Homepage of the Visualizing the Virus project, including the title and description of the project and several examples of entries for the project represented by different circular images.

Visualizing the Virus

Reviewed by:
Dana Statton Thompson, Research and Instruction Librarian
Waterfield Library, Murray State University

Homepage of the Visualizing the Virus project, including the title and description of the project and several examples of entries for the project represented by different circular images.
Screenshot of Visualizing the Virus website, taken 6/24/2022

Visualizing the Virus is a cross between an online repository of original content and bibliography of existing resources. The purpose of the international and interdisciplinary project is to showcase both how the COVID-19 pandemic has been visualized and the inequalities it has revealed. The project was founded and is led by Dr Sria Chatterjee, an art historian and environmental humanities scholar who is the Head of Research and Learning at the Paul Mellon Centre in London. The project is made possible by a grant from DARIAH EU, support from the Institute of Experimental Design and Media, FHNW, and project partner Princeton Center for Digital Humanities. There are 75 individual contributors to the project so far with four ways to participate as an outsider: collaborating, curating a cluster, featuring existing work, and submitting new work. 

This free-to-access project provides relevant information about 43 entries and counting, be it a summary of a podcast, explanation of artwork, or link to a peer-reviewed article. Entries range from original essays to summaries of other projects centered on visualization and the virus, are extremely diverse and include websites, films, poetry, and even a recorded conversation between two anthropologists with accompanying images. Each entry is included on the homepage and include such varied titles as “COVID-19 and Art in South Africa: The Voids of Thuli Lubisi’s Apart,” “Indian Migrant Workers & Lockdown: Trapped in the Inner Cities,”” “Smartphones and the Pandemic: Navigating care, surveillance, and Connection in Japan.” Some entries are linked through two different types of ‘clusters.’ A ‘curated cluster’ is a group of individual entries by different contributors which have been linked by theme by a member of the project team or a guest-curator. Currently, there are 4 curated clusters: White Privilege and Covid-19 (2 entries); Visualizing COVID-19 as a Zoonotic Disease (5 entries); Covid Denialism (5 entries); and Covid-19 in the Context of Protests in Hong Kong (3 entries). Each curated cluster includes an introduction by the curator introducing the connecting thread between the entries. Somewhat confusingly, there are also 50 ‘themed clusters’ which are entries that are linked by keywords applied to each entry such as activism, art, bats, capitalism, care, colonialism, data visualization, gender, labor, lockdown, public health, race, surveillance, and trauma. 

The Index page can be organized in five different ways: alphabetically by title of the entry, by ‘macro-cluster’ (which refers to a keyword associated with the entry), by cluster (which refers to the entries organized into curated clusters), by date, and by contributor(s).  The newly-introduced term ‘macro-cluster’ apparently refers to themed clusters which are broader in scope than intentionally-curated clusters, are not presented with any type of unifying context or introduction like the curated clusters, and are linked by keyword. . 

Interestingly, the title of each entry on the homepage slowly circles the image representing the entry. Entries included in curated clusters bounce in between the confines of the image, also a stagnant image, also in the shape of a circle. It is possible to halt the motion of the animation by clicking the ‘Accessibility’ button included on the top right of each website page and selecting ‘No Motion.’ The Accessibility information included on the site states that they want as many people as possible to be able to site and includes inclusive practices such as alt text and navigating the site using speech recognition software. However, it is never clearly outlined why the animation is included, although the assumption is that since this is a project about visualization, movement creates its own type of interesting visual display. 

Although several sites showcase visualizations about COVID-19 or have dashboards based on COVID-19 data, this site is singular in that it is a collection focused on COVID-19 and inequality and injustice. The project centers entries, either directly presented on the site or introduced and linked to about COVID-19’s impact, with a social justice lens. This resource is appropriate for the general public and serves as an excellent example of visually stimulating web design that foregrounds accessibility. However, the success of this is slightly minimized by the problematic navigation and naming conventions of the clusters. 

