Mary Wassermann

Sarah Falls

College Art Association – Annual Conference 2014
Kim Collins

Google Art Project
Anna Leicht

Ian Roberton

New Media Consortium/EDUCAUSE 2014 Higher Education Horizon Report
Stephanie Grimm

Yvette Cortes

Public Art Archive
Andrea Koteles

RISS Review: Roadtrippers
Audrey Ferrie

Social Media for Active Learning – MOOC
Jessica Evans Brady

Justin Schell

With Art Philadelphia
Evan Towle

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AMERICAN SUBURB X / ASX was launched by California photographer Douglas Rickard in 2008 as “…an ever-growing archive and fiercely edited look at photography’s always relevant past, rapidly shifting present and dramatically unfolding future.” Rickard and Jose Manuel Suarez of Dalpine, a firm for independently published books based in Madrid, designed the site.

Rickard (b. 1968), is represented in modern collections, including LACMA and SFMOMA. He received media attention in 2012 for his explorations of Google Maps’ Street View, exhibited in several venues as A New American Picture. Rickard has another project, T.A., or These Americans that, at times, permeates the ASX site. This reviewer was, somewhat confusingly, linked to T.A. from the email sign-up confirmation for ASX News. T.A. resembles a Pinterest page and leans heavily on imagery drawn from pulp fiction and soft porn.


ASX has several pull-down categories: Subscribe, Artists, Browse, and Galleries that point to content culled from multiple sources, including published articles and reviews, some of which are contributed solely to the site.

There is a page stating that ASX “accepts submissions of books and portfolios” but it does not clearly indicate submissions would be for review. The Subscribe option allows syndicated content to be delivered to your web-based e-reader (such as Google+) via Feedburner, or you can view the same new content under the Subscribe category.

The Artist section lists about 165 photographers along with other artists, alphabetically by first name, and is international in scope. A sequence in “G” includes Gary Winograd, Gerhard Richter, Graciela Iturbide and Gregory Crewdson. There are plenty of lesser-known artists, such as Joachim Brohm and Helen Levitt. Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s page includes a 1999 exhibition review from Art in America, a book review and a few other journal reprints. ASX_2The bulk of offerings for Moriyama, and throughout the site, are video clips tagged as ASX.TV (which was its own category in earlier versions of ASX).

ASX.TV clips are primarily video art or documentary features. The clips about Moriyama substitute for the lack of a biography on his page; some, but not all, artists represented on ASX have brief biographical information.

The Galleries section is not about venues, but a grid of titled image entry points to artist or theme pages (such as Walker Evans: Polaroids)ASX_3 serving to direct the user visually rather than by the text-based Artist and Browse categories.

The Browse section groups entries under a list of mediums, movements, and themes (Polaroid, pop art, portraiture, provocation…). Some pages are sparsely populated, or will intrigue rather than inform. Surrealism pairs icons of the movement (Man Ray and Brassai), with the Kentucky photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. If Meatyard’s masked portraits have not previously fallen under the canon of Surrealism, it is an interesting juxtaposition.

During this review process, ASX was simplified, proving a nice improvement. One concern remains in that content is sometimes devoid of explanation or credits. The aforementioned Walker Evans: Polaroids page shows only images that carry no further information, so context is lacking.

While ASX is not a comprehensive site, it is a fun and insightful gateway to photography and its interactions with art in other mediums. The eclectic blend of older, scholarly content with web-based sources and current commentary is to Rickard’s credit, when one considers the myriad of less-ambitious sites from which to choose. And many photo sites mix history with technique and equipment promotion. ASX avoids this and is devoted to the end product, what people are thinking about and doing with photography. Its inclusion of greats like Dorothea Lange and Candida Hofer brings a broader perspective than sites, such as, that are focused primarily on promoting new work. ASX does include content for mature audiences and is not recommended for the K-12 set.

Mary Wassermann, Librarian for Collection Development
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Browzine_1Third Iron’s BrowZine app is a licensed service that provides academic library users with the technology to collect, display, and read scholarly electronic journal content on their iOS or Android tablets. Users customize their digital bookshelves by adding and arranging content of their choice. For subject specific users, this app is a useful way to bookmark and regularly review journals, which update dynamically through a WiFi connection. This ability to follow scholarly journals will certainly appeal to faculty while the intuitive interface will resonate with the curious student as the digital bookshelves have the look and feel of a “current periodical section’ in any library, but developed on a personal level.

