Category Archives: Uncategorized

Building a Kiosk for the Edge

Many months ago I learned that a new space, The Ruppert Commons for Research, Technology, and Collaboration, was going to be opening at the start of the calendar year. I was tasked with building an informational kiosk that would be seated in the entry area of the space. The schedule was a bit hectic and we ended up pruning some of the desired features, but in the end I think our first iteration has been working well. So, I wanted to share the steps I took to build it.

Setting Requirements

I first met with the Edge team at the end of August 2014. They had an initial ‘wish list’ of features that they wanted to be included in the kiosk. We went through the list and talked about the feasibility of those items, and tried to rank their importance. Our final features list looked something like this:

Primary Features:

  • Events list (both public and private events in the space)
  • Room reservation system
  • Interactive floor plan map
  • Staff lookup
  • Current Time
  • Contact information (chat, email, phone)

Secondary Features:

  • Display of computer availability
  • Ability to report printing / scanning problems
  • Book locations
  • Scheduleable content on ‘home’ screen

Our deadline was the soft opening date of the space at the start of the new year, but with the approaching holidays (and other projects competing for time) this was going to be a pretty fast turn around. My goal was to have a functional prototype ready for feedback by mid October. I really didn’t start working on the UI side of things until early that month, so I ended up needing to kick that can down the road a few weeks, but that happens some times.

The Hardware

The Library had purchased two Dell 27″ XPS all-in-one touchscreen machines for the purpose of serving as an informational kiosk near the new/temporary main entrance of Perkins/Bostock. For various reasons, that project kept getting postponed. But with the desire to also have a kiosk in the Edge, we decided we could use one of the Dell machines for this purpose. The touch screen display is great —  very bright, reasonably accurate color reproduction, and responsive to touch inputs. It does pickup a lot of finger prints, but that’s sort of unavoidable with a glossy display. The machine seems to run a little bit hot and the fan is far from silent, but in the space you don’t notice it at all. My favorite aspect of this computer is the stand. It’s really fantastic — it’s super easy to adjust, but also very sturdy. You can position it in a variety of ways, depending on the space you’re using it in, and be confident that it won’t slip out of adjustment even under constant use. Various positions of Dell computer I think in general we’re a little wary of using consumer grade hardware in a 24/7 public environment, but for the 1.5 months it’s been deployed it seems to be holding up well enough.

The OS

The Dell XPS came from the factory with Windows 8. I was really curious about using Assigned Access Mode in the Windows 8.1, but the need to use a local (non-domain) account necessitated a clean install of 8.1, which sounds annoying, but that process is so fast and effortless, at least compared to days of Windows yore, that it wasn’t a huge deal. I eventually configured the system as desired — it auto-boots into the local account on startup and then fires up the assigned Windows app (and limits the machine only to that app).

I spent some time playing around with different approaches for a browser to use with assigned access. The goal was to have a browser that ran in a ‘kiosk’ mode in that there was no ability for the user to interact with anything outside of the intended kiosk UI — meaning, no browser chrome windows, bookmarks, etc. I also planned to use Microsoft’s Family Safety controls to limit access to URLs outside of the range of pages that would comprise the kiosk UI. I tried both Google Chrome and Microsoft IE 11 (which really is a good browser, despite pervasive IE hate), but I ended up having trouble with both of them in different ways. Eventually, I stumbled on to a free Windows Store app called KIOSK SP Browser. It does exactly what I want — it’s a simple, stripped down, full screen browser app. It also has some specific kiosk features (like timeout detection) but I’m only using it to load the kiosk homepage on startup.

The Backend

As several of the requirements necessitated data sources that live in the Drupal system that drives our main library site, I figured the path of least resistance would be to also build the kiosk interface in Drupal. Using the Delta module, I setup a version of our theme that stripped out most of the elements that we wouldn’t be using (header, footer, etc.) for the kiosk. I could then apply the delta to a small range of pages using the Context Module. The pages themselves are quite simple by and large. Screen shots of the pages in the Edge Kiosk

  • Events — I used a View to import an RSS feed from Yahoo Pipes (which combines events from our own Library system and the larger Duke system).
  • Reserve Spaces – this page loads in content from Springshare’s LibCal system using an iFrame.
  • Map — I drew a simplified map in Illustrator based architect’s floor plan , then saved it out as an SVG and added ID tags to the areas I wanted to make interactive.
  • Staff — this page loads in content from a google spreadsheet using a technique I outlined previously on Bitstreams.
  • Help — this page loads our LibraryH3LP Chat Widget and a Qualtrics email form.

