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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.

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.

"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.

Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence in an undated publicity photo

British Pathé just released an astounding 85,000 archival film clips on YouTube. Included are numerous clips of musical interest including great singers, instrumentalists, and conductors; music making in the home and community, musical oddities, and unique performances and venues. One clip that caught my attention today is of Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence making her first standing appearance after being stricken with polio (she's performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1947). Her story was memorably told in the Hollywood film based on her memoirs, Interrupted Melody, starring Eleanor Parker as Lawrence.

Each month we tackle some small changes to the library website. Following are some updates of note from March.

Sharing links to posts on social media now pulls the image from the post

When you link to a library blog post on social media, the image from the blog post will now display in your share. For example, you can see below how this blog post about Kurt Cobain shows up on Facebook when shared.

Facebook post showing a recent blog entry from the library website

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.

A stack of newspapers

Using a feed reader is a highly efficient and effective way of staying current on topics of interest, and easily sharing items with colleagues and friends.

RSS (Rich Site Summary, or Real Simple Syndication) is a mechanism by which a digital information source sends out links to newly added content. A feed reader lets me gather, organize, and edit these various streams of new content links in a single, user-friendly interface (I use Feedly).  When I subscribe to a feed, new content is automatically sent to my feed reader as soon as it is made available, 24/7.  Oh, and it’s free!

Open tape reel from Gerhard Samuel Collection, ARS.0049

During the fall of 2013, Stanford University Libraries (SUL) convened a working group to investigate the current state of access to audio and moving image materials held within its various collections, notably rare materials within its different special collections departments, along with those held at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives. 

Following many weeks of investigation, the Media Access Working Group (MAWG) produced a report in December 2013 outlining its findings, along with various recommendations to help tackle the issues discovered. The group considered issues relating to use cases, copyright status, available technologies - including media streaming, and content usage. 

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