Categories
digital humanities photogrammetry

Museum Models

These are examples of models that I am currently working on, on behalf of the Butter Museum in Cork, Ireland. The Museum is in the process of inaugurating a program that will utilise these digital presentations as part of an educational package for children of school going age.

Butter Tin

This butter tin can be found behind a glass case upstairs in the Museum; it is therefore useful to enable functionality that can load the model onto a phone and allow it to be viewed in conjunction with the physical (albeit restricted) object.

Butter Print

Butter ‘prints’ or ‘stamps’ were used to make decorative imprints on the butter. This model of a butter print (missing its handle) is relatively unusual in that it depicts a crown. Plant designs such as a rose or an acorn were more commonly used.

Categories
digital humanities videography

experimental

WRACK

The Theme

The idea for this artwork was initiated by a visit to the dentist and a tooth extraction – it was the first one I’ve had in many years (since I was a child) and it evoked a very deep emotional response: something I had never quite felt before. I became aware of my body and how it is slowly failing; and I realised that I would like to express that in some way. 

As Michael Caine says, “nothing a lot of people know….” (this): I won the Texaco Art Competition when I was eight years old; and I thought it might be interesting to link the two events. 

At the same time, I could see the city of Cork slowly crumbling  around me – everywhere you walk in the town, buildings are leaning out into the streets or upholstered by metal girders. The city – Cork (Corcaigh: Marsh as Gaeilge) – is  reconciling itself to its true nature by sinking back into the ground, as we all will do some day; and I saw a connection in the way I was feeling physically, and the physical presentation of the city. So I tried to reconcile these three ideas – me now, an early success I had as a young boy, and the crumbling city. 

Also, the wind to me has always been the messenger of the past  – voices heard on the wind are voices from another time and conveyed by this element as a message to you. I thought it might be interesting to take this idea – voices on the wind – and integrate it into this connection as well, since I was dealing with the nature of time gone.  

The Process

As I was interested in the idea of the physicality and ‘mortality’ of buildings, I visited the site of a neighbour’s house before it was demolished – a house that meant a lot to me as a child –  and took some photographs; and I retrieved an item (a piece of kitchen lino) from the site after the house had been pulled down. I saw a connection between the piece of lino and the prize-winning painting – I saw them as ‘icons’ that carried power in the message I was trying to articulate – and I initiated a process where I began to explore how to represent them properly. I saw them as standing alone – I didn’t want them to be compromised by surrounding photographic context. So I selected and separated them in Procreate and rendered them as TIFFs. In Photos, I added sharpness, brilliance, vibrance amongst other things to give them a ‘hyperreal’ quality. I also created in Procreate a background used in the video – one that looked ‘starry’ but deliberately artificial – splotches and blotches of paint. 

As I walked around the city, I recorded ‘wild track’ on my iPhone – anything I found interesting: motors, the wind, people socializing at a park near my home during an impromptu festival. I also recorded ‘atmos’  – a dull hiss – by leaving the iPhone record empty noise for long periods of time, and going back in later and editing this is in VoiceMemo to remove any extraneous sounds or ‘bits’ (this ‘hiss’ to me is the element of machinery – the imposition of technology; I wanted to bring it in as a conveyer of ‘artificiality’ which I hoped would add a feeling that was useful).

I would think about what I wanted to do separately to when I actually worked. When I edited, I worked almost without thinking, like writing, in a stream of consciousness. I found that elements of material played off each other by accident – and I allowed that to happen. I found a correspondence between what I was doing and other work (such as that of Tianzhou Chen) – the integration of disparate elements (sound, footage, photos) and the creation of new and surprising combinations that had an integrity all of their own, and this encouraged me onwards. I noted that Ann Hirsch (Scandalishious) had emphasised the strength of working impulsively: ‘work first, understand later’, and this gave me confidence. 

As time went on, I began to realise that I also wanted to tell some kind of story and also give the work a form of resolution that the video format would find applicable, so I began to seriously think about the construction of a beginning, middle and end to the work – this conflicted with an idea to ‘keep it lean’ that went on throughout the whole making (I deleted the sound of a ticking clock that may have given some explanation to parts of the video, but surmised it wasn’t necessary in the end). I also made an attempt to link some of the disparate material to give the piece a more narrative feel. I realised that I had a responsibility to the viewer almost more than myself and giving the video a ‘form’ would do it credit – I hoped! Toward the end of the process, I brought in video pieces and photos that I had shot at the very start. I then combined these pieces with ‘conflicting’ audio, but they worked in new ways that were gratifying. 

In the end, I realised I had created some sort of love song to myself, to the boy I once was, and to the city.

Dominic Moore 

May 2021

Categories
digital humanities

Digitising the Butter Wrappers  

Figure 1: The Butter Wrappers in the Butter Museum, Shandon, Cork

The Butter Wrappers

I work in the Butter Museum, where we have a collection of original parchment butter wrappers, framed and hanging on the walls. Each creamery in the country  – and in 1955 there were 157 of them – had its own wrapper. With the coming of the bright lights of the supermarket shelves, and the inability of the parchment wrapper to protect the butter against that light, the foil wrapper took precedence and the parchment wrapper all but disappeared. The once ephemeral and ubiquitous is now the rare and treasured. There are 67 surviving wrappers in our collection. 

I propose to host a digital exhibition of these surviving butter wrappers. 

Before I started writing this essay, my primary objective for the exhibition was to promote user engagement and to foster a community of butter wrapper enthusiasts. The consideration of tools in the project has, however, forced me to reconsider, and to approach the project from another point of view.

The Existing Online Catalogue

There is a catalogue of the museum’s website butter wrapper collection online already, costing the museum nothing. The catalogue consists of a PDF of scanned wrappers and is hosted by Issue.com. 

