Update on Spotlight: The Stanford University Libraries exhibits platform

November 3, 2015
Gary Geisler

It’s been more than a year since we announced the completion of the first phase of development of Spotlight, an innovative solution that enables libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to build high-quality online exhibits from content in their digital collections. Spotlight was built to make it easier for library curators, as well as faculty or students to create customized, feature-rich and searchable websites from the vast digital collections held by the Stanford University Libraries.  The initial phase of development culminated in the first production exhibit built with Spotlight, Maps of Africa: An Online Exhibit. This online collection site was built primarily by SUL's Digital and Rare Maps Librarian, G. Salim Mohammed, with only minimal help from lbrary technical staff.

Based on this initial experience the Spotlight engineering team worked to add additional features and polish, and several SUL curators have since used the platform to build new exhibits to highlight SUL’s extraordinary digital collections. For example, Benjamin Stone, SUL Curator for American and British History, used Spotlight to create The Bob Fitch Photography Archive, a compelling introduction to a rich photography collection featuring iconic images of major figures of the Civil Rights Movement.

  Screen shot of Bob Fitch Photography Archive online exhibit

The most noticeable areas where Spotlight has been improved since its initial version include:

  • Stronger visual impact: Several features, including an image-based site masthead and several new page-composition widgets, make the exhibit site feel more inviting and bring the flavor of the collection to the forefront.
  • Easier to get started: Helpful placeholder content and additional wiki documentation make it easier for curators to start building an exhibit.
  • Optional import of non-repository items: While Spotlight is primarily intended to feature items that are in the Stanford Digital Repository, curators can now easily add items to an exhibit that are not in SDR.
  • More flexible widgets: Most of the page creation widgets that feature exhibit items now allow for optional headings and text, giving the curator more options and flexibility in the design of home, feature, and about pages.
  • Improved set up experience for developers: We’ve improved the project Readme and wiki pages to make it easier for developers new to Spotlight to set up the software at their institution and to contribute to the project codebase.

These improvements can be seen in the newest SUL exhibits:

Several more SUL exhibits are underway and we are also exploring the possibility of making Spotlight available to faculty and students for use in the production of online scholarly publications or to produce class projects based on SUL's digital holdings.  

Spotlight is open source software, of course, so we are also actively working with peer institutions from around the world to help them adopt Spotlight as an exhibits solution for their own digital collections. Several of these institutions have a goal of getting a Spotlight-built exhibit up and running by the end of 2015.

Our work on improving and extending Spotlight is far from complete. We’ve recently begun a new cycle of engineering work aimed at adding another handful of major features that will provide end-users with additional functionality and make it even easier for curators and others to create sites that highlight SUL's collections. Plans for our current work include adding:

  • Full-text search: For collections where items have indexable content (e.g., manuscripts with OCR text), the full text of those items will be searchable and the search results will provide basic hit highlighting.
  • Fielded search: Exhibit curators will have the option to enable end-users to restrict searching to curator-configured metadata fields.
  • Expanded options for object ingestion: We plan to offer curators a wider range of ways to populate an exhibit with items from other image hosting sources.  An important source of image content are image repositories that support the International Image Interoperability Framework.  Our plan is to make it possible to add any IIIF-compliant object or collectionthat is available on the web to a Spotlight exhibit.  
  • Support for non-image resources: Spotlight currently works well for image-oriented collections but we recognize the desire to create exhibits highlighting our many fine collections of audio, video, datasets, geospatial objects, and other non-image resources. We will continue to work to add support for these additional content types.  

Watch https://exhibits.stanford.edu to see new SUL exhibits as they are completed. You can also follow our development progress, or for the more adventurous, download and install the software, at http://github.com/sul-dlss/spotlight.

Send us feedback at exhibits-feedback@lists.stanford.edu.

Author

Gary Geisler

UX Designer