Fair Use Week

This week marks Fair Use Week in the library world. Fair Use affects all of us as librarians and scholars, but especially in the context of this project, as we are delving into researching various landmarks and buildings in Morningside Heights. Some of us are fortunate in that the published documents and images of our institutions pre-date 1923 and fall squarely into the public domain, while others (myself included), have to understand what constitutes fair use when it comes to newspaper articles, photographs, and other items published in 1930 or later. As such, I appreciate all of the freely available resources on Fair Use, so I’m sharing two that have been really helpful to me:

caa-fair-use-cover  infgoraphic_image



Public domain resources

Here’s a list of some of the resources we’ve learned about over the past several months.  This list will grow over time, so come back!  Feel free to add additional resources in the comments, too.

Other useful resources:

Group Meeting — January 29

New Appointments
John and I met with Alex to discuss new appointments for Design Team members as the work of this group is winding down. Anice will move to the Editorial Team. Sarah will fully focus on Development Team. Karen was away — we will consult with her on new post shortly. Due to scheduling conflicts, we discussed a new role for Nick. He will assist with staying on top of discussion regarding Omeka.

Presentation of Design
Alex presented the work of the Design Team. The team has been hard at work creating our “front page.” See previous post that outlines the process. Overall, the group was delighted with the map, logo, and title. We did not agree on the color palette. Some felt the colors too strong (mix of red and yellow). There was also concern about changing the color of the map. John noted that we are using a historical map for a history research project and we should stay true to the original color palette. There was group consensus to ask Design Team to come back with a subtler color palette.

Development Team
Because of the inclement weather and the rare closing of the university, Development Team had to postpone the migration to the newer version of Omeka. The migration was completed on February 9. We have received the go ahead to begin working on the site. We are still working out backup procedures so best advice – everyone should keep backups of the text for exhibit pages in Microsoft Word or Google Drive.

Schedule for Duration of Phase One
We will continue to meet every two weeks alternating between presentation/updates and a workshop model to provide time for all members of the group to work on their exhibits. We believe that providing time to workshop together will encourage collaborative learning.

Post Holiday, Project Team Meets, and What We Learned About Omeka

At our last group meeting on December 16, 2014, we agreed to a February 2, 2015 launch for the project. This provided what we thought would be adequate time to develop our exhibits. Before, during, and after the holidays there was a lot of activity in our Omeka site – uploading items and exhibits, reviewing options for different layouts, and discovering new questions about our metadata. The work in Omeka was helping us to identify new issues for review. Many of us were finding real benefit in working in pairs.

Unfortunately, through all this good work, we had an unwelcome discovery – a most serious bug with Omeka 2.01. We learned that if you delete one exhibit in this version of Omeka, the content of the remaining exhibits will be deleted. Recently added exhibits were gone – hours of work effort were lost.

The Project Management team had planned to meet on January 21 to draft the agenda for our next group meeting, map out our schedule for the spring semester, and to define the close of Phase One. We added the Omeka issue for further discussion.

Here is what we discussed and decided.

Launch Date: We agreed to extend our launch date to June 9. All exhibits will be completed by June 2 allowing time for editorial review.

Omeka: The Development Team is scheduled to meet on January 27 and will work to complete an upgrade to Omeka 2.02. We have requested a freeze on all activities in Omeka until the upgrade is completed. This unfortunate discovery about Omeka has taught us a few things. There is useful information to be found online through forums, discussion boards, etc. – Nick was able to pinpoint the mysterious disappearance of our exhibits by searching online. We are all reminded that backup is essential. The Development Team will routinely begin backing up our content every two weeks.

Phase One: Our project launch scheduled for June 9 will bring Phase One to a close. We will continue to meet every two weeks until launch alternating between active workshops and presentations and updates. We think the workshops will provide great opportunity for collaborative learning and the necessary time for all of us to work on our exhibits.

Phase Two: Phase Two will begin in the fall. We will continue our regular meetings and move on to new learning objectives.

Group Meeting December 16, 2014

1. Team updates
The Design team has been working on a front page for our public site. It will be handed over to the Development Team for implementation once the design work is completed. Karen Green, Chair of Design Team, showed the group a Power Point mock-up of the intended wire frame. The overall design in progress was well received. The major question raised concerned the color palette for the historic map. This had been altered to conform with logo and other page colors. The suggestion was made that the Design Team consider returning to the original color palette of the map and draw a key color from that for use in the color scheme of the logo.

2. Common thread in exhibits
We are all in agreement that the foundational phase of each contributor’s chosen site or institution will be somehow covered or accounted for in each exhibit. Each exhibit can go on to focus on other aspects of the site or institution, as appropriate, but the foundational phase needs to be covered, since the site is about Morningside history and the development of the neighborhood.

The date span covered by exhibits on the site will range from 1821 (for the earliest building, Bloomingdale Asylum) to 1950; but this does not mean that the site as a whole will provide an account of Morningside history for that entire time range. Each contributor will choose a meaningful time span to cover for her/his chosen site or institution.

