Image Sharing in America: A Foreign Researcher’s View

Sometimes it takes a visitor to help us understand ourselves more clearly. Merete Sanderhoff of the Danish national art museum is no Tocqueville (to be fair, who is?). But her new report to the Danish Agency for Culture is a good overview of “how digital media technologies, strategies, and platforms are being implemented in US cultural heritage institutions.” Here are the trends she highlights in the report, which is based on conversations with museum professionals in the United States (mostly from very large museums):

  • Sharing is caring: Open access creates more value
  • Use existing platforms and social media
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Mobile strategies
  • Strengthen in-house development teams
  • Online and print publication synergies

Learn more at What trends would you add to the list? Would a review based exclusively on history content — or focused on other kinds of institutions (libraries, archives, academic research centers) — look any different? Discuss.

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. 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

using common platforms to engage visitors

We are currently testing a few simple platforms in work to determine how we can use digital media to enhance exhibits or to create open access. In galleries we are using QR code to connect visitors to you-tube video or sound files which underscore objects on exhibit. We’ve put up about15 links. The thinking behind this is to use programs that visitors are already using. We think they would be more confident with this. So far there are two drawbacks. 1) You-Tube takes stuff down for copyright reasons. We used a film of Anton Karas playing the third Man theme to help visitors understand a guitar zither.

Apparently that is verboten. 2) The heavy masonry construction of our 1903 old courthouse museum building is hard on signal. Hot spots are hard to predict.

A current idea we have is to create a Facebook page for each exhibit where we want visitors to socially interact on the topic. Two we are looking at is a c1940 office vignette and a set of kitchen exhibits.


Using the Blog

Welcome to participants. For the time being I have this set up for all of you to register. Follow the steps below to get started.

How to register for the blog

  1. To get started please register for the blog.
  2. Once you have registered you will need to fill out your user profile.
  3. Lastly, set up a gravatar so that we can all see a picture of you.

How to sign up to post

  1. Go to this Google doc
  2. Pick at least two weeks that you would like to post to the blog on
  3. Put your name in the corresponding third box for the week you intend to blog for.

How to post to the blog

  1. Log in to your WordPress Administration Panel (Dashboard). You can find ours at
  2. Click the Posts tab.
  3. Click the Add New Sub Tab
  4. Start filling in the blanks. Say pithy and amazing things. Your post needs a title, and post content. Please include links and images as relevant.
  5. As needed, select a category, add tags, and make other selections from the sections below the post.
  6. When you are ready, click Publish.

Watch this screencast to see how this works in action. There is more information in the video.

Post comments here if you have trouble with this, or send emails to trevor dot johnowens at gmail dot com.

Hello world!

Welcome to Visualizing the Past, a blog for the NCPH working group exploring interfaces to cultural history. This blog is the point of contact for members of the working group to share ideas and work in the form of blog posts.

Here is a little background on the call for participants asked for a while back.

Digital cultural heritage collections include temporal, locative, and categorical information which is increasingly being tapped to build dynamic interfaces to these materials. These kinds of dynamic interfaces are increasingly what end users expect of their interactions with online content. There are now several software platforms, including SIMILE’s Exhibit, the Center for History and New Media’s Omeka, OCLC’s Content DM, as well as a range of commercial museum, library, and archive systems.

These kinds of tools are generating an unprecedented opportunity for historians, librarians, archivists, curators and the general public to create interactive and dynamic web experiences with digital cultural heritage collections.

Participants in this working group will discuss current projects in this space and also work to imagine the future of these kinds of interfaces. This will likely include:

  • Discussions of the possibilities of visualization platforms for cultural heritage collections
  • Worked examples of implementations of interfaces to digital cultural heritage collections
  • Proposed models for new interfaces based on work in other fields
  • Reports on software currently being developed to meet these needs
  • Critical analysis of specific implementations of online interfaces to digital collections
  • Ruminations on how these kinds of interfaces change and alter the process of historical storytelling
  • Analyses by users of cultural heritage data of their interactions with existing interfaces