These sources inspired me as I put together this proposal.
- The digital exhibition components of the University of Utah’s Marriott Library’s Rare Books department’s physical exhibitions. I attended the University of Utah for six years, both as an undergrad and a grad student, so I am familiar with the Marriott Library and its Rare Books department; but there are many examples of digital exhibitions of rare books put online by academic libraries. My inspiration came specifically from those digital exhibitions that were made in conjunction with physical exhibitions, not purely digital exhibitions. Down to the Bones (2014) is a good example of what the Marriott Library’s Rare Books department’s digital exhibitions look like. They end up being digital checklists, with links to the fully digitized books when they are available. These digital exhibitions inspired me to think about how my proposed space might integrate the best aspects of the physical exhibition with the best aspects of the digital exhibitions (as well as how to mitigate the worst aspects of the digital exhibitions).
- The design and function of a traditional rare books classroom, like the ones at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Yale, also informed my thinking about the design of my proposed space. Thinking about how to incorporate digitized materials into rare books pedagogy led me to think about how one might incorporate digital tools into the classroom space itself without totally transforming it into a computer lab. The resemblance of the proposed space to the traditional rare books classroom is important, as it creates a conceptual continuity for users/students between the physical and digital collections.
- Dot Porter’s recent work with digitizing manuscripts also inspired me as I worked on this proposal. Porter’s work on Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, a collaborative project focused on digitizing medieval manuscripts from 15 different Philadelphia institutions, has led her to consider the best way to present digital manuscripts to users. Porter talks about how rare books and manuscripts librarians need to start thinking about what a digitized manuscript is; she also suggests that the terms we use to describe digitized manuscripts frames our understanding of what they are. This line of thinking informed my proposal for the digital rare books exhibition space/classroom, as I hope that the proposed space will help students think about how digitized rare books function as a resource.
- The Getty Center’s recent semi-permanent exhibition The LIfe of Art inspired me as an example of integrated digital and physical display. This exhibition was made up of several examples of decorative art objects displayed with interactive digital displays. There was a tablet with a different interactive for each object on display. The digital displays encouraged close looking, provided didactics in place of the usual wall label, and helped contextualize the objects as pieces of material culture. I found this exhibition to be a fascinating example of how to combine the best aspects of traditional display and digital display to great effect, even though this exhibition was not rare books related.
- One of the best examples of digital display of a rare book or manuscript that I have encountered is the digitized version of the famous printed Diamond Sutra at the British Library. The International Dunhuang Project’s digital presentation of the scroll (done with the cooperation and involvement of the British Library) is an effective example of how a digital copy of a rare book or manuscript can function as a different type of resource than the physical book itself. The English translation of the sutra, the close-up images, the bibliography, and the proximity of the digital copy to other relevant digital resources (on the IDP website) all help to provide the user with an experience uniquely enabled by digital and web technologies.
- A versatile tablet with a powerful processor like the Microsoft Surface Pro could be a good choice for displaying the digitized rare books in the proposed space. I initially thought that the displays should be just touch screen (like a tablet), but a device that can be used more like a tablet or more like a laptop depending on the situation proved to be more attractive. Most students/users would be interacting with a digitized rare book on their laptop if they accessed the digitized rare book themselves; so if one of the proposed uses of the space is to educate users/students about how to utilize digitized rare books, it would make sense to be able to access the digitized materials on a laptop-like device or setup.
- The space could include a multimedia projector to facilitate presentations when the space is being used educationally. This could be especially useful if the space is hosting a workshop on how to use digital rare books resources.