CLIR Issues Number 109
Number 109 • January/February 2016
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
Academic Art Museum and Library Summit Spotlights Potential for Collaboration
CLIR Appoints Fenella France Distinguished Presidential Fellow
Announcing 2016 Leading Change Institute Participants
Register Now for 2016 DLF eResearch Network!
Join Us for Digitizing Hidden Collections Q&A Webinars
Save the Date: 2016 DLF Forum
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—by Charles Henry
A recent meeting of academic art museum and library leaders focused on the potential of collaboration to make museum and library collections seamlessly available to users. The Academic Art Museum and Library Summit (AALMS), held January 26–27, was hosted by the University of Miami, in conjunction with the Association of Research Libraries, Coalition for Networked Information, and Association of Art Museums and Galleries, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
The missions and programs of college- and university-affiliated libraries and art museums have evolved significantly in recent decades, yet these organizations have tended to develop separately. The conference was explicit about the value of cooperation: “Working together, libraries and museums have the capacity to harness the enormous potential inherent in these changes and to create rich collaborative networks, share resources, and foster dynamic cross-curricular interdisciplinary scholarship,” said Jill Deupi, Beaux Arts Director and chief curator for the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. “They equally have the capacity to help one another learn how best to manage shared challenges—whether fiscal, administrative, or programmatic.”
The meeting produced ample evidence of successful internal collaboration at the 14 universities and colleges attending* and offered several avenues for exploring inter-institutional collaboration in the future. Institutional teams comprising the director of libraries and the director of the campus museum gave presentations structured by two themes: collaborative learning and teaching, and collections sharing and joint exhibitions. Half of the institutions spoke on the former, and half on the latter, though there was considerable topical overlap.
Memorable discussions included the narrative of the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library and the university’s Snite Museum of Art working together to reconstruct a Medieval Breton Prayer Book in time for an exhibition. The original prayer book had been unbound and many of its loosened leaves sold to collectors bereft of the context of the assembled volume. The Princeton University Art Museum mounted a well-reviewed exhibit on the exquisite Great Persian Book of Kings: the exhibited collections were drawn entirely from the library’s holdings. At Vassar, a multimedia exhibition, titled James Joyce’s Ulysses: Text and Art, presented editions of the classic modern work illustrated by Henri Matisse and Robert Motherwell, as well as glass sculptures illustrated with scenes from Ulysses by Dale Chihuly. The exhibition embodied a wide spectrum of interpretive expression—the type of conversation a great work of literature can inspire.
These and similarly vibrant examples gave proof of the value of collaboration across libraries and museums, and the enriched sensibilities for faculty, students, and general audiences that such collaboration can afford. All of the participating institutions reflected on the initial challenges of working outside the traditional zones of comfort and stressed that these joint efforts will continue.
The team presentations were interlaced with provocative and instructive plenary speakers. Keynote speaker Daniel Weiss, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, spoke to the benefits of cultural institutions working together, drawing on his experience as the head of a major museum and president of two colleges. He noted that the social, political, and economic environment for higher education was complex and challenging. Among the challenges, he focused on the cost of competition and how it can drive up expenses. He also reflected on the untenable business model of tuition increases that outstrip inflation rates and growth of family income. A related, though less tangible, problem is a loss of public trust. This loss is attributable to the escalating costs of attending college, the perceived inefficiency of our educational system, and a poor record of explaining these conditions. While there are no immediate or easy solutions to these challenges, Weiss believes that in the future more colleges and universities will close or consolidate, that curriculum development will become more innovative and technologically enhanced, and that the benefits of collaboration across institutions and professional divides will become more broadly recognized.
Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), spoke about his personal experience working to align, coordinate, and administratively bring together the libraries at JHU with several of the museums on campus. The challenges were extraordinary: the museums had evolved over the decades as distinct enterprises and deliberately disconnected with the university. Tabb’s mandate was to develop workable budgets for each of the museums, stabilize their governance, and, most critically, bring them into the university community as facets of a more broadly defined cultural and intellectual matrix. His talk was candid and compassionate, and underscored the professional boundaries that have historically existed between libraries and museums. These boundaries can impede progress and efficiencies, impairing opportunities to share ideas and mutual concerns, and to enrich student life, teaching, and research. Today, the integration of the museums at JHU is complete, successful, and essential to the university’s mission.
