Category Archives: Digital Exhibits

Woman: The World Over

An amazing collection of lantern slides depicting women from nations around the world. At first glance, the women in these portraits seem like other portraits of the time, generally nondescript portraits of people at some random moment in time.  But upon closer inspection, and with the use of an accompanying lecture booklet, a much deeper picture is painted of the lives of these women.

Women: The World Over is a commercially-produced set of slides created by the European firm Riley Brothers in Bradford, England in 1901 that boasts a catalogue of 1,500 slide sets for sale or hire with lecture-format captions. These slides include women of different classes, working in agricultural, service, and industrial settings with lecture notes that refer to problematic social conditions for women, particularly regarding marriage, and changing social norms as the 20th century begins.

These lantern slides are part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a large collection with a common thread of revealing the often hidden role of women working and being productive throughout history.  The slides  will be a part of the exhibition, 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection on display from March 5-June 15, 2019 in the Biddle Rare Book Room, Stone Family Gallery, and History of Medicine Room.

Included with the images below are transcriptions from the lecture booklet that accompanies this set of slides and contain views of the time and the author’s opinion.

“Arab women. Here we have some city Arab women coming from the well. These women are always veiled in public, the long black veil extending from their eyes down to their waist, and sometimes to their feet. Between their eyes, and stretching upwards to their foreheads, is a curious brass ornament resembling three stout thimbles, one on top of another. This serves a double purpose­ to act as an ornament, and to still further conceal the features. The rest of the figure is enveloped in a long gown with very wide sleeves. No one can fail to be struck with the upright walk of the women in Egypt, and some say it is due to their habit of carrying heavy weights on their heads, which renders it necessary to walk very erect and firmly.”
“Market Women, Madeira. We are now in sunny Madeira, where a group of market women await our notice. The streets of Funchal are always bright and busy. Sledges laden with sugar cane, barrels of wine or luggage, and drawn by oxen, dispute the road with hammock bearers and porters of all descriptions. But the gaily dressed women and girls who hasten about with heavy loads upon their backs, and with bright coloured handkerchiefs upon their heads, are the most interesting sight. Baskets of fruit and vegetables are their commonest burdens, and very picturesque the groups look, whether they are standing at the street corner discussing the rise and fall in prices, or seated upon the ground as in the present instance, or walking slowly homewards in the cool of the day. They are a pleasant folk, and live a life of comparative freedom and pleasure.”
“Hulling Rice in the Philippines. Here we have come across some Philippine women engaged in hulling rice. There are immense rice fields in all parts of the island which give employment to thousands of people. Rice is their staple food and the home product is not yet sufficient for the home consumption. A family of five persons will consume about 250 lbs. of rice per month. No rice husking or winnowing machines are in use, save small ones for domestic purposes The grain is usually husked in a large hard-wood mortar, where it is beaten with a pestle, several women, and sometimes men working over one mortar.”
“Haymaking in Russian. Then we all know that woman from the earliest recorded times has been employed in harvest operations, and has been at home in the field of peace. This seems fitting work for women, and work which she seems always willing to undertake.
The picture introduces us to a Russian haymaker, whose garment is of the most striking colours, and whose frame is built for hard work. The Russian peasantry of her class are a cheerful and contented folk, courteous to strangers, but not too friendly to soap the water.”

All 48 slides and the accompanying booklet will be published on the Digital Collections website later this year, included in the exhibit mentioned above and will also be traveling to the Grolier Club in New York city in December of 2019.  Keep an eye out for them!

 

Catalog Record: https://search.library.duke.edu/search?id=DUKE008113723

Finding Aid: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/womantheworldover/

Yasak/Banned Kiosk

Recently I worked on a simple kiosk for a new exhibit in the library, Yasak/Banned: Political Cartoons from Late Ottoman and Republican Turkey. The interface presents users with three videos featuring the curators of the exhibit that explain the historical context and significance of the items in the exhibit space. We also included a looping background video that highlights many of the illustrations from the exhibit and plays examples of Turkish music to help envelop visitors into the overall experience.