The Frontend

When it comes time to design an interface, my first step is almost always to sketch on paper. For this project, I did some playing around and ended up settling on a circular motif for the main navigational interface. I based the color scheme and typography on a branding and style guide that was developed for the Edge. Edge Kiosk home page design Many years ago I used to turn my sketches into high fidelity mockups in photoshop or illustrator, but for the past couple of years I’ve tended to just dive right in and design on the fly with html/css. I created a special stylesheet just for this kiosk — it’s based on a fixed pixel layout as it is only ever intended to be used on that single Dell computer — and also assigned it to load using Delta. One important aspect of a kiosk is providing some hinting to users that they can indeed interact with it. In my experience, this is usually handled in the form of an attract loop.

I created a very simple motion design using my favorite NLE and rendered out an mp4 to use with the kiosk. I then setup the home page to show the video when it first loads and to hide it when the screen is touched. This helps the actual home page content appear to load very quickly (as it’s actually sitting beneath the video). I also included a script on every page to go to the homepage after a preset period on inactivity. It’s currently set to three minutes, but we may tweak that. Video stills of attract loop All in all I’m pleased with how things turned out. We’re planning to spend some time evaluating the usage of the kiosk over the next couple of months and then make any necessary tweaks to improve user experience. Swing by the Edge some time and try it out!

Winter Cross-Training in the DPC

The Digital Production Center engages with various departments within the Libraries and across campus to preserve endangered media and create unique digital collections. We work especially closely with The Rubenstein Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, as they hold many of the materials that we digitize and archive on a daily basis. This collaboration requires a shared understanding of numerous media types and their special characteristics; awareness of potential conservation and preservation issues; and a working knowledge of digitization processes, logistics, and limitations.

In order to facilitate this ongoing collaboration, we recently did a semester-long cross-training course with The Rubenstein’s Reproductions Manager, Megan O’Connell. Megan is one of our main points of contact for weekly patron requests, and we felt that this training would strengthen our ability to navigate tricky and time-sensitive digitization jobs heading into the future. The plan was for Megan to work with all three of our digitization specialists (audio, video, & still image) to get a combination of hands-on and observational learning opportunities.

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Still image comprises the bulk of our workload, so we decided to spend most of the training on these materials. “Still image” includes anything that we digitize via photographic or scanning technology, e.g. manuscripts, maps, bound periodicals, posters, photographs, slides, etc. We identified a group of uniquely challenging materials of this type and digitized one of each for hands-on training, including:

  • Bound manuscript – Most of these items cannot be opened more than 90 degrees. We stabilize them in a custom-built book cradle, capture the recto sides of the pages, then flip the book and capture the verso sides. The resulting files then have to be interleaved into the correct sequence.
  • Map, or other oversize item – These types of materials are often too large to capture in one single camera shot. Our setup allows us to take multiple shots (with the help of the camera being mounted on a sliding track) which we then stitch together into a seamless whole.
  • Item with texture or different item depths, e.g. a folded map, tipped into a book – It is often challenging to properly support these items and level the map so that it is all in focus within the camera’s depth of field.
  • ANR volume – These are large, heavy volumes that typically contain older newspapers and periodicals. The paper can be very fragile and they have to be handled and supported carefully so as not to damage or tear the material.
  • Item with a tight binding w/ text that goes into the gutter – We do our best to capture all of the text, but it will sometimes appear to curve or disappear into the gutter in the resulting digital image.

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Working through this list with Megan, I was struck by the diversity of materials that we collect and digitize. The training process also highlighted the variety of tricks, techniques, and hacks that we employ to get the best possible digital transfers, given the limitations of the available technology and the materials’ condition. I came out of the experience with a renewed appreciation of the complexity of the digitization work we do in the DPC, the significance of the rare materials in the collection, and the excellent service that we are able to provide to researchers through the Rubenstein Library.

