Spring internship reflection: South Carolina & the Civil War digital exhibit

By Kendall Hallberg

My internship with Digital Collections had me working on a digital exhibit entitled “South Carolina and the Civil War”.  These collections are curated in the Visual Materials department at South Caroliniana Library, and are digitized and published online by Digital Collections. This project gave me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have collected during my Master’s program in library and information science, as well as learning important new skills. This semester in general has been a wonderful chance to work closely with issues related to User Experience (UX). I am glad to have had a role in bringing this collection to the public in a new way.

The research phase of this project allowed me to explore the collection and develop an understanding of what it had to offer to the intended audience. These exhibits are an opportunity to explore the collection unencumbered by the metadata and confusing nature of our collections repository, ContentDM. The items selected for the exhibit reflect this intention by needing little to no interpretation to be explored and understood for their significance. Organizing these items into coherent categories took a bit of consideration. The existing digital exhibits are done either by theme or the type of material. Considering the end user, I had to plan for the ways in which the items would be used. The decision to group by theme was made because it offers better browsing and variation with the pages.

Designing the WordPress site was a chance to learn and explore more about User Design and UX. Learning Adobe XD, I was able to plan the layout and features of the exhibit. Adobe XD is a great, free software for UX when communicating ideas to a programmer. Though I was working with certain limitations, I was also able to explore the look and feel of the site with the prototype I designed. This prototype also meant that I was able to give viewers the chance to see how the exhibit would act. During my pitch (internship requirement to pitch an exhibition mock up), I received helpful feedback and questions that improved the final product. I loved working with Sarah Funk from Library Technology Services and having her bring all of my ideas to fruition.

Loading the content into WordPress (our choice of collections web portal) was simple enough and it was great to see all of the items I had selected really come together and shine in such a visual way. The real challenge in loading came in terms of titles and descriptions. There were many instances, especially regarding the Dr. Robert S. Chamberlain collection of Civil War covers, where the titles needed to better describe the material for the sake of exhibiting. I ended up finding those key elements for titles for each material type and keeping it consistent across all the selected items.

I really enjoyed working with the awesome people in UofSC Digital Collections who helped me make this exhibit. Mēgan really trusted me to do a great job and I think I was able to accomplish that with their input and encouragement. I truly look forward to working with them in the future.*

 

*We did not pay Kendall to say these wonderful things! 🙂

Our New Digi Blog

As we unveil our new university website and our new Digital Collections and Exhibitions website here at the University of South Carolina, we can’t help but blog about it!

Our new Qidenus Smart image capture machine

Digital Collections got started in 2004, and was created by a group of special collections curators and archivists.  We primarily serve the special collections units at the university: Irvin Department of Rare Books, South Carolina Political Collections, Government Documents, the South Caroliniana Library and Archives, the Music Library, and the Moving Image Research Center.  Our department also participates in nationally-held industry best practices regarding digitization, metadata creation, access, and digital preservation. We serve our South Carolina community as well, and partner with institutions across the state, to share resources and expertise.

Since 2004, over 250 collections (containing over half a million items) have been digitized and described using the content management system CONTENTdm (dm = digital management). During the last 14 years, over 75 staff and students have created these digital wonders, giving you open access to historic newspapers, published and unpublished manuscripts, photographs and negatives, university archives, sheet music, rare books, engravings and prints, oral histories, and political records. Not surprisingly, UofSC’s Digital Collections department was a founding member of Digital Public Library of America and the South Carolina Digital Library.

We’ll be using this blog as a way to show our work, like all your math teachers insisted on. Our department is under lock and key (not open to the public), but our methodology and progress needn’t be. We’ll have guest bloggers (Digi staff, interns, and students) describe their digitization process, cool things they found in the collections, and a nice cross-referenced link or two where you can find the original item we’ve digitized. We’ll also announce new changes to our workflows, exciting new equipment, grants, and collaborations here.

→ To keep up with our new collections subscribe to our blog or peruse our Facebook  and  Twitter. We’d love to hear from you, too. Email us with questions or conversation at digital1@mailbox.sc.edu