CURIOSity for collections

[The next day: 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.

Awesome Box at PLA 2014. Thank you.

Thanks to everyone at PLA 2014 in Indianapolis for making the Awesome Box feel welcome. We learned some things about public libraries and got to share the Awesome Box with a lot of people.

orange-table blue-table

When we arrived at the exhibit hall it was a dash to get our booth setup. We tossed on the tablecloths, hung up our signage, and set up our sample books and boxes. We grabbed lunch and then began honing our carney-style Awesome Box pitch for the steady stream of library folk.

We pitched and pitched and pitched for two and half days. What a great way to get the selling points nailed down.


So many enthusiastic librarians, especially from Indiana, and so many helpful friends (Craig from Cambridge Public Library, Maura from IMLS, and Tim from LibraryThing). Oh, and thanks to TLC for giving us a ride to the airport.


Please connect if we didn’t get to chat,

Awesome Box at PLA next week

Anybody going to the Public Library Association conference next week?

Awesome Box will be there! We have a brand new look complete with stickers and bookmarks for folks who stop by and say hi.


new bookmark


AWESOME BOX stcker blue 1-01


We’re looking forward to meeting lots of new libraries and signing on more Awesome Box users.


We’ll be in booth 539.

Dan Cohen on the DPLA’s proposal to the FCC

I’ve posted a podcast interview with Dan Cohen, the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America about their proposal to the FCC.

The FCC is looking for ways to modernize the E-Rate program that has brought the Internet to libraries and schools. The DPLA is proposing DPLA Local, which will enable libraries to create online digital collections using the DPLA’s platform.

I’m excited about this for two reasons beyond the service it would provide.

First, it could be a first step toward providing cloud-based library services, instead of the proprietary, closed, expensive systems libraries typically use to manage their data. (Evergreen, I’m not talking about you, you open source scamp!)

Second, as libraries build their collections using DPLA Local, their metadata is likely to assume normalized forms, which means that we should get cross-collection discovery and semantic riches.

Here’s the proposal itself. And here’s where you can comment to the FCC about it.

Link roundup February 26, 2014

Marks for Books
Rugged bookmarks – Annie

Paramount Afraid Tweeted Stills Of ‘Top Gun’ Compete With Actual Movie
Top Gun tweeted frame by frame. Brilliant! – Matt Phillips

The Manual For Civilization Begins
If you built a library intended to be The Manual for Civilization, what would you include? – Matt Phillips

Portraits of librarians at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting
Portraits of librarians at American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in January – Matt Phillips

The Beer Fridge That Only Opens for Canadians
A beer fridge that only opens for Canadians. Next up, library beer fridges that only open for cardholders? – Annie

Bill Bonner: The Archivist of Photographic Memories
Take a tour of the National Geographic photo archives. Amazing old photos. – Matt Phillips

Why did you come to the library today? Participatory Display
Easy feedback from users, shared with the entire community – Annie

Link roundup February 17, 2014

56 Broken Kindle Screens
A print on demand paperback that consists of found photos depicting broken Kindle screens. – Matt Phillips

7 Hand Gestures That Make You Look Like a Real Intellectual
Glossary of hand gestures to make you look like an intellectual. Highlights at – Matt Phillips

A web app that makes your writing bold and clear by highlighting long, complex sentences and common errors. – Matt Phillips

The Magic Of Libraries
A video. Books. A bicycle. Pretty colors. Libraries. What’s not to like? – Matt Phillips

An air hockey bot made of 3D printer parts
Air hockey for lonely people – Annie

The Book Cover Archive
Book cover design appreciation – Annie

Crosswalk wait provides an opportunity for pedestrians to play Pong – Matt Phillips

Link roundup January 31, 2014

Sense and sensorbility: the book that lets you feel your protagonist’s pain
A book that helps you feel what the character is feeling through light, temperature, and a body compression system. – Matt Phillips

From Yoda to Darth Vader with LEGO Bricks
A Lego mural that shows Yoda from one angle and Darth Vader from the other – Annie

Interface, Exhibition & Artwork: Geocities, Deleted City and the Future of Interfaces to Digital Collections | The Signal: Digital Preservation
Wait, Stanford acquired 4chan’s archives? – jeff

Github Guides
An set of manuals for Github covering common usage Github patterns. – Matt Phillips

Game of Clones
How the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is fixing link rot – Matt Phillips

Harvard Library Staff Picks
In December 2013, Library staff members uploaded recommendations from their 19-million-volume collection. – Matt Phillips

The New York Times’ Most Popular Story of 2013 Was Not an Article
The most popular NY Times piece of 2013? A web application. – Matt Phillips

Link roundup January 14, 2014

Simple chat program using inaudible sounds and a computer’s microphone and speaker. – Matt Phillips

The Year in Kickstarter 2013
Year in Kickstarter 2013. A pretty cool promo that could inspire a similar Year in the Library – Annie

Canadian Company Build Functional Truck Out of Blocks of Ice
An actual working truck made of ice. Maybe a book drop made of ice is next? – Annie

Print Starts to Settle Into Its Niches –
it’s so good – jeff

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2014?
What could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2014? Under the law that existed until 1978, works from 1957. – Matt Phillips

TOP 10 libraries of 2013
Libraries are can be beautiful. Some examples in this top 10 list from 2013. – Matt Phillips

Soft Discipline and Open Libraries in Denmark
Surveillance is the cost of self-service. Open Libraries in Denmark. – Matt Phillips

Link roundup December 20, 2013

The CNN 10: Ideas –
CNN highlights emerging ideas in technology and related fields – Annie

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3
How did they do this?!? – jeff

NYPL | Children’s Books 2013
NPR best books of 2013 app, but for children’s books. – Matt Phillips

Book clusters produced “in the wild” at a public library. Documented through photography. – Matt Phillips

Rocky Morphology
Rocky Morphology analyzes the Rocky series in order to identify its key narrative elements. – Matt Phillips

Boston: Boston in Winter – a set on Flickr
Winter and holiday images from the Boston Public Library’s archive. – Matt Phillips

How to speak American
Harvard University Press delivers quirky treasures, in the form of digitla recordings, of our plainspoken language – Matt Phillips

Link roundup December 8, 2013

The Top 5 Reasons We’re Taking A Break From Lists
NPR best books of 2013, NOT a list. – Annie

A Backyard Library
If you don’t have enough room for all your books – Annie

Draw a Stickman
Seriously super cool interactive story – Annie

Smithsonian X 3D
autodesk – jeff

The Incredible Story Of Marion Stokes, Who Single-Handedly Taped 35 Years Of TV News
Marion Stokes built an archive of tv news, in her home, one tape at a time. The Internet Archive plans to share them. – Matt Phillips

Disruptions: A Digital Underworld Cloaked in Anonymity
You never know who you’ll bump into at your local library. – Matt Phillips

library card resin iphone 5 case
I don’t like phone cases, but if were going to buy one, this’d be it. – Matt Phillips