Making a Collection Count : A Holistic Approach to Library Collection Management - tibikimagi.ga
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Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Making a Collection Count , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Making a Collection Count. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. The sites of the Rijksmuseum and the Walker Art Centre , for example, emphasise browsing and visual exploration. However, these examples are the exception, rather than the rule; and in some cases generosity is only superficial.
The stakes here are high, because the interface plays an inescapable role in mediating digital heritage. Whether a command-line console or an immersive visualisation, these collections come to us in some specific, concrete form; and crucially, that form is constructed and contingent. It can always be otherwise.
As our cultural heritage is increasingly networked and digital, the life and use of that heritage will increasingly be conditioned by the forms in which it reaches us, how it is made concrete and available both for scholars and the wider public. As argued above, search-centred conventions offer meagre representational tools; while there are promising signs of a new generosity emerging, much more is possible.
To demonstrate and interrogate that potential, this paper documents applied research into generous interfaces for cultural collections. In order to frame the problem more thoroughly, it first draws together a range of practical precedents and related theory from fields spanning information retrieval, human-computer interaction, information visualisation and digital humanities.
This interdisciplinary terrain provides a useful framework, but also raises important tensions between the philosophical orientations of these fields; I argue finally for a humanistic model of interface and interaction that emphasises exploration and interpretation over task and information retrieval. I reflect on these projects as a designer and developer, and analyse them against the conceptual framework outlined earlier, offering practical strategies and critical injunctions for the creation of generous interfaces.
How did we come to be trapped in the search box; and do the limitations of search indicate richer alternatives? Search has a deep heritage in the history of computing, and especially the field of library and information science; it is deeply ingrained in the thinking and practices of digital collections, but equally its limitations have long been documented in the scholarship around information retrieval. Both of these questionable assumptions are directly relevant to digital cultural collections.
Yet despite its flaws, search has been so effective that other techniques have been largely neglected — at least in practice. Research suggests that for humanities scholars search is both ubiquitous and imperfect. Kemman and colleagues confirm the dominance of Google and keyword search for contemporary researchers [ Kemman et al. Browsing is the most prominent practical alternative to search, though in digital collections browse-based collection interfaces are typically impractical and uninspired: pages of alphabetised lists.
The literature on browsing develops a portrait of a complex, open-ended, embodied human experience, rather than the input-output exchange that characterises traditional information retrieval [ Rice et al. Researchers develop models of browsing with a number of relevant features. Browsing is an iterative process that entails scanning [ Rice et al. Browsing entails movement through a field of resources [ Rice et al. Where information retrieval is premised on a specific intention or question, browsing reflects broader and more complex motivations.
Browsing may be instrumental and purposeful, or intrinsically pleasurable; it may be cognitively or affectively rewarding, or both [ Rice et al. We may browse with or without a goal in mind, and goals may change as the process unfolds. Models of browsing tend to emphasise physical spaces and resources; similarly for humanities researchers, physical libraries seem to be favoured as browsable, serendipitous and enjoyable information spaces [ Rimmer et al.
Theorists of browsing offer some clues as to how browsing can be supported in digital environments. Overview is a zoomed out view of the whole collection; zoom and filter enable focus on a subset; detailed information on an item is displayed in its context maintaining orientation. Shneiderman emphasises information visualisation here, and his approach has been most influential in that field; in later work with Greene et al. In this formulation a preview for example a thumbnail image provides a surrogate for a single item; an overview provides a surrogate for a collection of items.
Given suitable data, we can break collections into intelligible aggregates or subsets, reveal relationships between these, and link these overviews to previews of collection items.
These points lead into important questions about the representation of digital cultural collections, to be taken up below. Why are we still, it seems, stuck in the search box? The reasons are beyond the scope of this paper, except to note that the practical work presented here is aimed squarely at this implementation gap — creating rich, browsable interfaces for large, real-world digital collections.
While this practical challenge is appealing, it also entails some theoretical issues. In applying techniques from information retrieval and visualisation to cultural material, this project must negotiate with a significant interdisciplinary boundary. Johanna Drucker poses the challenge clearly as she critiques the use of information visualisation within the digital humanities: bar charts and Google maps, she argues, constitute an epistemological Trojan horse [ Drucker ].