Jeremy Upton and Clifford Lynch gave the final two presentations. Upton, director of library and university collections at the University of Edinburgh, recounted the University of Edinburgh’s decision to combine the library, special collections, and the museum and art collections on campus into one unit, which he now heads. The talk focused mostly on the physical nature of this merger: the 3.5 million books, 60 kilometers of rare books and manuscripts, art collections, and museum holdings that make up the new Center for Research Collections. Students and scholars now have access to all of the university’s holdings regardless of location or media. Tens of thousands of digital resources, such as journals, e-books, and digitized surrogates of art are also now seamlessly available to the community.
Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, concluded the summit by focusing on the digital opportunities that could facilitate wider collaboration and sharing of expertise and artifactual holdings. He noted that while libraries and museums have widely adopted digitization, networking technology is still at an early stage of utility. There remains significant difficulty in merging library and museum holdings on the same campus, in part because of different technical platforms, different languages and lexicons used in metadata, different professional focuses, and a history of independence. His talk brought to mind discussions several of us had at a working dinner the evening before: we were tasked with exploring challenges associated with technical infrastructure and preservation. We similarly recognized the pervasive disorganization of knowledge in higher education, and the traditional cultural divide between academic libraries and museums, and how that impeded deeper integration of staff, expertise, and collections. We also noted that academic museums tend to use technical platforms that are older, subject to little if any research and development, and often proprietary. Engineering them into a system of open, shared resources is not feasible.
The summit not only revealed the significant collaborative work underway, it was explicit in the benefits of those collaborative projects as working models for other institutions going forward. Discussions underscored the great amount of work needed to more fully integrate the astonishingly rich, rare, and often unique collections across institutions and ultimately at a national scale. Most of us left feeling strongly that this gathering should be the first in a series of meetings and actions that could help manage our cultural heritage as an evolving, functional system of unprecedented resources in support of teaching and research.
* Institutions attending were: Arizona State University, Duke University, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Princeton University, Skidmore College, University of Georgia, University of Miami, University of Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vassar College, and Yale University.
CLIR has appointed Fenella France CLIR Distinguished Presidential Fellow. France is chief of the Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress (LC), where she explores non-destructive imaging techniques and prevention of environmental degradation to collections. Her current focus is advancing the field of spectral imaging and image processing techniques, and increasing links and access between scientific and scholarly data, including developing and providing training workshops for preservation professionals. She has led the creation of an international web accessible research database infrastructure to make unique collection information accessible through a visualization of the linked scholarly and scientific data.
As a presidential fellow, France will help augment CLIR’s Mellon Fellowships in Dissertation Research in Original Sources, strengthen connections within scientific and international communities for the CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellowships, and advise on new opportunities for developing programs that intersect with scientific inquiry and humanistic discourse. “Fenella’s work in preservation and conservation embodies the rare combination of an astute scientist and a benevolent humanist, exploring the artifact as a physical composition as well as a vessel of often profoundly rich and meaningful content,” said CLIR President Chuck Henry.
“I am honored and delighted to have the opportunity to work more closely with CLIR staff and their excellent programs and research, which align closely with my goal of integrating scientific and scholarly investigations, especially with the changing way people interact with large volumes of data. CLIR and LC are at the frontier of bringing the sciences and humanities back together,” said France.
In 2010, France made a major discovery concerning LC’s draft copy of the Declaration of Independence, in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting with edits by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Using hyperspectral imaging equipment to distinguish discrete layers of ink using various spectra of light, France revealed that Jefferson in the draft declaration initially wrote the word “subjects,” then carefully wrote over it to make that word “citizens.”
Before joining the Library of Congress in 2007, France was the project and scientific manager for Art Preservation Services in New York, where she developed strategic plans and conducted scientific research for the American Museum of Natural History, the Historic House Trust and Peebles Island, as well as Ellis Island’s Treasures Gallery rehabilitation and the New York Port Authority’s World Trade Center 9/11 Project. She also worked during that time as research manager for the National Park Service’s web-accessible Fiber Reference Imaging Library and served as a textile scientist for the Smithsonian Institution’s Star-Spangled Banner Project, which restored the original United States flag that had flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. France holds a Ph.D from Otago University, New Zealand.
CLIR awards distinguished presidential fellowships to individuals who have achieved a high level of professional distinction in their fields and are working in areas of interest to CLIR and the Digital Library Federation. Fellows may be appointed for one or two years.
Thirty-nine individuals have been selected for participation in the 2016 Leading Change Institute (LCI). The Institute, sponsored by CLIR and EDUCAUSE, will be held in Washington, DC, June 12–17, 2016.