The app is similar in appearance and usability to iBooks or the Kindle app, is easy to use, and visually appealing to an arts audience. The user downloads the app from iTunes or Google Play and signs on to the affiliated institution for that content. Users browse journals by subject or search by title keywords and then may save their selections to bookshelves, which may be labeled, thereby allowing one to curate collections (i.e., bookshelves) according to personal needs and interests. Moreover, users may save individual journal issues or articles locally, for later access, without requiring a WiFi connection. Citations can be exported to a range of bibliographic management services including Refworks and Zotero.

BrowZine raises the visibility of electronic journals that may otherwise be lost or buried in a library catalog record. For art and design researchers, titles such as Art Documentation, Leonardo, October, Word & Image, and Design and Culture are available alongside many other journals throughout the humanities. BrowZine_2Third Iron works with content providers and publishers to ensure journals are viewable through BrowZine; there is also a desire to make open access journals available, alongside traditional publications. In addition, the team at Third Iron works with librarians to gather suggestions for new content, as well as providing ongoing support for the tool.

There are a few drawbacks to BrowZine. Third Iron promotes open access content through BrowZine but little in the realm of humanities publications is actually available, and any such content is typically supplied by traditional publishers such as Cambridge University Press. Title information must be refreshed or updated locally, by the library, requiring a manual load of holdings from the institution into BrowZine. Consequently, a new periodical acquired by a given library may take weeks before it is available via BrowZine. (A recent Third Iron newsletter announced that that automated updates with Serials Solutions content is a forthcoming enhancement.) Content is limited to scholarly journals rather than trade magazines, which may make BrowZine less useful for designers or architects who rely heavily on such publications. Finally, the extent of BrowZine’s content is directly related to an institution’s license. And while some journals, such as Art Documentation, may have a page in BrowZine, they are not currently available due to institutional licensing and embargoes. In addition, an institution may have select access to a journal through a database such as JSTOR and results in a holding record in BrowZine; however, unless the institution directly subscribes to that electronic journal, readers must endure an embargo period before seeing that content in BrowZine.

Despite these drawbacks, subject specialists, particularly those in the arts, have a wonderful means of promoting a new way of organizing information sources while exposing underutilized resources. The ease at which BrowZine places the scholarly electronic resources at our fingertips to be integrated with iBooks and other e-publishing apps, pushes us closer to a utopic time in the not distant future where digitized arts information is more readily available and accessible.

Sarah Falls, Head, Fine Arts Library
Assistant Professor
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

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At this year’s College Art Association’s annual conference, trends in digitally-enhanced research, scholarship, and publishing showed both opportunities and challenges for arts research and education.

Digital Art History

The THATCamp CAA: What Happened and What’s Next  session highlighted trends in digital art history while discussing the outcomes of the pre-conference THATCamp CAA. Several THATcamp board members discussed their research projects that tap into digitally-enhanced methods.

Image source: Atlantic Slave Trade - Harvard Worldmap

Suzanne Blier demonstrated Harvard’s Worldmap, a project whose aim is to create a scalable mapping portal that can collect and transpose layers of GIS data from numerous independent projects, such as the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Pamela Fletcher from Bowdoin discussed her project that maps the locations of London galleries in London from 1850 to 1914.

Christine Sundt discussed her involvement with the recently published CAA Copyright, Permissions and Fair Use report. Speakers and audience members expressed hope that this initiative will help ameliorate some challenges associated with hosting third-party content not in the public domain.

Numerous issues came up during the session that illustrate the current state of Digital Art History.

  • How can digital methods enhance the humanities process, rather than dictate the inquiry and the results?
  • How can these methods, tools, and projects be integrated into the classroom?
  • How does the humanities scholar go about finding grants and collaborators?
  • How will born-digital projects be sustained and preserved?
  • What ramifications do these trends have for the promotion and tenure process?
Research Data Management  (RDM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM)

Although not explicitly expressed by the session papers, one recurring issue was how to better manage data. In the session Catalogue Raisonné Research and Contemporary Trends in Art Historical Discourse, speakers discussed the vast amount of unpublished data collected for every art history project.  Gwendolyn Owens’ paper, Thinking Systematically, argued that scholars often create “hidden” catalogue raisonnés while researching an artist. Scholars create and manage a myriad of data (images, notes, etc.) as they conduct research and prepare to publish, Much of this is left out of the final publication, but could it be shared? Historically, art historians are uncomfortable presenting such un-vetted, raw data; however, sharing could lead to fascinating discoveries. Gavin Delahunty suggested in the following discussion that data collected for large-scale projects, such as his own project Carl Andre: The Complete Poems, could be repurposed for digital humanities.  For example, data about relations and contacts  mined from correspondence could be used to generate a visualization and analysis of network relationships across the 20th century art world.