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Check out Megan’s blog post on the Devil’s Tale for more on the other media formats I wasn’t able to cover in the scope of this post.

Here’s to more collaboration across boundaries in the New Year!

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Holiday Notes from the Homefront and Abroad

The following is a series of loosely linked stories, loosely based on our digital collections, and loosely related to the holidays, where even the word “loosely” is applied with some looseness.


 

War ration book one. Ration order no. 3.

An American looking forward to baking delicious treats for the holidays in 1942 would have been intimately familiar with War Ration Book One. The Office of Price Administration issued Ration Order No. 3 in April of that year, and distributed the ration books via elementary schools in the first week of May. Holders could purchase one pound of sugar every two weeks between May 5 and June 27. By the end of the year, butter, coffee, and other foods joined the list of regulated goods.

As the holidays approached, the newspapers ran articles advising homemakers how to cope with the unavailability of key ingredients. Vegetable shortening could help stretch butter, molasses made cookies prone to burning, and fruit juice was a natural sweetener. The New Orleans Times-Picayune’s “Round Table Talk About Food” exhorted homemakers to make the best of it:

There is something stimulating this approaching holiday time in planning Christmas meals and gift packages or baskets with those substitute items we are permitted to use, rather than with the usual abundance of foods to suit every whim of the appetite.


"YMCA Christmas, Children" (1917-1919)
“YMCA Christmas, Children” (1917-1919)

I wrote before about how YMCA missionaries took basketball overseas after its invention, including to Japan. Did they also take Santa beards to China?


hfccp010130010
“Certificate of registration to buy, sell, and transfer men’s rubber boots and rubber work shoes.” Ration order no. 6, September 29, 1942.

The Office of Price Administration provided Duke Law alum Richard Nixon with his first job in Washington, beginning in January of 1942. Rubber was his area of focus. He was industrious and diligent in his work, and by March, had been promoted to “acting chief of interpretations in the Rubber Branch.

But the life of a government regulator was not to be for Dick Nixon. He joined the Navy in August, and by year’s end found himself serving at an airfield in Ottumwa, Iowa.

– Summarized from Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, by Conrad Black.


True story. Terry Sanford spent December 21 and 22 of 1944 riding in a convoy that took the 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team from Soissons, France to the town of Soy in Belgium. His unit fought Germans for the next few days, losing more than a hundred men, in the conflagration that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

They were able to sleep on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, there was roasted turkey, but at noon orders came to take a hill, which they did. The next day, they held it, repelling a German counterattack.

In the action, Sanford tackled a German officer, disarmed him, and drove him off for interrogation. Years later, he speculated that the man was probably shot before being processed as a POW, as retaliation against a recent massacre of American troops.

Sanford would write home that “things are going well in this country,” and they had “[m]ore food than elsewhere,” without explaining why there was more to go around.

While riding with his commander, Lt. Colonel “Wild Bill” Boyle, shortly after the New Year, he was wounded. He later received the Purple Heart.

– Summarized from Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, Howard E. Covington and Marion A. Ellis.


wtddy020020490
December 24, 1940 entry from Mary McMillan’s journal.

Mary McMillan’s 1940 journal tells of her experiences as a missionary in Japan. Her entry for Christmas Eve of 1940 reads:

To doctor’s for sinus treatment, then down on Ginza shopping for Christmas presents: perfume for Umeko, a dog purse for Eiko, cookies for Mrs. Natsuzoe, toys for Mineko san and Masao chan. Lunch of fried oysters and fresh strawberries in Olympic Grille.

Brought Eiko home for her first Christmas. Tried to tell her the Christmas Story, but my limited knowledge of Japanese and her excitement made direct teaching impossible. Was up wrapping presents till almost mid-night.

A month later she wrote of talks with “Bishop Abe, and Ambassador Grew:”

They advised us to begin making preparations to leave Japan – as is we were certain that war were coming and we were sure to be called home by our Board.”

Her next entry, dated “Feb. 29, ‘41,” is headed “Homeward Bound.”


Hanukah Variant spellings for hanukkah occur three times in the OCR text of our 1960s Duke Chronicle collection. (Due to the imprecision of OCR, the actual occurrences may be more).

