Using Viewshare to Create and Share Interfaces to Collections

Creating and manipulating an interface to a digital collection is fundamentally an interpretive act. With Viewshare, a project I work on in my day job, the idea is that anyone who can create a spreadsheet also can create and share a dynamic online presentation of maps, timelines, charts and tag clouds that allows viewers to easily explore the rich information embedded in a collection. I thought I would use my first post as an opportunity to introduce everyone to this project. It is what I spend my days working on and it is my hope that participating in this group can help me further refine my thinking about what kinds of other features and refinements we should be thinking about bringing into the software.

If you want to try out the software you can visit the request an account page and the accounts folks will get you set up in short order.

I have included a set of slides I used to introduce the software to folks at the recent CurateGear conference. I have also included an embedded video of a recent workshop I ran on the software. I figured I would also include a set of background links on the project with some more targeted information.

Some Brief Background Reading on Viewshare

  1. Exploring and Sharing Community History Through Interface Design : A breif post walking through how a summer fellow was able to use Viewshare to create an interface to a collection of digitized photographs from Mississippi.
  2. ViewShare.org: Create and Share Interfaces to Our Digital Cultural Heritage: A post announcing the viewshare launch that also gives a nice walkthrough of what the software can do.
  3. Learning About Your Collections With Viewshare : A post in which I suggest the ways that one of the most potent values from the tool is actually the way it helps a curator, archivist, librarian or historian develop their own deeper understanding of their collection.

Viewshare Workshop Video

This video is of the Viewshare workshop from January 2012. The first ten minutes are an overview of some examples. The next twenty minutes is a start to finish walkthrough of using the software the remainder is Q & A. I don’t imagine that most of you will want to watch the whole thing, but if your even vaguely interested you can skip around in there a little and get a good handle of exactly what the tool can do.

CurateGear Viewshare Slides

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About Trevor Owens

I’m a digital archivist at the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the Library of Congress and a doctoral student at GMU. I’m interested in online communities, digital history, and video games. I blog for Play the Past. Views expressed are not those of any current or former employer.

One thought on “Using Viewshare to Create and Share Interfaces to Collections

  1. I was first introduced to ViewShare in a THATcamp workshop, a year or so ago. I was enormously impressed with the ease with which data could be uploaded and played with.

    On the ease of uploading: in addition to a range of formats especially useful to librarians, the thing eats comma-separated-values files. That means you can take data from an Excel spreadsheet, export it as a CSV file, and upload it to ViewShare. Or you can export a CSV file from many (though not all) museum database systems. Do that, and suddenly you have a powerful visualization system – and a shared one. You can understand your data, show it off, and let other folks play with it too.

    What do I mean be understand your data? ViewShare puts your data on maps, timelines, piecharts, and more. It’s pretty smart about this – the maps part is pretty magical. Even more important, it lets you look at subsets of your data. That’s what dynamic faceting means. You can take artifacts from one culture, and see what they have in common. You can take artifacts from one time, and see how they compare. Any category of data can be used to build subsets for analysis.

    The slides and models above show some of this. One thing museums and archives might find especially useful, for internal purposes, is better understanding collections. (Trevor mentions this at the end of the slide show.) Give ViewShare the collections database, and see where things are from, what time period, what culture, what material (I’m using anthropology museum data) and you can see strengths and weaknesses, see what areas need attention. That’s very useful internally, but also as a tool for explaining the collections to those who might be interested in using them. ViewShare can let you see the big picture by displaying it in many formats, in facets.

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