However,  imagining this alliance from a user viewpoint, it is clear that this dependency on Issue should not continue. Firstly, the catalogue, named as “Butter wrapper catalogue bdraft” is surrounded by advertisements – hardly the ideal user experience introduction to someone from Borrisoleigh looking for their ‘Golden Valley’ wrapper: 

Figure 2: How the catalogue looks now

Our Borrisoleigh user would have to intuitively understand that the wrappers are arranged in alphabetical order and flip through them until he arrived at the desired Golden Valley wrapper. He certainly wouldn’t be able to access this wrapper independently of the catalogue – it remains hidden inside, and a Google search of ‘Golden Valley Butter Wrapper’ would reveal images of wrappers from the United States. He wouldn’t be able to download the wrapper from the catalogue, if he wanted to print one for himself – the consequences of a decision the museum made back in 2013 when this initiative was undertaken.  The images of the wrappers are not of high quality and some wrappers look crinkled – reducing the quality of the viewing experience. The catalogue is not responsive – accessing it from a mobile phone means that you can barely make out the writing on the wrappers themselves – the arrangement manages to make all the wrappers look equally boring. The arrangement of the wrappers in a catalogue like this makes no allowance or reference for their differing sizes. 

From the Museum’s viewpoint, the alliance is disadvantageous other than the fact that was free to undertake this digital publishing. It would be relatively difficult to add another wrapper to the collection, were one to be found ‘down the back of a drawer’ – the catalogue has already been published, so updating it on Issue would mean involving them again. There is no attempt at user engagement; if our Borrisoleigh visitor wanted to comment on any aspect of the wrapper – maybe where he is aware that the design was used elsewhere – he would have to email us. This removes the conversation from the context of the wrapper itself, where other users could have commented. As regards sustainability, if Issue.com went out of business, or if they decided to stop or place limitations on this free version that the Museum is availing of, it would have consequences for the catalogue that the Museum could not control.  

A Digital Exhibition – Considerations

  • There would be only 67 wrappers in the exhibition. It would be a one-off, and not an on-going project. Sustainability could be an issue if there is little user engagement and if there was an accompanying disengagement by museum staff once the exhibition went online.
  • The exhibition would be unique: we are not aware of any other digital butter wrapper collection. Therefore issues of interoperability are not as important as they could be. 
  • Funding would be made available to cover server and storage costs. I would be undertaking this myself, with no project payment. There are grants available for this kind of enterprise, but they are not being considered for the purposes of this essay. 
  • At the time of writing this essay, the issue of copyright had not been clearly established. This issue alone has the power to stop the entire project in its tracks. Although the Museum own the wrappers hanging on the walls, the copyright belong to the creators – the designers of the wrappers. Many of the designs are over 70 years old. The copyright may have expired, it may have been acquired by the creameries from the designers, or alternatively it may have been acquired by the co-operatives that took over the creameries. The issue of publishing the wrappers in the public domain was never addressed by the Museum when making the catalogue available online. 

A User Centred Design

I initiated a process of user centred design to further interrogate the importance  of exhibiting the wrappers in an environment that would allow some of the affordances described above. I submitted a simple questionnaire to four real-life user personas: a graphic designer, a local historian, a food guide who regularly brings guests to the Museum in Cork, and a museum curator[1]. For the purposes of brevity, I will simply acknowledge that some of the user issues as identified above were also identified by the user personas, and in addition, that one commonality of response was iterated by each user: what they would like to see changed was the lack of contextualisation surrounding the individual wrapper as it stood now in the catalogue. As one user contributed: “Historic photography or advertisements relating to the wrappers that present them in real-world contexts might serve to ground them further in (the) public imagination…(you) might include maps of distribution, images of the creameries they came from, and video or audio content embedded where appropriate.” [2]

Digitizing the Wrappers 

The wrappers need to be (re-)scanned. It was pointed out during the survey that the image resolution in the catalogue was too low[3]. Furthermore, several of the wrappers in the catalogue appear crinkled and thus appear to have not been treated with standards applicable to a digital exhibition. However, taking the framed wrappers off the walls, scanning them in a controlled environment and reframing them again is a long and laborious job, so it is important to do the rescanning once and properly. It is to my advantage that there is a relatively small number of them (67) and that most of them are roughly the same size (26cm x 14cm).  I interviewed John Foley of Bite Design, who has much experience in this field, and has worked with the Museum in the past. He recommended scanning the wrappers in resolutions as high as 2400dpi – resulting in an overall digital repository which would approximate 10G in size[4]. For user interface purposes, the images could be displayed as thumbnails as low as 72dpi (in lossy formats like JPEG) but these could be linked to higher resolutions of 300dpi and even 600dpi. Consideration would have to be given to the image editing software associated with the scanner to ‘correct’ crinkles and other issues in the new scan – and also at what stage cosmetic retouching overtakes correct archival representation. 

Digitalizing The Wrappers

Initially, the most important consideration I had for hosting the exhibition was generating user engagement around the wrappers, and by extension, generating interest in the Museum, similarly to this Twitter interaction below:

Figure 3: Composite Photo of Twitter Interaction

It would be relatively easy for me to build a WordPress site featuring a butter wrapper per post (see below) and building around them an attractive hierarchical interface: 

Figure 4: An example of the WordPress Interface

However, in undertaking this exhibition I am representing the Museum. For an exhibition – or more so, an exhibition process –  to be taken seriously, it helps to have a platform that has in-built archival standardisation – including following ISO standards. The free version of Omeka is custom designed for projects like mine: a small institution with a small budget; a small number of items to exhibit all of like size and type, which could be batch loaded from a CSV file in Excel and retuned on the platform as required. In the end, what cannot be ignored is what Omeka declares as one of its central pillars: the associated use of metadata which conforms to ISO standards in the form of Dublin Core. If no user comments section could be incorporated into the Omeka section of the exhibition, we would include one, a click away on the Museum website – an example of Omeka and WordPress working together to produce a desired outcome. 