A photograph on the front page of the December 17, 1968, issue depicts a Star of David hanging on the side of a building. The caption reads, “It is now Hanukah, ‘the festival of lights.’”

At the top of that page, the lead story of the issue is headlined, “X-Mas amnesty asked for draft dodgers.” It reports that the “cabinet of the YMCA” at Duke had resolved to write to President Johnson on the matter. Of course, Johnson was a lame duck by then. That same day, the New York Times reported that he had spent an hour conferring with John Mitchell, Nixon’s incoming Attorney General.


Wind Song Haldeman J. Walter Thompson Company News, November 30, 1960, the two lead articles:

WIND SONG USES HANDSOME “SANTA” TO BOOST  PRE-CHRISTMAS SALES

BOB HALDEMAN NAMED MANAGER OF THE LOS ANGELES OFFICE

Eight years later, the newsletter noted the appointments of Haldeman and his subordinate, Ron Ziegler, to the White House staff. Haldeman would serve as Nixon’s Chief of Staff, and later did 18 months in prison for his role in the Watergate coverup. Ziegler became White House Press Secretary.


Sit in
Sit in, Allen Building. December, 1967.

On November 17, 1967 – the Friday before Thanksgiving – the Chronicle ran a story about Terry Sanford and his newly published book, Storm over the States. He started writing Storm soon after leaving the NC governor’s office in 1965. Supported by the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, he holed up in an office at Duke, hired a staff, and wrote about a model for state government that is federalist but proactive and constructive. Sanford’s point of view stood in stark, if unmentioned, contrast to the doctrines of “nullification” and states’ rights that segregationists like George Wallace wielded in their opposition to Civil Rights.

That Friday ended a tumultuous week at Duke. The lead story that same day was headlined “Knight bans use of segregated facilities by student groups.” The school’s president, Douglas Knight, had “re-interpreted” a university policy statement prohibiting the use of off-campus facilities that discriminated on the basis of race. Knight extended the policy, purported to apply to staff and faculty organizations, to include student organizations as well.

The previous week, the student body had defeated a referendum that would have had the same effect. Black students reacted by staging a sit in at Knight’s office (one holding a sign that read “Students Await An Overdue Talk With Our WHITE KNIGHT”), demanding that he take action. Knight acceded, complaining in his statement that “the application of this practice would have been made in the normal course of events,” but “we were confronted with an ultimatum, which carried with it a threat of disruption of the ordinary processes of the University.”

Confrontations between the administration and black students continued to escalate, leading to the Allen Building takeover in 1969, Knight’s resignation, and his succession by Terry Sanford.


First Days Back in Japan Mary McMillan’s journals stretch from 1939 to 1991. Her “1939” journal actually contains entries from the 1940s, though there are significant gaps. In October of 1942 she wrote of traveling to Delta, Utah. She didn’t mention her purpose, and no other entries appear from that period, but she was heading to Utah to teach in the Topaz Relocation Center, an internment camp for Japanese Americans. En route, she wrote:

Those nice Marine recruits who got on our train in St. Louis shouldn’t be required to go so far from home to fight for objectives that seem to me not to be in keeping with United Nations Aims, as given in the Atlantic Charter.  Why should Japan “be crushed”? The military mind there – and elsewhere – must be forced from power; but are we on the right track towards achieving that objective? I fear most of us have become too material-minded. By following methods resulting from our materialistic thinking, we only create atmospheres for other hostile “spiritual” forces – like Naziism.

Then, the week of Christmas in 1947 she traveled to Seattle, and embarked on a return to Japan. She arrived in Hiroshima in January, the first Christian missionary to return after the war. She lived there for more than thirty years before retiring.


On page 4 of the December 17, 1967 issue of the Chronicle – just below the article about Terry Sanford’s Storm Over the States – this ad ran: RoadGoesEverOn I have to believe at least a few students and faculty got the book or the record as stocking stuffers that year.

