Art Institute of Chicago Online Collection

Reviewed by:
Peter Klubek, Reference and Research Services Librarian
Edith Garland Dupré Library, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

The Art Institute of Chicago online collection is a freely accessible web-based platform that provides access to the most complete virtual version of the resources and collections of the museum. The site is full of detailed visual, textual, and multimedia material for more than one-hundred and sixteen thousand objects, showcasing the best possible representation of the museum’s holdings less a visit to the museum in person. This resource offers many opportunities to explore various aspects of individual artworks and the museum at large, including research guides, teaching resources, bibliographies, links to the museum’s library and archives, and other tools for exploration and learning.

The landing page features images of some of the most famous items in the Art Institute’s collection, tiled below a search box and a row of small clickable thumbnails to browse the items by genre, era, subject, object type, or medium. The larger images of artworks are displayed four images across with roughly 50 artworks per page, with lesser-known works shown on numerous following pages. When a user clicks on a thumbnail of an individual artwork, they are taken to a page displaying a brief written piece that covers the artist, history, and content of that particular work, with links to museum audio tours, more detailed information on artists and artworks, and personal reflections by museum staff and others. The writing throughout is clear and accessible, and could be used as a starting point by researchers at any level. Item-level metadata is more extensive than comparable museum collection websites, and a wide set of criteria on the left column allows users to filter and sort items. Users can toggle to display only items currently on view in the museum or in the public domain, among other selections. Some metadata is searchable but not displayed; for example, a search for “rabbits” reveals some items that depict rabbits even though the word “rabbits” does not appear in the public display of the corresponding item record.

An example of brief text in an artwork item record.

Users that could benefit the most from this resource include historians and arts educators, as well as artists and art students needing high-resolution images to explore technical aspects of an individual work. Scholars of art history will find useful the downloadable high-resolution images, exhibition histories, provenance details, and lists of publications related to each artwork. Developers can make use of the museum’s public API. Arts educators will appreciate the option to check the box in the filter menu that reads “Has educational resources available,” which displays over one hundred items with attached Educator Resource Packets to help with classroom instruction. Multimedia resources linked from artwork item records include videos and audio tours, along with links to past exhibition websites that include a wide range of materials.

Accessibly options could be improved, as it is difficult to locate the alt text of an image and keyboard control options appear limited. Despite these factors, the website is easy to navigate, with a logical delivery method and good performance on all tested browsers. The mobile version of the site is seamlessly adapted from the desktop version, offering the ability to enhance a museum visitor’s experience in the physical space of the museum, while also thoroughly serving users who are accessing the collection as a virtual-only experience. In the COVID-19 era, virtual options for using and viewing the museum collection are invaluable, and the AIC online collection is well-designed to meet the challenges brought by the pandemic.

On the whole, the structure of the online collection is coherent, well-organized, and suitable for both non-expert and expert users. The Art Institute of Chicago online collection provides an enjoyable and comprehensive virtual experience that exceeds the virtual platforms of comparable museums. The St. Louis Art Museum virtual collection offers many of the same features, including downloadable high-resolution images, but it does not share the additional in-depth written material included in the Art Institute of Chicago online collection, nor the extent of cataloged objects (about 6,000 objects). The Museum of Fine Arts Boston virtual collection is also similar, but is chunkier in its execution and usability. Overall the Art Institute of Chicago online collection is an excellent tool that could be useful in any art or research library.

Feral Atlas

Reviewed by:
Nicholas Dease, Digital Learning Librarian
Pratt Institute Libraries

ARLIS/NA Multimedia & Technology Reviews
April 2022

The anthropocene, a new geological period defined by humanity’s indelible mark on nature, is a topic of great interest among scholars in various disciplines. One doesn’t need to look far to discover a wealth of literature, datasets, news articles, and documentaries exploring the topic. However, it is rare that we see attempts to capture this phenomena as a work of art in the digital humanities. Published online by Stanford University Press, Feral Atlas is an openly accessible experiment that does just that. It is at once a work of interactive digital art, a dense informational resource for researchers, and a passionate call to action.

The image shows an overhead view of a port with buildings, shipping containers, and ships drawn in oblique view, with a gathering of people near two smokestacks. The water is shown in shades of blue and green, fumes are shown yellow, and other small multicolored accents are scattered throughout.
An image from Feral Atlas, depicting a port scene, pollution, and protest.

