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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Launches On-Line Image Library

May 18, 2006

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is increasingly true in today’s world as images are used throughout society to entertain, inform and educate. Locating just the right image can be difficult, but thanks to new technology, that job has gotten easier at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which has millions of surface and underwater images from projects around the world during more than 75 years of ocean exploration.

The Institution has created WHOI ImageSource, a database of images and illustrations collected since the founding of the Institution in 1930. Combining a number of visual libraries and collections at the Institution, WHOI ImageSource was created to provide the interested public and the scientific community with a convenient source for their oceanographic visual needs.

ImageSource currently has more than 36,000 images accessible to the public, with more images added every week.  Among the growing collection are current photographs of people, places, technology, events and projects; underwater photography from Alvin, Jason II and other exploration vehicles;  illustrations from WHOI publications and presentations; and historical photographs of the Institution and the Woods Hole area.

“ WHOI receives a lot of requests for images to use in everything from books and textbooks to exhibits, presentations and the media,” Visual Resources Manager Melissa Lamont said. “ We also have many staff members looking for images for their presentations, proposals, publications and projects.  It has often been very hard or time consuming to find images people want because they have been kept in different collections around the Institution, and sometimes information about the particular image is lacking.”

“WHOI ImageSource is a new undertaking and we are in the early stages of development, still working out the bugs,” Lamont said.  “But it has already proven to be a timesaver for Institution staff who use images daily in their work because they are finding things faster and generally have more information about the image itself. The interested public now has an opportunity to search for images as well, and we hope the database will be just as useful to them.”

The Woods Hole Image Source system was supplied by the U.K. based company iBase Media Services. Since the early 1990s iBase has been creating and supplying systems to academic, scientific, commercial and heritage organizations for the management of, and access to, images and other digital media such as sound and video clips.

iBase has provided similar systems for a variety of cultural groups, public and corporate organizations and educational institutions including the British Library, the Royal Shakespeare Company, St Andrews University Library,  the  City of London Guildhall Libraries and Art Gallery,  British Waterways, Lloyds Register Fairplay, Glasgow City Libraries, Harrow School, and the Shetland Islands Museum.

WHOI looked at a number of systems before choosing iBase about two years ago. More than 100,000 images have been digitized, described and added to the system.  Given the size of the Institution’s collections, adding images will be an ongoing task for years to come, Lamont said. Plans call for eventually adding films and video to the database.

“iBase is very proud to be associated with one of the world’s leading scientific institutions,” iBase Managing Director Malcolm Secrett said. “We are very pleased to be working closely with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in customizing their standard iBase Image Manager system to Woods Hole’s particular needs.  Having a system like this is unprecedented at a research organization.”

The public can log in to WHOI ImageSource as a guest and view the public collections. Instructions are provided on how to log in and browse the collections, save images and seek permission for use of photographs or illustrations.  The system can be accessed via the Internet at

The site is still in beta form and feedback is appreciated; comments or questions can be sent to