Jumpstarting the Visual Resource Center

Pomelo tree on campus

In January I joined the Visual Resource Center of the Art History department at UC Riverside. I’ve been in the new gig for approximately two months. Its been a joy getting to know the campus community which functions very much like a small city. I was surprised to learn that UCR is the 5th oldest university in the UC system. It is home to the Citrus Experiment Station, the campus is surrounded by citrus groves and there are many public fruit trees on campus. I am about a foot too short to reach the remaining pomelos right now and I have given serious thought to investing in a fruit picker basket. The university is UCR is incredibly diverse and has an aggressive strategic plan to position itself as a premier research university. It is currently in a period of growth and expansion, this includes the Art History department which is in the midst of a search for an Islamacist. Visual Resources is at the crossroads of art, technology, teaching, and research. I feel very lucky that I get to learn something new everyday.

My first priority I’m working on is getting our DAM configuration settled and web galleries published so they are accessible to faculty and students. We have a general purpose digital image collection that is available to students and faculty but we’d really like to see active use of web galleries for private faculty collections as well as galleries created for specific classes. The DAM tool we are using (Portfolio 2016) does a pretty seamless job out of the box, but we’ve made a few tweaks to meet our workflow & metadata needs. It’s important to acknowledge all the work that goes into the creation and management of these assets, before the images get to publishing stage. First there is image capture via camera or scanner. Sometimes there is editing of images supplied by faculty, perhaps phone snapshots taken while researching in the field or in libraries/archives. There is art historical research involved in identifying and cataloging the object depicted, which then gets translated into metadata for search-ability and image metadata involved so that the right assets are discoverable at the right time.

Portfolio Web Gallery

One of the workflow tweaks I made was to match the cataloging fields with exact names in the cataloging tool so that the use is clear and so that import/export will be that much easier. Another was to lower the dependence on Smart Galleries as part of the workflow because too full/too many dynamic galleries drags the speed and performance of Portfolio. We now have one smart gallery driven by metadata, that tells us when archive images are ready to be processed into access files. This gallery also serves as a checksum to verify recently processed images. I foresee continual optimization of the workflow, but this seems to be working well for us and I couldn’t be happier. I’m also thrilled to report that our current workflow, metadata schema, and legacy documentation is now published to an internal wiki so it can be a resource for future training or upgrades.

Right now, we have a class gallery for a professor teaching Latin American art that is updated shortly after the end of class each week. Many of these images are protest art, a relevant topic for 2017, and are not found in the usual repositories. The content provided to the VRC by the professor via PDF’d powerpoint are then sourced for better quality images, object/image catalogued, and ingested into the DAM. Within a day or so, the students can then access a (responsive!) web gallery to study from. I am told that this gallery is much easier to navigate than the repository made available through the university’s online learning system. We were able to host video too which is very exciting! More work to be done in this area, but we are looking forward to supporting more video formats and other a/v materials. What other multimedia file formats might we support; VR, GIS, data vis, 3D models or architecture?

Don’t Blink, Summer’s Gone

Summer flew by fast! Here are a few things I’ve been up to:

June – August 2016 A quick 10 week Summer Session, classes on Information Architecture and Information Professions. Here’s a project I did for the Information Professions course: Museum Information Professionals Essential Skills

August 15, 2016 at Laguna College of Art + Design, I presented on Viewing Stereographs with Your Smartphone at Endless Images: A SoCal Summer Program. A one day mini-conference organized by members of the Visual Resources Association (VRA), Society of CA Archivists (SCA), and Art Libraries Society of North America Southern California Chapter (ARLIS/SC).

August 2016 Fall Session began, taking classes on Digital Asset Management and Digital Curation.

September 28, 2016 at Western Museum Association Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ, I presented on Visitor Photography in the Age of Open Content.

October 2016 I’m published in the VRA Bulletin writing about Stereographs on Your Smartphone.

Wikipedia: Wikiproject Women Wikipedia Design

H.G. Wells predicted a “Permanent World Encyclopedia” in 1937:

As the core of such an institution would be a world synthesis of bibliography and documentation with the indexed archives of the world. A great number of workers would be engaged perpetually in perfecting this index of human knowledge and keeping it up to date.

It’s amazing to think about how this parallels the evolution of Wikipedia as a source of bibliographic records and summaries, created and maintained by the masses. However democratic and egalitarian this may sound, women editors are grossly underrepresented.