Curated and edited by Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou, the Feral Atlas is a set of four massive interactive artworks or maps, seventy-nine field reports produced by humanists, artists and scientists, and a “Super Index” to enable a more traditional exploration of the essays, poems, and other multimedia content. As described in the introduction, its goal is to invite the user to explore the “feral effects” of the anthropocene–to explore the ways in which human interventions have produced effects beyond human control.

The image shows a scene of two areas of land, shown in bright green, separated by an hourglass-shaped area of water, shown in shades of blue. The land on the left side shows leafy plants and trees and four human figures. Three humans appear to be land surveyors, and a fourth human points a gun at an elephant. The land on the right shows planted fields and a field of purple flowers, between which is the back view of a human holding a gun.
An image from Feral Atlas, depicting an interpretive view of colonization.

The experience of interacting with the atlas begins in an empty plane of white. Over time, a random selection of feral effects to explore drift into the browser viewport. Clicking on these effects will drop the user on one of the four maps, named Invasion, Empire, Capital, and Acceleration. From there, the user is invited to explore the map by panning, zooming, and clicking on feral effects represented by interactive dots or pins. Clicking on the dots reveals a “Tipper.” These are rich and often poetic descriptions of ecological changes that “shift ecologies past tipping points.” Viewing the tipper content provides a direct link to a field report that describes the effect in-depth and may reveal additional poetry, video, or other multimedia.

While the overall experience should be familiar to users that have navigated online interactive maps, the atlas itself is quite opaque at first blush. Much of this is intentional. Users are invited to slowly explore, learn how the system works, and come to their own conclusions. As such, the interface design and link names are quite unconventional and may confuse first-time users. This is reminiscent of the early days of the web, when interfaces were experimental and game-like. For impatient users, clicking on the rotating key at the top-left will direct them to the Super Index, where they can pick and choose what to explore in a more structured manner.

As for the content, the artwork, essays, poetry, and video poems are all impeccably produced. It is a joy to discover new things and ruminate on the themes. Even panning over the four maps can be a powerful aesthetic experience in itself. Certain segments are painted. Others are drawn in a sketchy minimalist style and others still are collage. The compositions are all imbued with dense meaning and references.

However, there are some challenges with the design of the atlas. Particularly, the website is not optimized for mobile devices. Attempting to view it in a mobile browser will trigger a message to urge the user to view it on a desktop or laptop instead. However, this doesn’t detract from the value of the work.

Ultimately, the Feral Atlas is a dense project. While the site can be difficult to comprehend and the interface isn’t optimized for all devices, there is no doubt that the work is a stunning achievement of collaboration and should serve as a model for future digital humanities projects in the same vein.

Imperfect History: Curating the Graphic Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library

Laurie Palumbo, Cataloging and Metadata Librarian, Art + Design Subject Coordinator
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library that supports the study of American history through its collection of rare books and graphic materials. Founded by Benjamin Franklin as a subscription library in 1731, The Library Company serves a varied constituency and is well respected for its exhibitions, public programming, fellowships, and digital collections. Imperfect History: Curating the Graphic Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library is their latest project. Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Graphic Arts Department, it provides the opportunity to reexamine and reinterpret longstanding collections through the complex narrative of racial biases and cultural influences.

The multifaceted, multimedia site offers access to the various grant-funded project outcomes including exhibitions, catalogs, videos, a workshop, and symposium. While an impressive amount of content is available, navigating the offerings can be confusing. There is little differentiation in the font and color of the selections, some of which may benefit from stacking in drop-down menus under key events. The digital exhibition is only accessible within the introductory page of the in-person exhibition, while the digital catalog is only accessible from the main project page.

Once in the digital exhibition, there is a hamburger menu to navigate the six sections, each thoughtfully tackling topics such as visual literacy, stewardship, and intrinsic value. The viewer scrolls down to view high quality images of lithographs, daguerreotypes, maps, drawings, and scrapbooks. An interactive magnifying glass is a fun feature that appears when an image is clicked on, allowing movement around the digital object to inspect details. The intent of the arrows on each side of the image is unclear, as they do not lead to additional views nor back to the exhibit.

Screenshot of magnified section of the engraving by Thomas Holme, titled “A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania in America.” This map was sold in England, circa1812

The digital exhibition culminates in a timeline featuring key moments in the history of The Library Company and the Graphic Arts Department. There is a block in the department’s timeline with images of several past exhibits and catalog covers, which makes the viewer curious for more. It is perhaps a missed opportunity to not have enhanced the timeline with an interactive element, connecting viewers to more information or images of the highlights.