Digital Cicognara Library

Reviewed by:
Natalia Lonchyna
Retired Librarian (formerly at the North Carolina Museum of Art)

Libraries are all about accessibility. One may have the most beautiful library in the world and yet, if no one knows about it, it is only available to those who can physically be in the space and experience the tomes tactilely. We now live in the exciting time of digital resources which has made a significant difference to scholarship, has made resources available to those who lack the funds to travel, and has opened an incredible world to all researchers for scholars and amateurs alike. Although the experience of seeing a book in person is always preferable, it is quite remarkable to have access to such treasure troves as the Digital Cicognara Library.

Count Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) was a renowned art historian who amassed over 5,000 books in his library collection–art, art history, archeology, and related disciplines. Cicognara published an  inventory of his library collection, Catalogo ragionato de’ libri d’arte e di antichità. This serves as the guide to his collection which was purchased in its entirety by Pope Leo X and became part of the Vatican Library. Phillip and Reina Fehl began a decades-long project to produce a microfiche collection of the contents. Subsequently, the microfiche collection and digitized books held in participating  libraries became the Digital Cicognara Library. 

This digital resource is available free of charge and is easy to navigate and search. In addition to the search box, the homepage provides the following headers: About (history of Cicognara and his library), Community (participating institutions), Contact (e-mail content provider), News (relating to the development and status of the project), and the option to subscribe to Twitter (if you would like to follow the tweets produced by this project).

The simple search box will give results of titles, no matter the language. For example, if you type in architecture, the result list will contain the works in the language of the appropriate subject, not only in Italian or Latin, but English, French, German, and Spanish. Dropdown menus can further refine the user’s search by language, year, and other options. An advanced search is also available. On the “Browse full catalogo” page, access to the bound version of the original catalog is provided through an external link to the Vatican’s website as well as the listing of the catalog for browsing  by subject matter according to Cicognara’s categories (for example, “Architettura teatrale antica”).  In both the search results page and the browse page, the list of titles includes the Cicognara catalog number, the hyperlinked title of the book, and, if available, an annotation in Italian. If you search using the Chrome browser, the Google translate option appears. The translation can be a hit or a miss but does provide the gist of the annotation. 

Logos of participating Institutions of the Digital Cicognara Library

In both the search results and the browse page, the titles of the books are hyperlinked to the microfiche version and the actual book held at the Vatican or participating library if available.  The digitized versions, whether the microfiche or the books from the participating institutions, are powered by IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework), which allows the user to turn the pages and zoom in closer on images or text.  One can download the microfiche version in its entirety as a pdf or individual pages from the books of particular libraries. For text, the digitized microfiche version is very readable; for images, the digitized book form will be more desirable. A need to see another version of the same title comes into play most when viewing illustrations. The sidebar for the entries indicate the possible versions available. As an aside, those who are interested in the physical aspect of the book can also examine and zoom in on the binding and endpapers. The expanded cataloging record underneath the viewing platform explains the version that you see, as well as comments on the imperfections and useful information, i.e. lack of digitized pages and others.

Record result which includes both the microfiche version and the digitized book version.

Many digitized libraries require memberships or subscriptions; however, the Digital Cicognara Library is an open access source for professional researcher and amateur alike. The fact that this project is supported by many different libraries (The Vatican Library, Getty, Princeton, Harvard, National Gallery of Art, etc.) gives gravitas to its importance in the world of scholarship. Because of the partnership, the Digital Cicognara Library is available through many different venues, which makes it accessible to even more researchers than through a single point of access. The Getty Portal, Hathi Trust, Internet Archive also provide access, as well as the individual libraries that participate in this project. Researchers therefore have numerous options for accessing these titles, among them the richly contextual Digital Cicognara Library website. Scholars not only of art history and architecture, but of the historical time period (16th through 19th centuries) will hopefully be delighted to have these digital resources at their fingertips.

Includes the site banner and navigation links, as well as partial images of several completed crafts. "Thank you to our workshop and tutorial participants for sending in photos of their Crafting Communities projects!"