The following is a comparison table of Omeka and WordPress as seen by me, a museum assistant and not a trained digital archivist, if I was to undertake a project like this for the Butter Museum: 

BUTTER MUSEUM CONSIDERATIONS: Design, Website and UserOMEKAWORDPRESS
Design: FreeOmeka.net version is free, with limited functionality, but enough for the Museum’s needs in hosting an exhibitionYes, with a huge range of themes and plug-ins immediately available for use 
Design: Open SourceYes. Immediately available on its own server. Offers a more attractive version when self-hosting (this latter consideration is attractive but not within budget as described for this essay)Yes, immediately available. 
Design: CMSOmeka is a dedicated content management system. It was built specifically with museum and archival display in mind.Works with a category and tagging system; pleasing hierarchical structures can be built around the items
Design: Ease of Use Very easy to set up an exhibition immediately; however it has a small supportive community relative to WP. Self-hosting means taking on responsibility in some issues (server compatibility, discontinued plug-ins)WordPress is set up for immediate use; a vast supportive community; some privacy and security concerns. 
Design: Standards AdherenceDublin Core;  certain subject fields can be restricted to ensure consistency; controlled vocabulary. Doesn’t apply – WP is essentially a blogging site. Customised metadata fields could be added but would take time, energy and additional coding skills
Design: MaintenanceLittle (off the shelf utilisation)Some (additional functionality would need to be added)
Design: CustomisableLimited, but enough to achieve an attractive user experienceVery high; a wide range of highly tested features available. Many plug-ins previously tested and verified 
Design: Creative and ExpressiveLimited, but (like Customisable) enough. The clean, professional looking interface is already set up Very much so – WordPress allows this as part of its design
Design: Coding Skills required for advanced use Little needed to in order to achieve the desired exhibition parametersCoding required to achieve the functionality this designer believes should be applicable when hosting an exhibition like this 
Design: Batch File LoadingYes, with CSV files. This feature isn’t as important as it could have been (there are ‘only’ 67 wrappers)This designer is not aware of a similar process in WordPress
Website: SustainabilityYes, especially with the limited free version; low payment for site hosting (large image files can be held offline until needed – payment for server space can be accommodated as the website grows)Yes, besides the relatively low payment for site hosting 
Website: InteroperabilityYes – although not as important as it could be. Interoperability between other archives does not apply as the exhibition is uniqueWould require additional coding to achieve a level of desirability
Website: SEO Yes, but not as immediately friendly as WP. Omeka is not designed with SEO keywords as priority Relatively easy to set up SEO keywords 
User: Responsive for devicesYes Yes
User: AccessibilityLimited on free version but Minimalist/Winter/Seasons has been cited as applicable for visually impaired (see photo below) Yes, many themes are Accessibility Ready with additional filters
User: Comments SectionCan use the plug-in Simple Contact Form; this can be linked to the Museum website. This designer is not aware of any plug-ins that enable open user comments Yes, enabling a major ambition of the Exhibition: building an online community of butter wrapper ‘followers’. The success of this section could ensure future sustainability of the Exhibition
User: Ability to find Individual Wrappers of Interest; inside and outside the ExhibitionYes (appropriate tags and keywords)Yes with  a ‘Butter Blog’ style of presentation, where each wrapper occupies a post 
ConclusionsFits very well, for a professional Museum exhibition. There are 67 items of like format. There is no need to add more than what is available off the shelf. Can offer some user engagement , especially when linked to the WP site hosting it. Would fit well, if this was a personal project. Would offer much user engagement. User may find it initially easier than Omeka to navigate and leave comments. 

In the end, Omeka make the artefacts themselves the focal points, with themes and plug-ins built around them. A WordPress ‘butter wrappers blog’ is very tempting to foster user interaction – maybe it could even lead to the discovery of more wrappers. But Omeka offers this as well – or at least a version I can  live with – and all the associated richness of the metadata. Ironically, the similarity of the Omeka interface to WordPress is another reason I would choose Omeka. In the end, choosing the platform came down to balancing the affordances against the constraints – and Omeka confers legitimacy in an archival setting. Omeka it is.

Figure 5: An example of the Omeka Interface

Why Exhibit?

Throughout this essay, I’ve had the pleasure of speculating why I might take particular steps, how I’m going to implement them, and select certain methodologies and tools if I was to host a digital butter wrapper exhibition. The essay parameters forced me to re-evaluate my original goal in setting up the imagined exhibition. ‘User engagement’ is not an end in itself – it is the result of good website design. As they say in sport: “Play well, and the result will come naturally.”

But why exhibit the wrappers at all? Well, besides the pleasure of the creation – the conception, writing and display  – of this exhibition, a conversation that I had with Aoife Dorney, a lecturer in Visual Communications in the Munster Technological University, stays in my mind and gives me impetus. She explained the strength of the identity that had been forged between the people and the land a few generations ago, and the power that the butter had as an living symbol of that identity.  “Butter is unique in Ireland in that it is literally the fat of the land,” she explained. “When we ate of the butter, we took back ownership of the land in a way that was immediate and certain. The names on the wrappers were beyond just place names – they gave us ownership. The wrappers packaged this certainty, but also pointed a path back to our imagined past and made real our Celtic Revival. They brought this promised land to our fingertips: they conferred upon us who we were, and who we wanted to be.” As the times changed and the people moved to the cites, this significance diminished and was replaced by everyday concerns of securing mortgages for pocket handkerchief houses and apartments. It is perhaps fitting that in this time of the resurgence of the Humanities – in Digital form –  we scholars can re-present these icons – these symbols of community, and reinvest in them that  power for a new generation. 

Dominic Moore 

May 2021

Thanks to: 

Peter Foynes, Director of the Butter Museum, Cork

John Foley, Bite Design

Aoife Dorney, Lecturer in Visual Communications, MTU


[1]This is the questionnaire that I provided to the four users:

We are investigating the possible exhibition of Butter Wrappers later this summer, and are interested in implementing the best possible design to do this.

I’m hoping that you, as a user of the Butter Museum website, will help us in this implementation by considering the following questions.

We have a butter wrapper catalogue already installed on our website.

http://thebuttermuseum.com/documents/butter-wrapper-collection

Leaving aside any perceived  limitations of the website itself, it would help us if you considered the following questions.

  • How would you rate the catalogue as a device for exhibiting the butter wrappers?
  • Does it show them to their fullest potential in your eyes?
  • Would you like to see any accompanying information with the wrappers?
  • Is it important to you to know more about the creameries that the wrappers came from?
  • Can you think of any other processes, design or otherwise, that would improve your user experience with the wrappers as they are exhibited now?
  • In an ideal world, how would you design the wrapper exhibition?
  • Can you think of any more points that may be interesting to us as we go about designing the butter wrapper exhibition?

