Archive for the ‘General’ Category

  • Digitizing smells


    At one of the sessions, I promised to post a link to the work about digitizing the smells of artifacts. Here it is:

    Strlič, M. and Thomas, J. and Trafela, T. and Cséfalvayová, L. and Kralj Cigić, I. and Kolar, J. and Cassar, M. (2009) Material degradomics: on the smell of old books. Analytical Chemistry, 81 (20). pp. 8617-8622. ISSN 00032700

    Thanks to everyone for a great unconference! Bill

  • Notes from Annotator’s Workbench session


    As promised here are some links for the Annotator’s workbench application.

    The AWB itself:

    Windows version:

    Mac version:

    Download and unzip where ever you want the AWB application. For Windows, I usually put a link to the awb.exe file on the desktop.

    If you are interested in using the automatically created web site, here is the link to the zip file:

    Unzip and then you need to move your Annotator’s Workbench .awx file to the root directory and move any movies you need to the video directory.

    See the readme file for more info on setting up the web pages.

    Finally, here is a link to a draft of the Annotator’s Workbench User’s Guide.

    For those interested in the Controlled Vocabulary tool contact me. I will help with setting up your CV for the AWB. It can get complicated.

    Questions? email me at wgcowan [at] indiana [dot] edu

    slashtmp, as its name implies, is temporary. These files get purged if not used. If you try a link and it doesn’t work, let me know and I can reload what you need.

  • Data, KORA, and Ponies Session Notes


    Contact me (matt dot geimer at matrix dot msu dot edu or @herrgeimer on twitter ) for any questions about KORA!

    Things we talked about:

    • Data – how it affects your overall project/scheme layout
    • Stuff about KORA
      Open Source digital repository / digital archive  / content management system
      Very flexible – allows you to do almost anything w/ digital content (regarding storage/representation at least)

      Based on the idea of open access to content made easy to get to
    • Things I didn’t get to talk about but would love to facilitate
      Open source software (specifically running a project like KORA)
      can you add twitfacefliksquarespace to your project?’ and the implications of integrating into open (and closed) data sources
      Undergraduate programmers – they rock!
      How do we determine the ‘best’ way to store metadata in schemes beyond well defined ones (such as DublinCore)
      Data access, data restrictions, data vetting, pretty much anything about data
      The double-edged sword of  your (or your IT/CS person’s) favorite programming language
      Making use of your data beyond it’s original purpose
    • Ponies – there were indeed pictures of ponies 🙂

    Overall it was a more ‘traditional’ talk – mostly Matt talking about KORA, but software demos are like that.  Questions were answered about search performance, issues addressed included using other indexing applications to provide additional search possibilities.  There should be a ‘howto run KORA on a ubuntu server start to finish’ up on the KORA site soon.

  • Linked Data Session Notes


    The linked data conversation that took place in Room C301 offered an interesting look at the value and creation of linked data, tools, content and implications. The links below are resources that were discussed in the session. Enjoy!

    If I’ve missed links that you’d like to include, e-mail me or catch me on Twitter and I’ll happily add them.

    Addition for 3/21/2010 from Jon Voss:

    Archivists, see the work of @anarchivist + @wragge
    Librarians, see the work of @adrianstevenson + @edsu

    **See the original submission/proposal here.

  • International Archival Software


    I am managing an US Dept of Education funded project with three partner institutions in Latin America, using The Annotator’s Workbench software developed by the Digital Library Program (DLP) at Indiana University.

    I’m interested in building a web of scholars that are participating in a collaborative “networked archive.”  I wonder if there is a way to use new community-based models to build more scholarly annotation/archiving tools.  This framework would equally prioritize the collaborative process and “scholarly” technology.  The archive would grow from within the individual institutions, using the cloud to host the archive and the annotation/segmentation software.  Without a firm “center” the archive would take the form of a genuine collaboration between a network of international institutions.

