This is a guest post from Camille Salas, a summer intern with the Library of Congress.
Greetings! I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies where I am pursuing a master’s degree in Library Science with a concentration in Information and Diverse populations. I hold an undergraduate degree in American Studies from Smith College and a first master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Robert La Follette School of Public Affairs.
My path to library school was a bit unusual as I explored many different fields in my career. Among several jobs, I was a paralegal for the federal government, a business analyst for a private company, and an office manager at a nonprofit. These experiences made me realize that my passion for helping others, gaining new knowledge, public service, and research would serve me well as a librarian.
My coursework is focused on improving accessibility to information and this led me to apply for the summer internship with the Library of Congress through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program. Luckily my school, the Library and the HACU National Internship Program are on the same page about advancing knowledge for all populations.
The initiative I am assisting with this summer seeks to enhance access to information. Viewshare is a web-based tool that allows organizations to generate and customize interfaces to digital collections. I first encountered Viewshare this past spring as part of a course assignment where students were tasked with developing and organizing a digital collection based on cataloging principles. (Editor’s note: the Viewshare program was retired in 2018.)
My classmates, who came from archival, library and school media backgrounds, each found a unique way to utilize the tool. Examples of the digital collections they created included: concert items used for an independent magazine, library displays, confederate monuments and vacation photographs.
I focused on some of the art and architecture from El Paso, Texas and made some discoveries about my hometown along the way. The experience was great preparation for my internship with the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program in the Office of Strategic Initiatives.
This summer, some of my internship projects include creating new views of existing digital collections, reaching out to current partners to create Viewshare collections and researching other digital collections that might use the platform for displaying their holdings.
One of Viewshare’s many strengths is how it serves as a platform for individuals to make discoveries and glean new details about the data they hold. I experienced this after selecting the map functionality for depicting the art and architecture locations in my hometown that also ended up serving as a visual representation of my hometown’s history.
Another feature of Viewshare made it readily apparent, and much to my chagrin, that the artists in my collection did not include any females. It was a moment of discovery –Viewshare can help to increase representations of diversity! The experience prompted me to think of other areas of the city that I might want to visit for additional images and research.
One Viewshare, Many Viewpoints
As part of building my Viewshare knowledge base, I created some alternative views based on publicly available datasets as an exercise in thinking about how the tool can be utilized to display different types of data.
For example, a Viewshare based on invasive seaweeds collected in Massachusetts has a home display that highlights species and date range. Since the dataset is also rich in geographical information, I created a home display with a map of the species by collection location that could also engage researchers and users of the collection.
Another example is a dataset of Executive Orders from South Carolina. The original Viewshare lists executive orders by title and offers a timeline view. An alternative view could focus more on the author and description of the order and provide functionality to narrow down by time and/or region affiliated with the order.
Share Your Digital Collections on Viewshare
Thus far, I have enjoyed looking and learning from many of the public Viewshare collections and have identified ways that organizations have incorporated the tool into their websites. For example, the George Mason University Special Collections and Archives uses Viewshare to display their Federal Theatre Project at http://sca.gmu.edu/tools/ftp_viewshare.html.
And Wisconsin Heritage Online uses Viewshare to enable users to explore its many collections at http://wisconsinheritage.org/providers.html.
Given the ease and potential of the platform, Viewshare should be considered as another tool for advancing the mission of libraries and other cultural heritage institutions that seek to disseminate knowledge. Sharing a little bit of my hometown’s rich culture and heritage prompted me to think about the many diverse audiences and collections the tool has the potential to reach and unlock.
I invite you to help the Library of Congress enhance the breadth and depth of research on cultural heritages by sharing your digital collection through Viewshare.