Thank you,

Dominic Moore,

The Butter Museum. 

[2]A strong point was made (from two of the contributors) for the images to be downloadable – so that children could colour them in; this added an educational possibility I had not considered. Another contributor commented that the Junior Cert History programme now involves a local history project/module, and that highlighting the wrappers online could lead to presentational possibilities in the Museum – maybe a PowerPoint exhibition, or printed postcards of the wrappers.

[3] My graphic designer remarked: “…they are too low res – they can’t be examined closely or be of any use beyond the catalogue”. It is interesting to note that this was not a universal perception: the images were praised by another user for their “high-quality”. It became clear during the writing of this essay why there was, from my point of view, a lack of concern as to the image quality of the wrappers. The images were kept at deliberately low resolution to prevent them being downloaded and then being framed/sold on or otherwise used by users who were accessing them for free. The idea had been to keep higher resolution files in a hard drive which could then be utilised to print images onto aprons for the Museum shop. The success of this venture can be judged by the fact there were six apron sales in eight years. My belief that the Museum have little to lose and much to gain by allowing high resolution images to be downloadable on request, or to present them in appropriately high resolution on the website, and to allow interaction and engagement with the public on a level that would be appreciated. 

[4] The cost of a scanner capable of delivering resolutions of this size would be approximately €800. 

Bibliography:

Ashenfelder, Mike. “You Say You Want a Resolution: How Much DPI/PPI Is Too Much? | The Signal.” Webpage, July 16, 2013. //blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2013/07/you-say-you-want-a-resolution-how-many-dpippi-is-too-much/.

Blair, Katrina Beatrix. “WordPress vs Omeka. No Holds Barred – CMS/DCMS Knockout Round ;-) – PDF Free Download.” Accessed April 30, 2021. https://docplayer.net/14922684-Wordpress-vs-omeka-no-holds-barred-cms-dcms-knockout-round.html.

WPExplorer. “Breaking Down Barriers: Why WordPress Website Accessibility Is Key,” January 25, 2021. https://www.wpexplorer.com/wordpress-website-accessibility/.

Brett. “Site Planning Tips – Omeka Classic User Manual.” Accessed March 25, 2021. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/GettingStarted/Site_Planning_Tips/.

CollectiveAccess. “Home | CollectiveAccess.” Accessed April 2, 2021. https://collectiveaccess.org/.

Cripps, Micheal. “Omeka or WordPress. Omeka Or….” Accessed April 2, 2021. https://michaeljcripps.com/blog/2013/07/23/omeka-or-wordpress-omeka-or/.

Day, Shawn. “Sharing Your Digital Projects and Data – Omeka.” DigitalNomad, February 17, 2017. http://digitalnomad.ie/content-management-vs-collections-management/.

Drupal. “Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.” Drupal.org, September 11, 2017. https://www.drupal.org/case-study/fine-arts-museums-of-san-francisco.

Egan, Orla. “Cork LGBT History.” Cork LGBT History. Accessed April 8, 2021. https://corklgbthistory.com/.

———. “Omeka vs WordPress.” Orlaegan (blog), January 28, 2015. https://orlaegan.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/omeka-vs-wordpress/.

Jakovich, Katie. “On Omeka: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly | Battle Hall Highlights.” Accessed March 25, 2021. https://battlehall.lib.utexas.edu/2018/02/22/on-omeka/.

Jepson, Lisa. “Past Lives, Hidden Treasures: Bringing an Extinct Museum Back to Life through Digitisation,” 2019. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3377987.

Kucsma, Jason, Kevin Reiss, and Angela Sidman. “Using Omeka to Build Digital Collections: The METRO Case Study.” D-Lib Magazine 16, no. 3/4 (March 2010). https://doi.org/10.1045/march2010-kucsma.

Omeka Classic User Manual. “Editorial.” Accessed April 27, 2021. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/Plugins/Editorial/.

———. “Exhibit Builder.” Accessed April 26, 2021. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/Plugins/ExhibitBuilder/.

———. “Search Settings.” Accessed April 27, 2021. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/Admin/Settings/Search_Settings/.

———. “Working with Dublin Core.” Accessed April 26, 2021. https://omeka.org/classic/docs/Content/Working_with_Dublin_Core/.

Omeka Legacy Forums. “Omeka versus WordPress.” Accessed April 2, 2021. https://omeka.org/forums-legacy/topic/omeka-versus-wordpress/.

Rosenzweig Centre, Roy. “Omeka – Project.” Accessed March 25, 2021. https://omeka.org/about/project/.

Scheinfeldt, Tom. “Omeka and Its Peers.” Found History, September 1, 2010. http://foundhistory.org/2010/09/omeka-and-its-peers/.

———. “Omeka: Open Source Web Publishing for Research, Collections and Exhibitions.” Open Source Business Resource, no. December 2008 (2008).

Stefano Morello, 2021 in Events, Featured, Reflections, Resources, and Tagging the Tower. “Choosing the Right Platform for Your Digital Archive.” GC Digital Fellows (blog), March 22, 2021. https://digitalfellows.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2021/03/22/choosing-the-right-platform-for-your-digital-archive/.

The Crowley Company. “Can We Get a Resolution? The Mystery of the ‘Right’ DPI/PPI.” Accessed April 16, 2021. https://thecrowleycompany.com/can-we-get-a-resolution-the-mystery-of-the-right-dpippi/.

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Zimmer, Micheal. “Is Omeka S a Good Option for My Digital Library Project?” Omeka Forum, December 1, 2018. https://forum.omeka.org/t/is-omeka-s-a-good-option-for-my-digital-library-project/7633.

Categories
digital humanities

Cork City Council Libraries 2015-2020

I was tempted by the following data set, which relates both to my home city of Cork, and my interest in the Arts: the Cork City Council Libraries Key Metrics which was found on Ireland’s Open Data Portal at data.gov.ie, which had been released on January 25th 2021 with data for the years 2018-2020, and was updated on March 1st to include the years 2015-2017. This is how the data set looked:

Three significant notes accompanied the data set:

  • Up until 30 May 2019, Cork City Council Libraries consisted of seven library locations. Following boundary revision on 31 May 2019, Cork City Council Libraries now comprises ten library locations 1
  • Douglas Library was closed following fire between 1 September 2019 and 17 December 2020 2
  • PC bookings were suspended on 10 March 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic.