Preview of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Digital Collection

T206_Piedmont_cards
When I almost found the T206 Honus Wagner

It was September 6, 2011 (thanks Exif metadata!) and I thought I had found one–a T206 Honus Wagner card, the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards.  I was in the bowels of the Rubenstein Library stacks skimming through several boxes of a large collection of trading cards that form part of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. adverting materials collection when I noticed a small envelope labeled “Piedmont.”  For some reason, I remembered that the Honus Wagner card was issued as part of a larger set of cards advertising the Piedmont brand of cigarettes in 1909.  Yeah, I got pretty excited.

I carefully opened the envelope, removed a small stack of cards, and laid them out side by side, but, sadly, there was no Honus Wagner to be found.  A bit deflated, I took a quick snapshot of some of the cards with my phone, put them back in the envelope, and went about my day.  A few days later, I noticed the photo again in my camera roll and, after a bit of research, confirmed that these cards were indeed part of the same T206 set as the famed Honus Wagner card but not nearly as rare.

Fast forward three years and we’re now in the midst of a project to digitize, describe, and publish almost the entirety of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection including the handful of T206 series cards I found.  The scanning is complete (thanks DPC!) and we’re now in the process of developing guidelines for describing the digitized cards.  Over the last few days, I’ve learned quite a bit about the history of cigarette cards, the Duke family’s role in producing them, and the various resources available for identifying them.

T206 Harry Lumley
1909 Series T206 Harry Lumley card (front), from the W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection in the Rubenstein Library
T206 Harry Lumley card (back)
1909 Series T206 Harry Lumley card (back)

 

 

Brief History of Cigarette Cards

A Bad Decision by the Umpire
“A Bad Decision by the Umpire,” from series N86 Scenes of Perilous Occupations, W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection, Rubenstein Library.
  • Beginning in the 1870s, cigarette manufacturers like Allen and Ginter and Goodwin & Co. began the practice of inserting a trade card into cigarette packages as a stiffener. These cards were usually issued in sets of between 25 and 100 to encourage repeat purchases and to promote brand loyalty.
  • In the late 1880s, the W. Duke, Sons, & Co. (founded by Washington Duke in 1881), began inserting cards into Duke brand cigarette packages.  The earliest Duke-issued cards covered a wide array of subject matter with series titled Actors and Actresses, Fishers and Fish, Jokes, Ocean and River Steamers, and even Scenes of Perilous Occupations.
  • In 1890, the W. Duke & Sons Co., headed by James B. Duke (founder of Duke University), merged with several other cigarette manufacturers to form the American Tobacco Company.
  • In 1909, the American Tobacco Company (ATC) first began inserting baseball cards into their cigarettes packages with the introduction of the now famous T206 “White Border” set, which included a Honus Wagner card that, in 2007, sold for a record $2.8 million.
The American Card Catalog
Title page from library’s copy of The American Card Catalog by Jefferson R. Burdick.

Identifying Cigarette Cards

  • The T206 designation assigned to the ATC’s “white border” set was not assigned by the company itself, but by Jefferson R. Burdick in his 1953 publication The American Card Catalog (ACC), the first comprehensive catalog of trade cards ever published.
  • In the ACC, Burdick devised a numbering scheme for tobacco cards based on manufacturer and time period, with the two primary designations being the N-series (19th century tobacco cards) and the T-series (20th century tobacco cards).  Burdick’s numbering scheme is still used by collectors today.
  • Burdick was also a prolific card collector and his personal collection of roughly 300,000 trade cards now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

 

Preview of the W. Duke, Sons & Co. Digital Collection [coming soon]

Dressed Beef (Series N81 Jokes)
“Dressed Beef” from Series N81 Jokes, W. Duke, Sons & Co. collection, Rubenstein Library
  •  When published, the W. Duke, Sons & Co. digital collection will feature approximately 2000 individual cigarette cards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as two large scrapbooks that contain several hundred additional cards.
  • The collection will also include images of other tobacco advertising ephemera such as pins, buttons, tobacco tags, and even examples of early cigarette packs.
  • Researchers will be able to search and browse the digitized cards and ephemera by manufacturer, cigarette brand, and the subjects they depict.
  • In the meantime, researchers are welcome to visit the Rubenstein Library in person to view the originals in our reading room.