With some of the things I’ve built in the past, I would setup different section of an interface to view videos, but in this case I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. My plan was to open each video in an overlay using fancybox. However, I didn’t want the looping background audio to interfere with the curator videos. We also needed to include a ‘play/pause’ button to turn off the background music in case there was something going on in the exhibit space. And I wanted all these transitions to be as smooth as possible so that the experience wouldn’t be jarring. What seemed reasonably simple on the surface proved a little more difficult than I thought.

After trying a few different approaches with limited success, as usual stackoverflow revealed a promising direction to go in — the key turned out to be the .animate jQuery method.

The first step was to write functions to ‘play/pause’ – even though in this case we’d let the background video continue to play and only lower the volume to zero. The playVid function sets the volume to 0, then animates it back up to 100% over three seconds. pauseVid does the inverse, but more quickly.

function playVid() {
  vid.volume = 0;
  $('#myVideo').animate({
    volume: 1
  }, 3000); // 3 seconds
  playBtn.style.display = 'none';
  pauseBtn.style.display = 'block';
}

function pauseVid() {
  // really just fading out music
  vid.volume = 1;
  $('#myVideo').animate({
    volume: 0
  }, 750); // .75 seconds

  playBtn.style.display = 'block';
  pauseBtn.style.display = 'none';
}

The play and pause buttons, which are positioned on top of each other using CSS, are set to display or hide in the functions above. The are also set to call the appropriate function using an onclick event. Their markup looks like this:

<button onclick="playVid()" type="button" id="play-btn">Play</button>
<button onclick="pauseVid()" type="button" id="pause-btn">Pause</button>

Next I added an onclick event calling our pause function to the link that opens our fancybox window with the video in it, like so:

<a data-fancybox-type="iframe" href="https://my-video-url" onclick="pauseVid();"><img src="the-video-thumbnail" /></a>

And finally I used the fancybox callback afterClose to ramp up the background video volume over three seconds:

afterClose: function () {
  vid.volume = 0;
  $('#myVideo').animate({
    volume: 1
  }, 3000);
  playBtn.style.display = 'none';
  pauseBtn.style.display = 'block';
},

play/pause demo
play/pause demo

You can view a demo version and download a zip of the assets in case it’s helpful. I think the final product works really well and I’ll likely use a similar implementation in future projects.

Digitizing for Exhibits

While most of my Bitstreams posts have focused on my work preserving and archiving audio collections, my job responsibilities also include digitizing materials for display in Duke University Libraries Exhibits.  The recent renovation and expansion of the Perkins Library entrance and the Rubenstein Library have opened up significantly more gallery space, meaning more exhibits being rotated through at a faster pace.

gallery2

Just in the past year, I’ve created digital images for exhibits on Vesalius’s study of human anatomy, William Gedney’s photographs, Duke Chapel’s stained glass windows, and the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic.  I also worked with a wide range of materials spanning “books, manuscripts, photographs, recordings and artifacts that document human aspirations” for the Dreamers and Dissenters exhibit celebrating the reopening of the newly renovated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  The digital images are used to create enlargements and facsimiles for the physical exhibits and are also used in the online “virtual exhibits.”

 

Working with such a variety of media spanning different library collections presents a number of challenges and necessitates working closely with our Exhibits and Conservation departments.  First, we have to make sure that we have all of the items listed in the inventory provided by the exhibit curator.  Secondly, we have to make sure we have all of the relevant information about how each item should be digitally captured (e.g. What image resolution and file specifications?  Which pages from a larger volume?  What section of a larger map or print?)  Next we have to consider handling for items that are in fragile condition and need special attention.  Finally, we use all of this information to determine which scanner, camera, or A/V deck is appropriate for each item and what the most efficient order to capture them in is.