Publishing in a Digital Age

Digital Publishing in Art History: The Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative  highlighted some issues scholars struggle with when they publish born-digital art publications. While digital publications open up the possibility of continuously updating the resource, this leaves a host of questions about maintenance workflow as well as how to provide a persistent citation for future authors to use in their own works. For example, the creators of the NGA’s online edition of  Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century decided that minor changes can be corrected instantaneously, but the entire publication will be archived and “republished” on a 5-year schedule.

While next year’s CAA conference will continue to cover traditional arts research topics, there are several sessions that promise to keep the digital conversation going. Plus, THATcamp CAA looks to have a presence at the 2015 conference. See you there?

Kim Collins, Art History/Classics Librarian and Humanities Team Leader
Robert W Woodruff Library,
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

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In February 2011, Google launched the Google Art Project (GAP), as part of Google’s broader Cultural Institute, which, in partnership with hundreds of art museums from around the world, provides free access to thousands of high-resolution images. GAP_1

The GAP has indisputable value as an educational resource given its flexibility and ease of use, enabling users to study artwork in incredible detail, tour museums virtually, and curate personal collections. The functionality facilitates both focused research but also casual discovery, benefiting a wide range of users, from students and academics, to the general public.

The GAP employs many of Google technologies, giving users a distinctly digital, highly interactive art experience. Users can search or browse works using a variety of refinements such as collection, artist, medium, or date, and can then view the images in the “microscope view,” the “museum view,” or in “My Galleries.”

Image Source: Google Art Project

Detail of A Boyar Wedding Feast (1883) by Konstantin Makovskii

The microscope view enables users to zoom in on the images, allowing for close examination of a work, something not typically possible in a physical museum setting. The “museum view” employs Google’s Street View technology to tour museums virtually, which can be quite captivating.

However, this particular type of virtual experience falls short of replicating a leisurely stroll through a gallery; navigation can feel awkward and it can be difficult to find a good angle to view the artwork. Nevertheless, the “museum view” provides that critical context for those seeking to understand curatorial decisions, a private collector’s master plan for the collection, e.g. Isabella Stewart Gardener, or the artwork’s place within a given space, such as the Doge’s Palace. Anyone with a Google account can sign in to curate their own collections in “My Galleries,” a valuable feature which allows users to bring together works, in one digital place, from institutions throughout the world. This is a particularly helpful feature given that many artists’ oeuvres are often scattered across several continents. In addition, “My Galleries” acts as a space where disparate works can be examined side by side. Users can also share their personal collections through a variety of social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.


Museum View of Doge’s Palace

Museums select which works will appear in GAP’s collection, as well as which artworks are visible in GAP’s “Museum View.” At the moment, the majority of the images are in the public domain or without any copyright restrictions. Consequently, the subsequent overrepresentation of public domain works has limited GAP’s effectiveness as a research resource. Users will also notice that many works of art are blurred beyond recognition in the “Museum View.” This is a deliberate tactic, intended to obscure restricted works while providing users with an overall impression of the gallery they are touring. Kenneth Crews and other expert opinions on copyright have argued that the museum views could be considered fair use but there is little evidence that museums or Google are eager to dive into the murky waters of copyright law.

The GAP has been applauded for its educational value and free access but equally criticized for its inability to build a comprehensive representation of global art. ARTstor easily surpasses the GAP in scope and content, but it is neither free nor affordable to many institutions. Moreover, there are free image resources, such as the Getty Open Content program or the David Rumsey Visual Collections, that offer valuable content with advanced search capabilities as well as the standard features for zooming in and juxtaposing images. But what sets the GAP apart is its technological platform; users can interact with art collections in new and exciting ways. Users can easily examine the brushstrokes of a painting and then, in seconds, view that same painting on its wall at a museum. There is no denying that the technology used in the GAP, in combination with the digital collection of artworks, constitutes a significant cultural resource. However, issues relating to copyright currently are limiting the content of the GAP, and prevent the project from building a comprehensive online collection of our world’s precious art objects.

Anna Leicht, MSI Candidate
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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MUBI_1Online streaming has revolutionized the way we watch videos.  We now live in a world of seemingly infinite access.  But how do we navigate it all? User reviews and search algorithms help but people likely still find themselves trawling media directories more than actually enjoying the videos they hope to discover.

