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Screen shot of Maps of Africa exhibit front page

The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) is pleased to announce the release of Spotlight, an innovative solution that enables libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to build online exhibits from content in their repositories to better highlight their digital collections.

Spotlight is a plugin for Blacklight, which is a popular open source solution for building library discovery environments.  Spotlight enhances Blacklight by providing a self-service forms-based user interface that allows exhibit-builders, such as librarians or faculty, to customize the search interface and homepage, and to build media-rich feature pages to better contextualize their collections. 

Stanford first announced the development of Spotlight in early February of 2014, following a months long process of design and community outreach to validate the need for such a solution in the digital library community and obtain feedback on our approach.  This was followed by a twelve-week cycle of software development that has culminated in the release of Spotlight version 0.1.0, available as open source software on Github.

This first release of Spotlight is best suited to featuring digitized still image collections.  The first production exhibit built with Spotlight was recently completed by SUL's Digital and Rare Maps Librarian, and features a spectacular set of digitized maps of Africa.  A brief video tour of this first online exhibit can be viewed on YouTube.


Spotlight enables an exhibit builder to heavily customize many elements of the user experience, and to build rich feature and about pages to give viewers a deeper understanding of the collection and its items.  This YouTube video gives a tour of Spotlight from the exhibit-builder's perspective, and demonstrates many of the available customization features.


The 0.1.0 release of Spotlight is only the beginning.  Our goal at Stanford is to work with library staff and content experts to build several more sites in the coming months as a way to user-test the software, identify bugs and enhancement opportunities, and most importantly to begin exposing more of Stanford Libraries' rich image resources.  We are also working with peer institutions to adopt and test this first version with the intention that Spotlight will grow as a community supported, open-source solution. We encourage you to download it, give it a try, and send us feedback.

And certainly the engineering work is far from complete.  There is a backlog of issues to address and several areas we have identified for future development:

  • Selection and indexing : the tools and workflow for adding new content to a Spotlight index and updating metadata as it changes in the repository. 
  • Support for more content types : Spotlight currently supports digital still image collections, and we hope to add support for audio, video, PDF, datasets, geospatial objects, web archives and more.  
  • Theming : the ability for builders to choose from multiple visual themes to apply to an exhibit or collection, and to add custom header images and branding. 
  • Repository integration : currently, a Spotlight exhibit can be built on top of any Solr index. Work has begun to more easily create new Spotlight indexes directly from digital repository systems, and to save exhibit-specific metadata and supporting content into repositories. OUr initial integration efforts are focussed on the Fedora repository system, but we hope integration with other platforms will follow.  

Spotlight is being built by an exceptionally talented group of engineers in the Digital Library Systems and Services division of SUL, with support from the software engineering firm Data Curation Experts (DCE).  The team includes Gary Geisler, Chris Beer, Jessie Keck, Jack Reed and Christopher Jesudurai (all from Stanford), and Justin Coyne from DCE.

Follow our progress, or better yet download and install the software at http://github.com/sul-dlss/spotlight.

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

Black Flag poster

Our blog series highlighting new materials deposited to the Stanford Digital Repository has been on a quasi-hiatus for the last few months. But don't let the quiet fool you: deposit activity in the SDR has been stronger than ever!  In this catch-up post, we draw attention to some of the most exciting items and collections added to the SDR recently. Also keep your eyes open for more Deposit of the Week posts throughout the summer! A number of SUL staffers have been working hard to build digital collections of current work by Stanford students and faculty through the use of the SDR Online Deposit application, and they are going to tell you all about it.

logo of the International Internet Preservation Consortium

Web archivists Ahmed AlSum and Nicholas Taylor and LOCKSS Chief Scientist David Rosenthal recently attended the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) General Assembly, an annual meeting of national libraries, research universities, non-profits, and service providers engaged in web archiving. This was the first General Assembly we all attended since Stanford University Libraries (SUL) joined the IIPC, though we had all previously attended meetings under the auspices of other organizations.

Niels Brügger's closing remarks best captured the emergent theme of the meeting: how can we best serve researchers, broadly construed? The word clouds on the fourth and fifth slides of his presentation (PPT) helped to visualize how the focus of the international web archiving community has shifted over the past decade.

