42 Articles
Medium 9781538101391

Rediscovering Physical Collections Through the Digital Archive: The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Rediscovering Physical Collections Through the Digital Archive

The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project

Kyle B. Roberts

Assistant Professor of Public History and New Media and Director, Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, kroberts2@luc.edu

AbstractHistoric library collections offer a rich and underexplored resource for teaching undergraduate and graduate students about new digital approaches, methodologies, and platforms. Their scope and scale can make them difficult to analyze in their physical form, but remediated onto a digital platform, they offer valuable insights into the process of archive creation and the importance of making their content available to audiences that cannot normally access it. The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (JLPP) was launched by students, faculty, and library professionals in 2014 to create an online archive of marks of ownership—bookplates, stamps, inscriptions—contained within books from the original library collection of St. Ignatius College, precursor to Loyola University Chicago. The project grew out of student work for a university museum exhibition commemorating the bi-centennial of the restoration of the Society of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits). Utilizing the popular social media image-sharing site Flickr, the JLPP seeks to foster a participatory community of students, scholars, collectors, and the broader public interested in the history of early and modern Catholic print and the intellectual framework and approach of 19th-century Jesuit education. Initially intended to provide students with the chance to learn how to conceptualize, plan, and build a digital archive, the JLPP has proven equally effective for teaching about digital scholarship, shared authority, and, rather unexpectedly, about the materiality of collections in the digital age

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Medium 9781538101391

Introduction to Focus Issue: Collections in a Digital Age

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Introduction to Focus Issue

Collections in a Digital Age
Lauren TiltonVisiting Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, LTilton@richmond.edu
Brent M. Rogers
Historian and Documentary Editor, The Joseph Smith Papers, brentrogers2121@gmail.comIn Spring 2015, a working group engaged in questions at the intersection of digital and public history at the annual National Council on Public History (NCPH) meeting held in Nashville, Tennessee. The vibrant discussion focused on the exciting and important ways by which public historians make digital, public history. Because a significant amount of work has centered on digitizing and augmenting historical archives, this special issue explores digital approaches to physical collections. Inflected by the contributors’ positioning in public history, the issue highlights how digital approaches are shaped by questions of access, audience, collaboration, interpretation, and materiality. From that discussion in Nashville arose another conversation to convey some of the practical challenges, decisions, applications, and opportunities as experienced by working group discussants. It seemed then, and with the collection of articles in this issue it is even more apparent that the lessons learned by working group discussants are widely applicable to practitioners of public history and digital history, and public, digital history.

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A Case for Digital Collections

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

A Case for Digital Collections
Sheila A. BrennanDirector of Strategic Initiatives and Research Associate Professor, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, sbrennan@gmu.eduVisitors to a “modern museum” in the late 19th and early 20th century found large glass cases filled with objects that encouraged them to look. According to Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, museums were considered educational places, because objects held inherent meaning and spoke through the art of curation. Curators carefully selected objects and appropriate cases to communicate meaning through arrangement, order, and appearance.1 Objects came from a museum’s eclectic collections that were the products of wealthy collectors’ personal tastes or evidence of empire building and conquest of nature, peoples, and places.Learning from things and making emotional connections with objects continues today inside museums and throughout popular culture. David Thelen and Roy Rosenzweig found in The Presence of the Past that many Americans trust the history they encounter in museums, and especially enjoy the opportunity to interpret objects on their own terms—even when many history museums mediate those experiences through exhibitions.2 On American reality television shows, such as American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Antiques Roadshow, objects found in barns, closets, and attics outshine the costars. Each object means one thing to its owner, and something different to its prospective buyer. Even antique shop owners, who rely on the consumer capitalist side of object collecting, talk openly about emotional connections to objects as a means for attracting customers, claiming, “You can feel the history in most items in the shop.”3 This intensely personal experience can also overshadow the power of these everyday objects to communicate multiple meanings.

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Medium 9781442277229

Introduction to Focus Issue: Collections and Belonging

Decker, Juilee Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Jennifer WayUniversity of North TexasElizabeth WeinfieldThe Graduate Center, City University of New York, and The Metropolitan Museum of ArtScholarship concerning belonging, possession, and dispossession historically has been associated with the social sciences. However, we aim to show here that these themes have long been foundational to the missions and practices of archives and museums, whether concerning collections comprised of artifacts or methods of display that feature an institution’s history or identity. Consequently, this issue inquires how archives and museums understand belonging in terms of acquisition, relationships with local communities, and collecting practices, and how these institutions participate in discourses of national identity.Our authors uncover stories about curators, donors, civic stewards, and artists. Situated across a wide swath of time and place, these subjects have a common enterprise: they aim not only to collect or possess information and artifacts but also to study the makers and communities associated with these objects to chart them in time, often as they endure some type of change. To this last point, belonging is treated as a “dynamic process, not a reified fixity,” occurring “in many different ways and to many different objects of attachments” (Yuval-Davis 2006, 199). This includes what Wood and Waite (2011) describe as geographies of belonging, or “the ways in which individuals negotiate multilayered, contested or competing senses of belonging which may occur at a range of different spatial scales” (201).

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Medium 9781442276147

Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Showcasing Collections from a Community Museum

Jennifer Morris

Archivist, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, morrisj@si.edu

Abstract Crowdsourcing cultural heritage materials presents opportunities and challenges for archives and museums. Successful engagement with collections through crowdsourcing initiatives requires mindful planning and careful selection of materials. This article presents the Anacostia Community Museum’s experience with the Smithsonian TC and details the museum’s efforts to gather and highlight additional data pertaining to its collection. After providing a brief history of the museum, the article describes the processes undertaken by the collections and curatorial staff for selecting projects, which were informed by exhibitions, reference services, and the museum’s mission. Next, the workflow and challenges faced by the museum are discussed before turning to recommendations for improvement.

In recent years, museums, archives, historic societies, and other repositories of cultural heritage began using their digitized collections to engage with the general public, special interest groups, and their core constituencies by means of crowdsourcing. Regardless of the methods employed by organizations—such as transcription, tagging, indexing, or identifying content—crowdsourcing initiatives present “a powerful platform for audience interaction with museums, offering truly deep and valuable engagement with cultural heritage” (Ridge 2013, 446). These projects offer opportunities for cultural heritage institutions to tackle backlogs, provide access to minimally processed collections, and increase discoverability of unique and rare resources (Zastrow 2014, 21). Some challenges for repositories considering crowdsourcing include implementing and maintaining a functional technological infrastructure, management of digital volunteers, and assuring the quality of the data being generated (Zastrow 2014, 23). Additionally, repositories may have a mismatch between the human capital, on the part of staff, to sustain a crowdsourcing initiative and how to meet institutional goals. The Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) considered these issues before deciding to become a participating unit in the Smithsonian Transcription Center (TC).

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