The exhibits pilot innovation grant project was a partnership of three departments, Digital Content Services (formerly SRI), Rare Books and Manuscripts, and the Web Implementation Team (now Applications, Development and Support). The Preservation and Reformatting Department (Amy McCrory) and the Copyright Resources Center (Sandra Enimil) were also heavily involved. The grant was “to develop a new model for creating and delivering digital exhibits at the Libraries.” The project was developmental in scope, and the specific goals were to create a polished digital version of a physical exhibit, and to gather information about what would be required to develop an exhibits program in the Libraries.
The King James Bible exhibit, curated by Eric Johnson, is indeed a polished exhibit. We learned a great deal from working on it, such as the need to create a glossary of terms as reference for all people on the project. We also identified the strengths and weaknesses of the Omeka software for our environment. The research into what it would take to build a sustainable program took many forms. We looked at existing digital exhibits at OSUL, as well as curator expectations for exhibit functionality, and the use of Omeka at other institutions. We tracked information on the time it took to create the exhibit.
What’s next? The report is done and has been given to the Executive Committee. The suggestions in the report are just that – suggestions. We were not charged to develop a program. We applied for funding to explore the possibilities; the report is what we discovered. It is also worth noting that the environment has changed since the report was written. Most important, is that the Libraries have hired an Exhibits Coordinator. However, many of you have expressed interest in our results. The report is posted on the Digital Exhibits Subcommittee web site (docx). Happy reading! …and, of course, we welcome your comments. –thc
The answer to the question about why we digitize materials from the collections of the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program (BPRCAP) is actually quite simple – and that is, to let people know what we have. In case you are unaware, the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program was created officially in 1990, after acquiring the Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Sir George Hubert Wilkins in the mid- 1980s. The first year that the Byrd and Wilkins collections were open to the public was 1994/95 – reference requests totaled 41 for the year. In 1999, the Polar Archives launched its first website, and the reference stats went to 198 for the year 1999/2000. We have seen a steady rise in reference activity every year since, with a leveling off at around 350-400 requests annually. In this time, we have continually added more and more information to our website.
Admiral Byrd’s dog, Igloo
All of this digitization has been well received by our patrons, though admittedly confusing to them at times. For example, “I found your finding aid online to the Byrd papers, but when I clicked on it, nothing happened.” And, that’s when we have to have a discussion about choices. The Byrd Papers alone are more than 500 boxes of materials; we will never digitize it all. But many times people do indeed find what they are seeking on our website – such as various museums who borrow artifacts to enhance their own exhibitions. They really love that they can see the artifacts online, rather than simply look at a list of what we have. I’ve also had family members tell me how excited they were to see documentation of their relative on our website, whether it be an oral history, or an image collection, or a reference to their family member in a finding aid. Just this week, we were contacted by an author who found us online, and will be coming for an extended visit to research our collection for a book she is writing. And the History Teaching Institutes uses one of our lesson plans on an ongoing basis in their hands-on workshop where they teach teachers how to incorporate primary resources in the classroom. The list goes on. Digitization does not in fact decrease the use of our collections – it increases it. After all, they can’t use it if they can’t find it. And isn’t that the whole point?
With each various project, we have used whatever tools were available to us at that given time. I like to say that the Polar Archives has stuff stored in every digital orifice on campus! But not to worry – we will help you find what you are seeking! Here is a rundown of a few of our many digitization projects, where they live, and in some cases, why they live where they do.
Providing scholarly work and research digitally has become the norm. Online journals and electronic books have changed the landscape in how one can contribute to and access digital scholarship. Scholars are also providing insight into their research via Twitter and Tumblr. Additionally, the Internet provides the opportunity to make physical materials available through online exhibits and displays. But, while the ways in which we can receive and provide scholarship have changed, digital scholarship encounters many of the same issues that occur in the analog world. Author’s rights issues, copyright, fair use, transformation, issues related to data mining, preservation and accessibility are topics that impact both of these realms.
For many in academia the expanding possibilities of interaction, creation and construction on the Internet are enormous. With the change in landscape the arrival of many works in digital form brings about a different challenge in future cloth (if the work is ever published in a physical format) and publishing rights, translation rights and open access. Though in many ways the digital realm is similar to the analog publishing world, scholarly work affords a difference in the ability to edit, revise and/or submit for further peer review immediately in real time. Online journals also provide opportunities for interaction with creators; some projects may even allow users to view or submit in line commentary and notes. These digital capabilities further demonstrate the need for clarity on issues especially those involving copyright, author’s rights and fair use.
In this occasional series, I hope to discuss and highlight issues to consider in understanding copyright, author’s rights and others as they relate to digital scholarship.
The platform we chose to use for the King James Bible Virtual Exhibit is Omeka, which is “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.” It’s well known to have a nice set of features that are typically found separately in content management systems, collections management systems, and archival digital collections systems. As a developer it was helpful to have such diverse functionality available to us upon installation. We were able to leverage the strengths of the platform instead of building features from the ground-up.
If you read to the bottom of the home page of our new digital exhibit on the King James Bible, you may have wondered at the presence of the following statement:
This is a temporary digital exhibit. It will be available January 7 through May 5, 2013.
Physical exhibits are usually taken down at some point to make room for others; digital exhibits are more likely to be available indefinitely. That this one is not is due to its status as a pilot project for an ongoing, centralized digital exhibits program and its use of a new software platform.
The OSU Libraries is no stranger to interesting digital exhibits. They are generally created by the faculty and staff who work with the content, and are usually built as static HTML pages or added as pages on the Libraries’ website content management system.
To explore a different method of creating digital exhibits, a group of faculty and staff launched a pilot project in early 2012. Supported by the Libraries’ innovation fund, the project team had two goals: 1. Create a digital version of a physical exhibit using the Omeka software platform, and 2. Investigate the feasibility of a centralized digital exhibits program drawing on the wide range of expertise – from development to metadata to project management – available in the Libraries. We have achieved the first goal, but the second is still underway.
To ensure that a pilot project does not become an ongoing program without proper review, we are putting a time limit on our exhibit. It will remain public through the end of spring semester of 2013. In the meantime, we will be finishing our investigation and drafting recommendations. We welcome feedback from colleagues and exhibit visitors – please leave a comment or contact Eric J. Johnson.
Today marks the public launch of the digital version of a traditional (read: physical, or analog) exhibition I curated from May-August 2011. “‘Translation… openeth the window to let in the light’: The Pre-History and Abiding Impact of the King James Bible” celebrated the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611, tracing in broad lines the history of biblical translation and textual packaging from the Middle Ages through the “golden age” of English Bibles in the sixteenth century and on through to the early-twenty first century. Among the many items included in the exhibition were medieval manuscripts, early printed books, fine-press publications, modern Bibles, steel engravings, comic books and strips, and original artwork. From a curatorial standpoint, the diversity of materials on display afforded me a great deal of flexibility and creativity in terms of what types of items I chose to use in order to tell the story of the King James Bible and its centuries-long impact on religious practice, language, literature, art, and culture. This is not to say, however, that this diversity did not come with its own set of frustrations.