The Physical Display Case

Special Collections at Queen’s University Belfast is pleased to launch a new digital exhibition: ‘Ireland and the Colonies: 1775-1947: Friendships, Alliances, Resistances‘. It is prepared and curated by Dr Kath Stevenson and Shawn Day with contributions from Dr Daniel Roberts, Dr Matthew Reznicek and Dr Jonathan Wright. It has been launched to coincide with the conference of the same name running 3-5 June 2014.

Collecting Objects

A series of physical objects were identified from the Special Collections at Queen’s University Belfast Library of significance to the conference discussion themes. The objects were collected, labeled and staged in a display case for for participants in the conference and the general public.

A Digital Exhibition

It was suggested that a digital exhibition of the objects made available online would allow for wider dissemination and deeper engagement with the objects and the conference themes. Digitisation of selections from Special Collection’s material was carried out under the careful supervision of Dr Kath Stevenson and the Special Collections staff. Dublin Core metadata was devised for all of the objects by Special Collections staff and was entered into Omeka – a digital object management and curation tool from the Roy Rosenzweig Centre for History and New Media.

In parallel with the digitisation, subject matter experts compiled narrative descriptions and references to help contextualise and highlight the significance of the objects to the conference topic. This material was duly edited and ingested into Omeka to create a curated digital exhibition by Shawn Day, Digital Humanities Coordinator for the Library at Queen’s.

Developing an Exhibition in Omeka

Once the raw materials comprising the objects as well as the narrative material were ingested into Omeka, a customised graphic theme was developed based on the Seasons (Night) theme from the CNMH. Additional graphic support elements were created in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to accompany the exhibition and ingested into Omeka. An information architecture was developed for the digital exhibition itself and individual ‘pages’ combining the digital objects, narrative and supporting material were authored and published.

Linking the Physical with the Digital

QR-ExhibitTo provide an effective and navigable link between the objects in the physical dsiplay case and background information in the digital exibition it was decided to employ QR Codes that could be read by mobile devices to provide additional information to viewers at the display case. These QR codes direct users to individual object pages in the digital exhibition with background information about the objects being viewed. They also direct users to the more extensive digital exhibtion available online. The exhibition itself is also featured on the large interactive display surface on the ground floor of the McClay Library. The QR code to the left will in fact take you right to the exhibit – give it a try.

Together, the physical exhibition and the accompanying digital proxies provide an extensive, rich and deeply engaging experience for attendees, both virtual and attending the ‘Ireland and the Colonies’ conference and demonstrate the value of digital curation tools such as Omeka.

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