 

 

 

Hydra Connect #2: Cleveland Rocks

I recently traveled to Cleveland to attend the second-ever Hydra Connect meeting. For some quick background, Hydra is a repository solution that many libraries and other institutions are using to manage large and interesting collections of digital things. At DUL, our amazing Repository Services team has been working on our Hydra-based repository for around two years. Mike Adamo of DPPS and others have been getting lots of content into the system and from what I understand it’s working great so far. David and Jim have also worked on a Digital Asset Management tool that will be used by the Duke CIT to archive video assets from MOOCs.

The Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University
The Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University

DPPS has grand plans to migrate our current digital collections platform to a Hydra-based system, so we’ll be working closely with David and the Jims to utilize their expertise. I attended Hydra Connect as a way to get some exposure to the community and to try and soak up as much knowledge as possible. I’d say the grand takeaway (and I heard this sentiment repeated time and time again) is that Hydra is an amazing open source community. Every single person I met at the meeting was friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to answer questions. It was a fantastic experience. The host institution, Case Western Reserve University, was great and in general Cleveland was excellent – the area we stayed in was very walkable, there were several interesting museums nearby, and by and large the weather was perfect.

Interactive wall at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Interactive wall at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Hydra Connect #2 nearly doubled the attendance number from Hydra Connect #1 so clearly there is momentum behind the project. But what seems really apparent is that the community is very welcoming. Beginners like me are treated warmly – you are not scoffed at for asking basic questions.

I started off the meeting by attending a half day Dive into Hydra workshop and followed that with an intro to blacklight. The organizers cleverly passed out USB drives with a pre-packaged development environment all ready to go, so everyone in the room was up and running right away. We made it all the way through the program and even completed a few of the bonus tasks. The organizers did a great job of explaining how our simplified examples could be applied to more complex projects and also stressed best practices for making UI tweaks (protip – use the internationalizations). All in all a very empowering experience.

Cleveland street art
Cleveland street art

Wednesday was filled with lots of knowledge sharing. Between the lightning talks and the poster sessions it was amazing to see how many really interesting Hydra projects are out there! In particular, I was struck by these:

Thursday had  more sessions, more lightning talks, and an ‘unconference.’ I really enjoyed the sessions on UX and Project Management.

Overall I had a great experience at Hydra Connect. I learned a ton, met some great people, and most importantly I’m psyched to get to work on a Hydra project here at DUL.

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.

 

Creating, Reading, Learning: Work and Life

Does anyone else find it difficult to blog about work? For me, it’s not for lack of things to write about or lack of interest in what I am working on. It has more to do with the fact that the excitement I feel for the projects I’m working on, the people I work with and the growth I’ve seen in my department doesn’t translate well in writing. At least not for me and my writing style. Maybe I need to take a writing course? Maybe I need to find my voice in blogging? Maybe I just need to get on with it?

As is true for many of us, the things that interest or occupy us at work bleed into our lives at home and vice versa, whether or not we want them to. Personally, I find that some, but not all of the things I am focused on at work have a place in my life at home.

Below is a list of things I am creating, reading, watching, wanting and learning both at work and at home. I hope you enjoy!

Creating:

I recently finished work on a donor request for slides from the Morris and Dorothy Margolin film collection. Right now I am digitizing the Duke Gardens Accession Cards , a planting card catalog from the Sarah P. Duke Gardens records collection. These particular requests are not for public consumption but support curatorial research at Duke.   The Digital Production Center fulfills many requests of this nature that never show up on the Digital Collections website but are none the less interesting and useful.

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From the planting card catalog at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The names and places on the card have been changed to protect the innocent.

At home I create digital content of my own using similar cameras, lights and software. I really enjoy studio shooting because I can control the lighting environment to suit my needs. My training as a photographer has translated well to my work at Duke. I have also applied things I use at work to my photography at home such as managing larger numbers of files and working in a calibrated environment.

Reading:

Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials: Creation of Raster Image Master Files written by the Federal Agencies Digitization Initiative (FADGI) – Still Image Working Group. This standard outlines digital imaging standards related to DPI, bit depth and color profiles and is an updated version of the NARA Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials which the Digital Production Center has been following since its creation. Exciting reading!

At home I’m reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. A complex book about the happenings of the gold rush town of Hokitika, in the southwest of New Zealand circa 1866 where a crime has just been committed. Super long (848 pages) but worth the read.