The standalone digital catalog features three objects interpreted by four guest “catalogers,” chosen for their unique expertise. Again, navigating the project page can be confusing as linking across the top duplicates access but also restricts interaction. One of the more successful sections is the Catalog. Here, the viewer selects a title to connect with the digital image and a guest cataloger’s content, formatted as a cataloging record. The image stays in place while arrows at each side of the record allow the viewer to move the entries back and forth for comparison. This effective feature examines the concept of objectivity in traditional library cataloging and description through the juxtaposition of interpretations by the contributors.

The impact of the past two years is apparent throughout this project, both in the ideas and offerings. Rather than a limitation, it feels appropriate to the project and speaks with urgency to the times in which we live. While navigation is not always intuitive, the digital projects are aesthetically appealing and exciting to move through–it feels special to visit and learn about the works included. The easily accessible content offers simultaneous historical reflection and a prescient contribution to the telling and interpreting of the complicated history of the United States. The digital projects are valuable tools for students, scholars, and curious citizens interested in making connections between graphic materials, past ideas, and present considerations.

Museum Digital Initiatives During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Freyja T. Catton, MLIS, BFA
Wordeater Consulting

Museum digital initiatives during the Coronavirus Pandemic is an Austrian-based research project by Dr. Chiara Zuanni on the impact of COVID-19 on museums and their digital strategies. The homepage presents a map of museum digital initiatives around the world. The digital initiatives are categorized by type: contemporary collecting projects, social media initiatives, streaming content, virtual tours, online exhibitions, games, educational content, other activities, and tweets tagged #ClosedButActive.

The categories are indicated on the map by color and icon. Projects are flagged by location in one category color.

A map of Europe with color-coded icons indicating projects in different locations. The legend is across the top of the map and the filter categories are overlaid on the right-hand side.
Screenshot of map with legend and filter categories.

Users click and drag to navigate the map, then click on one of the flags to read brief project descriptions. Each description includes titles, category, institution name, summary, and URL. The map supports filtering by category. Each country is shown using its own alphabets and names, further demonstrating the global impact of the project.

A map of eastern Canada/US border and Guelph Museum indicated with an orange flag and text box that reads: "Guelph Museum, Rapid response collection. The museum launched a contemporary collecting project: “We are interested in collecting contemporary objects and personal expressions, in the midst of city-wide closures, social distancing protocols, and our individual and collective experiences.” Text is followed by a URL link for Guelph Museums.
Screenshot of the map over eastern Canada/US border and Guelph Museum selected (orange flag).

Users must begin their search with a location they’re interested in and click and drag to get there. There is no search option, which makes quick searches difficult. The webpage is responsive to different browser sizes. This website relies heavily on a good internet connection, as connection lags make it hard to navigate.

The technology feels a little underwhelming at first, because all of the information shared isn’t searchable and is viewed on a single page. However, the information presented is clear, complex, and very useful. It’s fun to poke around at different projects around the world!

The website is freely available on the internet for anyone to use. Zuanni is dedicated to making this easily available and to expand and refine the dataset as the collection grows. Contribution forms are presented in several different languages. A lot of work went into making this website multilingual.

In the “About” page, users can learn about the project by reading the summary and related papers and reviews. The reviews correspond with areas of the map that are dense with contributions. Many of the digital initiatives and museums represented are in central and western Europe and in the US. There was a surprising lack of museums represented in Canada, as well as eastern Europe, such as Ukraine. The absence of Ukraine stood out because many cultural heritage organizations there are actively working to preserve their collections during wartime, for example Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online.

It is not clear what the vetting process is like for accepting submissions, or how initiatives are recruited other than by contribution. In the contribution form on the website, there is a summary statement at the top indicating the purpose of the project, but questions do not specify that the project needs to be specifically a museum initiative, or developed in response to the COVID-19 closures.

Google Forms. The first question reads: “What is the name of the institution you wish to add to the list?” Second question reads: “Select the type of activity you wish to add to the list:” with a drop-down box below.
Contribution form

Considering the range of budgets and staff resources, Museum digital initiatives during the Coronavirus Pandemic projects are useful examples for the broader cultural heritage community, not just museum professionals. Although it’s unclear whether this project will extend beyond the height of the pandemic, it is a valuable resource for uncovering the impact of COVID-19 on museum digital strategies.


