Online Digital Collections and Exhibits: libraries & museums

Though my expertise is in instruction and technology, I’ve recently been getting really interested in digital collections. (If you happen to look at my work website, you will have noticed the trend over there.) I’m not necessarily interested in becoming an expert in metadata standards or scanning procedures–though I’d like to know more. What I’m interested in is how we can repurpose the unusual or “hidden” works in libraries to connect them with a larger audience. I’m interested in what we can do to make them something that is sharable on bite-size sites like Facebook and Twitter, but also what we can do to contextualize them online and provide a bigger picture than just a traditional catalog of items with scans.

An entire portion of our field is working on this type of issue, but I haven’t found their blogs yet and I’m following the ones on Twitter that I can find.

Then, this morning, I read an article in the New York Times about the Silk Road exhibit at the Penn Museum. The article was really interesting to me, so I decided to check out the exhibit site (as I’m guessing many readers did). Here it is:

And though I love our field, even some of the best digital collections don’t have such a stunning presence. We had different somewhat different aims from museums, so I can see why we might have a different approach. But check out these three stellar examples from our field:

And then check out these few museum examples I turned up without even doing a thorough search:

And in many of those is an instructional design piece to help teachers/faculty think about how to incorporate the material into their class.

I obviously have a lot to learn. I don’t know a huge amount about digital collections. (But I do want to know more… anyone have any good primer links?) From the outside, though, it looks like there’s a lot to be learned on the user experience end of things from museums. It’s actually a nice parity. I’ve heard from some people and read in some places (though I can’t find the links) that museums have looked to libraries to learn about how to engage with their communities using social networks. Here might be a place where we could learn a bit as well.

And on anther note (that is somewhat related):

I’m preparing to attend THAT Camp Southeast in a few weeks with a few colleagues here at WFU. I’m really excited about it; I’ve been interested in digital humanities for some time now, and THAT Camp since I first learned about it. Part of what we’re hoping to get out of the conference is to learn more about how other institutions do digital humanities. From where I’m sitting now, it seems like digital humanities is still new enough to be wrestling out a definition. Sometimes I feel like I have a firm grasp on it. Other times, some parts of digital humanities looks a lot like digital collections in the library. Experts out there, am I reading that correctly?

Anyway, just a few thoughts (that have been cut and pasted from 750words) to start off a Tuesday…

4 thoughts on “Online Digital Collections and Exhibits: libraries & museums

  1. Our library has been advocating for our digital collections all year- the focus of our annual advocacy campaign. We’ve been featuring a collection of the month on our homepage and running no-stakes contests on our facebook page about the featured collection.

    Last month we also hosted a traveling exhibit that corresponded with our featured collection: http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/digilib/march/index.cfm

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