  • Digital v. Analog: There’s no competition


    On the way to Great Lakes ThatCamp, I started thinking about the competition between analog and digital that has been implied, implicitly or explicitly, in much of museum discourse about the Internet age. At first it seemed a lot of museum professionals feared that putting images of collections online would make the analog or ‘real world’ collection irrelevant; people would stop coming to museums and they’d all lose their jobs. I think we’ve pretty much gotten over that, especially when we realized that museum attendance has only increased since the 1990s – in part because websites now help encourage and inspire people to go see ‘the real thing’ in person. After all, how many times have you seen the Mona Lisa in representation (online, on tea towels, earrings, t-shirts, mouse pads…) in your life? And does that in any way make you less inclined to go see the real painting the first time you go to Paris? On the contrary, it makes the pilgrimage to the object all the more important and exciting. So much of the pleasure of looking is in recognizing… (what do you say, @drszucker [Steven Zucker, principal of]?)

    But in a recent symposium at the Bard Graduate Center on “The Artifact in the Age of New Media”, one of the participants, Dan Cohen, tweeted, “Barratt [Carrie Barratt, Met curator], pushing back against @dancohen & @epistemographer, strongly argues that there’s no substitute for seeing objects live. #digifact” Full disclosure: Carrie is a friend, and I don’t in any way disagree with this sentiment, however it was expressed originally. But the comment implies a competition between the digital and the ‘real’ that I think we need to move beyond in order to get the most from both our analog and our digital experiences. Instead, I think we need to be thinking in the direction that Maria Gilbert [also a museum professional and friend] suggested, following the same Twitter thread: “#digifact Digital surrogate can offer interaction/experience unavail w real object, e.g. mechanism demo or hi res magnification capability.”

    In other words, what happens if we think about platforms’ differences and how they might be complementary and mutually-supportive? Can we list in very general terms what the “real world” formats are good at, and what “digital” does well? If so, perhaps we can leverage the particular strengths of digital media to create online experiences that are as valuable and engaging for virtual audiences as the experience of the real world artifact can be in person.

    Here are my initial thoughts about the kinds of experiences that people can have of digital representations of artifacts, and that may not be possible, practical or easy in the museum or with the actual object. Can you add more?

    • ‘Handle’ and examine digital representations of objects personally, up close, in detail, and from all angles
    • Alter objects: reframe, resize, and recolor them e.g.
    • Put objects in different contexts
    • Collect, curate and share objects and collections
    • Write about them
    • Assemble vast quantities of scholarship and publications on objects and related themes relatively quickly
    • Read and watch long pieces of media/scholarship about objects: articles, documentaries, archives etc.
    • Engage in conversations about objects and collections with people all over the world
    • Make very brief or fragmented visits to the object
    • Alternatively, spend extended time with objects and collections, even after hours
    • Track changes in the object’s or collection’s state over time

    These seem so obvious once they’re written down that it almost seems absurd to mention them. And yet: by really understanding and responding to the obvious strengths of each platform, I think we can redirect energy from sandbox battles between the ‘digital’ and the ‘real’ to building interpretation and resources for objects and collections that create a whole truly greater than the sum of its parts

  • Oral History in a Digital Age


    New technologies offer great potential for advancing the practice of oral history. However, they also introduce new questions and issues. Michigan State University, through the MATRIX Center and the Michigan State University Museum, will partner with the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, the American Folklore Society, and the Oral History Association to recommend standards and best practices for digital oral history. Several multidisciplinary working groups recruited from experts and practitioners from museums, libraries, and scholarly societies will work online, at meetings such as national conferences, and in a symposium at the Library of Congress to produce recommendations around core topics including collecting, curating, and disseminating oral histories, as well as with topics pertaining to ntellectual property, digital video, and technology. Final recommendations from all groups will be published as a guide to conducting digital oral history.  Oral History projects come in all shapes and sizes and trying to establish a comprehensive, best practices for all kinds of projects introduces many challenges.  My goal at ThatCamp is to discuss with those interested in oral history from a variety of backgrounds representing a variety of institutions, their needs, their challenges and their visions for how this project could help them.

  • Digital Material Culture Beyond Images: (How) Can We Digitize Materiality?