Crafting Communities

Reviewed by:
Anna Flinchbaugh, PhD Student
University of Southern California

In the spring of 2020, when many felt untethered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Crafting Communities emerged to address this alienation by “enabling hands-on learning in a hands-off context” within the field of Victorian material culture, as the site notes. From a pilot program of two online events, the project has expanded to comprise further roundtables and online discussions, craft workshops and tutorials, an online exhibition, a podcast, and additional written resources. More than two years on, the site continues to provide a vibrant home for resources and discussions about Victorian material culture.

The litany of components which make up Crafting Communities comprise a combination of digital resources, online events, and documentation to support offline crafting. The online events might be thought of as Crafting Communities’ catalyst and core. Unfortunately, recordings of these are not included; the Events page simply provides a list of past and future offerings. However, indirect documentation exists in many of the site’s other components. Several of the tutorials on the Create page, including hair art and broderie anglaise (a needlework technique featuring cut-out eyelets), were originally presented in real-time workshops. All of the objects in the Victorian Things online exhibition (found via the Learn page), were discussed first in either a roundtable discussion or an episode of the Victorian Samplings podcast (also located on the Learn page). Someone interested in hair art might, therefore, lament having missed the real-time workshops held in 2020, but still find images of contemporary projects, detailed instructions on how to create their own works, and a thoroughly described historical object on various pages across the site.

This complex interweaving and productive redundancy of content makes Crafting Communities a richly multisensory, multimodal project. Varied forms of engagement are persistently integrated within the individual site components. For instance,  citations within  the object records in Victorian Things (an online exhibition) reference not only “Suggested Reading” but also “Selected Viewing” and “Selected Listening.” Within the craft tutorials, images, written descriptions, and videos overlap to create clear and accessible instructions for makers with a wide range of experience and confidence levels. Slightly frustratingly, the videos,while hosted on YouTube, must be accessed through the individual tutorials rather than  listed together on the Crafting Communities YouTube page.

Text titled “Activity 3: Calling card page” followed by a four panel instructional illustration. The panels have teal borders and feature a black and white hand holding a fancy pen. The introduction to the activity reads: “Victorians often left calling cards for their hosts as mementos of social visits (people would display trays full of calling cards as a measure of their social circle). Calling cards were also pasted into scrapbooks. Alternatively, scrapbookers would trace shapes onto a page and have friends and family sign their names in the shapes to make them look like calling cards.” This is followed by a list of materials and five steps. The materials are: blank book, pencil and black pen, scissors, cut out calling card from handout (or business card/credit card). The steps are: 1. Place your card anywhere on the blank page and trace around it in pencil. 2. Pick up your card and place it again in a way that overlaps with the existing trace. 3. Repeat until your page is full of overlapping calling card shapes. 4. Outline with pen. 5. Ask your friends and family to sign a “calling card”!
A section of the Victorian Scrapbooking online tutorial created by Ruth Ormiston

For all the thoughtful ways in which information is duplicated and connected, the largest drawback of Crafting Communities is that the site has limited navigation capabilities. Adding features such as filtering the list of events by type, and linking directly from an object record to the relevant podcast episode would considerably reduce the scrolling currently required. Furthermore, there is a gallery of work submitted  by participants in the workshops and tutorials, with no identifying information accompanying the images. In short, the current site navigation is intuitive, but not efficient.

With its emphasis on richness of connectivity over technological innovation, Crafting Communities is perhaps better understood as a community to join than a resource to draw upon, aimed at a broad range of interests. Much of the content (especially the Victorian Samplings podcast) emphasizes research methodologies and pedagogy, making it valuable for researchers and educators within and beyond Victorian studies. With its concise presentation of information and extensive links to further resources, the Victorian Things online exhibition could provide a helpful starting point for student projects. Finally, the workshops and craft tutorials are appealing to anyone who enjoys making, whether within an academic context or not.

