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October 1, 2014

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SLJ Reviews Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database

SLJ1309w ref online SLJ Reviews Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database

Combining an industry and educational standard in the field of aerospace with a recognized leader in the world of science and arts, the Air & Space and Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database is seamless in action and an excellent source for both papers and projects.

Air & Space and Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database

Grade level 6 and up

Cost Libraries have the option of purchasing or subscribing to this archive. Pricing is based on FTE or the size of the population the library serves for schools or academic institutions. For public libraries, fees start at $450 for an annual subscription and $1,455 for purchase. Pricing for academic libraries starts at $575 for an annual subscription and $2,025 for purchase.

Overview Emerging from the great American museum and research facility, the Smithsonian, this database represents the first time the archives of both Air and Space Magzine and Smithsonian Magazine have been made available to student researchers. Users can now easily search across the institution’s wide-ranging subjects that include science, the arts, history, nature, and international cultural heritage. Air & Space Magazine canvasses the innovative world of aviation and space exploration with articles from each field’s history, present technologies, human interest stories, and future possibilities while Smithsonian Magazine is widely recognized as a solid source of information on humankind’s arts and culture. This database combines the archives (up to the current issues) of both publications into a user-friendly digital research tool that provides great stories and solid scholarship at the click of a mouse. Air & Space has been around since 1986 and Smithsonian reaches back to 1970, with both magazines taking readers to faraway destinations and activities, from fossil hunting in the American West to trips inside the International Space Station.

How it works The clutter-free homepage offers a search interface that is both intuitive and dynamic in operation. The first thing users will notice is the large color photo that serves as a backdrop to the basic search bar, the captions of which can be expanded for further information. Users are given the options of browsing by magazine title or particular issues as well as conducting basic or advanced searches—there are boxes for multiple term inputs as well as a variety of limiters including publication title, content type, magazine section, publication type, and image type.

Search results may be arranged by relevance, document title, or publication date, with a sidebar of result metrics displaying content types, publication titles, subjects, magazine sections, and a graph with publication year. Also included here is a useful and unusual feature called “term clusters.” By applying an algorithm to search results, this handy tool provides the option to further refine retrieved content. Clicking on a search result produces a vividly colored spread of the magazine article that users can then zoom in on or make full screen. As is now standard, the result provides users with the ability to save into a folder, print, email, insert bookmarks, generate a citation, and apply their own tags.

Another handy tool is the “term frequency” option, which offers the opportunity to. view the appearance of a subject over time either by frequency or popularity, with a further option to limit by content type or date range. By selecting the browse by magazine feature, users are provided with color thumbnails of each magazine cover, chronologically arranged from newest to oldest, with the option of filtering by dates. To view the magazine, users can click on a particular thumbnail of an issue, which can then be made full screen, adjusted, or searched.

A sample search for Wernher von Braun in the basic search resulted in 32 hits, 26 from Air & Space and six from Smithsonian, with 16 results from a feature article, 12 from a department piece, and four from the advertising section. A graph for metrics on publication year revealed that most of the results were from the 1990s. The “Analyze” feature revealed that approximately 50 per cent of the results concerned von Braun’s relationship with rockets and the U.S. government. Selecting “Rocket” revealed eight hits for articles that considered von Braun’s relationship with propulsion. A welcome “help” link and the option of tracking user search history round out this incredible research tool.

Conclusion With solid, well-respected content and an effective overall design that combines utility with ease of use, this database is highly recommended for collections supporting arts and science curriculums.


Brian Odom is the archivist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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