On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, the Center for History of Print and Digital Cultural at the University of Wisconsin at Madison hosted Dr. John Unsworth for the 2011 Wisconsin Distinguished Lecture in LIS. Dr. Unsworth is the director for the Illinois Informatics Institute and the dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Urbana-Champaign. The following is how the lecture was described in an email I received, and what piqued my interest about the talk:
This past Tuesday, Katherine Montgomery and I facilitated a conversation among nine University of Iowa (UI) faculty and staff who are all involved with digital research or digital humanities initiatives in one way or another. One theme expressed was the importance of databases in any work that moves forward. “Databases run everything,” said Dr. Jim Elmborg, adding that to Ed Folsom, the database is the new narrative.
Over the past two years, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library has hosted an Institute for Enabling Geospatial Scholarship. Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of “Spatial Humanities,” a community-driven resource for place-based digital scholarship:
This site responds to needs identified in conversation with our 21 Institute faculty members and 56 participants (humanities scholars, software developers, and map & GIS librarians). It includes:
- an evolving, crowdsourced catalog of research resources, projects, and organizations;
- a set of framing essays on the spatial turn across the disciplines by Dr. Jo Guldi of the Harvard Society of Fellows;
- GIS-related feeds from Q&A sites and other forms of social media;
- and a peer-reviewed, occasional publication for step-by-step tutorials in spatial tools and methods.
Please help us keep this resource current by contributing to it! You can:
- use Zotero to freely upload research citations, projects, and links to groups;
- contribute your own tutorials and helpsheets in “Step By Step” format for peer review and formal publication;
- adopt the #geoinst hashtag on Twitter and Delicious;
- ask related questions and offer help on DH Answers or the GIS Stack Exchange;
- and post your commentary on the essays we’ve shared.
Learn more about our NEH Institute:
Many thanks to the NEH, the staff of the Scholars’ Lab, our Institute advisory board and faculty, and the scores of Institute participants and fellows who helped to define the project!
Ernesto Priani and I have been working on a comparative analysis of the recently-launched Biblioteca Digital Mexicana (Mexican Digital Library or BDMex; made public on 23 November 2010) and the World Digital Library (WDL) from the perspective of the end-user. Please answer our surveys!
The Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library and the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University are pleased to announce a collaborative “Omeka + Neatline” initiative, supported by $665,248 in funding from the Library of Congress.
The Omeka + Neatline project’s goal is to enable scholars, students, and library and museum professionals to create geospatial and temporal visualizations of archival collections using a Neatline toolset within CHNM’s popular, open source Omeka exhibition platform. Neatline, a “contribution to interpretive humanities scholarship in the visual vernacular,” is a project of the UVa Library Scholars’ Lab, originally bolstered by a Start-Up Grant from the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Omeka is an award-winning web-publishing platform for the display of cultural heritage and scholarly collections and exhibits, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
This two-year initiative will allow CHNM and the Scholars’ Lab to expand and regularize a partnership that developed informally between the two centers over the course of the past year. Collaboration has already resulted in improvements to the core functionality of Omeka by CHNM and has led the Scholars’ Lab to produce a number of prototype plugins making Omeka a more attractive and viable option for scholarly partnerships with larger libraries and cultural heritage institutions. These include: improved data import (including EAD, a common archival standard); Solr-powered searching and browsing; and Fedora-based repository services. Further development will improve existing plugins, add preservation workflows, and refine the Neatline toolset for integration and sophisticated editing and scholarly annotation of historical maps, GIS layers, and timelines. Enhancements to Omeka’s core APIs, improved documentation, regular “point” releases, and a new Exhibit Builder will strengthen Omeka’s already large and robust user and developer communities.
Omeka + Neatline is one of six contract awards made by the Library of Congress in a program that aims both to improve the Library’s own content management and content delivery infrastructure and to contribute to collaborative knowledge sharing among broader communities concerned with the sustainability and accessibility of digital content. In July of 2010, the Library of Congress targeted approximately $3,000,000 toward Broad Agency Announcements covering three areas of research interest related to these goals. Technical proposals were openly solicited from expert, multi-disciplinary communities in both academic and commercial settings in three areas: Ingest for Digital Content, Data Modeling of Legislative Information, and Open Source Software for Digital Content Delivery.