Reviewed by:
Anina Rossen, Librarian, and Independent Art Historian
Academy of the Holy Angels

ThingStor: A Material Culture Database for Finding Objects in Literature & Visual Art is an open-access resource supported by the Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware. It was created by Dr. Martin Brückner, together with a multi-departmental group of undergraduate and graduate students at the University. There are currently twenty-four project members, as well as twenty former project members. Thingstor provides a reference database allowing users to access its catalogue of “real” objects, both vernacular and high-style, that appear in American and English literature, as well as in visual art, from the long 19th century. Currently housing more than 1,000 objects, the database is an ongoing project welcoming contributions and input from users of the resource.

ThingStor banner image, which includes four smaller images. From left to right, the first image is a copy of a painting showing three people around a table, one reading a newspaper; the second image shows an antique glass lamp; the third image shows an antique book; the fourth image has a yellow background with white and black text that reads "ThingStor A Material Culture Database for Finding Objects in Literature & Visual Art, Supported by the Canter for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware CMCS"
ThingStor banner image

Using WordPress and Airtable as its platform, Thingstor is an effectively organized and easily navigated resource. The homepage provides six clear headings: access the database, learn more about how to use it, about us, webinar event 2021, and suggest an object. The site is minimally designed, but provides a functional and visually appealing layout, with concise and clear instructions on how to use the database. Under the heading Webinar Event 2021, one can find a video of the event, led by Dr. Brückner, that provides an in depth description of the project and how it came to be. Though mobile-friendly, the gallery view is best experienced on a larger screen.

Once one enters the database on Airtable, one finds a visually engaging resource featuring high quality photos of the objects, at times multiple images, a description of the object, and tagging that links the item to the source text in which it was found. The resource is easily searched and different tabs allow users to access the content by example object, source, or referenced object. The user’s view of the content can also be changed from a gallery view to a grid view, giving the user the option to sort the content to fit their needs. Links are provided in each object record to direct the user to sample object image. Some of these links take the user to additional information while other links are no longer functional.

The image shows an entry in the ThingStor database: a photograph of a decorative silver box with text below it. The text reads "Vinaigrette box. Caption of sample object image: Vinaigrette box, Nathaniel Mills. Source Text: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Or, Life among. Quoted Object: Gold vinaigrette."
ThingStor object record, featuring a vinaigrette box.

This online resource is open access and freely available to users without paywall or the need to create an account. The project was initiated by questions from graduate students seeking more information about unfamiliar objects they were coming across in literature and visual arts. This resource is useful to individuals in those fields, but would also be useful to anyone engaging in literature, art, history, theater, or ephemera from that era.

The use of WordPress for the website and Airtable for the database itself is an effective way to organize, store, and share this content. The images are excellent quality, as they are drawn from museum and library digital collections, and allow for close investigation of the object. The resource is highly engaging and invites exploration. Thingstor welcomes interaction from users with Dr. Brückner’s email address available for questions. There is also a Google form for users to suggest an object for the database.

Thingstor is an incredibly useful resource for identifying and accessing information about material objects referenced in 19th century literature and visual art. The database continues to increase its holdings, making itself a valuable repository for researchers and interested lay-people alike.

Text reads "Publications" over an image of two periodicals.

Tilt West

Reviewed by:
Chelsea M. Stone, MLS, Digital Asset Manager

Tilt West is a Denver-based non-profit that engages in publication activities as well as hosting community round tables. The board members are supported by a team from the region’s budding arts and culture community. Founded to “elevate, amplify, and support the growing arts and culture scene in Colorado,” Tilt West believes in the essential role of critical discourse in supporting a healthy artistic ecosystem. Tilt West Journal is a manifestation of this goal and is complimented by open invitation community talks. 

Digital edition of volume one, Art and Language.
PDF viewer with page navigation on left and cover of publication in window. It reads "Art and Community".
PDF view of Art and Community issue.

With the first two volumes of Tilt West Journal freely available online, Tilt West released the third volume, Art and Labor, on September 1, 2021.  Volume one, Art and Language, was published March 2020 and volume two, Art and Community, was published December 2020. Publications, created using the Getty’s Quire publication system, are freely available in multiple formats including a browser-based viewer, PDF, EPUB, Kindle, and Mobi. Additionally, print versions are available for purchase for $30. Tilt West usefully provides citations in both Chicago and MLA formats and carry a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license. This review will primarily discuss the browser-based experience of Tilt West Journal.

