building digital collections

In reading through many different sources sharing best practices digital collections, I was struck by the specificity of standards across multiple different sources. The VRA core lists out specific syntax to use when building digital collections. These readings emphasized the importance of high-quality, detailed, and consistent metadata. I had not previously considered the importance of tagging collection items consistently across multiple platforms, as even slight augmentations in the metadata of a digital object can completely transform its accessibility within the digital space.

Paige Morgan, in “How To Get Your Digital Humanities Project Off the Ground” (2014), emphasized the importance of understanding copyright laws and regulations before starting your project. The significance of having knowledge about copyright law, and being able to follow these guidelines in your work, is another aspect of digital humanities work I had not previously considered. I was highly interested in the concept of fair use exemptions, especially what is considered fair use, what is not, and where this line can become ambiguous. Teaching and productive use (changing the work for a new utility) is generally within fair use. I suppose most digital collections would fall under this category as many digital exhibitions are created for educational purposes. I imagine uncertainty arises when objects and images are re-used for teaching and entertainment or profits simultaneously.

Scalar Logo | Real Company | Alphabet, Letter S Logo

Scalar is one platform for digital scholarship and exhibitions. It has a book-like format that allows authors to publish long-form writing and include multi-media elements.

Scalar seems to be highly flexible and adaptable to your specific project. There are options to display content linearly through the book-like, ordered format, or nonlinearly through their tagging system. The advanced flexibility of its grouping and sequence technology seems to distinguish it from other platforms. “Paths can contain other paths, and tags can reference other tags, making both hierarchical and rhizomatic structures possible.”

Scalar also has an open API where you can combine Scalar with other data sources. Using its built-in API you can create your own visualizations or custom interfaces. Additionally, there are many opportunties for aesthetic customization throughout your digital project.

Scalar seems less image-centric than other platforms such as Omeka. If you are wanting to make a digital exhibition centered around images, Scalar is not as useful. Although the tagging aspect of the software does allow for some non-linear explorations of Scalar sites, I think the book-like format can be restrictive. The book-like format does not encourage 3-dimensional interaction with the digitized space. I wish there were multiple ways to engage with the content besides clicking through linearly or through tags.

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