Twelve labeled thumbnail images arranged in a grid on a white background. The objects shown are: William Moon's "Reading for the Blind" Primer, Miniature Portrait of Elizabeth Siddall, Charlotte Brontё’s “Little Book”, J. M. Whistler's "The Fleet: Monitors", Mrs. Alexander's Mark; The "Ladies Carpet", Hannah Claus's "interlacings", The Brontë Family's Broken Hair Bracelet, Kate Greenaway's Design for Nursery Wallpaper, Clemence Housman's "The Were-Wolf", Amelia Wood's Conversation Tube & Pouch, and William Macready & Charles Dickens's Scrap Screen.
Objects in the Victorian Things online exhibition

Crafting Communities is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Reflecting the diverse community supported by the project, organizers from three Canadian universities have recruited a wide range of contributors, including contemporary artists, librarians, and undergraduate students as well as established academics. As the project continues to grow (the second podcast season began in late July), it seems likely that the network woven by Crafting Communities will become still more varied and vibrant.  

Screenshot of a template information page on the CollectionBuilder site. At the top is a header reading “GH - Github Pages.” In the left column is a screenshot of their demo site, in the right column has the following text: “A Lightweight framework to get you started. Build a digital collection totally online using GITHUB AND GITHUB PAGES for all configurations and object storage.


Reviewed by:
Alex O’Keefe, Research + Instruction Librarian
John M. Flaxman Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

This page displays a large featured image banner with overlaid site title CollectionBuilder-GH. A navigation bar has links for “Home / Browse / Subjects / Locations / Map / Timeline / Date / About” pages. A column to the left features stacked boxes with the titles “Description” and”Sample Items.” Stacked boxes on the right have the titles “Time Span,” “Top Subjects,” “Locations,” and “Objects.”
Screenshot of the CollectionBuilder-GH demo site

CollectionBuilder offers open source templates enabling  GLAM (gallery, library, archive and museum) institutions to create digital collections and exhibits without proprietary tools. This project seeks to simplify designing infrastructures and interfaces for sustainable, static sites in alignment with collections as data principles. While the idea of using open source tools like GitHub and Jekyll may be daunting to some, the CollectionBuilder documentation is written in a friendly, understandable tone. The project is managed by librarians in the University of Idaho Digital Initiatives department, who use what they describe as Lib-Static methodologies to offer three public templates through GitHub with two more in development. While the projects produced using these templates are intended for general audiences to engage with collections, the site itself is designed to support GLAM staff creating these digital collections or online exhibitions.

As a general introduction to CollectionBuilder, the site employs a conversational FAQ format explaining the goals and methodologies of the project. An overview of each template offers a brief description, a list of its best uses, and a link to use the template. The Github and CONTENTdm templates additionally provide a demo version users can explore.

Summary of Attributes For the Github Template Opti

Even with these top-level introductions, staff with no prior experience using GitHub or Jekyll may find viewing the templates overwhelming at first glance.  However, for those concerned about engaging with new systems, the asynchronous workshops and documentation pages offer in-depth, robust directions and suggestions, allowing users with various skill levels to work through the development process at their own pace.

The screenshot shows a long list of files listed by file name and brief description. The right of the screen includes information on contributors, citation guidelines, and coding language used.
Screenshot of the collectionbuilder-gh GitHub page

While  the trade-off is less out-of-the-box usability than options hosted by third-party vendors, CollectionBuilder templates offer GLAM institutions complete control over content and data. Each CollectionBuilder project has three main components: metadata in a spreadsheet, digital objects, and the GitHub template. Preparing the metadata and organizing digital objects are likely familiar tasks, but those less familiar with GitHub or Jekyll will require the documentation when configuring and deploying the site. Additionally, the developers host a CollectionBuilder GitHub Discussion Forum, and welcome direct feedback on making the tools more usable. They also invite development collaborators, noting four partner institutions at the time of this review.

Several dozen digital collections produced by various GLAM institutions using CollectionBuilder are featured on the site, and many have a familiar look and feel when compared to other small digital collections. As shown in the CollectionBuilder GitHub Pages template demo site, the landing page offers top-level navigation with multiple avenues to explore the collection. The digital materials are browsable and searchable, and visualizations could additionally include maps, timelines, word clouds, and infographics. The about page can offer audiovisual elements alongside text thanks to the flexibility of Markdown and Bootstrap. In addition, the CollectionBuilder templates are designed to support the collections as data movement by offering users options to download the dataset powering the site.

