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User Engagement with Digital Archives: A Case Study of Emblematica Online


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This is a presentation on a usability study for Emblematica Online given at the ACRL 2015 biennial conference in Portland, Oregon.

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User Engagement with Digital Archives: A Case Study of Emblematica Online

  1. 1. User Engagement with Digital Archives: A Case Study of Emblematica Online Harriett Green University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign ACRL 2015 Conference March 27, 2015
  2. 2. Today’s talk • Digital collections and User Engagement • Overview of Emblematica Online • Results of usability study of Emblematica • What are the future implications for humanities scholarship with digital collections? @greenharr
  3. 3. User Assessment
  4. 4. Why user studies of digital archives? • Build digital collections strategically and sustainably for increased use among library patrons • Correlate content and functionalities to researchers’ needs • Ensure Return On Investment @greenharr
  5. 5. User Assessment is Necessary “While a greater reliance and dependency on digital resources is inevitable, the quality of the data and their organization and accessibility in service to teaching and scholarship are major concerns. “Without the guiding voice of scholars, the tremendous effort now being devoted to digitizing our cultural heritage could in fact impede, not facilitate, future research.” —Charles Henry, The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship @greenharr
  6. 6. Digital Collections and Humanities Scholars • Brockman Palmer, et al., Scholarly Work in the Humanities and the Evolving Information Environment (CLIR Pub 104) • Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities and Social Sciences • Log Analysis of Internet Resources in the Arts and Humanities Project (LAIRAH) • Ithaka S+R, Supporting the Changing Research Practices of… - Art Historians, Historians@greenharr
  7. 7. Emblematica Online
  8. 8. Emblematica Online • Provides single point of access to digitized emblem books from libraries in U.S., Germany, Netherlands, UK • Funded by a NEH/DFG Bilateral Digital Humanities grant (2008) and NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant (2013) @greenharr
  9. 9. What is an Emblem? Motto Pictura Subscriptio Peter Isselburg, Emblemata Politica, 1617 ooks2009-10/emblematapolitic00isel/ @greenharr
  10. 10. What’s in Emblematica? • Nearly 1400 emblem books • 23,420 individual emblems • Books digitized from the collections of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, HAB Wolfenbüttel, University of Utrecht, University of Glasgow, Duke University and the Getty Institute @greenharr
  11. 11. Usability Study
  12. 12. Goals of Study • Gain further insights into research practices of humanities scholars • Learn about behaviors of researchers working with Emblematica Online and similar specialized digital archives • Gather input to assess the new functionalities added to Emblematica Online, and determine future functionalities @greenharr
  13. 13. User Assessment Study Interviews • 10 semi-structured interviews • Subjects: graduate students and scholars at University of Illinois, HAB Wolfenbüttel, and Society for Emblem Studies • English, art history, medieval studies, musicology, linguistics Usability Testing • 5 usability testing sessions: Protocol developed from interviews • Subjects: Graduate students and faculty members from the University of Illinois • Primarily from departments of English and Theatre@greenharr
  14. 14. Teaching • Emblems as an Illustrative tool for artistic styles and cultural mores • A unit on emblems for a graduate seminar on history of the animal and early modern culture“Spenser has an emblematic style in his poetry…. I think if students could be directed from those kind of moments in the poetry to emblem culture, other emblems of charity, other emblems of holiness, I think that could be a great tool.” —Faculty @greenharr
  15. 15. Discovery of Content • To look up specific emblems • To search for emblems on themes • Expand interdisciplinary research via new sources of content such as emblems “[Emblematica Online] could help students and researchers get across multi-lingual barriers because it is a multi-lingual tradition and visual tradition. It can also help pioneer searches that begin as visual and verbal searches.” —Faculty@greenharr
  16. 16. Research • Digitized emblem books enable access to archives normally requiring expensive travel around the world • Enhance skills in early modern languages, incorporate visual culture and theory “I look at archival sources, account books, buildings, architectural treatises, musical treatises, but this is another sphere, another realm so to speak that could be used to gather more information.” —Faculty@greenharr
  17. 17. Scholarly Communications and Impact • Expand the use of emblems in research across multiple disciplines • Increase the impact and prominence of scholarship in emblem studies @greenharr “I would return to the point of [Emblematica Online] not being bound by a single national tradition or a single library collection. I think that, in and of itself, may allow people to draw on a broader range of sources than they otherwise would. That can show itself in the scholarship that gets produced on the topic.”—Faculty
  18. 18. Usability Testing Issues GOOD • Quality of scanned images • Breadth of digitized content • Easy access to the digital collection TO IMPROVE • Search Functionality • Explanation of terms and Iconclass • More Interactivity with digitized content @greenharr
  19. 19. Functionalities to Add • Bibliographic information on editions and multiple volumes • Annotation tool • Improve search interface with more search filter and faceting • Include background information that provides more of a historical context for the works @greenharr
  20. 20. Future Impact of Digital Collections on Humanities Scholarship? • Potential to advance Interdisciplinarity in humanities scholarship • Need for user engagement • How does the digital and print complement each other? @greenharr “When we zoomed in, that was just beautiful, and that you can see hand markings and other pencil markings that would be on there…. For me as a researcher, that matters and I loved the quality of that.” —Graduate Student
  21. 21. Photo Credits • “Tun und Lassen, ist groß der Massen,” from Vortrefflich-Hoch- Adeliches Controfeé, • “Measuring Time,” by aussiegall, on Flickr, • brick detail by Grant MacDonald, on Flickr, • "classroom” by Lauren Manning, on Flickr, • "More Bildsten notebooks” by Jonas Lowgren, on Flickr, • "Verstandt Jovi verwandt," from Vortrefflich-hoch-adeliches Controfeâe, das ist, Vollkommene... • "Paris: telescope on Eiffel Tower // Teleskop auf dem Eiffelturm” by brongaeh, on Flickr, • "Tunnel of black” by Shemsu.Hor, on Flickr,
  22. 22. Thank you! Harriett Green English and Digital Humanities Librarian University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Twitter: @greenharr