Book cover with "Past Due" inscribed over a map of Los Angeles.

Past Due

Reviewed October 2021
Alison Quirion, Associate Archivist, DZConnex/Sony Santa Monica Studio

PAST DUE: Report and Recommendations of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group is the culmination of 18 months of discussions on how to think about existing and future civic memory projects. The 40-member group included historians, artists, architects, curators, designers, civic leaders, cultural leaders, and Indigenous elders and scholars. Their work is presented as a report with 18 key recommendations alongside supporting supplemental material. The website provides multiple ways to consume the final report with varying levels of user engagement. Originally designed and delivered as a printed publication, the full report can be viewed as a PDF in single page or spread format. For a quick takeaway, the key recommendations are accessible from the home page. A map option allows geographic exploration of notable events from the report, or, the user can take a non-linear tour of the report by browsing each piece of content, displayed in a visually appealing grid format.

For users interested in the role of public spaces in reinforcing or acknowledging social and racial injustices, PAST DUE complements sites such as Paper Monuments and Monument Lab. While those sites recap actions taken to address controversial monuments and build new, inclusive markers and memorials, PAST DUE focuses on the difficult questions and complexity leading up to taking action. Users, especially those belonging to the groups represented in the Civic Memory Working Group, will find valuable insights in the Roundtable Discussions and the Sub-Committee reports. The content of PAST DUE will also appeal to users interested in the history of the city of Los Angeles and the individuals whose contributions have been underrepresented or ignored. 

The organization of the website encourages the user to browse and explore, but at the sacrifice of the narrative structure of the report PDF. The PDF leads readers through the discussions, interspersing the case studies, photos, and excerpts between each sub-committee report. The website is organized by content type, with no cues as to how each piece supports specific areas of discussion, placing the burden on users to make the connections. Consuming the content in the same order as the PDF is beneficial to creating deeper understanding. While site users will appreciate each piece on its own, they are missing out on how it impacts the larger discussion.

Navigation menu, featuring three large boxes with text below.
PAST DUE Contents Display.

There are a few missed opportunities on the website. First is the limited search functionality. Expanding beyond the eight available filtering terms or including a keyword search option would allow for collating specific content. Linking important subject terms and references to other content would help to create a sense of story. The lack of language options is another missed opportunity. With the exception of the Spanish and English options on the Key Recommendations page, the content is only available in English. Considering the Working Group’s focus on highlighting the impact of white power structures in civic memory projects and the diversity of users interested in the content, the site could be more accessible and discoverable.

To fully appreciate the content of PAST DUE, I recommend  users ought to first view the double-page PDF of the full report. Each piece of content makes more sense within the linear structure of the book versus the semi-unstructured website. In website form, PAST DUE is a complete representation of the Civic Memory Working Group Report, but with room for improvement and growth. Just as the report is a starting point for discussion and reflection, the website is also a starting point for engaging the community, as long as they can make their own sense out of it.

Text over a large background image depicting slides over a lightbox and a loupe.

Voices in Studio Glass

Reviewed by:
Courtenay McLeland, Head of Digital Projects & Preservation
Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida

Paul M. Hollister (1918-2004) was a noted art glass scholar with a variety of interests that included the growth of the studio art glass movement. Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister from Bard Graduate Center offers a digital exhibition, multimedia archive, and annotated bibliography of Hollister’s writings and documentary efforts related to the post-World War II studio glass movement in the United States. This multifaceted scholarly resource grew from years-long collaborations that began as two separate projects, one to create an anthology of Hollister’s writings and another to digitize selections from his extensive collection of 35mm slides. These efforts merged and additional oral history interviews, new transcriptions, and images were added, rounding out the coverage. 

Content is organized into three broad categories accessible through in a menu at the upper right of each top-level page. The broad categories of Places of Studio Glass, Glass Community, and Hollister Annotated Bibliography each expand to greater depths of material. There is also an informative About the Project page that makes clear the many contributions made by collaborators. 

Within the Places of Studio Glass area there are seven pages for schools or other sites selected for their significant coverage in Hollister’s writings or photographs. Included in the title banner of each place page is a table of contents that provides an overview of sections within. Quotes sprinkled throughout the pages enrich the exhibit experience, though a welcome enhancement would be a link or other way of quickly learning the original source of the quote. It is unclear whether some of the quotes were gathered in association with this project, with one particularly timely quote from Ben Wright on the Pilchuck place page.

The Glass Community page provides records for persons who were either interviewed by or featured in Hollister’s writings. These records vary in coverage and provide a mixture of features that may include an image of the artist, a brief biographical entry, images representing the artist’s body of work, audio or video interviews, and a bibliography of Hollister writings related to that individual.