The cover display for the three journal volumes is a piece of art featured within the publication, an enticement to draw the reader in. Navigation is fairly intuitive, although not especially conspicuous, and there is no journal homepage to speak of. Within a particular volume of Tilt West Journal, once the user locates the navigation arrow and/or the expandable sidebar table of contents, it is easy to browse and identify areas of interest. Users who choose to navigate through the digital publication in sequential order will find the application a bit clunky and lacking smooth transitions. Additionally, unlike a traditional print publication, interaction requires scrolling to engage with all the content. The digital publication allows you to click a “Next” button at the bottom of the page, which improves the navigation. While it is a benefit to have multiple output offerings, they are not intuitive for less tech savvy users and each provides a different experience. The browser-based digital publication version loads images slowly, although the quality of the digital images is high. On the positive side, the digital format allows for multimedia such as embedded videos and GIFs, which are unavailable in other formats. Volume two features the digital animation piece Test by Anthony Garcia, Sr. and the video piece unoccupied by Kim Shively. The inclusion of multimedia sets Tilt West Journal apart from other arts journals. Multimedia enhances Tilt West Journal’s digital reading experience and empowers readers to create connections with content. 

Socially we are in a connected ecosystem of technology and communication; further emphasized by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tilt West is making technology work for humanity and utilizing it to preserve and further people’s interaction with “community exchange, critical dialogue, and provocative conversations on art, ideas, and culture.” This transformative publication will continue to challenge itself and its readers.  

V&A Explore the Collections

Reviewed by:
Matthew Garklavs, Electronic Resources Librarian
Pratt Institute Libraries

The Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in London launched Explore the Collections in February 2021. This dynamic new platform was a project two years in the making. It’s an ambitious endeavor that brings together silos of information from the V&A’s collection, online editorial content, holdings from the National Art Library, and the museum archives. 

Homepage of the V&A's Explore Our Collections showing a search bar and a section labeled "latest", under which are exhibition titles and images
Homepage of the V&A’s Explore Our Collections

Explore Collections was largely driven by user feedback. A usability study published on the V&A website in 2019 explains a lot of their design decisions. From a user experience standpoint, Explore the Collections is very intuitive and easy to navigate. A new user can easily get oriented by simply browsing within the various categories on the landing page. Experts can utilize search tools, facets, and filters that are germane to library research databases. 

The landing page is like a museum lobby, prompting you to explore new exhibitions and engage with the permanent collection. For instance, their current exhibit on Beatrix Potter, the renowned English children’s book writer, has a dedicated section rich with resources that was recently featured on the homepage. Users who go down this rabbit hole (pardon the pun) will find highlights from the exhibition and learn more about the artist through interactive materials. 

The Beatrix Potter exhibit exemplifies how seamlessly Explore the Collections interoperates with the V&A’s catalog. If you click on the “Search Collections” option below the highlighted materials in this section it generates a catalog query for “Potter, Beatrix”. That button redirects users to an interface where they can explore the collection by performing searches and utilize facets to navigate through results. 

Search results page showing a box under the search bar reading "person: Potter, Beatrix", filters, and a results grid
Results after clicking “Search the Collections” on the Beatrix Potter exhibition page.

Explore the Collections is a work in progress. Only half of the V&A’s collection is discoverable in the system as of Spring 2022, so it’s difficult to assess how well it will scale to the items from their library and archives. Based on the limited bibliographic materials accessible now, there are several discrepancies between the metadata available in the National Art Library’s catalog and the new system. For example, one of the resources users can discover in Explore the Collections is William Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World. What the user won’t learn in this instance is that there’s a corresponding catalog record for this book in the National Art Library’s OPAC (hosted on Worldcat Discovery). This omission is unfortunate because the OPAC record offers a robust description that is rich with subject headings, local notes about unique physical characteristics of the book, and an external link to a digitized copy that is openly accessible on Internet Archive.

One of the key takeaways from the aforementioned usability study is the importance of making the V&A more transparent with their digital assets. In fact, it specifically mentions the need to share “further relevant information in the archives or the National Library.” Hopefully the designers working on “Explore the Collection” will continue collaborating with their colleagues in the library and archive to ensure that project achieves its vision while fulfilling the needs of stakeholders from the libraries and archives. 

Overall, “Explore the Collections” stands out as a promising proof of concept. The project still has a long way to go, but it provides a digital foundation for the V&A can build upon and optimize. For those of us who cannot visit the museum in person, “Explore the Collections” is a viable way to view a collection of valuable resources “that span over 5,000 years of human creativity.” 