Wikipedia editors are predominantly male EN

via WIkipedian: Goran tek-en

Not only are women Wikipedians missing from the picture, but women architects/designers/artists are underrepresented as well. Today a Wikipedia #wikiD edit-a-thon took place at the Kappe SCI-Arc Library. Nina Briggs, archivist for AWA+D, and Becka Cooling, librarian at SCI-Arc, led a workshop in editing Wikipedia and why its important to participate in the formation of the internet encyclopedia. #WikiD is a worldwide project to enhance the representation for women architects and today’s efforts also fall under the project Art + Feminism who host another series of edit-a-thons to train people in editing Wikipedia.

There are three main learning curves to keep in mind when attending or facilitating a workshop in Wikipedia. First: there are Wikipedia rules, protocols, etiquette, and culture. Secondly: there is the basics of research, neutral writing, and proper citations. Then there is the technical component of navigating the site, working within the HTML editor and finding help files when style or format questions arise. All participants come with varying backgrounds and skill sets. These workshops allow for collaboration between members, a physical manifestation of Wikipedia itself.

I had a great time exploring the guidelines and editing tutorials and added a couple images to a recent #wikiD article on Rebecca L. Binder. Specifically I added the first three images of buildings that are accredited to her. You are allowed to use a copyrighted photo under the premise of fair use, though it is preferable to use public domain or Creative Commons licensed images. All three images I added today were found in Wikimedia Commons. The attribution was already determined and it was easy to embed these images into the article after they were sourced.

In Despina Stratigakos, ‘Unforgetting Women Architects’, Sue Gardner of Wikimedia says:

Wikipedia will only contain ‘the sum of all human knowledge’ if its editors are as diverse as the population itself: you can help make that happen. And I can’t think of anything more important to do, than that.

2016-artfeminism-wikipedia-editathon-56

Upcoming: The next #wikiD events in Los Angeles will be March 5 and April 30. Join us!

2016 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

March 5, 2016 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
SCI-Arc Kappe Library, 2nd Floor/North End
960 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Women in Architecture #wikiD Writing Workshop

April 30, 2016 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Woodbury Library
7500 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504

Slack, Sweets, and Social Capital

Every morning at work I walk to the coffee cart with a few people that sit near me in the office. I hardly ever purchase coffee, preferring to bring my half-finished mug of tea to keep my hands warm along the way. The ritual, for me at least, is less about the coffee and more about connecting with coworkers. On the walk there and back we chat about our weekends, our families, and work frustrations. We give recommendations for books and podcasts we love, or entertain each other with stories of home and hobby projects we are in the midst of. One of those podcasts, from a TED talk by business leader Margaret Heffernan, about teamwork and leadership made its rounds. After we all had a chance to view the video on our own time, the group reflected that what we were doing was in fact, building social capital such as mentioned by Heffernan. I treasure my time with the #socialcoffee crew (a summary is sometimes tweeted as such) because it starts the day with collegial human interaction and helps gives purpose to the data wrangling that I spend most of my day doing.

Last Thursday S brought lemon pie, made with lemons from B’s backyard lemon tree. There has also been homemade macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, soda bread, and top notch donuts and pastries from local bakeries. Doesn’t seem to matter what the flavor of the week of, the real benefit is seeing my team in person for a few minutes away from our computers. Inspired in part by the Heffernan talk, we’ve instigated a daily Fika. This open to all BYO coffee break is made extra special on Thursdays with some sort of sweet treat. Much of my work is done on the computer and with a surplus of digital tools, much of our team communication is done online. I work in a large organization, with offices spread across floors and various buildings on campus and its nice to meet people I don’t ever get to see in person. I get to hear about what other teams are working on outside of my little bubble. It’s easy to ping your boss a quick IM to ask a question, but its nicer to hear her thoughts in person with a side of fresh air and pastries.

861baaca-bfeb-402c-b69e-ed221360bf18That’s not to say that technology is always an impediment to collaboration and social capital. Last year our communications team opened a company wide Slack account. Its organically gained a following of digital folks from social media, web, publications, IT, library, collections, and other departments. I think everyone has something of value to add and it will be interesting to see how the conversation evolves as more self-described non-tech people join. It’s had an exciting ebb and flow of cross department banter, silly gifs, and genuinely helpful conversations. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with people in other departments to share current web articles, emerging tech, industry blogs, and brainstorm on projects. I get lost in my own projects and day to day tasks and forget that I am surrounded by smart and interesting people. All it takes apparently, is a few puppy gifs and the #nomnom channel to remind me that my colleagues are indeed likable, helpful humans beyond our regular email exchange. I am grateful to have a platform to meet and collaborate with more, as Ron Swanson says, “Workplace Proximity Associates.”  I am excited about the projects I see other people working on and have seen my own ideas gain traction and support. Making time to get to know my coworkers has made work more fun and I hope that it continues to build rapport and make our team stronger.

What rituals or tools help with your team building?