3. Timeline to Initial Launch

It was agreed that launch date for public site should be extended to Monday, February 2, 2015. This is because Courseworks research guides need to be recreated in the LibGuides program by mid January.

>>>ACTION ITEM: Each team member should block off on his/her calendar two full days to devote to his/her exhibit in January before Spring Semester begins.

4. Meeting schedule after public launch of site
Should we modify meeting schedule after initial launch? It was agreed that for now we should leave the schedule as is. After initial launch, we should move on to phase two and focus on learning new skills that would enable us to add new aspects or dimensions to the site, for example, Neatline. We will involve our new Humanities Research Librarian and our new Spring Semester Intern in phase two of the site.

>>>ACTION ITEM: Each team member should send Barbara a list of skills they would like to learn that would be relevant to a phase two of the MHDH site.

5. Questions regarding exhibits. An open forum.
The requirement that the eight required items supporting each exhibit be open access is presenting a quandary. We are in agreement that printed items published prior to 1923 can, under most ordinary circumstances, be scanned, uploaded, and made available openly online. But what about items from that timeframe that we access in microfilm? What about items from that timeframe that have been made available by vendors in PDF format in commercial databases? A dialogue regarding this latter question has already been initiated with one of our vendors by Bob Scott.

One of our exhibits, furthermore, would require the use of materials from outside of the pre-1923 timeframe–since it focuses on Riverside Church, which was built in 1930.

Rina Pantalony, the new Director the the Copyright Advisory Office will meet with us at the start of our next H&H meeting. Barbara will email to her our questions in advance so we can hear what she advises.


The Design Team learned about a new concept this month: wireframes.  These are detailed layouts of what a webpage (home page and interior pages) will look like.  To our dismay, the scribbled pen-and-ink rendition we’d generated just wasn’t enough:


Gosh, wasn’t that clear?

Apparently not.

We met with Alex, from the Development Team, to create a PowerPoint slide that would give a better sense of what we envisioned.  The Development Team had taken our map image:


and made it golden, to match the border in our original logo:



Those colors had just been placeholders, however, as when we designed the logo we hadn’t settled conclusively on our color scheme.  The Design Team was still enamored of yellow and red on charcoal grey, as seen on the Jan Brueghel wiki site.  We had applied this to our logo design, and envisioned it as yellow text on a charcoal grey background, with a dark crimson border.  On Monday December 15, we met with Alex to learn how to change the color.

Alex matched the yellow of the map for our text, but we had a difficult time identifying a red that pleased us.  The complementary colors suggested by color wheel sites online were not attractive.  The Design Team made an executive decision to thrown color-wheel logic to the winds and just choose a red we liked.  We didn’t find one that made us 100% happy–most were more cherry than crimson–but we found one that would do for the sake of the wireframe.

We made box shapes and text boxes that could move independently of each other, learned how to make colors transparent, and played with the 2/3-1/3 split.  At a meeting of the entire division this morning, we honed things a little more (abandoning a fifth tab to be called “Morningside History,” after realizing it was redundant; and deciding to place the links to exhibits in the righthand 1/3 of the page instead, after learning that the feeds we’d hoped to place there wouldn’t work with our platform).  In the end, it looked a little like this:


The Design Team was asked if we were wedded to this color scheme; if the scheme was significant in some way for Morningside Heights.  It wasn’t: we just liked it.  But there was a general feeling that that original map had more interesting colors:


and we began to wonder if it might be better to return to it, and perhaps borrow colors from it for the logo.

Another option was to use the original map in negative, which fits with the charcoal background of the site, and would make the red and yellow text accents pop even more:


The entire exercise was a terrific lesson for the Design Team in managing expectations.  While the general wireframe for the homepage (we didn’t even get to the exhibit page yet!) was warmly received, we learned about what our platform could and couldn’t do, and what the entire team was happiest with.

More to come!

Group Meeting November 18, 2014

The main focus of today’s meeting was on exhibits.

1. What is an exhibit? And what do I need to do to create one?
An exhibit is an essay or narrative illustrated by online items that support or enrich what is being said. There is no prescribed length. It should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story you want to tell. We should assume that our audience has no knowledge of the topic of our exhibit.

Meredith showed the group how exhibits and specific exhibit pages can be created using straightforward options at our Omeka site. For each page in your exhibit you can choose from a variety of layout choices.

The Design Team will be communicating with the Development Team regarding basic visual appearance options such as color and font. While those appearance options will alter the appearance of our exhibits, they will not alter our content or layout choices. Each individual should begin, as soon as she or he is ready, to create exhibits and exhibit pages, choose layouts, and add content.

2. Timeline and requirements

The team decided to extend the initial launch deadline for the public site to January 21, thus taking advantage of the lull time of Winter break to get work completed. Each exhibit should have a minimum of eight items integrated into it. People are free to add more items if they wish–either to their exhibits or to our public site in general, where all items will be browsable as items.