MUBI aims to help with its carefully curated collection of cult, classic, and critically acclaimed films. Unlike Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video, where thousands of titles are always available, easy to bookmark, and as easily forgotten about, MUBI offers just thirty titles at any one time, selected by MUBI editors.  At the time of writing, one could enjoy the L.A. Noir classic, He Walked By Night (1984), Charlie Chaplin’s The Idle Class (1921), and the proto-action movie, The Most Dangerous Game (1932). MUBI’s ever-changing catalog motivates users to watch a film before it expires, and it also encourages them to  return regularly to see what new titles become available.  It is a subscription-based service, intended strictly for individual use, with three payment levels, per month ($4.99), every six months ($27.99), and annually ($34.99). One may test out MUBI with a free one-week trial which requires credit or debit card information to establish the trial.


MUBI Profile Page

MUBI features a simple search interface that searches across all of its content, but the emphasis is on browsing. Each film has a profile page that features a synopsis, user reviews, related titles, and an evocative film still. (If one is interested in exploring the profile pages without setting up a trial, he or she may “log in” to Mubi via a Facebook account.) Although previously featured films cannot be streamed, their profile pages remain accessible thereby creating a kind of database or film resource for MUBI members to search and reference. The website and mobile app are a breeze to navigate, making the MUBI content easily portable.

Depending on the film, high-definition streaming is provided; otherwise MUBI streams at standard-definition. One of the drawbacks of video streaming is that it requires large amounts of data and some platforms, such as Netflix, provide a low-quality setting; the image is degraded as less data is transmitted. Unfortunately, MUBI does not provide a similar option, which may be an issue for people with an Internet Service Provider who limits data usage. Moreover, given that MUBI is strictly a streaming platform, content cannot be downloaded.  MUBI requires a modern browser, such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari that supports Adobe Flash.  For this review, MUBI’s mobile experience was tested on an Apple iPhone 4S running iOS 7 and it performed without issue. As of this writing, MUBI does not provide an app for the Android platform.  MUBI is slickly produced but not perfect. It is inconsistent with subtitle availability and alternative language tracks. It also does not provide descriptive audio for the visually impaired. These factors likely limit the accessibility for some people. Hopefully, these options will be implemented in future iterations of the service.

MUBI understands that cinema is a social experience, which accounts for an energetic social network built into the platform, enabling users to create profiles, rate films, and leave comments.  And it is this social network where MUBI really shines; one becomes part of a community of passionate cinema devotees. A new member may explore the user-generated film reviews and subsequently receive a crash-course in cinema history, while veteran cinephiles will be able to debate the finer points of film theory with other expert users through MUBI’s forum.

Member Reviews for The Portuguese Nun

Member Reviews for The Portuguese Nun

MUBI will appeal to filmmakers, film scholars, and art historians who require easy (and legal) access to left-field films. But perhaps more importantly, MUBI provides members passage into a thriving community of cinema fans.  And while independent film theaters and video stores struggle to remain relevant, MUBI is ensuring that art house and classic films have a home online.

Ian Roberton, Library Assistant
Morinville Community Library
Morinville, Alberta, Canada

Posted in June 2014 | Tagged | Comments Off
Image source: NMC

NMC Report Cover

The New Media Consortium’s NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition presents the findings of a year-long research project to “[examine] emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.” Eighteen topics are covered in total, including a discussion of each emerging technology, trends that accelerate the adoption of the technology, and challenges that may impede the technology’s use in higher education.

The intent of the NMC report is not to provide a list of cutting-edge apps, software, or devices for classroom use, nor to introduce us to the next Facebook. Specific platforms are mentioned only in passing or to give context and examples for the trends and challenges being discussed. Given the time needed to identify the topics, conduct research, and compile the report, it better serves as a barometer for the larger trends and technologies that are projected to have a lasting impact on higher education. For this reason, some of the “emerging technologies” and “key trends” can sound familiar and not quite “emerging.” As an example, the “Growing Ubiquity of Social Media” is a trend identified to have significant impact within the next two years; meanwhile, social media’s use in higher education will not be news to most readers. Nonetheless, a focus on practice and policy helps to keep these topics from veering into irrelevancy.

For the art information professional, the report’s findings might be considered in two ways. First, it offers a closer look at technologies and trends that have some direct relevance to art librarianship and the studio arts. The most notable examples in the report are 3D printing, and the shifting perspective of “students as consumers” to “students as creators.” The latter concept is familiar territory to anyone working with art students and practitioners, and may be an arena where art librarians can lend insight and expertise.