All of this planning and preliminary work helps to ensure that the digitization process goes smoothly and that most questions and irregularities have already been addressed.  Even so, there are always issues that come up forcing us to improvise creative solutions.  For instance:  how to level and stabilize a large, fragile folded map that is tipped into a volume with tight binding?  How to assemble a seamless composite image of an extremely large poster that has to be photographed in multiple sections?  How to minimize glare and reflection from glossy photos that are cupped from age?  I won’t give away all of our secrets here, but I’ll provide a couple examples from the Duke Chapel exhibit that is currently on display in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family gallery.

angel

This facsimile of a drawing for one of the Chapel’s carved angels was reproduced from an original architectural blueprint.  It came to us as a large and tightly rolled blueprint–so large, in fact, that we had to add a piece of plywood to our usual camera work surface to accommodate it.  We then strategically placed weights around the blueprint to keep it flattened while not obscuring the section with the drawing.  The paper was still slightly wrinkled and buckled in places (which can lead to uneven color and lighting in the resulting digital image) but fortunately the already mottled complexion of the blueprint material made it impossible to notice these imperfections.

projection

These projected images of the Chapel’s stained glass were reproduced from slides taken by a student in 1983 and currently housed in the University Archives.  After the first run through our slide scanner, the digital images looked okay on screen, but were noticeably blurry when enlarged.  Further investigation of the slides revealed an additional clear plastic protective housing which we were able to carefully remove.  Without this extra refractive layer, the digital images were noticeably sharper and more vibrant.

Despite the digitization challenges, it is satisfying to see these otherwise hidden treasures being displayed and enjoyed in places that students, staff, and visitors pass through everyday–and knowing that we played a small part in contributing to the finished product!

 

Chapel Exhibit

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on content for a new exhibit in the library; An Iconic Identity: Stories and Voices of Duke University Chapel. I’d like to share what we created and how they were built.

Chapel Kiosk

The exhibit is installed in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family Gallery near the main entrance to the library. There are many exhibit cases filled with interesting items relating to the history of Duke Chapel. A touchscreen lenovo all-in-one computer is installed in the corner and runs a fullscreen version of Chrome containing an interface built in HTML. The interface encourages users to view six different videos and also listen to recordings of sermons given by some famous people over the years (including Desmond Tutu, Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., and Billy Graham) – these clips were pulled from our Duke Chapel Recordings digital collection. Here are some screenshots of the interface:

chapel-kiosk-1
Home screen
Detail of audio files interface
Playing audio clips
Video player interface
Playing a video

Carillon Video

One of the videos featured in the kiosk captures the University Carillonneur playing a short introduction, striking the bells to mark the time, and then another short piece. I was very fortunate to be able to go up into the bell tower and record J. Samuel Hammond  playing this unique instrument.  I had no idea as to the physicality involved and listening to the bells so close was really interesting. Here’s the final version of the video:

Chapel Windows

Another space in the physical exhibit features a projection of ten different stained glass windows from the chapel. Each window scrolls slowly up and down, then cycles to the next one. This was accomplished using CSS keyframes and my favorite image transition plugin, jquery cycle2. Here’s a general idea of how it looks, only sped up for web consumption:

looping_window

Here’s a grouping of three of my favorite windows from the bunch:
windows

The exhibit will be on display until June 19 – please swing by and check it out!

FY15: A Year in Digital Projects

We experience a number of different cycles in the Digital Projects and Production Services Department (DPPS). There is of course the project lifecycle, that mysterious abstraction by which we try to find commonalities in work processes that can seem unique for every case. We follow the academic calendar, learn our fate through the annual budget cycle, and attend weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.

The annual reporting cycle at Duke University Libraries usually falls to departments in August, with those reports informing a master library report completed later. Because of the activities and commitments around the opening of the Rubenstein Library, the departments were let off the hook for their individual reports this year. Nevertheless, I thought I would use my turn in the Bitstreams rotation to review some highlights from our 2014-15 cycle.

