Notes from the ARLIS/NA-MW Virtual Conference

On November 15th, ARLIS/NA-MW hosted the virtual conference Wide Angle: Perspectives on Visual + Media Arts Information. Here are some highlights from two of the talks that were presented.

Nicole Beatty, the Arts & Humanities Librarian at Weber State University, gave the presentation titled Digital Humanities: What is it and what does it mean for scholars and librarians? She noted that while the definition of what constitutes the Digital Humanities is still in flux, it is generally thought to refer to the use of a wide range of technologies to support research and education in the humanities. The technology used can include digitization, data visualization, geo-spatial mapping, cloud computing, social media, and more.

Some interesting examples of geo-spatial mapping include SFMOMA’s ArtScope and Mapping Gothic France. This blog shows some of the interesting possibilities when using data visualization to explore the collection of the Tate Galleries.

If you’re wondering where to find the tools for creating these projects, Beatty recommends Bamboo Dirt as a great place to start. This site lists a registry of digital research tools, and can help scholars find the software that fits their needs. If funding is an issue, as it often is, the National Endowment for the Humanities provides grants for those interested in pursuing projects in the digital humanities. We will likely see the number of projects in the digital humanities increase in the future, as Beatty explains that including these kinds of multi-media resources in instruction can help students to engage with the material in new ways.

Mapping Gothic France homepage
Mapping Gothic France homepage

Another presentation, titled From Commons to Open Content: New Perspectives on Visual Resources in the Public Trust, was given by Allana Mayer, MLIS Candidate from McGill University. She discussed the concept of Open Access, referring to content that may be used, reused and redistributed, often with certain restrictions.

One project Mayer discussed was the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr, a collection of images with no known copyright restrictions. The project started with 3,000 images, with 50 added every week, and approximately 75 institutions contributing since 2008. These images are suitable for reuse on websites and the like, but are not sufficiently high-quality to be used in a larger format. The Library of Congress invited Flickr users to tag and comment on photos, thereby learning more about images that formerly had little metadata associated with them. The project has stopped accepting new institutions, and is not currently expanding.

Another is the open content offered by the Rijksmuseum, which began with 125,000 images. These are high-quality images, but are offered under a non-commercial copyright restriction. The Rijksmuseum has also launched apps for creating content using their images. The Getty’s Open Content Program is another exciting recent initiative, with over 10,000 images available, requesting only that attribution be given to the Getty when an image is reproduced. NGA Images of The National Gallery of Art is a third excellent source of open access images, with over 29,000 images available for non-commercial use.

While there are legal issues to take into consideration when launching initiatives such as these, Mayer notes that many museum curators believe in the importance of sharing high-quality images of works of art with as wide an audience as possible.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Flickr Photostream
Library of Congress Flickr Photostream

The above links and more will be collected on ArLiSNAP’s pinterest page. For other useful links about digital humanities projects, follow our Technology pinboard; for open content links, have a look on the Open Access Images pinboard.

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