out a nomination form. Nominations are evaluated based on their adherence to the selection criteria in the Digital Collections Program Guidelines above.

SC&A will not capture and preserve non-official web content without the consent of its creators. When staff identify a site or social media account that fits selection criteria, owners of the site or account will be contacted to discuss potential capture of their site as well as any access restrictions they’d like to place on the archived content. Consent of site/account owners will be documented, and these agreements will be revisited every three years to account for student turn-over. 

Questions about web archiving at Bowdoin can be directed to Digital Archivist Meagan Doyle (

[2] Subdomains are identified in coordination with the College’s Website Manager.