In keeping with the emphasis on understanding how web archives are being used, the open day (PDF) consisted of presentations by researchers working with historical web content. Some examples included an initiative to create distributed web science research centers (PPT), the user demographics of shuddering consumer web services (PDF), the proferring of web archive datasets on cloud infrastructure (PPT), and an architecture for archiving of cited web addresses in scholarly publications deposited into a repository.

The presentations and discussions from the member-only days (PDF) have not been systematically gathered, but some are available. There were discussions about collaborative or, at least, mutually-informed collection development; models of close collaboration between researchers and web archiving organizations; exchanging of best practices for full-text indexing; and updates on the OpenWayback collaborative development effort.

The last day-and-a-half were open workshops (PDF) on topics including crawl engineering, the web archiving tool landscape, the role and responsibilities of curators, and novel crawler architectures for capturing dynamic content or facilitating creation of precise corpora through interactive archiving. I co-organized the Curator Tools Fair (PDF) with Abbie Grotke and presented on strategic web archive collection development.

SUL will be assuming an increasing role in the IIPC in the coming year. I have stepped up as co-lead of the Access Working Group along with Daniel Gomes; we will continue to contribute to a technical proposal for profiling of web archives to enable scalable Memento aggregation, and we are exploring co-hosting the next General Assembly in the San Francisco Bay Area in collaboration with California Digital Library and Internet Archive.

Stay-at-home husbands and how to manage them

In April and May, approximately 570,000 new files representing around 1700 new items were accessioned into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). These materials include -- but are not limited to -- items from the Caricatures of Black Americans collection, the People's Computer Company, and the Jarndyce collection.

Image of Allen Ginsberg Papers Cassette

One of the remarkable things about large digitization projects is that not just formal events are preserved but also informal events are preserved for future access. As a matter of process the Stanford Media Preservation Lab takes part in the preservation of media that captures these special informal events.  Recently while working on a portion of the Allen Ginsberg papers many recordings were digitized but (at least) two recordings were re-formatted that informally capture his friendships with other important 20th century figures.

Cover Image of People's Computer Company

If you were a student in Professor Fred Turner’s recent communications class, you’ve already seen a few issues of newsletters of the People's Computer Company.  If not, check out these publications documenting the progress of early computing in the 1970’s, available for the first time in digital form.

The People’s  Computer Company, or PCC, launched its first issue with the bold statement “Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people; used to control people instead of to free them; Time to change all that - we need a... Peoples Computer Company."    The publication focused on sharing code, mostly for games, that readers could then input into their own computers. The users could then tinker and learn from the freely given and non-copyrighted code.  PCC was among the first contributors to what we call today network neutrality – a particular topic of interest in the current day.

The Homebrew Computer Club began meeting in a garage in Menlo park in 1975, begun by Gorden French and Fred Moore who were interested in having a forum where people could get together and work on making computers more accessible to the public.  Most members were hobbyists with backgrounds in electronic engineering or computer programming; notable members include founders of different microcomputer companies - Steve Wozniak (who credits the first meeting as the inspiration for designing the Apple I), Harry Garland, and Roger Melen among others.   A fictionalized version of the Homebrew Computer Club was featured in the 1999 television movie Pirates of Silicon Valley describing the club’s role in creating the first personal computers.

Check out these issues for yourself!

People’s Computer Company
http://purl.stanford.edu/ht121fv8052
http://purl.stanford.edu/xy386kd9876


Homebrew Computer Club
http://purl.stanford.edu/cy450kg9679

Corn, by Flickr user spakattacks CC BY-2.0

Climate change is all over the news these days, and when a report in the journal Science indicates potential impacts on the future of food production in the US, people sit up and take notice.

David Lobell, associate professor of environmental Earth system science and associate director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, led a team that analyzed data on corn and soybean production along with daily weather data in actual fields in the Midwestern United States.

The large dataset of crop and weather information compiled for these studies is now available for download from the Stanford Digital Repository. It's great that the accumulated effort this data set represents is now preserved and available for other scientists to use!

"Material" (under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Congressional campaign websites are valuable primary source material for historians, social scientists, and the public to better understand the evolution of political communication in the Web era. Campaign websites also afford unique opportunities for the mass collection of materials that would have been previously difficult to acquire outside of the candidate's district. While it is a truism that the Web is constantly changing and broken links are an inevitable outcome, campaign websites are predictably ephemeral given their time-limited purpose.

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