    I am an objects person in love with stuff and all the ways it informs. I’m also an educator who’s passionate about empowering students to mine material culture as historic evidence. Third, I’m a museum person who works to empower others to understand objects as sources of meaning about the/their past, present, and future.

    I’m excited about projects applying digital technology to material culture, and recognize we’re just getting started. Objects in museum storage – and nearly all the wonderful stuff in private collections – are only occasionally on view in public spaces. The web affords a way to “exhibit” objects to a very wide audience, potentially reaching folks who might never be able to, or wish to, enter a museum or historical society door.

    Hmmmmm. Perhaps the enormity of the number of objects, public or private, for which digital images are yet to be made (let alone made available through a website) makes my discussion topic seem absurd, premature, even a bit ungrateful . . .

    But here goes.

    Viewing an object’s digital image – even a series of images showing the object 360̊ –
    is wonderful, a huge step forward, and gets us waaaaay down the path of accessibility. The problem I’m grappling with is that material culture is . . . well, material. I want to digitize objects’ materiality to teach with, learn from, analyze. Close, hands-on study of objects gives lots of cues and clues that would be terrific if somehow made available in the digital realm. Some are visual – patterns of wear-and tear, traces of the craftpersons’ hands, views in raking light; yet information also comes from other ways of perceiving: the heft, the surface temperature, the feel or texture (think velvet) – you get the idea.

    We learn a lot from this kind of evidence about objects’ materiality. How can we convey more of that materiality in the digital realm? Can we? Should we?

    So . . . I’m interested in talking about / brainstorming what we can do – and imagine what we might be able to think about doing, or try to do – with digital technologies (now and future) to convey these and other aspects of (virtual) materiality. What technology exists that could be adapted? What might be possible with technologies not yet invented – and how might they work? Can we go beyond visual toward the object, or is it more realistic to move away from the object to context?

  • ‘Quality’ in the age of social media: is it only in the eye of the beholder?


    My current research interests revolve around new approaches to interpretation and mobile content and experience development at museums and cultural sites. One of the key learnings I’ve taken away from this work is that social media is not about the technology, but rather about a kind of engagement that creates “a relation, a sense of collectivity, a coming community”. (Szylak 2009) This has led me to ask questions like, “What is a Museum? Who is a Curator? In the age of social media.”

    Particularly in fine art contexts, we see a lot of tension between the expertise of the curatorial/museum voice vs. the ‘citizen curator’ and crowdsourced content. Although ostensibly an advocate for a ‘social media’ kind of curatorial practice, I have been fascinated to find that I’m not immune from this conflict: at times I find myself coming down, rather awkwardly, on the side of ‘quality’ and the curator’s authority. At others, I am inspired by the courage of artists to take risks and even fail very publicly as a means of opening up new ways of seeing and engaging others in dialogue.

    So at the moment my thinking about this is taking me down the direction of a deep semantics of the art experience: if art’s unique role is to give us a way of articulating and reading something that we cannot express or understand through any other medium, then in the age of social media we can start to talk about art as platform, born of collaboration with the very audiences for whom the work is intended – as a radical form of social media.

    Similarly the curatorial role in an art context can take on a very particular inflection – something akin to opening up new ontologies for audiences, which requires both a certain expertise and authority, and a strong dialectic relationship with the museum’s audiences. In order to realize the power of the art object and experience, art interpretation needs to be about more than filling in gaps (in knowledge, in language) but also about opening up spaces in which new meanings can emerge…

    Perhaps these insights are also applicable outside of the fine arts field? I’d like to hear what the ThatCampers think!

  • [Session Bleg] Teaching Digital History/Humanities Methods?


    Hi folks. I’ve already proposed a session (on games and gaming and play – and I’ve chattered on about that subject this week at my own blog) and I don’t want to double-dip, but here is a request for a session I wouldn’t be qualified to lead myself, but one I’d certainly attend with interest if anyone else offered to lead it,  hint hint.

    Next fall I’ll be trying to fill the very big shoes of Bill Turkel, teaching our department’s grad seminar on digital history methods. I would love to steal from hear from anybody who has taught dedicated digital history or humanities courses, at any level, about their experiences, ideas, best practices, etc.

    See you soon!

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