In addition to guiding software development work at the Scholars’ Lab and CHNM, project directors Tom Scheinfeldt and Bethany Nowviskie will use the Omeka + Neatline project as an opportunity to document and disseminate a model for open source, developer-level collaborations among library labs and digital humanities centers.
One of these is FedoraConnector, which is designed to enable administrators to attach Fedora datastreams (a digital object — whether image, XML like TEI or EAD, or video) to Omeka items. This is fundamentally different from attaching files to an item–the datastream is not duplicated and stored within Omeka’s archive. Rather, a reference to the Fedora object (PID) is stored within a new table in the Omeka database that associates the item with the URL of the datastream that is accessed (and rendered) with Fedora’s REST API. The plugin also supports importing Dublin Core and MODS metadata into the DC Element Set in Omeka. The importers can be extended to map from any metadata standard into DC.
The benefit to this architecture is that it enables dynamic rendering of the most current version of the Fedora object, and thus there is no issue about storing duplicate files in the Omeka disk space that can be deprecated by updates to the original Fedora object. Additionally, FedoraConnector can take advantage of institutional-specific services that are developed for delivering content. For example, thumbnail and medium-sized page images are rendered in real time by querying the University of Virginia Library’s JPEG2000 server and requesting deliverables at a specific dimension. Disseminators, or handler functions for rendering Fedora content based on mime-type and/or datastream type, are extensible.
Earlier this year, we released a beta version of a plugin for rendering TEI files into HTML within Omeka. Called TeiDisplay, this plugin was enhanced by the insertion of several hooks that execute FedoraConnector functions (if FedoraConnector is installed) to render TEI XML datastreams on the fly directly from the repository. TeiDisplay supports, as the documentation for the plugin indicates, selection of customized XSLT stylesheets and two display types: entire document and segmental view (with table of contents and by-section rendering). Indeed, documents coming from Fedora can be rendered dynamically with the same set of options.
But what about indexing the document? This is why the Scholars’ Lab developed SolrSearch last summer to replace Omeka’s default mySQL search with the more advanced search options afforded by Solr, an open source search index. SolrSearch supports facets, sorting, hit highlighting, and a handful of other options. Originally designed to index the full text of Omeka files with a text/xml mime-type, SolrSearch was enhanced to index the full text of Fedora datastreams with a text/xml mime-type as well, enabling full text searching, faceted browsing, and hit highlighting of the aforementioned TEI files referenced from a repository.
So in essense, the range of plugins the Scholars’ Lab has created for Omeka can enable creation of attractive and cutting-edge public user interfaces for collections of Fedora objects. Coupled with our Neatline plugins, which are all about geospatial and temporal interpretation of archival collections, this work bridges a well-recognized gap between the volume of digital content housed in sophisticated repositories and the curators, scholars, and end users who seek access to it and wish to interpret it in online exhibits.
Thanks to Megan Brett, Research Database and Records Manager at the Montpelier Foundation, we are able share with you a piece of ephemera from UVa Library’s computing past: a pamphlet on “Computer Literature Search.”
“Why use a computer search? Consider the time it takes to search manually through the many issues of printed indexes. The computer searches these indexes in seconds; the search is faster, more comprehensive, and often more precise, as there are more subject access points and greater flexibility in combining terms in a computer search.”
The pamphlet continues with an offer to split evenly the costs of search with Library patrons — “based on computer connect-time and on the number and format of citations printed.” Check out a PDF of the pamphlet, here (1mb). It is coded “10-84.” Is this from 1984?
Please comment if you can shed light on the date of the pamphlet, or want to share memories of early digital and computer-assisted scholarship at UVa. We’d also be very happy — in the semester in which we’ve rolled out a new Virgo interface based on Project Blacklight (first prototyped here in the Scholars’ Lab!) — to see more ephemera from UVa Library’s long engagement with digital research.