Firstly I renamed the following categories, for legibility: Visits to our libraries became Visitor Numbers; items borrowed (physical) became Physical Items; items borrowed (ebooks and audiobooks) became E-Items. I reordered the columns on the table so that the years read 2015-2020 as we read left to right. Then I removed the ‘Stock Items’ and ‘Book Fund €’ categories, as I would not be concerned with them for this project. I inputted the set into Flourish, and created the line graph below:

Made with Flourish

The first thing that struck me looking at the graph was the effect that Covid-19 had on Visitor Numbers. I was also interested in the correlation between that and Enquiries.

Made with Flourish

What I can surmise from the graph above is:

  • Covid-19 in 2020 had a devastating effect on Visitor Numbers – a drop of well over half from the high of 2019. However, learning of the conditions under which the libraries were operating, I am surprised that the libraries still managed to attract the numbers they did. The libraries managed to remain open for almost 7 months during 2020, but even during these months (from March on), they had to restrict visitor numbers. I would imagine that a further consequence for the libraries was one they shared with other enclosed spaces: the reluctance of visitors to enter them, and furthermore to even touch the books and other physical items. It was through the admirable introductions of systems like the call-and-collect 3, and the quarantining of books 4, that the libraries managed to provide a base level service that I would imagine members acknowledged and appreciated over the course of the year, and began to avail of, as their confidence grew.
  • On a more general note over the years, Enquiries are related to Visitor Numbers – numerically and graphically they make ‘fine bedfellows’.  Enquiries are any question a visitor wants to make to a member of staff: it can be about a book at the desk, it can be help with locating a magazine article on the computer, a question relating to opening hours, and it can even be a phone call or email. It is obvious that not every visitor makes an enquiry, some visitors know what they want and how to get it, or are content to browse; and certainly not every enquiry has to be related to a physical visitor in the building, but I like the correlation between them.
  • It is curious, while we look at it, that Enquiries didn’t increase in 2019 with the addition of the 3 libraries. In 2018 however, there was an increased emphasis on members to ‘self-service’ 5 – where members can borrow a book without ever approaching the desk, or interacting with any staff. I would speculate that the reason for the increase in enquiries in 2018 was due to members of the 4 ‘new’ libraries approaching the desk or staff to receive guidance on how to use the new Self-service Kiosk system – and this need for assistance would have decreased the next year. In other words, there is a relatively new policy of encouraging ‘self sufficiency’ amongst the members – and that this self sufficiency displays itself in reduced interaction with the staff, and therefore enquiries.

The next aspect I wanted to look at was items borrowed from the libraries. Physical items would include books, magazines, CDs, DVDs etc.; whereas E-Items included downloaded e-books (an e-book can be downloaded only to one person), audiobooks and other E-services.6 I created a bar graph to appreciate the discrepancy in scale between the two catagories:

Made with Flourish

This graph is interesting for a number of reasons. It tells a story simply yet effectively. There is the obvious, expected severe drop in Physical Items borrowed in 2020 compared to 2019, and there is a doubling of E-items borrowed in the same time period.

However, looking at the bars as we progress year to year, it shows a deeper picture – almost a roadmap of the future. The amount of physical items borrowed has been steadily declining for years, despite the addition of the new libraries in 2019. There is a corresponding unfaltering rise in E-items borrowed since the infancy days in 2015. The contrast between the years 2o15 and 2019 is telling – and this before the consequences of the pandemic. The advantages bestowed by the BorrowBox system 7 has made online borrowing a couple-of-clicks process, and would have continued to convert users, despite the pandemic. Covid-19 did accelerate the process, but I feel this trend is a harbinger of a future where the foundations were laid years ago. There is going to come a time when the numbers for Physical Items and E-items will match, and if trends continue the way they are going, then the one will overtake the other within a decade.

Next, I wanted to look at members, and examine the trend over the  years. Looking at the Members graph on the left hand side below, we can see that member numbers have risen dramatically over the last couple of years. As we know however, there was a change in the city boundaries in 2019 that led to the addition of 3 new libraries. I learned from my interviews with Ann Riordan 8 that the addition of the new libraries accounted for approximately 8,800 new members. So I reordered 8,800 members in the 2019-2020 numbers, to create the graph on the right, below:  

I would imagine that in this graph (Reordered Members) the purple area is more representative of the ‘true’ trend of member numbers over the years. While the trend is not as spectacular as in Total Members, there is still a reassuring rise in member numbers for 2020 (despite only a tiny increase in 2019). I would speculate that this rise was generated by conditions imposed by the pandemic: people became members to enable online borrowing. This increase in online interest, I would imagine, was a direct result of the twin factors of library closure, and also the reluctance to enter library spaces when they were open. However, if we look at the years up to 2019, then membership would have only shown a significant increase in the year 2016, before dropping down again for 2017.

This is a interesting pattern that I noticed replicated in other catagories: something happened in 2016 that increased numbers in that year relative to the other years surrounding it.

Thinking about it, I realised that the question may not so much be what happened in 2016, but rather what happened a hundred years before that, in 1916? The 1916 centenary initiated many cultural events across the country, and Cork City Libraries celebrated in its turn this seminal moment with many events that utilised their spaces and reached outwards into the communities. So it comes as no surprise that 2016 would show significantly to other years, especially in Events, and I would speculate that these events had a direct influence on the other categories outlined in the graphs.

So, what does all of this mean? What does this data set and these graphs tell us about the story of the Cork City Libraries and their journey onwards through the years? I see the increasing emphasis on the Self service Kiosk system, in parallel with the utilisation of BorrowBox, as a consequence of the digital age we all live in. This can have major benefits in several areas: the freeing up of staff to perform other duties, particularly staff manning the desks. But what does it mean for the libraries - the spaces - themselves? The Digital Age has brought many concerns for the GLAMs, not least how they are to survive if their physical space seems to be in any way redundant. If we can borrow online and read at home, and if we order online and collect our order at an unmanned desk, will the need for the spaces decrease? If the spaces are not fulfilling a major function of their presence - the interaction, the hub of community, the comfort of being in a space where we can take an hour to read a good book, will the thought occur to cash-strapped councils: "We actually don't need this expensive building at all" ? The next decade will, like all good books, surely tell a tale.

Acknowledgments:

I would like to express my thanks to Ann Riordan, Librarian, whose willingness to give her time for interviews over Zoom is very much appreciated.

I would also like to thank Sinéad Donnelly for providing valuable information that I used when first exploring the data set.

Bibliography:

Central Statistics Office. “Data.Gov.Ie.” Accessed March 5, 2021. https://data.gov.ie/.

Cork City Council. “Cork City Council Libraries Key Metrics - Data.Gov.Ie.” Accessed March 5, 2021. https://data.gov.ie/dataset/cork-city-council-libraries-key-metrics.

Cork City Libraries. “Home.” Cork City Libraries. Accessed March 11, 2021. https:/www.corkcitylibraries.ie/corkcitylibraries/en/.

Gov.ie. “Creative Ireland.” Creative Ireland Programme. Accessed March 12, 2021. https://www.creativeireland.gov.ie/en/about/.

Meeks, Elijah. “2019 Was the Year Data Visualization Hit the Mainstream.” Medium, December 30, 2019. https://medium.com/nightingale/2019-was-the-year-data-visualization-hit-the-mainstream-d97685856ec.

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digital humanities

3D Model Test

This 3D model was created and displayed with help and tuition provided by Netcher EU Project Training

Butter Box

Butter Box
This photograph of a butter box was part of a series of 36, used to build a 3D model. The 3D reconstruction was made possible by training provided by the H2020 Netcher Project for 3D Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage at Risk
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digital humanities

Digital Artefact

Dominic Moore – 80088945

Timeline: “The Year the World went Online

Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork; Noon, 14th January 2021. photo: Dominic Moore

Click Here to view the Timeline

Thoughts on the Artefact Process:

Initially when thinking about my group’s Digital Artefact, I thought it might be a good idea for us to submit a not-a-map image in a StoryMap. The image would be head-and-shoulder photographs of the group members, and embedded in each photograph would be video files (as you clicked on the eyes of the members), audio files (on the mouths) and text – marked up – (on the hands). The concern in the group however, was because these files would be created by ourselves – I had put suggested ‘our pandemic reflections’ as a topic – the artefact would not be sufficiently scholarly. By the time some clarifications as to what we were doing were received, the Storymap idea had also morphed into a Timeline. This necessitated a change in my own thinking. A Timeline is an historical document; so contributions are now factually based on a date. The thinking has to go from the ‘subjective and personal’ to the ‘objective and general’. The contributions, instead of being our own, could be the contributions of others (no less scholarly?). As I have a (vastly overdeveloped) anxiety regarding open access and copyright, I decided to make many of my contributions those that I had created myself. We each picked different subject matter relating to our different interests, and the title, The Year the World went Online, kept us rooted. The result is pleasing – the Timeline definitely works as an artefact, and successfully has an element of originality, this being the first year of the pandemic. The topic works well – the media is varied, and the contributions are well chosen. The pandemic certainly brought an additional complication to group meetings; ideas took longer to express – the ‘mood of the room’ couldn’t be judged while ideas were being tossed around; connectivity is directly interlinked with communicability. Overall though, I found the ability of the group to adapt to the conditions inspiring.

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digital humanities videography

Digital Transformation and the Butter Museum  

Click HERE to watch Digital Transformation and the Butter Museum

This video describes the first steps the Butter Museum in Cork, Ireland has taken towards Digital Transformation. It takes the example of a butter box in the museum’s collection, and outlines how various levels of digitalisation can be applied to reach forward into the digital world and to begin conversations that will serve as a constantly developing informational exchange.

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digital humanities

Concepts in Digital Humanities

Overcoming the Monster

In his book Free Culture, Larry Lessig describes non-commercial culture (as opposed to commercial culture) as: “…the ordinary ways in which ordinary individuals shared and transformed their culture – telling stories, re-enacting stories, scenes from plays or tv…” (Lessig, 2018). This retelling of favourite stories and folktales brings to mind the seven archetypes that are the basic building blocks of storytelling – the seven classic stories that, with variations, are retold again and again. Of these, the Overcoming the Monster archetype is echoed in The Internet’s Own Boy. JSTOR, of course, is the Monster, and Aaron Swartz the hero who must overcome it. But, like all stories, this is a metaphor for something that is happening on a much deeper level. The Monster is also the new application of law that serves not to enhance the culture but rather restrict it, and Aaron represents us, the commons, that both create the culture and should benefit fully from it. And even though Aaron is dead, the story is far from over, for it is stressed time and time again, in the saved recordings of Aaron and in the writings of Larry, that the power for change lies with us: the people.  

The strong relationship between creativity and the ‘old open culture’ – the Rip, Mix and Burn – was acknowledged deeply by Larry and he used this relationship to forward his idea of Creative Commons, bringing Aaron in with him. They saw the immense value of the New Creatives standing on the shoulders of the Old Giants and realised that for true creativity, this relationship had to thrive: “…we…exaggerate the new, and forget that a great deal of the ‘creative’ is actually old. The new builds on the old, and hence depends to a degree on access to the old.” (Lessig, 2002)

This dependence of access became a huge focal point for Aaron, who saw himself centered in the collision of the old and the new on the one hand, and the non-commercial and the commercial on the other. He saw himself as someone in the right place at the right time, having not just the brain power, but more importantly, the morality to do something about it: “Sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative…There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and…declare our opposition to this private theft…will you join us?” (Aaron Swartz, 2013.) As Tim Berners Lee reflects in The Internet’s Own Boy: “Aaron was trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.”

