Members of Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research Provide Updates during Second Workshop

​How is the Shared Shelf platform being used to improve teaching and learning in the classroom? How can various campus departments as well as colleges and universities throughout the country use the digital collections developed by Consortium participants? What exactly are Drupal and Omeka, and which platform might best suit the needs of a particular digitization project? These and other questions were addressed in Washington, DC, when teams from the 42 institutions selected to participate in CIC’s Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research gathered September 8–10, 2016, for the second of three annual workshops.

Two presenters speak from the podium
Carole Porter, educational technologist at Roanoke College (VA), shared updates regarding the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, and David Wiseman, manager of library information systems at Roanoke, explained the college’s process of digitalizing it’s records of 42,000 freshwater fish.

Members of the Consortium, now in the second year of developing their projects, are improving teaching and enhancing research using Artstor’s cloud-based Shared Shelf platform, which allows for the digitization and easy management of projects and collections that can be shared across campus or more globally through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The Consortium is supported through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and provides participating institutions free use of Shared Shelf for the first half of the four-year project and reduced fees for the final two years.

During the meeting, moderated by CIC senior advisor and Consortium director Susan Barnes Whyte, teams from participating institutions shared updates about their projects and ways that the projects are being introduced into classroom instruction and student and faculty research. The meeting began with a “lightning-round” session that featured brief presentations from seven institutions. Presenters included Youmi Efurd, curator and cultural events coordinator at Wofford College (SC), who shared ways in which students conducting research in art history, religion, and foreign languages can use 1,500 art works posted and catalogued through Shared Shelf to produce written assignments. Lori Ricigliano, associate director for user services at the University of Puget Sound (WA), described a theatre arts collection that includes archived posters, edited scripts, scene designs, costume design sketches, and set notes for campus productions. Faculty members are using the production photographs to develop students’ visual literacy as well as to preserve and organize the objects. Stanton Belford, an assistant professor at Martin Methodist College (TN), demonstrated how students in history, nursing, education, and the sciences use photographs taken of tropical reefs and wildlife to prepare for field trips to Caribbean islands. Participants in the session agreed that one success with Shared Shelf tends to lead to other successes; that one project naturally leads to another project; that Shared Shelf is adaptable and useful in a large variety of disciplines; and that the Consortium’s work has allowed institutions to make previously private archival collections widely available.

Presenter speaks from the podium with a slideshow presentation on the screen behind him on a slide entitled Taxonomy for Pink Vase Sponge
Stanton Belford, assistant professor of biology at Martin Methodist College (TN), discussed his collection of marine biology images and how they are shared seamlessly across the campus network.

Workshop participants also heard from Kevin Guthrie, president of ITHAKA, Piotr Adamcyzk, director of image content and museum partnerships at ITHAKA, and Megan Marler, director of strategic services for Artstor, who explained the benefits for Consortium participants of Artstor’s recent merger. ITHAKA oversees JSTOR, which includes both Artstor and Shared Shelf, but now operates as a single organization. The merger facilitates communications between colleges and universities and all four entities, and additional staff members are available to assist institutional staff and faculty members. In addition, the merger gives participating institutions more opportunities to connect with the Digital Public Library of America and other institutions throughout the country.

In other presentations, University of Saint Mary (KS) and Muhlenberg College (PA) participants and Shared Shelf implementation manager Erin McCall discussed the pros and cons of two popular open-source content-management software platforms that Consortium members adopt to manage their Shared Shelf content. For example, participants found Omeka, which was designed for scholars, librarians, and museum and archive professionals to create digital exhibits, relatively easy to set up and use but difficult to customize for complex projects. Drupal required more “up-front work” but allowed for a lot of customization.

Several teams from a range of colleges and universities shared ways to win faculty support for Shared Shelf and to connect and collaborate with potential users. They suggested building a website to draw attention to the ways Shared Shelf collections can be used in teaching and to highlight student research. They also suggested using marketing majors to develop an information campaign on campus and to make and distribute bookmarks with information about campus and consortium collections. Teams recommended partnering with public libraries, K–12 schools, community colleges, and museums. Finally, they discussed using the collections during student recruitment events to draw attention to some of the unique features of studying at CIC institutions.

Presenter speaks from the podium with a three presenters seated at the head table beside her
A panel on recent developments at Artstor and Shared Shelf included Susan  Barnes Whyte, CIC senior advisor and Consortium director, Kevin Guthrie, president of ITHAKA, Richard Ekman, president of CIC, and Megan Marler, director of strategic services, Artstor.

Dana Chandler, assistant professor of history and university archivist at Tuskegee University (AL), described the difficulties of digitizing audio of speeches from the Civil Rights era from reel to reel tapes in his session, “The Plot Thickens: Digitizing Reel to Reels Cannot Be That Difficult.” He found it hard to find machines that would play old tapes such as AMPEX and Scotch 3M in order to capture the sound coming from the machines and replicate the information on the web. That some of these historically significant speeches might be lost—such as one delivered by civil rights activist Myrlie Louise Evers-Williams soon after the assassination of her husband Medgar Evers— speaks volumes about the value of the work being undertaken by Consortium teams.

Some other notable speakers included Dan Cohen, the executive director of the Digital Public Library of America, who explained how the DPLA brings together millions of items from libraries, archives, and museums; how it is structured; and how its materials are curated and disseminated. Peter Carini, college archivist of Dartmouth College, provided examples of learning techniques developed by the Dartmouth College Librarians Active Learning Institute using primary sources in the classroom.

During the coming year, teams will continue to advance the digitization and organization of collections and to develop new collections. The third workshop for the Consortium will be held in September 2017, again in Washington, DC. View more information on the Consortium, including members and their projects.