3. Example of an exhibit
John discussed with the group an exhibit he had created for his chosen Morningside location–Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. He chose to focus on the competing visions of the architects who worked on the cathedral. Due to time constraints he limited archival research to Avery Drawings. For this building, he felt that there was enough non-archival material available to tell the story he wanted to tell. One key resource of interest for most of our locations is the database “American Periodicals (1740-1940).” This includes a good selection of architectural periodicals for 19th and 20th centuries.

Respecting Deadlines and Project Integrity

The Project management Team (Nancy Friedland and John Tofanelli) met on Monday to discuss how the Humanities and History team should best move forwards on our Morningside Heights Digital History (MHDH) project in light of our pending deadline for the initial launch of our public site–January 1, 2015. Here are our decisions:

*Downsize specifications for initial launch of public site. Our present guidelines for initial launch specify that each author should contribute three exhibits (that is, multimedia essays) for his/her chosen building or location plus twenty items with metadata, some of which should be in support of those exhibits, some of which can simply enhance the site overall. We have decided that the specifications for initial launch shall be revised as follows: one exhibit plus eight items with metadata from each author.

*We will leave it up to the MHDH team to decide at our 11/18 meeting who would like to add content beyond the initial launch specifications, what sort of content they would like to add, and within what time frame.

*The Project Management Team will meet with the heads of the Design Team (Karen Green) and the Development Team (Meredith Levin) prior to our 11/18 meeting to clarify how those groups will be working together to complete the architecture of the public site.

*In both of the meetings described in bullets immediately above, the Project Management Team will seek input needed to assess if the January 1, 2015 initial launch deadline is feasible.

*In order to provide the Design Team and Development Team a sample exhibit page to work with, John Tofanelli will author an exhibit page for his chosen building by 11/17.

As stated in a poster about our project that was recently exhibited by MHDH team members at the Digital Library Federation meeting in Atlanta : “The project is important, but the process of learning emergent technologies . . . is equally, if not more, important than the product.” The entire MHDH team is in agreement with this viewpoint.

Our Project Management Team felt strongly that respecting the original deadline for the project, insofar as possible, would provide all with a welcome sense of accomplishment. Downsizing the scope of the initial launch specifications, furthermore, would create a goal within reach that would provide each team member with an inspiration for the completion of work in progress. It remains the intention of the Project Management Team to work with the MHDH team to maintain fully the integrity of the project. Full attention will still be given to issues of metadata, site architecture and design, content, and functionality. We will aim to find and implement workable answers for the questions regarding these issues that have arisen throughout our work on the project. It will simply be a smaller site at the point of initial launch–one that may grow as and if members of the team choose to continue adding on to it.

Overall, we hope that other librarians engaged in project-based learning of new skills might find our example useful. Integrity and quality remain accessible goals–regardless of the sweep and scope of a project. Sometimes sweep and scope need to be reined in so that learning objectives can be attained.

Design Team: Nailing the Details

A scant six weeks after presenting our design choices to the Developing Library group, the Design and Development Teams at last sat down together to hammer out the details for which each were dependent on the other.

The Design Team learned that the Development Team had chosen the Omeka theme “Berlin,” which we found…unappealing.  The Development Team assured us that the choice was based on functionality, not style, as almost all stylistic elements in the theme could be adapted, which we found very reassuring.

We were tasked with nailing down the color scheme, font, and main page design.  Our earlier color scheme of charcoal grey background, with red and yellow accents, as found at the Jan Breughel Wiki page, had been questioned by the Development Team, given the difficulty, on text-heavy pages, of reading light text on a dark background.  We agreed that that was a problem, but didn’t find it an insurmountable problem.  The Brueghel Wiki deals with it by lightening the grey where there’s a preponderance of text; we felt that we could even create a frame for the text that would allow us to present it as black on white, within the framework of the charcoal grey background.  So, for now, charcoal grey with red and yellow remains our color scheme, and we will be emending the logos to reflect that choice.

Menu tabs at the top of the main map image remain our choice, as well.  We are still fans of the Medici Archive Project site, with its menu tabs above the main images.  We are also fans of the Mapping Gothic France main page, with its prominent main image, its text box that can be minimized so as not to obscure that image, its hovertext, and its minimalist footer.  To our great delight, we discovered that the Mapping Gothic France site, which is a Columbia project, is on GitHub, allowing us to mine its source code.

The big decision for the day was….FONT.  So much of a site’s visual impact relies on the font!  We knew we wanted a serif font, one that looked old-fashioned, like 19th-century newstype.  We played around with filters on Google Fonts without success–until, appropriately enough, the team-member who sits on both Design AND Development discovered the font with which we all fell in love: Old Standard TT.  We played with it in Google Fonts, typing the names of each of our topics to see how they looked in the font, and we remained excited.  This felt like a huge, huge step forward.

The Design Team also has the responsibility of delivering a design for item pages, but the two teams agreed that this would best be done collaboratively, once the Development Team has started building the site based on the specs thus far.

It felt like a good meeting!