Anteaters Travel Back in Time


Courtesy of UCI Libraries

On any given day, the typical UC Irvine student can expect to be bombarded with shouts of various foods being sold for a fundraiser, while  moving aside for the occasional cyclist or skateboarder when on Ring Road. As some students stop to buy a cup of $2 Boba and others make their way through the crowd of students to class, it can be hard to picture the Irvine campus living in any other way.

However, in celebration of UC Irvine’s upcoming 50th anniversary, Anteaters past and present can travel back in time through AnteaterTag@UCI, a game where contestants are tasked to describe the content of digital photographs from the Libraries’ Online Archive of UCI History.

By thinking up keywords to tag on to historical images, students can earn points and capture a glimpse of the university’s illustrious past. Points are based on quantity and quality, and the 15 players with the highest scores by Feb. 28 will be awarded Amazon gift cards valued at $50, $30 and $20.

The tags are not only an opportunity to enrich what is known about these images, but also to make them easier to discover on the web for students and scholars.

“The end result is to make them more accessible to scholarly research,”  Julie Sully, the Head of Marketing and Special Events, said. “It’s a fun way to help enhance UCI history. Generations from now, there can be the same kind of thing going on, and it’s great to look at the history of your campus and be able to identify aspects of it.”

Run by Metadata Games, AnteaterTag is a pilot project that seeks to gather metadata, labels that reveal the contents of a photograph or item, giving them greater visibility in search engines. In a society that is becoming increasingly driven by technology, the game is also born from the library initiative to create more unique digital assets. For many students, faculty and alumni, AnteaterTag will serve as an introduction to the steady digitization of library resources.

Courtesy of UCI Libraries

Courtesy of UCI Libraries

“It’s important to have everybody more engaged with what we’re doing,”  Shu Liu, the Metadata and Digital Resources Librarian, said. “The library doesn’t want to be this big building isolated from the university’s community. We want to be interacting with the people so that we can identify a better direction for our future.”

Since the game was launched, the turnout of players has already exceeded expectations, with over 50 users playing on a daily basis, and visitors to the library’s website have skyrocketed. The quality of the tags has yet to be reviewed, but Liu remains excited about the project’s projected success.

Regardless of the final results, the library department can rest assured that AnteaterTag has made an impact in the life of at least one alumnus.

Gordon Cole, a graduate from the class of 1971 and former New University Photo Editor, donated a journal and sketchbook titled, “The Overland Route to California” during his time at UC Irvine. The book was written by an ancestor and documented the journey of his family from the East Coast to California during the latter period of the Gold Rush era. In 2011, Cole was hired by the Department of Material and Risk Management for UC Irvine. Cole immediately went to the library and inquired whether they still had possession of his ancestor’s journal. Much to his dismay, he was told the library did not, and carried on thinking it was lost for good.

Three years later, Cole’s luck turned around when he responded to Liu’s email about AnteaterTag as an interested participant and asked about the journal again. This time, the library did have records of the book, and as a matter of fact, it was constantly being checked out.

Courtesy of UCI Libraries

Courtesy of UCI Libraries

“That was my great-great grandfather who came over in a covered wagon as a boy, and we’ve been Californians ever since,” Cole, jubilant, said. “That’s part of my legacy.”

As a student who first attended UC Irvine three years after it was first established, Cole can attest first-hand to just how much Irvine has grown since his time here.

“Irvine wasn’t a city back then. There was no city,” Cole said as he took out a photo of UCI in its early years. “There was nothing else between UCI and the blimp base. And nothing after the blimp base but the mountains. It was a school in the middle of nowhere.”

Fast forward to present day 2014, and that school in the middle of nowhere is now nationally ranked, finding itself amidst one of the most affluent cities in California, with a myriad of businesses, parks, restaurants and shopping centers. Pointing to a present day map of the campus, Cole repeatedly circled the inner portion of Ring Road with his index finger.

“Picture this first half of this ring, with nothing beyond it, and the attitude was you, the student, were the key to it all,” he said.

Considering that last year’s ceremony saw 8,662 students walk compared to the 14 from UC Irvine’s very first commencement, one can safely say that UCI has matured to a status boasting many potential leaders. There’s no telling how much growth the campus will experience within the next 50 years, but one can be sure that the library’s archives will be documenting our progress every step of the way.

Go to the following website To play AnteaterTag@UCI: