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Blacklight

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.

Spotlights in the Centre Ceramique, Maastricht

by Stu Snydman & Gary Geisler

The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) have a rich and diverse collection of digital content. Users can discover collections and content from the Stanford Digital Repository through the library website, library catalog (SearchWorks), and persistent citation (PURL) pages. SUL also develops robust, custom-built websites for selected  collections (see Parker on the Web and the French Revolution Digital Archive) that provide a rich discovery environment and a range of features that enable users to more effectively work with the collection items. But these sites require significant investment in time and development resources to produce and maintain, limiting the number and variety SUL can support.

This week, while things were otherwise quiet at Stanford due to Spring Break, 35 technologists from 20 institutions* descended upon Stanford for our annual library developers' (un)conference: LibDevConX, hosted by SUL's Digital Library Systems & Services group. For the fourth year in a row, the event brought together some of the best and brightest technical experts from different places with like concerns, to explore needs, common solutions, and learn from each others' innovations. This year, topics included: 

  • comparing media and digital asset management solutions
  • the latest features in Hydra 6
  • exploring Hydra-not-on-Fedora
  • what it would take to replace DSpace with a Hydra head
  • requirements for a robust digital exhibits engine
  • image interoperability
  • effective approaches to testing web front-ends
  • performance tuning for Ruby on Rails apps
  • successful recipes for devOps

The event site is online at http://lib.stanford.edu/ldcx4, and notes are being posted in GitHub at https://github.com/ldcx/ldcx-2013 Work on some of the many ideas generated at the event has already begun, and will be coming to a digital library system near you in the coming quarters. 

 

*CDL, Cornell, Columbia, Digital Curation Experts, the Danish Royal Library, Danish Technical University, Duke, the Getty Research Institute, Harvard, Indiana University, MIT, Notre Dame, NYU, Oregon State, Penn State, Princeton, the Southern California Chinese American Society, University of Virginia, and WGBH

 

We’re pleased to share the news of today’s official release of the Bassi Veratti digital collection website. A video highlighting the historical import of the project and resulting site can be viewed on youtube . A version with narration in Italian is also available via youtube.

The digital Bassi Veratti Collection was first conceived in 2010 through discussion between the Stanford University Libraries, the Biblioteca comunale dell’Archiginnasio di Bologna (Archiginnasio) and the Istituto per i Beni Artistici, Culturali e Naturali della Regione Emilia-Romagna (IBC) along with Stanford Professor of History, Paula Findlen. Its development was truly an international collaboration, with the Archiginnasio providing the archive itself, its inventory and expertise about the collection’s contents, history, and arrangement, and Stanford librarians, digital technology specialists and web application designers and engineers transforming the inventory into a digital finding aid, managing the digitization work from afar, and conceptualizing and creating the bilingual discovery and delivery interface. The IBC provided regular support for the initiative, thanks to considerable experience gained through international projects.

In the eighteenth century, Laura Bassi was a scientist, professor at the University of Bologna, and member of the Bologna Academy of Sciences. Among the very first female professional scholars, her life (1711 - 1778) and work can tell us much about the personal and professional lives of early women scientists, their place in Enlightenment intellectual networks, as well as the spread of Newtonian physics in the Italian peninsula. Stanford history professor Paula Findlen is currently completing a scholarly biography on Laura Bassi.

The Bassi Veratti Collection website features high-resolution digital images of the complete contents of the Bassi e famiglia Veratti Archive presented in a robust discovery and delivery environment. This remarkable project managed by the Digital Library Systems and Services department (DLSS) is notable for the extent of cooperation with colleagues in Bologna. A fully bilingual website, it showcases the fresh approach taken by DLSS engineers to use existing open source technologies in exposing this richly-described archival collection to researchers. 672 letters, diplomas, poems, and other documents have been digitized, while the detailed inventory created by Archiginnasio archivists has been transformed into a fully indexed search interface to the collection. These two components have been seamlessly united in an intuitive and well designed scholarly website.  For a full description of the technologies in use throughout the project and on the website, please refer to the technical summary on the site.

To celebrate the culmination of this important collaboration and the launch of the website, and to shine a spotlight on this remarkable woman on her 300th birthday, “The Papers of Laura Bassi and her Family: The Digitization of the Bassi Veratti Collection” will take place in Bologna on 20-21 March 2013. Findlen and University Librarian Michael Keller will be among the dignitaries and speakers participating.

The project was supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Marini Foundation, and Silicon Valley executive Guerrino de Luca (who serves on the Libraries Advisory Council). The contents of the digital Bassi Veratti archive will be permanently preserved in the Stanford Digital Repository.

 

Cathy Aster, Michael Olson and Sarah Sussman (SUL Curator of French and Italian) were invited by ATS colleague Nicole Coleman to a Stanford Digital Humanities & Design workshop, "Early Modern Times & Networks" where they presented a summary of the Bassi-Veratti project on 24 August 2012.  They led a discussion focused on the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) XML encoding of the finding aid to facilitate discovery of digitized content in the web delivery environment being built by DLSS engineers, scheduled for release in March 2013.  The session was well-attended by several post-doctoral students, including a group from Milan.  The Milan team shared their current research project, consisting of a customizable, online data visualization environment with numerous API's.  The SUL and Humanities workshop teams discussed the challenges of normalizing and interpreting heterogeneous metadata sources and schemas for scholarly research purposes.

Last week Stanford open sourced the code responsible for the Nearby on Shelf feature in SearchWorks as the Blacklight Browse Nearby gem.  This feature has been highly sought after by various Blacklight institutions to be contributed back to the community.  In keeping with the spirit of the vibrant open source community around Blacklight, Stanford has contributed the development effort to get this codebase available for use and contribution by other Blacklight implementers.

The release of this software was the culmination of a re-write of the SearchWorks code making it an installable package, more generalizable, and suitable in an open source context.  Due to that fact, the end product is much more generic that SearchWorks'  version (as you can see in the side-by-side screenshots below with SearchWorks being on the right) however it is infinitely more customizable.