Second – and perhaps to greater ends – are those topics that are indirectly related to the arts, but which may spur innovation or creative application in art libraries or digital humanities projects. Consider the potential of virtual assistant technology integrated with artistic practice, or the “gamification” of visual research. The “flipped classroom” approach – identified as a “fast-moving” trend – is already being utilized in library instruction, and its methods could be adapted to models of visual literacy instruction or outreach. Within the context of these trends, librarians may also identify opportunities to leverage their subject knowledge and skills beyond the traditional silos of the art library or studio, and to form collaborative partnerships with other academics. Additionally, an awareness and understanding of the “challenges” presented in the report (e.g. the “Low Digital Fluency of Faculty”) will be beneficial, if not necessary in the development of new projects, tools, or resources.

Because each discussion is limited to a few pages, the “In Practice” and “Further Reading” links that conclude each section help to balance the reviews by presenting practical, real-life examples of projects completed or underway at libraries and universities. The report’s great strength comes from these blended discussions and a holistic consideration of each topic, which encompass both the tools and the strategies needed to implement each emerging technology, along with a serious consideration of real and potential challenges.

For those interested in the specifics of how each technology was selected, the full NMC Horizon Report includes detailed information on the researchers’ methodologies as well as the major questions at the core of the project.  The 2014 Higher Education Edition, along with reports from previous years, is available for download from the NMC’s website.

Stephanie Grimm, Reference & Instruction Librarian
University of South Carolina Beaufort
Beaufort, South Carolina

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OpenIDEO’s motto is “Where people design better, together.” OpenIDEO is an online offshoot of IDEO, a global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. OpenIDEO aims to create design solutions for real life social issues in a collaborative online environment. They hope to generate ideas for the greater good. They believe that innovation requires collaboration and that technology can facilitate teamwork across great distances. IDEO designers are constantly looking for emerging technologies and methods that will work well with its existing tools and approach.

The website, launched in July 2010, provides an open platform for innovation where designers and other creative thinkers can create together.OpenIDEO_1 Its goal is to encourage collaboration and a visual approach in order to overcome diverse challenges. Contributions from users are used to help find creative solutions to some of the problems faced by modern society. Unlike other crowdsourcing websites, OpenIDEO uses the power of the crowd to work towards creative solutions to real world problems.

Every challenge starts with a question posed by OpenIDEO and their challenge sponsor. Current challenges include OpenIDEO_2“How might we establish better recycling habits at home?”, “How might we inspire young people to cultivate their creative confidence?”, and “How might we restore vibrancy in cities and regions facing economic decline?” Organizations or individuals can sponsor a design challenge, as long as it’s for social or environmental good. Corporate sponsors include Coca-Cola, Amnesty International, and Steelcase.

In the Challenges section, you can view all the different projects currently under consideration. When you click on a challenge, you’re provided with a Challenge Brief and video. You can check out how the global community is contributing and the impact so far. There is a bar which shows which stage the challenge is in: Research, Ideas, Applause, Refinement, Evaluation, and Winners.

Everyone contributing to OpenIDEO helps select the best ideas. In the early phases, you endorse a project by “applauding” it. In the evaluation phase, users get the chance to rate concepts according to specific criteria. On pages with a research or idea, you will find links to discussion from other users, statistics about the post (and links where you can applaud or bookmark it), related posts, and a link to share the page on social media sites. All concepts are shareable, remixable and reusable by anyone. The hope is that some of these concepts will come to fruition in the real world.

OpenIDEO engages a community of over 50,000 users from more than 160 countries to solve the challenges. Community members can contribute in a variety of different ways, from commentary and photos, sketches of ideas, to business models. OpenIDEO welcomes all creative thinkers to participate, not just designers. Participants can contribute in a variety of ways such as providing feedback on research or contributing concepts.

OpenIDEO is a well-designed, interactive website that is easy to navigate. OpenIDEO is recommended for students and faculty interested in design, civic engagement, sustainability, entrepreneurship, and social innovation.

Yvette Cortes, Fine Arts Librarian
Lucy Scribner Library,
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, New York

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The Public Art Archive “houses tens of thousands of public artwork records in a single, centrally located database, making these works easily accessible to all audiences, including researchers, authors, academics, policy-makers, tourists, artists, administrators, and the general public.”Public_Art_Archive_1 The archive is a project of the Western States Arts Federation and overseen by a thirteen member Senior Advisory Committee. The focus appears to be primarily on public art in the United States.

Launched in 2009, there are currently 8,142 records documenting works of public art. Database records are freely accessible both via the Public Art Archive’s web and mobile sites. One can search and browse by a variety of terms including artist, collection, material, venue and year, as well as filter results. Many of the records contain multiple images along with links to supplementary videos, PDFs, and websites. In addition, each record includes aPublic_Art_Archive_2 Google Map view, making it possible to get directions to and information about works while on-the-ground.