The Hollister Annotated Bibliography offers Hollister’s critical writings on studio glass published between 1976 and 1995, and includes entries about Paul and Irene Hollister plus transcripts provided by Bard Graduate Center. Many entries include full-text articles in PDF, though some provide links to full-text articles, such as those from the archives of the New York Times or digitized American Craft articles from the American Craft Council. While entries are generally arranged in chronological order, at the end of the bibliography there are areas in which this organizing principle has not been applied. A feature of the bibliography that users will appreciate is a section beneath each annotation with the names of the artists mentioned within the article. Additionally, when a mentioned person is among those with a presence on the Glass Community page, the name is linked back to that entry.

Built in WordPress with collaboration from a team of developers, the clear and engaging design provides visitors with an enriched experience of the material. There are thoughtful visual enhancements, such as highlighted names or text that complement the content without overshadowing it. This freely accessible scholarly and archival resource will be of most value to those conducting research in Paul Hollister’s areas of scholarship, post-war studio glass, and the schools that were significant to the movement, though casual visitors will also find much to explore. Welcome enhancements would be a timeline or chronological listing of significant events as well as a sitewide index or search feature.

Hammer Channel

Reviewed by:
Hannah Plank, Digital Image Specialist
Visual Resources Library, Art History Department, Emory University

Launched in 2021 by the Hammer Museum at UCLA and digital projects agency Cogapp, Hammer Channel provides viewers with an accessible and easily navigable portal to view an extensive video archive of the museum’s programs virtually and on-demand. Covering the mid-2000s to the present, the site includes lectures, exhibition walkthroughs, panel discussions, and performances and addresses wide-ranging topics, including art, music, social justice, and education, among others. Additionally, by promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and connections, as well as featuring topics related to social justice, Hammer Channel directly contributes to the museum’s mission statement: “The Hammer Museum at UCLA believes in the promise of art and ideas to illuminate our lives and build a more just world.”

On the whole, Hammer Channel is a high-quality resource in that it offers a vast amount of diverse material while remaining intuitive and approachable. One can easily navigate, explore, discover, and make connections between various programs. For example, in the case of the video “TELETHON performance,” a work of feminist performance art, the “Related” tab offers other videos about feminism, as well as clickable keywords that can help viewers find additional videos that pertain to relevant themes. More broadly, navigability is a strength of Hammer Channel as viewers have are offered multiple ways to find materials, including a search function, filters, and a home page with categories for those who wish to browse. Navigation within videos also functions well, as viewers can drag the progress bar or click on a particular point in the included transcript to be taken to that part of the video. If the developers wished to add additional features to Hammer Channel, adding ten- or fifteen-second rewind and fast forward buttons would improve navigability for those who would like to hear a particular point again or skip ahead just a little.

One of Hammer Channel’s greatest strengths is its accessibility in that it is a free resource with no account needed and no advertisements, which are prevalent on other free video platforms. Hammer Channel includes the same features and ease of use on both desktop and mobile web browsers, further increasing access. Additionally, the inclusion of both transcripts and captions for each video makes the programming accessible to a wider audience. Expanding linguistic accessibility, a series of videos pertaining to the exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 is available in both English and Spanish. The inclusion of additional bilingual programming would be a worthy direction for future exploration as it would allow more people to engage with Hammer Channel

With its wide range of content, Hammer Channel can serve a wide variety of users. People with interests in art and social justice, as well as those who miss attending in-person programming in the age of COVID-19, will find plenty to enjoy. Further, the Hammer Channel platform includes a clipping tool that allows users to select and share sections of videos, which makes it ideal for educators and digital content creators. Following in this vein of encouraging information reuse, documentation for Hammer Channel’s open-source platform is provided on GitHub. Additionally, because the video transcripts are downloadable as text files, they could be used as a corpus for computational text analysis or other digital humanities research endeavors.

On the whole, Hammer Channel moves beyond the offerings of more general platforms like YouTube by offering an experience that is custom designed to suit the museum’s content and by providing transcripts. With more than one thousand videos available on the user-friendly platform after less than a year of existence, it promises to be a valuable resource for many.

The Color Our Collections homepage, with a banner image and a number of tiles with icons.

Color Our Collections

Reviewed by:
Heather Koopmans, Fine Arts Librarian, Illinois State University

#ColorOurCollections is a website and social media-driven international “coloring festival” hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine Library. Each year, libraries, museums, and archives are invited to develop and share free digital coloring books (PDF files) that highlight public domain works from their collections. The festival has occurred annually the first week of February since 2016 and to date, over six hundred coloring books by more than three hundred participating institutions are available on the #ColorOurCollections website.

The Color Our Collections homepage, with a banner image and a number of tiles with icons.
Homepage for Color Our Collections.

Coloring books typically feature five to ten black-and-white images alongside brief information about the participating institution. Institutions are responsible for creating their own books, and a template and instructions for converting images with Photoshop or Gimp (a free image editing tool) are provided. Institutions then register and submit their coloring books to #ColorOurCollections in advance of the festival dates. The coloring books are likely to appeal to a broad audience, and collectively, they feature works representing a range of artistic styles, subjects, creation dates, and cultures. All that users need to download them is an internet-connected device and commonplace PDF reader software; the pages can then be printed for coloring. 

