Edited to incorporate suggestions from Wendy.

Wendy Gogel says says a few factors led to this proposal for a new service:

  • Preservation Services, Academic Technology Services, and Library Technology Services have gotten inquiries about online collection building for faculty, librarians and other staff.

  • We need to replace our aging online collection building tools: Virtual Collections and TED

  • We’ve been creating digital content for 15 years at Harvard, so now have a good foundation for combining and presenting collections in new ways. The new service would be called CURIOSity, and, as Wendy notes, it does not exist yet.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

The name comes from “cabinets of curiosities” [Wunderkammern], which were forerunners of modern museums. It also comes from “curios” as treasures.

CURIOSity is designed to enable the creation of web-based collection presentations and exhibits: to make an entire collection accessible through searching and browsing; to highlight a collection (or collections) through an exhibition of a limited number of things; to share a research project; or as a resource for a course. Features that users expect to see include: searching and browsing; refining results through faceting, descriptive text and thumbnails; narrative context and graphics. Additional desired features might include: geographic display of collections on a map, chronological display on a timeline; or user contributed data like annotations or tags. E.g., Stanford’s Bassi-Veratti Collection; the Shelley-Godwin Archive; and the Emily Dickinson collection. These are great collections, but they were not easy to create. Wouldn’t it help to have services that make it easier? Wendy points to the Interoperability wiki where the original notes about the proposal and key requirements are posted.

Based on the discussion at the meeting it is unlikely that a single software solution will solve all the needs, though each requires platform requires different skill sets. The group began by looking at Omeka, Exhibit 3, and Blacklight. Now they’re also looking at Shared Canvas. We can’t rely on having resources at hand for doing the required coding and metadata wrangling (converting from native formats). So, maybe we should have a sandbox for experimenting. Then Library Technical Services could provide software hosting.

The CURIOSity program could also evaluate new software packages and provide analyses and feature comparisons.

CURIOSity could provide integration services. It could harvest metadata, link to content in DRS, and provide tools and APIs.

Who would do the work? You need programmers and admins to set up the platform. We’d want to customize it to integrate it with Harvard info. E.g., we [the Interoperability Initiative] did a plugin for Omeka so that it can use distributed sources. Each collection needs to be customized. We could create designs specific to a department. For each collection, a curator has to manage the content, rights clearances, etc. There’s a lot of work, and this would take more than LTS!

Q&A; and Discussion

Q: A lot of it is about design. That’s half of how we spend our time.

Q: Aesthetics are expensive and change.

Q: How long do we expect these collections to live?

Q: There needs to be an easy way to get your metadata out.

Q: The metadata should be sustainable.

Q: What would be the first collection building software to support?

A: Probably Omeka, and we’re looking at the Spotlight plugin for Blacklight that makes it easier to use.