In order to contribute content to the database, one must be an artist with an established public art practice or an art administrator affiliated with a public art collection. Records represent works that meet the following criteria:

  1. Public works of art that were commissioned, gifted, adopted, or granted for the purpose of being presented in public spaces for the benefit of the public.
  2. Sanctioned artworks that were commissioned through a traditional commissioning process, or acquired through an official acquisition process (especially works that are maintained through public funds).

The Public Art Archive currently has a call out encouraging participation. There are two ways for artists and art administrators to contribute content to the site. A Basic Registration allows access to the site for free. The Showcase registration, available for an annual fee of $750, allows administrators to create a collection with a customizable page and unique URL that enables searching within a discreet set of records. For more information see the benefits section of the website.

The archive uses a standardized metadata structure and records describe works in an organized manner providing information that is ordinarily difficult to access when viewing pieces of public art. Some metadata inconsistencies do exist across records, in particular date attributions associated with temporary works. Currently there is no way of determining when exactly the work is—or was—on display.

Site development is ongoing for both the website and mobile site. Public_Art_Archive_3This reviewer encountered a bug in the mobile site search function; a search for art in Toronto yielded zero results when in fact there are at least eleven records accessible through the website. There are also some design issues with the mobile site, for example the About section does not snap to the size of the mobile screen making it very difficult to read.

The project would benefit from clarifying its target audience. Currently the website seems geared towards attracting contributors. Much of the website is devoted to describing the project. A majority of the tabs on the site takes one to descriptions of the project. The site’s design and usability should make it an attractive resource to use, and that is not currently the case.

In sum, the goal of this resource is both lofty and admirable. While there is work to be done before this resource can be considered exhaustive, with the support and contributions of artists and art administrators across North America, geographic coverage will improve, as will the database’s breadth and depth. For those interested in keeping up to date with the database, sign up for the Public Art Archive’s bi-monthly newsletter.

Andrea Koteles, Information and Outreach Assistant
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

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Image source: Roadtrippers

“Attractions, diners, motels, folk art, campgrounds. Discover everything that’s awesome around you.” This tagline epitomizes the drive to discover the unique and local that permeates Roadtrippers. Visually engaging and enjoyable to navigate, this website and accompanying mobile platform feature curated content attractively organized into subsets of interest, enabling you to discover what’s across the country or just around the corner. By inputting a start and end location, users are able to select stopping points based on interest to create and navigate a custom road trip. Or, select the “Find Places” option to just explore one area.

While still in Beta, both the website and app are mostly easy to navigate, offering straightforward visual cues to guide through the planning process. Users can rate locations, leave comments, and even add locations to the site. Once a trip is planned, users can share the itinerary and directions with friends through Facebook, Twitter, and email. The app is free to download for both iPhone and Android, and offers turn-by-turn directions via Google maps, and even fuel cost estimates.

Find places based on broad categories, such as History, or specific subsets, such as Monuments or Abandoned. Each location has a page featuring photography and a brief write-up, along with a link to the location page if available. In addition, Roadtrippers offers guides and blogs, including the Hall of Museums guide, which highlights “America’s best and most bizarre museums- from SPAM to questionable medical devices (and feel free to touch the exhibits!)”

Don’t expect the same magnitude of listings as Yelp – the content is curated by Roadtripper’s team, making this service more focused but of course less encompassing. The quirky is favored over the traditional in much of this platform’s content, so choose another app to scope the nearest Starbucks. However, if you are seeking to discover places not highlighted by more conventional travel guides, Roadtrippers is more than up to the task.

Image source: Roadtrippers

For on-the-clock activities such as fieldtrips and conferences, Roadtrippers is a good discovery and planning tool. To illustrate, let’s look at the 2015 ARLIS conference city, Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to the Amon Carter, Kimbell Art Museum, and the Botanic Gardens, this trip also includes the abandoned Swift Armour Meat Packing Plant, a restored Sinclair Gas Station, plus a barbeque pit stop and a cheese shop excursion.

Image source: Roadtrippers

Beyond a fun way to explore places for business and leisure trips, imagine how Roadtrippers could be used as an educational and outreach tool: classes in urban studies, architecture,  art classes that incorporate street art, graffiti, or folk art would benefit from this tool. Students could find places based on a particular theme, upload pictures to the Roadtrippers platform, and generate a trip URL to share with their instructor and classmates. Museums and public libraries could use this as a tool to create a public art or historic district walking tour—Roadtrippers is rife with possibilities for cultural heritage and educational institutions.