Loads of accomplishments after the jump …

Continue reading FY15: A Year in Digital Projects

Inspiration from Italy

One project we’ve been working on recently in the Digital Projects Department is a revamped Library Exhibits website that will launch in concert with the opening of the newly renovated Rubenstein Library in August. The interface is going to focus on highlighting the exhibit spaces, items, and related events. Here’s a mockup of where we hope to be shortly:

Exhibits Teaser

On a somewhat related note, I recently traveled to Italy and was able to spend an afternoon at the Venice Biennale, which is an international contemporary art show that takes place every other year. Participating artists install their work across nearly 90 pavilions and there’s also a central gallery space for countries that don’t have their own buildings. It’s really an impressive amount of work to wander through in a single day and I wasn’t able to see everything, but many of the works I did see was amazing. Three exhibits in particular were striking to me.

Garden of Eden

The first I’ll highlight is the work of Joana Vasconcelos, titled Il Giardino dell’Eden, which was housed in a silver tent of a building from one of the event sponsors, Swatch (the watch company). As I entered I was immediately met with a dark and cool space, which was fantastic on this particularly hot and humid day. The room was filled with an installation of glowing fiber optic flowers that pulsated with different patterns of color. It was beautiful and super engaging. I spent a long time wandering through the pathway trying to take it all in.

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Autonomous Trees

Another engrossing installation was housed in the French Pavilion; Revolutions by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. I walked into a large white room where a tree with a large exposed rootball was sitting off to the side. There were deep meditative tones being projected from somewhere close by. I noticed people were lounging in the wings of the space, so I wandered over to check it out for myself. What looked like a wooden bleacher of sorts actually turned out to be made of some sort of painted foam. So as I stumbled and laughed when I tried to first walk on it, like many others who came into the space later, I plopped down to soak in the exhibit. I noticed the deep tones were subtly rhythmic and they definitely gave off a meditative vibe, so it was nice to relax a bit after a long day of walking. But then I noticed the large tree was not where it had been when I first entered the room. It was moving, but very slowly. Utterly interesting. It almost seemed to levitate. I’d really like to know how it worked (there were also two more trees outside the pavilion that moved in the same way). Overall it was a fantastic experience.

Red Sea of Keys

My favorite installation was in the Japanese Pavilion; The Key in the Hand by Chiharu Shiota. The space was filled with an almost incomprehensible number of keys dangling from entangled red yarn suspended from the ceiling of the room. There were also a few small boats positioned around the space. My first instinct was that I was standing underneath a red sea. It’s really hard to describe just how much ‘red’ there actually is in the space. The intricacy of the threads and the uniqueness of almost every key I looked at was simply mind blowing. I think my favorite part of the exhibit was nestled in a corner of the room where an iPad sat looping a time compressed video of the installation of the work. It was uniquely satisfying to watch it play out and come together over and over. I’m not sure how to tap into that experience for exhibits in the library, but it’s something we can certainly aim for!

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

Assembling the Game of Stones

Back in October, Molly detailed DigEx’s work on creating an exhibit for the Link Media Wall. We’ve finally finalized our content and hope to have the new exhibit published to the large display in the next week or two. I’d like to detail how this thing is actually put together.

HTML Code

In our planning meetings the super group talked about a few different approaches for how to start. We considered using a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, Four Winds (our institutional digital signage software), or potentially rolling our own system. In the end though, I decided to build using super basic HTML / CSS / Javascript. After the group was happy with the design, I built a simple page page framework to match our desired output of 3840 x 1080 pixels. And when I mean simple, I mean simple.

got_assembly

I broke the content chunks into five main sections: the masthead (which holds the branding), the navigation (which highlights the current section and construction period), the map (which shows the location of the buildings), the thumbnail (which shows the completed building and adds some descriptive text), and the images (which houses a set of cross-fading historic photos illustrating the progression of construction). Working with a fixed-pixel layout feels strange in the modern world of web development, but it’s quick and satisfying to crank out. I’m using the jQuery Cycle plugin to transition the images, which is lightweight and offers lots of configurable options. I also created a transparent PNG file containing a gradient that fades to the background color which overlays the rotating images.

Another part of the puzzle I wrestled with was how to transition from one section of the exhibit to another. I thought about housing all of the content on a single page and using some JS to move from one to the next, but I was a little worried about performance so I again opted for the super simple solution. Each page has a meta refresh in the header set to the number of seconds that it takes to cycle through the corresponding set of images and with a destination of the next section of the exhibit. It’s a little clunky in execution and I would probably try something more elegant next time, but it’s solid and it works.