However those fields also suggest the seeds of alternative approaches, and these in turn, I suggest, offer ways forward for generous interfaces. The theorisations of browsing outlined above, for example, quickly exceed a narrow task focus; like Drucker, they recognise that browsing can be its own reward [ Rice et al. Information retrieval theorists recognise the paradoxical limits of explicit information; the inarticulate feeling of a query, an anomalous state of knowledge [ Belkin et al.
In other formulations such as exploratory search, outlined by Marchionini, information-seeking emerges as a complex, open-ended process, rather than a goal-oriented transaction [ Marchionini ]. More recent work develops this theme within IR and HCI into a more holistic and humanistic model of the information seeker. The information flaneur embodies this model, emphasising curiosity and pleasure while maintaining a critical and reflective stance. For the info-flaneur, immersion in complex information is an everyday experience; casual, ambient, and cultural, rather than need-driven and instrumental.
These contexts and precedents support a proposal for generous interfaces, and outline both the gap in practice it addresses and the multidisciplinary field it draws on. Yet digital collections do not support browsing well: Bates observed in that browse interfaces consisted mainly of lists, and little has changed [ Bates ]. Shneiderman, Greene and collaborators make essentially the same case for the value of visual exploration in digital collections, and offer concrete examples and techniques to that end [ Greene et al.
At the same time, humanistic models like the information flaneur suggest a productive interdisciplinary middle ground that builds on pragmatic approaches while also critically interrogating their performance. Reflective practice is a useful approach here because it occupies a similarly in-between site, shuttling between conceptualisation, practical production and analysis. In my experience the making of generous interfaces is not a neat implementation but a productive wrangling of digital materials, formal abstractions and conceptual concerns, as the following sections aim to show. Case Studies: Generous Interfaces in Practice 1.
Manly Images Manly Images is an experimental web interface for a collection of around historic images held by the Manly Public Library, in Sydney, Australia. The project was commissioned by the State Library of New South Wales to explore the potential for rich web interfaces for such collections, often held by local libraries. This collection documents the life of this local region through the 20th century: portraits of soldiers and council officials, street scenes and beach views, school sporting teams and real-estate advertising.
Manly Library makes the images available through a third-party interface that does little to convey the scope and character of the collection. The collection metadata is limited, but informative; all items have descriptive titles, most have dates often imprecise ; many have subject metadata. Given this collection, the central design challenge was overview: creating a rich but workably compact representation of the collection as a whole.
We adopted this approach in previous Java-based projects [ Whitelaw ] [ Hinton and Whitelaw ]; but here it was not technically let alone perceptually feasible to render all items in the web browser. Creating a navigable overview thus requires some kind of intermediate representation, a set of proxies that aggregate all items into a smaller number of appropriate clusters. Manly Images clusters the collection in two different dimensions, providing twin but complementary representations.
One set of clusters simply groups items by decade including a group for undated items ; the other uses a frequency analysis of terms in item titles, creating sets of items grouped around specific, characteristic terms. In my experience this experimental process of wrangling patchy and idiosyncratic metadata is characteristic in developing generous interfaces.
This clustered data provides the basis for the visual interface design. Groups of items become tiles in a browsable mosaic; each tile represents a cluster, and offers clues to — and previews of — the items it contains see Figure 1. Each tile is a visual composite; an overlay of synoptic features and specific contents. The size of each tile is related to the number of items in that cluster — a summative, quantitative representation. Tiles also show the key facet of that cluster; either most frequent title term, or decade. Hovering over a larger tile also reveals a deeper list of title terms synoptic qualitative features.
Finally each tile shows the actual images within its cluster, and these preview images gradually change so that each tile progressively reveals its contents. Thus the interface as a whole forms a slowly shifting mosaic, as if rotating a complex, multi-faceted object.
Making a Collection Count
In the terms of Greene et al, this is a heirarchical interleaving of preview and overview: at any moment each tile offers both a preview of a specific item, and an overview of the other items it contains. The mosaic as a whole forms a composite, higher-order overview, encoding collection structure and distribution while also revealing its visual character and texture. Selecting a tile opens a horizontal slider display for browsing items in that cluster, while maintaining the context of the mosaic interface and the sense of global orientation that it provides.
Australian Prints and Printmaking The Prints and Printmaking Collection of the National Gallery of Australia contains records of some 40, works by more than 4, artists. Launched in March , these interfaces appear on the main collection site as a prominent alternative to search. In this case the metadata is comprehensive, with highly structured relationships including detailed information on works and artists.
Digitised images are available for around half of the works in the collection. The structured data here enables two separate overview interfaces, each focusing on a different aspect of the collection.
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