Category Archives: Reviews

Review of Cultural Tourism DC’s Walking Tour Site

This is a review of Cultural Tourism DC’s mobile walking tour site. The site includes five walking tours, three in downtown DC and two in the U Street neighborhood, which is pretty close to where I live. There are maps for each of the tours and the site uses your location to lead you through the tours. The sites on each tour are also marked on the maps. The sites are generally buildings or other locations like parks or historical markers. The mobile site asks you to engage by physically visiting the various locations on the tours.

All of the tours have audio components – you navigate to a site and then listen to a brief description of the history of the site – but some of the tours (both U Street tours) also have a video version of the audio description, which confused me more than it probably should have. The video version is in some cases identical and in some cases not. The video segments are mostly just montages of still images, but some do have music, which is nice since the U Street area was known for it music, particularly jazz. The still images in the videos include photos of famous people, newspaper articles, and other types of primary sources. Most of the audio and video segments are between 2 and 5 minutes long, although some are longer. When walking around, shorter is generally better, as it’s a bit weird to stand on a street corner looking at a building for five minutes while listening to an audio clip. I didn’t view the videos on the street, as I didn’t want to use a bunch of data on my phone to do so. This is a definite drawback to this format – it would take much less data to just read a webpage, although the music and images definitely do enhance the experience.

The overarching narrative of the U Street begins with the neighborhood as a site of African American culture and community, moves from that to the riots of 1968, and concludes with recent changes/revitalization. The downtown tours have less of a narrative, as they cover a more disparate set of sites and a broader time period (from the 19th century to the present).

It was difficult to find a public history site that focused on the neighborhoods of DC; most are put out by organizations like the Smithsonian Institution or National Park Service, or deal with public spaces in the city, like Histories of the National Mall. This isn’t really surprising, since that’s what DC is primarily known for (and what is very apparent during cherry blossom season, ugh). I appreciated that Cultural Tourism focused very specifically on DC neighborhoods, because I think the local and everyday history tends to get subsumed in the grand narratives presented by places like the National Mall. The Anacostia Community Museum is also really good at this, but it’s not a museum a lot of tourists visit. In some ways, it would have been nice for the Cultural Tourism mobile walking tour site to rely less on famous people, but it does a pretty good of balancing the famous and the not.

Review of ARTstor Metadata

I am going to focus on the metadata used in ARTstor. This is a database I frequently teach, and I am always looking for more effective ways of explaining how to use it. Since it’s an image database, it heavily relies on metadata searches, and this makes it particularly challenging to teach; most students I work with are much more used to a full-text keyword search.

I thought I would do some searching in ARTstor to identify the different metadata fields used in the database and then realized that it varies widely by item. I decide to check their website and discovered ARTstor has a very detailed explanation as to why that is: “Since each institution and individual can have differing uses of and requirements for metadata, the cataloging and descriptive data we receive vary greatly in the use (or absence) of standardized vocabularies, in the choice of terminology, and in the metadata schema used to organize the data.” The policy goes on to note that every item, though, can be searched by object-type classification, geography, and earliest/latest dates, that this information is added to records if necessary, and also that this information is not part of individual records.

The type of physical object represented by the digital object, the location the physical object originated from, and the date it was created/used are the features this consistent metadata describes. Metadata not created by ARTstor can describe a wide variety of other features, however: creator, culture, title, work-type, date (of both the physical object and the digital image), material, description, subject (these appear to be Library of Congress subject headings), who owns the physical object, copyright information, accession number, specific ARTstor sub-collection, measurements, period, style, digital image size, and possibly others. These metadata fields are not consistent, though, so searches based on them will always be missing items. The metadata provided by ARTstor really only lets you ask questions about geography, time period, and object-type; other searches are pretty much crapshoots.

The main feature the ARTstor-provided metadata does not describe – and this is the issue I run into when teaching – is what the physical object is about, what it shows. Sometimes the title might get at this, but often it doesn’t. Sometimes the subject headings or description will, but this metadata is inconsistently applied. I have many examples of this: medieval manuscript images that are about emotion, 18th century representations of women in the home or in public, material culture in early modern Europe, paintings of weather during the Little Ice Age, and so on. This is pretty similar to the gap Matthew Lincoln identifies in art history metadata – the lack of information about the visual aspects of artworks. These are the sorts of questions students ask about artwork and ARTstor isn’t able to facilitate this very well. What I end up doing in my teaching is telling students to enter one very broad search term, then limit the search by time period and geography, and then basically browse the results. I actually think digital browsing is underrated and provides a lot of contextual information about a topic, but students can get frustrated with getting irrelevant or zero results. It would be nice if subject headings, as flawed as they are, were more consistently applied in ARTstore, but I also recognize that the user community for ARTstor might not be as interested in those. Also, it is a lot of work to create metadata manually for individual items.  


