Eastern Art Online: The Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art
This is a major online resource from the recently expanded and refurbished Ashmolean, to open up the University of Oxford’s Islamic and Asian Art collections held at the Museum to a wider audience.
The site showcases collections from the Islamic Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea. Currently there are around 1,400 objects on the site, but this figure will be expanded over time as documentation work progresses and over 11,000 objects have actually been photographed as part of the project, most three dimensional objects with multiple views.
It is possible to zoom into very high-quality images from a wide range of media, including ceramics, textiles, sculpture, metalwork, paintings and prints. Much effort has gone into try to make the website as usable as possible and to provide a number of different ways in which to approach the collections, including features such as an interactive timeline and floorplan, as well as online galleries, online versions of publications and “collection trails”.
As well as expanding the amount of content on the site, the next phase of the project aims to build on the foundations already created and to add new features to the website, allowing greater user interaction and ways in which to explore the collections.
The project started in 2007 with the support of arts philanthropist Yousef Jameel (for more info. see: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/project/21). Also funded by Yousef Jameel and opening later this year will be a (physical) study centre of Islamic and Asian Art at the Ashmolean.
I hope you all take the opportunity to have a look at the site and I would very much welcome any feedback you have about it, especially any ways in which you think it could be improved or enhanced – we’re open to ideas, including possible collaborations with other institutions.
I would also like this opportunity to thank Keepthinking Digital design (http://www.keepthinking.it/ ), who worked closely with us to develop the design and functionality of the website, as well as heroically grappling with our very complex data. Special thanks are also due to Martin Bazley (http://www.martinbazley.com/) for his hard work gathering user testing feedback throughout the development lifecycle. A full list of acknowledgements can be found at: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/project/919
The British School at Rome, a UK academic cultural outpost dedicated to scholarly study and teaching in Italy, has recently developed a new website to show case their wide ranging collections.
Rather cheekily, the home page promises photographs on Rome, historic prints and a variety of maps – then to the inform the user that much of the material is awaiting funds for digitisation. Indeed, on browsing through the collection is not apparent that any material has been digitised at all.
However, using the search reveals that there is material available online, such as the above print relating to the opening of Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in 1651
The UK’s Royal Society (for Science) has implemented a Turning the Pages functionality for some of the most noted manuscripts in its collections.
- Richard Waller’s watercolours of English flowers and grasses
- Henry James’s sketches of fossils
- The Constitutions of Carolina
- William Stukeley’s Life of Newton
- Thomas Paine’s iron bridge design
New digitisation projects keep on appearing.
The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland has transcriptions (of the Latin) and translation of all known Scottish acts of parliament up until 1707, when the Scottish Parliament merged with the English one – it did not sit again until 1999.
It’s a reasonably tidy interface and browsing and searching is reasonably intuitive and it deals well with the issue of presenting original text and translation side by side. However, the use of frames looks a bit outdated and some of the functions of the icons are not easy to guess.
It’s quite text heavy and obviously aimed at researchers more than the general public – adding some images of the manuscripts would have added some aesthetic appeal. It would also be useful to find out more about the technical / digitisation side of the project.
Nevertheless, this looks like a high-quality resource. Researchers love having entire runs of material – knowing that all the known acts from 1235 to 1707 is included should keep them contented. And the editorial work that must have gone into creating the resource much have been a labour of love – but a crucial one that will ensure that scholars will treat the resource with respect.
Two recent digitisation projects have got big dollops of publicity on the mainstream media
The site featured in numerous national newspapers, magazines such as the Economist, radio and, perhaps the best way of getting users interested, a link from the BBC website home page.
Of course, success does not come without its teething problems. Both the Darwin and Old Bailey websites had hiccups in service provision because of the excessive number of hits. But this is a small price to play (and perhaps one that can be eliminated with suitable load testing) for getting such good publicity.
One of the most successful digitisation projects in Britain is Cambridge University’s The Complete Works of Charles Darwin. It has recently added private papers, including the first draft of his theory of evolution, notes from the voyage of the Beagle and recipe book by Emma Darwin.
The project has has fantastic media exposure in the UK and beyond, including a mention on prime time television. As the history page of the resource recounts, this is not without its problems.
A related project at Camrbridge is the Darwin Correspondence Project, which presents letters Darwin sent and received. There is an interesting research project in waiting to try and bring the two resources together
Both the British Library and the British Museum have set up websites which allow them to licence rights to their digitised images. According to British Museum Images website: “British Museum Images is the on-line digital image website of the British Museum catering primarily for the image-buying professional”. The British Library version says much the same.
Rather then embed the sites within their institutional sites for delivering collections, providing information for visitors etc. etc Both the websites are clean, efficient and aesthetically pleasing. They are easier to navigate than the main institutional site.
I think there are two main reasons for this navigation.
1) The ‘commerical’ sites have one clear purpose rather than sometimes conflicting purposes the main sites have.
2) With a ‘commercial’ site there is a even greater imperative to have a properly usable site – poor usability damages revenue. The same pressures do not exist on the main institutional site. Perhaps they should?
With funding from the Hewlett Foundation, the Creative Commons team is working to develop a portal for open educational resources.
At the moment, the project is just aiming to grab basic records with simple metadata – “a central collection of URLs and keyword annotations”.
Rather than grab complex metadata, the idea is to grow quickly with these simple records.
It will be interesting to see how open is defined. Does this include the many digitisation projects that have publicly available metadata but have the resources hidden behind toll / subscription / institutional barriers. Relatedly, there are plenty of digitisation projects that have complex licensing deals that do not sit easily the Creative Commons ethos.
There is some, but not complete, overlap with the Intute project in the UK , which hand crafts catalogue records of educational resources (whether open access or not) and divides portals by broad subject areas.
The University of Glasgow has recently finished a phase of funding which has allowed it to add four million words to The Scottish Corpus of Text and Speech, providing instances of usages of the Scots language from 1945 onwards. Burn, chute, braw and brae all feature
This complements the already existing Dictionary of the Scots Language from the University of Edinburgh