Here’s a preview of the exhibit cycling through all of the content. It’s been time compressed – the actual exhibit will take about ten minutes to play through.

In a lot of ways this exhibit is an experiment in both process and form, and I’m looking forward to seeing how our vision translates to the Media Wall space. Using such simple code means that if there are any problems, we can quickly make changes. I’m also looking forward to working on future exhibits and helping to highlight the amazing items in our collections.

A Digital Exhibits Epic Saga: Game of Stones

A screen from the Queering Duke History exhibit kiosk, just one of the ways DigEx supports library exhibits.

Just under a year ago Duke University Libraries formed the Digital Exhibits Working Group (DigEx) to provide vision, consulting expertise, and hands-on support to the wide array of projects and initiatives related to gallery exhibits, web exhibits, data visualizations, digital collections, and digital signage.  Membership in the group is as cross-departmental as the projects they support. With representatives from Data and Visualization, Digital Projects and Production Services, Digital Scholarship Services, Communications, Exhibits, Core Services and the Rubenstein Library, every meeting is a vibrant mix of people, ideas and agenda items.

The group has taken on a number of ambitious projects; one of which is to identify and understand digital exhibits publishing platforms in the library (we are talking about screens here).   Since April, a sub-committee – or “super committee” as we like to call ourselves – of DigEx members have been meeting to curate a digital exhibit for the Link Media Wall.  DigEx members have anecdotal evidence that our colleagues want to program content for the wall, but have not been able to successfully do so in the past.  DigEx super committee to the rescue!

The Link super committee started meeting in April, and at first we thought our goals were simple and clear.  In curating an exhibit for the link wall we wanted to create a process and template for other colleagues to follow.  We quickly chose an exhibit topic: the construction of West Campus in 1927-1932 told through the University Archive’s construction photography digital collection and Flickr feed.  The topic is both relevant given all the West campus construction happening currently, and would allow us to tell a visually compelling story with both digitized historic photographs and opportunities for visualizations (maps, timelines, etc).

Test stone wall created by University to select the stones for our Gothic campus.
Test stone wall created by University to select the stones for our Gothic campus (1925).

Our first challenge arose with the idea of templating.  Talking through ideas and our own experiences, we realized that creating a design template would hinder creative efforts and could potentially lead to an unattractive visual experience for our patrons.  Think Microsoft PowerPoint templates; do you really want to see something like that spread across 18 digital panels? So even though we had hoped that our exhibit could scale to other curators, we let go of the idea of a template.

 

We had logistical challenges too.  How do we design for such a large display like the media wall?  How do you create an exhibit that is eye catching enough to catch attention, simple enough for someone to understand as they are walking by yet moves through content slowly enough that someone could stop and really study the images?  How do we account for the lines between each separate display and avoid breaking up text or images?  How do we effectively layout our content on our 13-15” laptops when the final project is going to be 9 FEET long?!!  You can imagine that our process became de-railed at times.

Stone was carried from the quarry in Hillsborough to campus by way of a special railroad track.

But we didn’t earn the name super committee for nothing.  The Link media wall coordinator met with us early on to help solve some of our challenges. Meeting with him and bringing in our DigEx developer representative really jumpstarted the content creation process.  Using a scaled down grid version of the media wall, we started creating simple story boards in Powerpoint.  We worked together to pick a consistent layout each team member would follow, and then we divided the work of finding images, and creating visualizations.  Our layout includes the exhibit title, a map and a caption on every screen to ground the viewer in what they are seeing no matter where they come into the slideshow. We also came up with guidelines as to how quickly the images would change.

 

media_wall_grid.draft2-grid
Mockup of DigEx Link Media Wall exhibit showing gridlines representing delineations between each display.

