Philadelphia on Stone: physical and online exhibitions


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Notes from talk given by Erika Piola at the Delaware Valley Archivists' Group meeting on Online Presence. October 18, 2010

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Philadelphia on Stone: physical and online exhibitions

  1. 1. Opening slide Intro Erika Piola, Project Director of POS, three-year collaborative grant project researching the first 50 yrs of commercial litho in Philadelphia 1828-1878 that from its impetus included components geared toward a web presence 4 components of the project: Slide - POS ImPAC main page/ImPAC searchpage A. Digital catalog of over 1000 lithographs and related prints from the surveys of 8 collaborating institutions including LCP, HSP, and LOC included in our digital catalog ImPAC Slide -Bio dict page B. On-line Biographical Dictionary of over 500 entries for lithographers, printers, and publishers active in the trade 1828-1878 also included in our digital catalog ImPAC Slide -Talking pts slide C. Illustrated text of thematic essays by curators and scholars in the field related to the project research to be published in Fall 2012 D. Last by not least, the exhibition that explores the history and process of lithography, the personaland professionallives of Philadelphia lithographers, and the influence of Philadelphia commerciallithography on 19th-century and contemporary visual culture. POS is also one of the first projects under the auspices ofour Visual Culture Programfor which I serve as a co-director. One of the goals of the program is to promote the use of the library’s rich collection of textual and graphic materials related to visual culture as primary sources for research. The POS website as does the exhibition serve as means to this end. Before I discuss the evolution of the physical exhibition to the on-line environment - I should start with this caveat – I had grant funding and was able to use exhibition designer Steve Tucker for the wall and case layouts of the physical exhibition, typically done by the LCP curators. This funding allowed for the creation of the prop of a printing shop wall, large section panels, and reproductions that would most likely would not have been a possibility otherwise. I also will discuss the transformation of a physical exhibition into an on-line version from a curator’s POV as opposed to the technical aspects which Rob will focus on more Slide -Exhib slide 1
  2. 2. Physical exhibition was a result of the research for the project and I created a checklist about 2 years into the project and about 9 months before the installation. The checklist was provided to Steve Tucker who laid out the items within the individual sections based on my initial organization. Slide -Exhib slide 2 I tried to include items from each of the collaborating institutions through loans and reproductions. Most institutions provided their materials without fees, except for a few, which did cause one institution to not be included in the exhibition. Slide -Web on-line exhib main page /mosaic Physical exhibition was the basefor the on-line version, including the label text, the sections overviews, and all the pieces on display – web version also allowed me the opportunity to include some material that needed to be cut from the gallery due to space. The on-line exhibition can be accessed through the library’s home page as well as through the main page of the POS website Organization of the web exhibition required receipt of digital files of the collaborating institution’s items on display, which fortunately all were on hand due to the digital catalog componentof the project or because they were being used as a reproduction in the gallery. Reproductions were requested about three months before the installation; use of files as repro in the exhibition was a different rights and repro request than for use on the on-line version. Usually there was a different contract and sometime fees. Slide –Main page/Sectiontext In the creation of the web exhibition, I also needed to be mindful to edit certain section and label texts that made no sense in the web environment, suchas terms “on display” and materials on loan from non-project institutions were digitized before they were installed. Slide -Mutliple image one label slide Also multiple items described in one label in the gallery exhibition required in the web version - a representative image of the group that opened to all the images or each digital file of each piece from the group included the same label text repeated as you can see in this slide Slide -Digital files screencapture
  3. 3. I am also fortunate to work at a library with a digital collections manager Nicole Joniec who processed and organized the digital files by section with ids based on Section number and placement in cases and on walls as well as a website designer Nicole Scalessa who designed the on-line exhibition in AdobeDreamweaver CS4 to apply the css/html based design which implemented jquery overlay code. The CSS layout is based on the 960 CSS framework. All images were prepared in AdobePhotoShop CS4before site inclusion. Nicole Scalessa developed the thematic of the main page and section pages based on pictorial details from lithographs surveyed for the project and on the exhibition designer’s fonts used in the physical exhibition. Slide -Pop up image The development of the web version of POS had a few hiccups as is par for the courseof an exhibition. One was that we had chosen a different layout of the mosaic initially, but it was altered to be more user friendly to read the label text in pretty much one screen. Initially we had a side orientation of the thumbnails where the pop up briefly opened next to the thumbnail as opposed to a frozen overlapping pop up window Slide -Wikipedia The on-line exhibition also allows a link to the Wikipedia entry about lithography creating another venue to expand its audience Slide -POS website The creation of the web exhibition does add an extra step/steps in the curation of an exhibition - extra work to organize the digital files, to amend label copy attached to images, and to review the site before going live but the advantages are great – a wider audience has access to your work and I use it as quick access to my narrative and as a reference sourcefor myself and library patrons that I can hyperlink to in an email. Also, unlike a physical exhibition, a web version will be in perpetuity and Google searchable. Nothing quite compares to viewing an exhibition in person on site. The narrative and actual flow feels more fluid than the web environment, and your sense of scale is off, but if the ultimate goal of an exhibition is to educate the public, nothing equals the mass communication possibilities available on-line.