The obvious temptation here of course, is to question and even ridicule the idealistic nature of Aaron’s goals. But Aaron was very aware of the constant need for self-regulation: he saw this as not a battle between the good (the ideal of open and free sharing) and the bad (the laws that restrict this), but rather as an acknowledgement that the two will have to live together, an acknowledgement of their future omnipresence, and that the real battle was to find a balance between the two. This balancing was not to be orchestrated by governments, but by the commons; he emphasises this to his interviewer: ‘It’s up to YOU! – they are both there and they are always going to be there…” (The Internet’s Own Boy). This compares with the importance for balance also stressed by Larry Lessig: “A free culture is not a culture without property; it is not a culture in which artist’s don’t get paid…(but) a free culture can be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That’s what I fear about our culture today.” (Lessig, 2018)

Inherent in this balancing act is the recognition that we the people, the commons, are the ones who should have the weights in our hands, not the regulators and not the institutions. In the 1980 film The Verdict, a film which falls beautifully in to the Overcoming the Monster archetype, Paul Newman’s lawyer character stands before a jury at the final summing up. He is destined – most certainly – to lose the case on a point of law. He reminds the jury that today, they are the ‘law’ – not some law book, not some statute. He asks the jury before him – us – to disregard this ‘law’, and like Aaron echoing these words later in time, asks them to apply justice instead. He says: ‘In my religion, they say: act as if you had Faith – and Faith will be given to you. If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves, and act with justice. And I believe there is justice in our hearts” (Mamet, 1981). Of course, he wins the case. 

Digital Transformation and the GLAMs

The debate regarding digital transformation in GLAMs has been brought into sharp focus recently because of the pandemic. It has raised the idea of what a GLAM is for today, what it can be in the future, and how digital transformation can help achieve its remit, if at all.

  • Digital Transformation makes material from an institution accessible to a wide range of users, including users that would not have had the chance to visit the institution ever in their lives, for reasons including geography or finances. Furthermore, material can extend beyond the physical confines of the GLAM and create interest and debate that would have been impossible if the material had remained offline, thus ‘extending the reach’ of the institution. Also, since GLAMs can close their doors at ‘reasonable hours’, staff and resources can be diverted or utilised in other ways. Users, for their part, can access the material at any time and from the comfort of their own homes, thus enabling learning and entertainment in an environment that is suitable to the user, and re-visitable at any time of their choosing.
  • Digital Transformation raises the possibility of making ALL the material in a GLAM collection accessible. Much of GLAM collections remain in storage – I enjoyed reading this article from the New York Times: “The Good Stuff in the Back Room” – most museums show only between 2 and 4 percent of their collections! Digital Transformation can reduce the physical limitations of an institution’s space, and thus the institution can devote space and showcase exhibits that it feels is worth highlighting.
  • Digital Transformation, while not preserving the material, can enable its preservation. In order to fulfil their remit, GLAMs exhibit material. The very act of doing this compromises preservation, since the best way to preserve material is to metaphorically ‘put it in a box in a dark room and lock the door’. Sarah Kenderdine takes this concept further: digital transformation also removes the dangers that threaten cultural heritage on a broader level: iconoclasm, natural disasters such as fire, and climate change.

GLAMs have a number of concerns. I have long had the feeling that some GLAMs see themselves more as repositories of knowledge rather then sharing/educational bodies, and this knowledge is to be kept safe and held – ‘preserved‘? The age of the digital brings with it many challenges…

  • How are they going to survive? Much of Cultural Heritage is seen as part of the tourism industry. This emphasises the huge importance of visitor numbers: ‘the tyranny of the footfall’. Paying customers finance the GLAM to a certain degree and so the existing business model has to be continued. But it is interesting to see the success of the Tate in their incorporation of digitisation into their model, and to see that the online numbers and revenue increased the years after the implementations of the After Dark project and the Tate Time Machine. As a little experiment, I went onto the Tate’s website to look at a Turner painting, but the experience deflated me a little. The painting is kept at low-resolution unless you want to ‘buy’ a higher resolution version, and Turner’s biography was accompanied by an article on his life from Wikipedia! This may be the reason the Tate are doing well in this new digital world – they know how to ‘exploit’ the user while moderating value…
  • For GLAMs to embrace digital transformation, the highest standards of digital transformation need to be incorporated. There is a very real fear that digitialising will create an ‘inauthentic link’ and will offer copies of material that is unrepresentative – error strewn, or altered to provide an educational context. I was reminded of this in Sarah Kenderdine’s TEDx talk (referring to her work with the Yungang Grottoes): “Using pigment studies we recoloured the buddhas to give an impression of what they would have originally looked like” ( Sarah Kenderdine, TEDx Gateway 2013) – I really hope they didn’t get the colour wrong! And this brings us to the question of where to draw the line between what is ‘ideal’ (original), and what is desired/achievable (imaginatively restored – albeit in a scholarly fashion)? If we are to preserve the authenticity of the original material, then do we only read Chaucer in Middle English, with no translations? Surely the line can be drawn up by applying scholarly standards, best equipment, latest technology, and competent archival experience?

GLAMs would find it tempting to keep upholding the gold standard: visiting the site physically and having your own interaction with the material. But if the material is stuck in a glass case or hung on a wall behind a ‘do not cross’ line, then are the possibilities raised by technologies such as 3D imaging, where users can virtually turn objects upside down/examine them closely, such a bad thing? And doesn’t it behold us to apply the highest standards of digital transformation to this and apply them for the future?

We need to reassure custodians of heritage that not only is digital transformation the way of the future, but also the ‘right’ way of the future (as shown by Sarah Kendrine when she emphasises the democratisation of future material) and that standards would be upheld throughout the process…

“If we treat the past as a dynamic entity, its future is vital, and I believe that sensory, social and democratic experiences of heritage allow us to imagine the future better”- Sarah Kenderdine, TEDx Gateway 2013.

Sundering Text

Like Jerome McGann’s readings of The Innocence, as referenced in Marking Texts of many Dimensions, it’ll take me many more ‘passes’ through his text before it starts to ‘talk back’. I’ve only done three, but keeping in the spirit of things, I’ve heard some of the outer ripples of his ‘big splash’, and this is what they say…

I like the way he interprets what we are talking about (‘text’ for what of a better word) as a living thing, not as something that exists on a platform such as a page, but on (in) another level that creates meaning.

