The CIDC is the successor to the Digital Access Coalition, founded in 1992, and Co-directed by H. Thomas Hickerson (Director, Division of rare and Manuscript Collections), and Geri Gay (Associate Professor of Communications and Director, Interactive Media Group). DAC was established as an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental organization with a mandate to explore the use of digital imagery as a means for integrating related collections housed across campus but seldom used in combination.
Over the years DAC developed several rich digital collections, creatively designed and presented. A further, and perhaps even more important mark of its success was seen in the meaningful collaboration of faculty and staff across campus. A need for faculty support necessitated the need for faculty involvement from the outset, in order to shape product content and functionality. DAC's goal was to develop resources that could and would be used in the classroom almost immediately. In 1995 DAC sponsored the conference "The Internet and the Virtual Classroom". Participants included Cornell librarians, instructional technologists, faculty from both the Colleges of Arts and Engineering, and lawyers. In addition Clifford Lynch, now the head of the Coalition for Networked Information, and Mary Levering from the U.S. Copyright Office also participated in the conference.
In a relatively short time frame, DAC provided evidence that the value of existing campus resources could be enhanced and that classroom instruction would be enriched if collections were made available digitally. The Coalition also began to develop resources designed for use beyond the campus. The Democratizating Access to Scholarly Resources Project expressed this issue explicitly. 4th grade students from the Cayuga Heights Elementary School used the Internet website "Invention and Enterprise: Ezra Cornell and 19th Century Life" as part of their New York State history course. This same project supported the Interactive Media Group Collaboration with the British Museum in London, the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka Japan, and IBM Japan in the creation of a Global Digital Museum.
Earlier a joint project with Eastman Kodak, the Commission on Preservation and Access, and the University of Southern California employed PhotoCD technology to begin building a prototype digital collection. The principle result of this early effort was a collection centering on the life and artwork of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, an accomplished naturalist who is recognized by ornithologists worldwide for his realistic paintings of birds. While his paintings are widely held, the vast majority of Fuertes artwork, as well as his letters and journals, are here at Cornell University, the result of his having been both a student and professor at the University. In 1994, with the support of a grant from the Council on Library Resources, the Fuertes collection was converted from PhotoCD to the Web. It includes a virtual expedition tracing the 1899 Harriman expedition to Alaska by using the text of journals Fuertes kept during this trip. The site incorporates artwork from the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell as well as the Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum and the University Library, and attracts both bird enthusiasts and academic researchers.
Other collaborations in visual arts included the Utopia Project, a Renaissance database drawing on four different campus collections, and the Getty Foundation-funded Museum Educational Site Licensing Project or MESL, a national project that included six museums, seven universities, and the Library of Congress. The Utopia database included images from the slide collections of the College of Art, Architecture and Planning and the Department of the History of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences, illustrations from printed books in the Library's rare book collection, and works of art from the Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum. While all of these collections can be found within 200 yards of each other on campus, they have probably never been used in combination before.