Database Review


American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business, 1935-1965 primarily consists of the digitized papers of Ernest Dichter held by the Hagley Museum and Library. Dichter began his market research career in the United States in 1938 and founded his own market research consulting firm, the Institute for Motivational Research, in 1948. His papers were donated to the Hagley by his family; other papers, probably from his European offices, are housed at the University of Vienna and are not part of this database. The database also includes advertising images from the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University and The Advertising Archives, which sells images for commercial use and posters, prints, etc. of these images for personal use. These are located under the “Ad Gallery” section of the database. In addition to these primary sources, the database includes secondary material: four case studies of specific industries, four overview/background essays, teaching resources, brief biographies of thirty-five companies covered in the database, a glossary of business and marketing terms, and a list of links to external sites that also discuss business history, market research, and consumer culture. These are under the “Further Resources” section of the database. There is also an interactive chronology that covers consumer culture in the United States, Dichter’s life, and major historical events.

The database supports Boolean, phrase, proximity, and wildcard searches. It allows keyword searching of the full-text and item metadata as well as searches of the following metadata fields: title, commissioned by, company, and brand. Searches can be combined with limiting by document type (letter, memorandum, pilot study, proposal, report, supporting material), industry (thirty-one options), language (eight options), or date. Searches can also be further restricted to the Ad Gallery or Secondary Resources.

Document metadata includes numerous fields, all of which can be searched using a keyword search: title, box number, report number, holding library, copyright holder, date, document type, industry, commissioned by, conducted by, place, company, brand, method, keywords (tags, not controlled vocabulary), language, and links to related documents. The company field can be linked to the business biographies (not all businesses have biographies), the keyword field is linked to the glossary (although not all terms are in the glossary), and the date field is linked to the chronology. Snippets of individual pages show the search terms in context and results can be ranked according to relevance, the pages they appear on, and number of hits.

Image metadata includes title, date, image type (magazine, newspaper, or poster), collection (usually a subset of the source), source (Hartman Center at Duke University or The Advertising Archives), industry, company, brand, keywords, publication (which magazine or newspaper), and image details (drawing, photo, color, etc.). These are also searchable using a keyword anywhere search. The inclusion of keywords with the images greatly improves their searchability, as the keywords are often more descriptive of the content of the ad than the title of the ad. For example, one ad is titled “Active days are here again,” which is not very descriptive. The keywords, “women, feminine hygiene, feminine products, sanitary napkin, sport,” add more detail to the title, industry (personal products), and company (Kotex) information and potentially make it more findable.

Users can browse documents and then filter by document type, industry, and language. There is also a browsable list of industries that provides a brief overview of each industry and links to the documents and images associated with that industry. The Ad Gallery can also be browsed and filtered by industry, decade, image type, and brand.

Documents can be downloaded as PDFs and are scanned cover to cover in full-color. Images can be downloaded individually or as a set in a PDF document. They can also be formatted as a slideshow. They are also in full-color and don’t appear to be cropped. The database offers a personal account called “MY ARCHIVE” to which documents, images, and slideshows can be added.

The database does privilege search, but encourages browsing behavior by including browsing options in the main navigation. Browsing via industry, company, document/image type are foregrounded, which means that others, such as methodology or subject keywords are not. Given the scope of the original collection, though, this browsing schema makes a lot of sense. It is also quite different from other Adam Matthew and specific to this database. Linking to popular searches introduces the potential for serendipity. The manuscript collection is narrowly focused and has clear boundaries, although the database does acknowledge that there might be overlap with the non-digitized collection at the University of Vienna and that not all items may be included in the database. There is also a link to the finding aid for the original manuscript collection at the Hagley Museum and Library in the “Introduction” section of the database. The boundaries of the ad collections are less obvious; it is only apparent that the images come from two different sources. While the Hartman Center at Duke is fairly clear about what sorts of items it collects, The Advertising Archives is less forthcoming.


Date range: 1935-1965

Publisher: Adam Matthew

Publisher About page:

Object type: Reports, pilot studies, memorandums, proposals, correspondence, surveys, questionnaires, case studies, other manuscript materials, images

Location of original materials: Hagley Museum and Library, Duke University, The Advertising Archives

Exportable image: Yes

Facsimile image: Yes

Full text searchable: Yes

Titles list links: CSV file available here


The manuscript materials from the Hagley Museum and Library appear to have been digitized from the original materials, not microfilm, by Adam Matthew. The images from the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History at Duke University also appear to have been digitized from the original materials, since the physical items are held by Duke. The provenance for the images from The Advertising Archives is a little more unclear; the FAQ implies that they have scanned the images, but also that they don’t necessarily hold the copyright, which isn’t surprising in the case of a company like Coca-Cola. The holding library is indicated in the metadata for each document and image and can be searched using a keyword search.  


Library Journal review

Choice review (original paywalled, duplicated on Adam Matthew site)


Adam Matthew offers institutional purchases. The WorldCat record lists institutions that have access.

The standard license agreement in PDF format is available on Adam Matthew’s site.

Info from Publisher

Information about the database

Contact information for Adam Matthew


There is a lot of information about citing, use, and copyright in the FAQ section of the database, including this paragraph (page is paywalled):

“American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business provides access to valuable source materials which you may wish to cite in essays and projects. Students should cite items in their footnotes as per the scholarly standard for such citations. Reference should be made to the specific item and the library holding the original material. While browsing you can consult the copyright notice at the bottom of the image, which provides details of the library of origin, the title, date and issue number (if relevant). Students should consult their supervisors for their preferred style (for example, see the MHRA website for a free download of the Style Guide). If you need clarification please ask your academic supervisor.”