Visionary Futures Collective

Visionary Futures Collective

Reviewed by:
Rebecca K. Friedman, Assistant Librarian
Marquand Library, Princeton University

The Visionary Futures Collective represents students, scholars and staff working in higher education or in academic-adjacent roles. All work in or around humanities disciplines, and are “increasing transparency, sharing vulnerability, and working collectively to imagine and create a better future for higher education.” One must dig a bit deeper to determine the specific challenges in higher education being referred to in the group’s mission statement. “Today Must be Sunday,” under “Our Projects,” then “News,” links to an online conversation that gives a sense of the challenges being referred to, along with the group’s desire to connect and collaborate online.

The Visionary Futures Collective brings together humanists across the United States to tackle challenges relating to the present and future of higher education.

This group is made up of scholars of the humanities. Many, but not all of us have or are currently pursuing graduate degrees. Many, but not all of us work or study at universities. Some, but not most of us, are professors. All of us believe in the transformational power and vital importance of the humanities.

This group believes that the study of human history and cultural expression is essential to a more just and meaningful society. Our purpose is to create the conditions in which this work can thrive.

We begin with the premise that current conditions in higher education are incompatible with the work of the humanities. We formed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic because we understood that this public health crisis would exacerbate the structural inequities that characterize U.S. higher education. Our work is shaped by the long-overdue national reckoning with racial inequities led by the Black Lives Matter movement.
A portion of the mission statement of the Visionary Futures Collective found on the group’s website

The site and group projects seem to have taken off in Summer 2020, and as of September of that year, featured two initiatives: the Covid-19 Tracker, a survey and resulting data related to the state of campuses at colleges and universities across the U.S., and the Academic Psychic Friends Network for “writing, resources, and swag for academic friends dreaming of a better future.” Subsequent endeavors included “#CovidCampus: Students respond to Covid-19,” “Covid 19 & Academic Labor: An Action Deck for Campus Workers,” “The Caregivers Survey,” “International Student Survey,” “Job Market Support Network,” and “Postcards for Rage and Renewal”: a “collective art project with the Inkcap Collective.” All are linked under “Our Projects” on the main page. (Covid tracker image here)

Screenshot of Covid-19 tracker project with a map of the U.S. marked with colored dots of various sizes corresponding to emotions felt by college campus workers in the Fall of 2021.
Screenshot of Covid-19 tracker project with a map of the U.S. marked with colored dots of various sizes corresponding to emotions felt by college campus workers in the Fall of 2021.

The site offers multiple ways to get involved by taking a survey, recording one’s experiences, sharing information about a campus strike or other action, contributing content, or sharing other data collection projects. There is also a Resources page. Advocacy towards greater inclusion is front and center, with efforts to highlight the experiences of BIPOC and other under-represented and/or oppressed communities within higher education.

The group offers an occasional newsletter and blog and hosts monthly “First Friday” Tarot Party events utilizing the academic tarot card deck that the group created. 22 cards serve as academic versions of the Major Arcana cards found in a traditional tarot deck. The events offer informal discussion and bonding over shared concerns, with an opportunity to “ask the cards” to help provide some direction or insights. Tarot is used “as a way to tell stories of hope about higher education.”

The site and its content do not necessitate creating an account or downloading any software, with the exception of VFC publicity or awards linking out to other sites that may require a subscription or account creation. The group’s web presence, on the GitHub platform, points to projects that members have undertaken from 2020 to the present, “using digital platforms, data collection and visualization, and storytelling resources to build community and solidarity and to help one another move from fear and anger into action.” While GitHub is used by IT developers and others needing to share code and/or develop software, it is now a subsidiary of Microsoft and can be used to host open-source projects. The VFC is using Jekyll to host their GitHub website. The most recent VFC email/newsletter focused on “Rage and Renewal”: group members have learned “to feel the outrage and despair that comes in waves in this unjust world… [and to find] ways to move those feelings towards action….” This newsletter also draws attention to a timely initiative to preserve content in Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions. Perhaps the work of the VFC can offer some inspiration and insights as ARLIS/NA develops a new strategic plan.   The group’s intended audience includes anyone working in higher education, particularly in the humanities: students, staff “of all kinds, including custodial staff, maintenance workers…librarians…and all contingent or precariously-employed workers.”