While the documentation doesn’t have a section addressing accessibility specifically, the Lib-Static methodology means the resulting site should meet accessibility standards and improve experiences for users with less bandwidth. An  explanation of how these templates address various accessibility needs could be more clearly laid out in the documentation for those beginning to engage in designing a site without vendor support. 

CollectionBuilder is useful for GLAM institutions interested in gaining more control over the presentation, usability, and technological support of their digital projects. This could require staff time in order to learn the processes and tools, but could save the institution money and time needed for migrations in the long-term. The Lib-Static methodology additionally makes this option ideal for faculty creating online collections with classes, as many of the outcomes support Open Pedagogy best practices. CollectionBuilder offers GLAM workers the opportunity to learn and apply new skills with helpful documentation to support this growth, and ultimately helps to produce sustainable digital projects that should be easier for institutions to preserve.

Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Reviewed by:
Jack O’Malley, Metadata Lead
Frick Art Reference Library

Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, a library of 170 titles published by Bloomsbury Publishing, aims to provide students in the visual arts with practically minded resources for inspiration, technical advice, and career development. The digital resource library is organized according to major visual arts disciplines: fashion and textiles, design and illustration, photography, film and animation, architecture and interiors, and marketing and advertising. Within each discipline there are a number of “Basics” and “Fundamental” series, fit for practitioners of all levels. More intermediate resources include both hands-on exercises and more theoretical “required reading”, as well as instruction on career management.

The homepage of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts

Individual pages (also serving as subject guides) further break down the disciplines into a number of sub-topics. At a glance, these pages communicate the key areas covered by the resources. The “Explore Key Topics” side-panel brings users to an index of chapters tagged by topic, while the links at the bottom of the page bring users to entire e-books. Users can otherwise only see a list of e-books by turning to the “Browse Books” page, which lacks the filtering features users can apply to chapters. The search feature also indexes by chapter with filters available to narrow down searches by key topic. Both the key topics side-panel and the search bar bring users to the same results, but the advantage of the search feature comes primarily from full-text searches of chapters.

The Bloomsbury core disciplines.
The Film and Animation discipline page.

The books and chapters themselves are excellently rendered, with (according to Bloomsbury) 150–250 full color images per title, the option for personal download of chapters via the print button, and a smooth and functional full-screen viewer. On mobile, many of these features are diminished by layout changes and screen size, but all the content remains available. Many chapters contain further sub-sections captured in a side-panel table of contents, which facilitates use of these resources as reference material. The contents accurately reflect the resource’s commitment to providing granular, practical introductions for new to intermediate students in the visual arts. The titles take nothing for granted when explaining how to point a camera or craft a portfolio. 

The page view for a chapter of the book The Fundamentals of Digital Photography

The resources in Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts have been aptly selected for the target audience of visual learners, especially for students who may want to frequently refer to reference material in a specific chapter as they move through the learning process. Delivering these titles digitally makes sense for the same reason, especially given the quality of the digital titles. The limitations of the search and browse features can make discovery more difficult than necessary, but it is still possible to consistently find the right resource. Bloomsbury also adds new resources on a regular basis. Applied Visual Arts also supplies the title list as an Excel Sheet, which has some additional metadata and may aid collection development selectors in evaluating the resource.

Librarians interested in the benefits of Bloomsbury Applied Visual Arts, such as facilitation of self-learning, explicit focus on applied basics, and breadth of coverage, will have to balance them with the financial cost. Although Bloomsbury offers a free thirty day trial, institutions will ultimately need to request a quote and pay to secure ongoing access for their users. Bloomsbury does not provide general pricing information. Comparable open-access resources include MERLOT, Open Textbook Library, and other introductory titles in the library catalog, among others available online, and librarians will need to choose between curating resources that fit their students’ needs with the broad coverage and disciplinary topics of this resource.