Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research Convenes for Final Workshop

Particpants view a poster presentation from Hollins University
The workshop schedule included three poster sessions that highlighted different ways that the digital collections have made a positive impact on campus: Teaching and Learning; Digitization Successes; and Student Agency and Voice.

Teams from the 41 institutions in CIC’s Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research gathered in Washington, DC, September 7–9, 2017, for the project’s third and final workshop. Now in its third year, the Consortium assists institutions with managing digital collections of learning, teaching, and research materials in Artstor’s Shared Shelf platform. The platform allows institutions to tag and organize collections, which then can be shared across campus or more globally through the Shared Shelf Commons Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). A generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided Consortium members free use of Shared Shelf for the first two years and is providing significantly reduced fees for the final two years.

Bruce Heterick, vice president for outreach and participation services at ITHAKA, the parent organization of Shared Shelf, opened the workshop with an enthusiastic assessment of the project to date: “I am just blown away by the work you have accomplished.” He elaborated that the colleges and universities participating in the project have gone “far beyond our original thinking and we have benefited enormously” by the strides taken by the Consortium librarians and faculty members.

Susan Barnes Whyte presenting from the podium in front of a projector screen
Susan Barnes Whyte, CIC senior advisor and director the Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, addressed participants during the second day of the workshop.

The meeting was moderated by CIC senior advisor and Consortium director Susan Barnes Whyte, who encouraged participants to consider “how to carry the work forward—how to publicize the good work, take it beyond the archive world, and integrate the growing number of impressive collections into classwork.” Whyte also is the library director of Linfield College (OR). 

The opening session highlighted the successful work being undertaken to use college archives and special collections as tools for student learning. For example, Susan Falciani, special collections and archives librarian at Muhlenberg College (PA), demonstrated how archival materials on the college’s own public history are being used to encourage student use of primary source materials. Gwen Gosney Erickson, Friends Historical Collection librarian and archivist at Guilford College (NC), discussed her course on American history, which she teaches through the prism of Guilford’s history. Students focus on such local events as the civil rights sit-ins that took place in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the 1960s and research related materials in the college’s collections. Oral histories gathered through interviews with the earliest African American students and faculty members at Guilford are used in sociology, justice and poverty, and American history courses. In a related activity, students in a literary analysis class transcribed handwritten letters that are in the archive; their transcripts are now part of the archive as well. Pam Johnson, research instruction and digital resources librarian at Moravian College (PA), oversaw the increase of artifacts—from 100 to more than 800 in one year—pertaining to the history of the Moravian Seminar and College for Women. Finally, Amelia Carr, professor of art history at Allegheny College (PA), described her courses on “Digging in the Archives” and how they taught students to pool various Civil War memorabilia to make them more useful in teaching and learning.

Participants discuss a poster presentation
The popular poster sessions enabled workshop participants to see the range of diverse collections at other Consortium institutions and to gain new ideas about how collections can be integrated into the curriculum.

The workshop included three poster sessions that showcased projects and digitized collections that have been successfully used in teaching and research, teaching and learning, or in promoting student agency. As one participant commented in the post-workshop evaluation: “The poster sessions were a fantastic way for us to learn about how other institutions are using Shared Shelf, especially as they allowed us to interact and ask questions for more in-depth information. I came back to my campus with new ideas and projects based on what others had done.”

Participants also heard from Kevin Guthrie, president of ITHAKA, Evan Towle, Artstor’s implementation manager for sponsored projects, and Carol Caviness, Artstor’s assistant director of strategic services. Towle praised the work of the Consortium member institutions that overcame the challenges posed by the Shared Shelf platform, often with greater creativity than larger institutions with more resources.  

Guthrie discussed ITHAKA’s portfolio of platforms, which includes not only Artstor but also JSTOR, intended for journals, books, primary source materials, and other text-based research. As one outcome of the project, ITHAKA has begun to think across platforms (such as moving books and text-based documents in Artstor to JSTOR and JSTOR images over to a more appropriate Artstor environment). In addition, ITHAKA seeks to reduce barriers to using Shared Shelf, to lower fees, and to change the names of the platforms to be more intuitive.

Participant stands to ask a question from the seated audience
The third and final meeting of the Consortium provided participants many opportunities to exchange ideas, network with colleagues, and share the challenges and successes of their own digitization projects. 

Over the course of the workshop, participants also learned various strategies for sustaining institutional support by showcasing how collections on the DPLA can increase a college or university’s visibility; collaborating on projects of mutual interest with museums, galleries, and historical societies; using assessment results to illustrate a project’s value; and demonstrating to campus constituents how Shared Shelf contributes to the institution’s mission, as well as teaching and research.

For more information on the Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, including members and their projects, visit the program website or contact Susan Barnes Whyte, CIC senior advisor and director of the Consortium, at