So don’t wait – starting exploring your summer travels with Roadtrippers and see what you can find!

Audrey Ferrie, Library Director and Information Literacy Program Coordinator
Academy of Art University Library
San Francisco, California

*The Reference & Information Services Section of ARLIS/NA, or RISS as it’s commonly referred to, sponsors one article per issue of the Multimedia & Technology Reviews.*

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can serve as excellent professional development tools. Covering a wide range of topics—and often free—MOOCs provide participants the opportunity to build knowledge and learn new skills within a flexible structure without requiring a budget, travel, or significant changes to one’s work schedule.

The recently offered MOOC Social Media for Active Learning taught by Vanessa Dennen, Associate Professor of Instructional Systems at Florida State University, provided valuable content for those interested in social media and education.Social_Media_MOOC_1 The four-week course was organized into four modules covering tools and strategies for social media curation, using social media in lesson plans, building one’s personal learning network for information sharing, and privacy and ethical considerations. Each module was designed to function independently so that students could choose to participate selectively depending on their interests and availability. Each module included a webinar, brief video lectures, readings, a self-check quiz, a project, and a discussion board with question prompts. All of these components were optional, allowing for a range of participation from individually selected items to a full checklist required to earn a certificate of completion. The core audience for this class included instructors, trainers, and instructional designers. While there are currently no future dates scheduled when this course will run again, the course material will be made accessible for self-paced learning.

For this reviewer, there were a number of tools that contributed to making this course successful. The course was hosted on Blackboard CourseSites, a well-organized and easy to use platform requiring a free account.Social_Media_MOOC_2 Blackboard Collaborate was used for live webinars, with recordings available for asynchronous viewing. The live webinars offered a more personal connection with the opportunity for feedback in real time; they served as a good introduction to the topic and attendant material and provided context for the week’s self-directed course of study. In addition, a weekly series of videos were recorded by the instructor, hosted on YouTube, and embedded in CourseSites. Short videos broken into subtopics communicated meaningful content while capturing the viewer’s attention. Discussion boards allowed for reflection and information sharing among participants. However, the high level of traffic driven by the large numbers of students enrolled in a MOOC can easily become overwhelming.

Taking a MOOC is not without challenges. Facing the common issue of low completion rates by students enrolled in MOOCs, I found it challenging to maintain a high level of active participation in order to complete the course. That said, I found the flexible structure to be key in allowing me to adapt the course to my busy schedule and focus on the most relevant content. Another challenge was adapting to the scale of a class with hundreds of participants; it is not possible to follow all the discussions or get much individual attention from an instructor. However, I benefited from having access to knowledge experts and peers from around the world, from a wide variety of fields, who offered perspectives that were different from those I encounter in my usual spheres of interaction. In addition, a MOOC can move beyond a typical professional development webinar to offer more self-directed learning with a variety of resources for further study in a range of formats to suit different learning styles.

The CourseSites Catalog lists MOOCs covering topics in the areas of Education, Instructional Technology, and Information Science, to name a few.  Other popular MOOC providers include Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Upcoming courses that may be of interest to ARLIS/NA members include e-Learning Ecologies, Metadata: Organizing and Evaluating Information, and Art & Activity: Interactive Strategies for Engaging with Art.

Jessica Evans Brady, Visual & Performing Arts Librarian
Strozier Library, Florida State University

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Image source: ScalarScalar is a free and open-source multimedia publishing platform designed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (ANVC) and housed at the University of Southern California with other contributing scholars and designers.

While built for long-form academic writing, the platform is flexible enough that it can be used for many different publishing purposes. Scalar’s ability to host not only textual but also visual, aural, and multimedia elements make it an attractive option for artists and scholars seeking a platform to unite these media. Further, this platform has built-in software to create visualizations and annotations: a boon to those interested in dabbling in digital humanities or other multimodal scholarship forms but who may lack the skills to build their own visualizations.Image source: Scalar

Two key elements make the information architecture of a Scalar “book” (how they refer to online publications). The first is that it allows authors to create non-linear narratives through the use of “paths.” Everything in Scalar is considered a “page,” and these pages can be built and organized in different paths, allowing for different argument styles and different ways that an audience can read the publication. You can also annotate text and media as well as create visualizations of these different narrative structures.

Image source: Scalar
Secondly, Scalar’s encourages embedded media by incorporating semantic web concepts at the very heart of its architecture, including its use of RDF (Resource Description Framework) triples as the basis for all its metadata. In doing so, the platform offers an opportunity to build users’ digital literacy skills, including aspects of digital preservation and what kinds of repositories offer persistent storage and access. The ANVC has partnered with a number of repositories, including Critical Commons, Internet Archive, and the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library for seamless embedding of content from their servers. Hosting from commercial sites like YouTube, Vimeo, as well as personal servers and institutional repositories is also available.

