02 May 2013

FamilySearch Digital Media Image Viewer (DMIV) Review

The FamilySearch Digital Media Image Viewer (DMIV) is a new tool created by FamilySearch. First scheduled to start on April 25th 2013, and delayed for improvements, the DMIV tool will now ship to collections donors along with the digital images. 

FamilySearch has been creating digital images since 1998 according to their website. Their flagship website FamilySearch.org has had digital images available since Record Search Pilot in 2009. 

This new tool will interest you if you are a potential or current collection donor. I was sent the new tool because I have stayed in touch with strategic relationships personnel--after seeing the collection I donated go online a few months ago.

FamilySearch is known for large collections, but mine was only 97 pages. Read a little about my experience and how to donate in my article: "Does FamilySearch want my collections?..."

Okay, now that we are all on the same page...

This is my FamilySearch Digital Media Image Viewer (DMIV) Review

The screenshot says a lot. This is a very simple interface. It is robust and has basic features such as zoom, invert, pan, and rotate. To understand this tool, it is important to understand what it is not. This is not a typical image viewer. It does not allow image editing or printing. It is not an indexing tool, and you do not search indexed data.

What is it then?
It is simply a tool to view meta data and browse groups of images through that meta data. 

What meta data?
Meta data in this instance is the data that FamilySearch volunteers enter when they create the digital images. When volunteers create digital images they put them into groups, and add various descriptive data such as dates and locations. 

This tool becomes the most useful if you have large collections of images. If imaging was done in several groups (with various locations or year ranges) this viewer will help you identify the group you are interested in quickly--as long as the meta data is accurate. The value of this tool, and the limits, become more apparent if you are familiar with the imaging and meta data process (taught in several YouTube videos). 

Before this tool, FamilySearch would send the donor a USB or other drive with the images and some meta data files. Images could be opened by a regular image viewer of your choice, but this could quickly become unwieldy if you donated hundreds or thousands of images. Because my collection was so small, I could not verify the usefulness of locating images within much larger collections. I look forward to hearing about feedback from other donors.

Why a viewer?
Some donors like to have a copy for viewing on the computers in their archive--a copy of these files that is not dependent on an Internet connection. On a less relevant note, some donors may even want to use the images in a website they have made. The overall idea is to make these images that are returned to the donor more useful to them.

This is a step in the right direction, but I would like to see even more done. This tool could improve an experience like offline browsing of images in an archive, but it raises some questions. If FamilySearch realizes it is good to let donors browse their images offline, then what about a tool to organize and add index data? FamilySearch Indexing only lets people index collections that were prepared--it does not cover all collections. If a donor wants to index their own small 97 page collection, there is currently no way to do it. While that is something that would help me, I can see how this tool is a good step.