The #ColorOurCollections homepage features a tiled layout of recently contributed coloring books. Additional coloring books are found via a sidebar that appears on all other pages but the homepage. This sidebar lists all participating institutions (past and present) and clicking on an institution name reveals tiles for the coloring books they have contributed. Each tile opens a page that contains a preview of a coloring book, a link to download the PDF and more information about the institution. In comparison, the lists found under the “Participating Institutions” tab in the main navigation bar lead to institutions’ websites and social media accounts, but not to their coloring books.

A small magnifying glass icon layered on top of the website header opens a search bar (also layered on top of the header). This layering may pose a challenge for visually impaired website users. The search itself works well and is useful for locating content based on keywords such as medium, location, and institution name, and could be made even better through redesign to be more visually accessible.

Given the impressive breadth of both participating institutions and coloring book content, additional discovery options would be beneficial. It would be fascinating to see institutions overlaid on an interactive world map, enabling one to download coloring books by location. In addition, a tag cloud located at the bottom of the navigational sidebar provides a helpful way to explore coloring books by subject and could be given a more prominent location.

#ColorOurCollections is well-designed for social media integration. It is easy to grab unique, stable URLs to specific coloring books that can be shared in any number of ways. Institutions and individuals alike can use the provided promotional graphics and the #colorourcollections hashtag to spread the word about the festival and engage with other participants. 

Institutions may wish to participate in #ColorOurCollections to promote awareness of and encourage interaction with their collections—for their immediate communities and beyond. The festival provides an exciting opportunity to broadly educate about the creative reuse potential of public domain works. Institutions could also develop complimentary virtual or in-person programs (such coloring parties) that use the #ColorOurCollections content regardless of whether they are official participants. And the website itself offers a rich trove of free content to anyone who enjoys coloring, accessible anytime. In sum, #ColorOurCollections offers a fresh way to highlight cultural heritage collections with the flexibility and wide reach of virtual engagement.

Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python

Reviewed by:
Christy Anderson, Marketing/Administrative Assistant
Kimbel Library and Bryan Information Commons, Coastal Carolina University

The digital book Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python has already become a recommended resource within the field of digital humanities. Though it was created as a textbook for a particular class at Cornell University, this new resource is so comprehensive that it can be utilized beyond the context of the course it was created for. The book covers a lot of ground, from Python basics and how to use Jupyter to curating data and running analysis.  

Written by Melanie Walsh while she was a Postdoctoral Associate in Information Science at Cornell, Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python was designed to accompany an undergraduate course by the same name. According to Walsh’s bio on Humanities Commons, the book was created to prepare “students to analyze cultural materials — such as books, movies, historical records, and social media posts — with digital and computational tools.” Walsh explains cultural analytics as a mix of computers and human life that applies computational methods to the study of culture. Cultural analytics is a growing discipline that stems from fields like Digital Humanities and Information Science.

This “how to” guide is as direct as they come and embodies its ethos as an open educational resource (OER).  The site’s table of contents runs down the right side, while the book’s contents are laid out along the left, listing each chapter with its sectional topics in a drop-down box. Step-by-step text is accompanied by embedded video tutorials throughout. Style wise, Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python forgoes sleek graphics for design that is clean and simple. In keeping with open educational resources, the book is hosted on  GitHub and powered by Jupyter Book, an open source project for building books. It is similar in look and feel to the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure open course Cultural Analytics: Interactive Learning Environment in R, which utilizes Swirl software to teach R language.

This resource is definitely created for an extremely specific audience. While it is an introductory text, it is not a fully explanatory one. For those with only a vague understanding of programming and data analysis, the content may feel foreign. For a reader with that foundational understanding, however, this book will be incredibly useful in fostering practical understanding. The book gives learners hands-on experience by walking them step-by-step through the interactive process . It also houses a growing repository of datasets related to culture and humanities with examples of how they can be used.  

There are several ways to go about using Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python, including PDF download or in the Cloud. However, to fully engage with the pages, Jupyter Notebook needs to be downloaded. It is also important to note that there is a good deal of hidden content in the book. By clicking on the embedded “Click to show” found on most pages, varying code, answers to practice questions, and extra activities will be revealed. Walsh designed this hidden content “to replicate the experience of running code live.” 

There is not anything quite like Introduction to Cultural Analytics & Python openly available on the web. There are other lessons and courses that focus on individual components, such as text analysis, Python, Pandas, and machine learning  However, Walsh’s work combines these components for the specific task of cultural analysis in a way that is fully interactive and highly educational. Walsh packs in a lot of “how to” skills with basic understanding of the topics. In essence, this book is the go-to for taking your knowledge of digital humanities and putting it into practical application.