At this point, we have handed our storyboards to our digital projects developer and he is creating the final exhibit using HTML and web socket technology to make it interactive (see design mockup above). We are also finishing up an intro slide for the exhibit.   Once the exhibit is finished, we will review our process and put together guidelines for other colleagues in DUL to follow.  In this way we hope to meet our goal of making visual technology in the library more available to our innovative staff and exhibits program.   We hope to premiere the digital exhibit on the Link Wall before the end of the calendar year.  Stay Tuned!!

Special shout out to the Link Media Wall Exhibit Super Committee within the Digital Experiences Working Group (DigEx):  Angela Zoss, Data Visualization Coordinator, Meg Brown, The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Coordinator, Michael Daul, Digital Projects Developer, Molly Bragg, Digital Collections Program Manager and Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist.

 

Anatomy of an Exhibit Kiosk

I’ve had the pleasure of working on several exhibit kiosks during my time at the library. Most of them have been simple in their functionality, but we’re hoping to push some boundaries and get more creative in the future. Most recently, I’ve been working on building a kiosk for the Queering Duke History: Understanding the LGBTQ Experience at Duke and Beyond exhibit. It highlights oral history interviews with six former Duke students. This particular kiosk example isn’t very complicated, but I thought it would be fun to outline how it’s put together.

Screen shot of the 'attract' loop
Screen shot of the ‘attract’ loop

Hardware

Most of our exhibits run on one of two late 2009 27″ iMacs that we have at our disposal. The displays are high-res (1920×1080) and vivid, the built-in speakers sound fine, and the processors are strong enough to display multimedia content without any trouble. Sometimes we use the kiosk machines to loop video content, so there’s no user interaction required. With this latest iteration, as users will be able to select audio files for playback, we’ll need to provide a mouse. We do our best to secure them to our kiosk stand, and in my tenure we’ve not had any problems. But I understand in the past that sometimes input devices have been damaged or gone missing. As we migrate to touch-screen machines in the future these sorts of issues won’t be a problem.

Software

We tend to leave our kiosk machines out in the open in public spaces. If the machine isn’t sufficiently locked down, it can lead to it being used for purposes other than what we have in mind. Our approach is to setup a user account that has very narrow privileges and set it as the default login (so when the machine starts up it boots into our ‘kiosk’ account). In OS X you can setup user permissions, startup programs, and other settings via ‘Users and Groups’ in the System Preferences. We also setup power saving settings so that the computer will sleep between midnight and 6:00am using the Energy Saving Scheduler.

My general approach for interactive content is to build web pages, host them externally, and load them on to the kiosk in a web browser. I think the biggest benefits of this approach are that we can make updates without having to take down the kiosk and also track user interactions using Google analytics. However, there are drawbacks as well. We need to ensure that we have reliable network connectivity, which can be a challenge sometimes. By placing the machine online, we also add to the risk that it can be used for purposes other than what we intend. So in order to lock things down even more, we utilize xStand to display our interactive content. It allows for full screen browsing without any GUI chrome, black-listing and/or white-listing sites, and most importantly, it restarts automatically after a crash. In my experience it’s worked very well.

User Interface

This particular exhibit kiosk has only one real mission – to enable users to listen to a series of audio clips. As such, the UI is very simple. The first component is a looping ‘attract’ screen. The attract screen serves the dual purpose of drawing attention to the kiosk and keeping pixels from getting burned in on the display. For this kiosk I’m looping a short mp4 video file. The video container is wrapped in a link and when it’s clicked a javscript hides the video and displays the content div.

 

The content area of the page is very simple – there are a group of images that can be clicked on. When they are, a lightbox window (I like Fancy Box) pops up that holds the relevant audio clips. I’m using simple html5 audio playback controls to stream the mp3 files.

Screen shot of the 'home' screen UI
Screen shot of the ‘home’ screen UI
Screen shot of the audio playback UI
Screen shot of the audio playback UI

Finally, there’s another javascript running in the background that detects and user input. After 10 minutes of inactivity, the page reloads which brings back the attract screen.

The Exhibit

Queering Duke History runs through December 14, 2014 in the Perkins Library Gallery on West Campus. Stop by and check it out!