This year, CLIR awarded its first Sponsors Scholarship, which is given to a participant from a CLIR sponsoring organization. Kelcy Shepherd, head of digital programs at Amherst College, is the recipient of this year’s award, which covers half the cost of LCI tuition. “I am passionate about helping academic libraries more effectively step into a campus leadership role for the creation, curation, management, delivery, and preservation of scholarly, cultural, and administrative digital content,” said Shepherd. “I believe in libraries’ ability to initiate and foster positive, compassionate change, particularly in areas of diversity and inclusivity, community building, and universal access to information.”
We congratulate the LCI class of 2016:
Paul Allison, Duquesne University
Andrew Amrhein, Harvard Business School
Sucharitha Bachanna, West Virginia University
Lisa Baker, University of Miami, Coral Gables
Brandon Bernier, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Beth Bohstedt, Hamilton College
Jennifer Bowen, University of Rochester
Kyle Bowen, Penn State University
Kellie Campbell, Saint Michael’s College
Gary Chinn, The Pennsylvania State University
Annie Downey, Reed College
Mohamed El Ouirdi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sarah Evelyn, Brown University
Jody Fagan, James Madison University
Matthew Gardzina, Bucknell University
Kevin Garewal, University of Akron
Gayleen Gray, University of Guelph
Elizabeth Gushee, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Edward Hudson, California State University, Office of the Chancellor
Cinthya Ippoliti, Oklahoma State University
Lisa Kahle, State University of New York at Cortland
Debralee Krahmer, Colgate University
Kristen Lukens, St. Norbert College
Valerie Lynn, The Pennsylvania State University
Nandita Mani, University of Michigan
Eric Maslowski, University of Michigan Library
Elizabeth Mengel, Johns Hopkins University
Aaron Purcell, Virginia Tech
Frank Rosa, George Brown College
Katie Rose, University of Notre Dame
Maria Savova, Claremont University Consortium
Jill Sexton, North Carolina State University
Kelcy Shepherd, Amherst College
Jason Smith, Pomona College
Plato Smith II, University of Florida
Michael Thomas, Case Western Reserve University
Elizabeth Waraksa, Association of Research Libraries
Catherine Zabriskie, Brown University
Donna Ziegenfuss, University of Utah
The DLF eResearch Network is a community of practice focused on implementing research data management services and engaging in shared skill development, networking, and collaboration. Participants join in small institutional teams of up to three people, and the program is conducted wholly online, with optional in-person meet-ups at relevant conferences. DLF’s goal in providing the eRN experience is to create a self-reliant, mutually supportive community engaged in continuous learning about research data management, data curation, and e-research support.
Between April and November of each year, eResearch Network members work with faculty to identify cohort learning objectives; participate in customized curricula and in a series of regularly scheduled webcasts; connect at in-person eRN meet-ups; benefit from a personal faculty consultation, tailored to their specific institutional needs; and take advantage of the opportunity to “skill up” and build stronger connections and collaborative partnerships within and beyond the DLF community. Participants stay in touch after each year’s program concludes, through DLF-provided frameworks for collaboration and information-sharing, with chances to present outcomes at the annual DLF Forum and other venues, and opportunities to inform and participate in the work of future cohorts.
Faculty and guest speakers are drawn from experts in DLF’s network and are available for an in-depth consultation with each participating institution, to advise on planning and implementing research data management services.
Participants’ expressed interests and desired learning outcomes help to shape faculty selection and the content for each year’s program, so we encourage early sign-up, at: https://www.diglib.org/groups/e-research-network/.
Initial applications for the 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards are due April 5. We are offering two Q&A webinars for prospective applicants on
- Wednesday, March 2, 2:00 pm Eastern time and
- Wednesday, March 16, 2:00 pm Eastern time
Registration is not required but is strongly encouraged, as space is limited. Information on how to register will be posted at https://www.clir.org/hiddencollections/applicants/applicants.html#program-timeline–2016 at least one week before each webinar. To receive notice when registration opens, sign up for the Digitizing Hidden Collections e-bulletin list.
Mark your calendars for the 2016 DLF Forum, to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 7–9. The Forum is an annual meeting where the digital library, archive, and museum communities come together to discover better methods of working through sharing and collaboration. It serves as a resource and catalyst among digital library developers, project managers, and all who are invested in digital library issues.
The Forum will be preceded by the Liberal Arts Colleges Preconference on November 6. Digital Preservation 2016 will be held in conjunction with the Forum, November 9-10, as part of the NDSA transition to the DLF.
The 2016 Forum coincides with Election Day; information on early and absentee voting options is available at: https://www.diglib.org/dlf-events/2016forum/absentee-voting/