His contrasting of a library and a poem are fascinating  – one is a machine of memory and information, the other a machine of creation and reflection; he treats the poem as an organism that creates new life whenever it is ‘read’ or ‘understood’ –  a poem, therefore, lives as something other than a text. This has parallels with Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria: Coleridge stresses that the inimitable (best, highest) form of creation can exist only in the mind, and as soon as we start to write, our work is immediately diminished.

Turning to his Ivanhoe Project, I found his description of what the game attempted revealing; to McGann, great works of the imagination carry, by definition, multiple versions of themselves – not just many meanings, but ‘many lines of possibility and development that can appear to us later’ (in dreams, perhaps, like Coldridge’s Kubla Khan?) And the aim of the Ivanhoe Project was to develop those lines: it was an exercise in “revealing, through deformance (I couldn’t find this word in the dictionary ☺️) the multi-valent narratives embedded in Ivanhoe” (Ivanhoe Group, 2005)  – one of the threads of the game was to imagine someone was now inhabiting Mary Shelly’s cottage on the shores of Lake Leman, and discovers a trunk of letters from someone named ‘Mary Shelley’!! (The reason I don’t play video games is because I would never stop, and games like this would be the cause.)

I would absolutely love to listen – and I stress listen – to McGann, because I sense that he has himself found, in the act of writing, that ‘text’ is a very blunt instrument for what he is trying to say. He feels that games like the Ivanhoe Project are the best way to convey/express/teach/appreciate great works of the imagination –  once the works are on ‘paper’, they have lost one ‘pass’; and any further ‘passes’ in attempted interpretation will further damage the beauty of the original work – i.e. the work from inside the creator’s mind. D

An addition:

 Since writing the above a month ago, I became interested in exploring further what McGann means by ‘deformance’, and here I feel McGann has his finger on the pulse of remarkable insights as to what creativity is/means, and especially the notion of a shared creativity; a common creativity, supported by universal understandings that are held by us all and while for the most part are unseen, unheard and unfelt.

By ‘deformance’, the “disrupting or re-organising (of) a text’s original order (so as to)…bring to our attention possibilities of meaning that we might not have seen otherwise” (Schacht, 2012), McGann seems to me to be exploring a form of ‘quantum physics’ of creative impulse that can be buried in ‘clumsy’ text, removing the ugly foundations of what was thought to be sound, reliable structures of meaning and uncovering the previously hidden mosaics that lie underneath. He references typesetting errors (which are unintended and ‘outside’ occurrences) as methods to discover new meaning in text, and forgery as another important type of de-formation (reminescent of the ‘Rip, Mix and Burn’?). But with the advent of the digital machine, many more varied and imaginative passes of deformance can be attempted/trialled/expanded upon; the sundering and re-stitching of texts to create new interpretations. His genius lies in the approach of these issues from a standpoint that encompasses literature, philosophy and science, and therefore in the recognition that they are all intrinsically linked, in much the same way he sees the creative impulse linked in us all.

Bibliography:

Alshawaaf, N., Lee, S.H., 2020. Business model innovation through digitisation in social purpose organisations: A comparative analysis of Tate Modern and Pompidou Centre. Journal of Business Research.

ARP Project, 2005. The Ivanhoe Game [WWW Document]. URL http://www.kthread.com/ivanhoe/about.html (accessed 1.13.21).

Coleridge, S.T., 1817. Biographia Literaria [WWW Document]. URL https://www.gutenberg.org/files/6081/6081-h/6081-h.htm (accessed 1.13.21).

Council of Europe, 2018. Understanding the Impact of Digitisation on Culture [WWW Document]. Culture and Cultural Heritage. URL https://www.coe.int/en/web/culture-and-heritage/culture-and-digitisation (accessed 1.11.21).

Internet Society, n.d. Your Digital Footprint Matters. Internet Society. URL https://www.internetsociety.org/tutorials/your-digital-footprint-matters/ (accessed 1.11.21).

Kirschenbaum, 2004. The Ivanhoe Game: Assignment [WWW Document]. URL https://romantic-circles.org/pedagogies/commons/innovations/IVANHOE/ivanhoekirschenbaum.html (accessed 1.13.21).

Lessig, L., 2005. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, Reprint edition. ed. Penguin Books, New York, NY.

Lessig, L., 2002. The Future Of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, Reprint edition. ed. Random House USA Inc, New York, NY.

McGann, J., 2004. Marking Texts of many Dimensions: A Companion to Digital Humanities. Blackwell Pub., Malden, Mass. Section II, Chapter 16

Mikulec, S., 2017. ‘The Verdict’: David Mamet Screenplay. Cinephilia & Beyond. URL https://cinephiliabeyond.org/verdict-sidney-lumet-david-mamets-masterpiece-blend-courtroom-drama-personal-redemption-story/ (accessed 11.10.20).

moviemaniacsDE (2014). The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (WWW Document). YouTube. URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vz06QO3UkQ&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 11 Nov. 2020].

Portela, M., 2004. Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. Comparative Critical Studies 1, 371–376. https://doi.org/10.3366/ccs.2004.1.3.371

Schacht, P., 2012. Interpretation, Performance, Deformance – Practicing Criticism – Geneseo Wiki [WWW Document]. URL https://wiki.geneseo.edu/display/criticism/2012/09/16/Interpretation%2C+Performance%2C+Deformance (accessed 1.13.21).

Schreibman, S., Siemens, R., Unsworth, J., 2004. Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), Hardcover. ed, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture. Blackwell Publishing Professional, Oxford.

Swartz, A., 2013. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto [WWW Document]. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. URL https://openaccessmanifesto.wordpress.com/ (accessed 11.10.20).

Tedx Talks, 2014. How will Museums of the Future look? Sarah Kenderdine [WWW Document]. YouTube URL https://youtu.be/VXhtwFCA_Kc

Valeonti, F., Hudson-Smith, A., Terras, M., Zarkali, C., 2018. Reaping the Benefits of Digitisation: Pilot study exploring revenue generation from digitised collections through technological innovation. pp. 56–63. https://doi.org/10.14236/ewic/EVA2018.11

Wdorner, 2010. McGann, Deformance, and some TEI. Theories of Texts and Tech. URL https://theory6810.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/mcgann-deformance-and-some-tei/ (accessed 1.13.21).

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