Image source: Scalar

One of Scalar’s best features is its appeal to novices and experts alike. Those with little design or programming experience can easily use the off-the-shelf platform while still taking advantage of Scalar’s core features. In addition, users can incorporate custom CSS and JavaScript code on a single page or over an entire book. More advanced users can use Scalar’s API (application programming interface) to create highly interactive and immersive projects. Finally, both live and recorded webinars and a robust help page and user’s guide can help you get started on your own project, and Scalar’s developers were quick to respond with assistance when I encountered difficulties.

There are some challenges to using Scalar. Getting accustomed to the flat hierarchy of Scalar’s page-based architecture may seem foreign to users lacking web design experience. Furthermore, while it is possible to host material on Scalar’s servers, uploads are limited to 2MB, which encourages authors to make use of external media repositories. More broadly, as with any digital publication, loss of content is a possibility: earlier this year, Scalar experienced a major server crash and much of the material hosted on Scalar’s servers was lost (another reason to host on outside servers).

There are many platforms for scholars seeking a different way to represent their work. While some of these are also scholarly minded (Omeka), they have neither the navigational flexibility (in the case of a non-customized Omeka) nor the encouragement of archival rigor and good digital preservation standards (WordPress or Drupal) built into Scalar. It should be considered as an important resource for a range of scholarly and creative projects. A full listing of projects, from highly-customized and elaborate projects to simple linear narratives are available on Scalar’s website.

Justin Schell, Digital Humanities Specialist
University of Minnesota Libraries
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Philadelphia is a sprawling city of residential neighborhoods with a compact “Center City” nestled at the convergence of two rivers.  Shooting like an arrow away from this center is the Benjamin Franklin Parkway lined with museums and Fairmount Park, one of the country’s largest city parks, which features important public artwork and monuments throughout its approximate 4,600 acreage.  Art further dots the rest of the city, and smaller boutique museums sit within the central grid of squares and streets.


With Art Philadelphia (WAP), a web project by Philadelphia’s tourism corporation Visit Philly, enables visitors to experience Philadelphia’s art destinations virtually, through thirty organizations and collections, including the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation, as well as the smaller but venerable Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and The University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Contemporary Art.  Individual works of art such as Charles Wilson Peale’s “Artist in His Museum” (held at PAFA) and Claes Oldenberg’s outdoor “Clothespin” are also presented as destinations themselves.  A number of museums and sites presented on WAP are not strictly art spaces, though certainly they may host arts events and installations.  Sites like the Schuylkill River and Eastern State Penitentiary reveal a problem in the relationship between WAP’s name and scope.  One or the other should be better defined.

The visual organization of the site is that of an endless board of images. The visitor can mouse-over any image to reveal details about that specific site. Users are invited to “Curate Your Own Experience” by adding destinations to a list.  That list can then become a map, a tweet, a Facebook post, or a slideshow. Preset popular tours are also offered such as “Family Favorites” and “Impressionist Masterworks” to assist those who would rather not play curator.  The site is designed for visitors or locals looking to physically experience what it presents, and so aids the mission of Visit Philly to build and enhance tourism in Philadelphia. Though the arts-savvy tourist will want to do additional homework to plan a satisfying visit, WAP is a solid point of departure.

The graphics-heavy site is a bit slow and oddly presented with a very lateral orientation, possibly an accommodation for tablet-users.    The “Curate Your Own Experience” feature is a tad buggy, but it offers what is really the most useful feature of the site – a custom map for the visitor whereon all selected destinations are marked.


WAP is easy and intuitive to use, with helpful menus at the top of the page.    As it grows to include more events and artworks, the current interface may not prove scalable. WAP currently lacks any sort of search functionality, relying instead on a browse-only interface which has its own set of limitations in terms of discovering content. While WAP’s goal is not to serve as a union catalog of the region’s art holdings, one is reminded that no such resource exists despite the presence of strong professional organizations and world-class museums.  Perhaps someday there will be a kind of ARTstor that will serve as a union catalog of collection holdings and allow users to search by a work’s current geography.  All Matisse paintings in Philadelphia?  Here.  But that is some time off.

The site is a serious investment on the part of its sponsor, and it achieves its goals of communicating the vibrant Philadelphia art scene with a well-designed presentation of highlights. May it in the future present even more of the region’s riches.

Evan Towle, Librarian for Reader Services
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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