Watching:

Color Management and Quality Output by Tom Ashe. This webinar is offered by Xrite, a leader in professional grade color profiling hardware and software. As described in a previous blog post, color management is a critical part of the work we do in the Digital Production Center.

Are you color blind? You might be if you have trouble seeing the numbers within these five circles.
Are you color blind? You might be if you have trouble seeing the numbers within these five circles.

At home I just watched Tiny, a documentary on the Tiny   House movement that chronicles the building of a tiny house. These houses range from 60 – 100 square feet and are usually built on trailers to avoid problems with state  ordinances that require an in ground home be no less than 600 square feet. Whoa!

Wanting:

A DT RG3040 Reprographic System by Phase One. This model has a foot operated book cradle with a 90 degree platen and two P65 R-cams that shoot opposing pages simultaneously. This would really speed up and simplify digitization of fragile bound volumes that can only be opened 90 degrees during digitization. I would also take an oversize map scanner.

At home I really I want to setup a traditional wet darkroom, but we do not have the space. I’m thinking about building a single car garage just to accommodate a darkroom but will probably have to settle for setting up in the bathroom.

Learning:

The Python programming language. I have completed a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera and am now in the middle of my second course. While I haven’t built anything (at work) from scratch yet, I have been able to troubleshoot a few broken scripts and get them up and running again. The Digital Production Center is, as the name states, a production environment that lends itself to automation. While taking these classes I have developed many ideas on how to automate parts of our workflow and I am excited to start programming.

At home I continue to learn the Python programming language. The more I learn about Python the more I want to learn. While learning has been frustrating at times it has also been rewarding when I finally develop a solution that works. The IT staff in the Library has also been very supportive which keeps me moving forward when I get stuck on a problem that takes some time to figure out. python

When I started putting this post together I didn’t realize it was about work/life balance but I believe that is what it became. It seems my work/life balance is a very fluid thing. I feel lucky to work at a place where my personal interests dovetail nicely with my work interest.   While this is not always the case, most of the time I enjoy coming to work and I also enjoy going home at the end of the day.

Comparing Photographic Views of the Civil War in Duke’s Newest Digital Collection

Duke Digital Collections is excited to announce our newest digital offering: The Barnard and Gardner Civil War Photographic Albums.  Rubenstein Library Archive of Documentary Arts Curator, Lisa McCarty contributed the post below to share some further information about these significant and influential volumes.

“In presenting the PHOTOGRAPHIC SKETCH BOOK OF THE WAR to the attention of the public, it is designed that it shall speak for itself. The omission, therefore, of any remarks by way of preface might well be justified; and yet, perhaps a few introductory words may not be amiss.

As mementoes of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that the following pages will possess an enduring interest. Localities that would scarcely have been known, and probably never remembered, save in their immediate vicinity, have become celebrated, and will ever be held sacred as memorable fields, where thousands of brave men yielded up their lives a willing sacrifice for the cause they had espoused.”

Verbal representations of such places, or scenes, may or may not have the merit of accuracy; but photographic presentments of them will be accepted by posterity with an undoubting faith. During the four years of the war, almost every point of importance has been photographed, and the collection from which these views have been selected amounts to nearly three thousand.”

-Alexander Gardner

The opening remarks that precede Alexander Gardner’s seminal work, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, operate two-fold. Firstly, these words communicate the subject matter of the book. Secondly, they communicate the artists’ intentions and his beliefs about the enduring power of photography. Undeniably, Gardner’s images have endured along with the images of his contemporary George N. Barnard. Working at the same time, using the same wet collodian process, and on occasion as part of the same studio, Barnard created a work entitled Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign. Both were published in 1866 and as a pair are considered among the most important pictorial records of the Civil War.

To compare these two epic tomes in their entirety is a rare opportunity, and is now possible to do both in person in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room as well as online in new a digital collection. Whether you prefer to browse paper or virtual pages, there is much that can still be discovered in these 148 year-old books.

Something I noted while revisiting these images is that despite their many commonalities, Gardner’s and Barnard’s approaches as photographers couldn’t have been more different. While both works document the brutality and destruction of the war, Gardner’s images convey this through explicit text and images while Barnard chooses to rely heavily on metaphor and symbolism.

Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, Pennslyvania, Plate 41, Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War
George N. Barnard, The Scene of General McPherson’s Death, Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign

 

Evidence of these opposing visions can be seen at their most severe when comparing how the two photographers chose to depict casualties of war. I find that these images are still shocking, but for completely different reasons.

My perception of the image by Gardner is complicated by my knowledge of the circumstances surrounding its production. Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook is oftennoted as being the first book to show images of slain soldiers. It is also been widely established that in Sharpshooter and other images Gardner and his assistants moved the position of the corpse for greater aesthetic and emotional affect. In this one image, Gardner opened up a variety of debates that have divided documentarians ever since: How should the most inhumane violence be depicted, for what reasons should the documentarian intervene in the scene, and under what circumstances should the public encounter such images?

The image by Barnard answers these questions in a wholly different manner. When examining this image close-up my reaction was immediate and visceral. A thicket marked by an animal skull and a halo of matted grass— the stark absence in this image is haunting. I find the scene of the death and its possible relics to be as distressing as Gardner’s Sharpshooter. For in this case the lack of information provided by Barnard triggers my mind to produce a story that lingers and develops slowly as I search the image for answers to the General’s fate.

Search these images for yourself in all their stark detail in our new digital collection:

http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/rubenstein_barnardgardner/

Post Contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts

Bento is Coming!

A unified search results page, commonly referred to as the “Bento Box” approach, has been an increasingly popular method to display search results on library websites. This method helps users gain quick access to a limited result set across a variety of information scopes while providing links to the various silos for the full results. NCSU’s QuickSearch implementation has been in place since 2005 and has been extremely influential on the approach taken by other institutions.

Way back in December of 2012, the DUL began investigating and planning for implementing a Bento search results layout on our website. Extensive testing revealed that users favor searching from a single box — as is their typical experience conducting web searches via Google and the like. Like many libraries, we’ve been using Summon as a unified discovery layer for articles, books, and other resources for a few years, providing an ‘All’ tab on our homepage as the entry point. Summon aggregates these various sources into a common index, presented in a single stream on search results pages. Our users often find this presentation overwhelming or confusing and prefer other search tools. As such, we’ve demoted the our ‘All’ search on our homepage — although users can set it as the default thanks to the very slick Default Scope search tool built by Sean Aery (with inspiration from the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries website):

Default Search Tool

The library’s Web Experience Team (WebX) proposed the Bento project in September of 2013. Some justifications for the proposal were as follows:

Bento boxing helps solve these problems:

  • We won’t have to choose which silo should be our default search scope (in our homepage or masthead)
  • Synthesizing relevance ranking across very different resources is extremely challenging, e.g., articles get in the way of books if you’re just looking for books (and vice-versa).
  • We need to move from “full collection discovery to full library discovery” – in the same search, users discover expertise, guides/experts, other library provisions alongside items from the collections. 1
  • “A single search box communicates confidence to users that our search tools can meet their information needs from a single point of entry.” 2

Citations:

  1. Thirteen Ways of Looking at Libraries, Discovery, and the Catalog by Lorcan Dempsey.
  2. How Users Search the Library from a Single Search Box by Cory Lown, Tito Sierra, and Josh Boyer

Sean also developed this mockup of what Bento results could look like on our website and we’ve been using it as the model for our project going forward:

Bento Mockup

For the past month our Bento project team has been actively developing our own implementation. We have had the great luxury of building upon work that was already done by brilliant developers at our sister institutions (NCSU and UNC) — and particular thanks goes out to Tim Shearer at UNC Libraries who provided us with the code that they are using on their Bento results page, which in turn was heavily influenced by the work done at NCSU Libraries.

Our approach includes using results from Summon, Endeca, Springshare, and Google. We’re building this as a Drupal module which will make it easy to integrate into our site. We’re also hosting the code on GitHub so others can gain from what we’ve learned — and to help make our future enhancements to the module even easier to implement.

Our plan is to roll out Bento search in August, so stay tuned for the official launch announcement!

 


PS — as the 4th of July holiday is right around the corner, here are some interesting items from our digital collections related to independence day: