For those unable to visit the Heritage Museum, an online exhibit has been created for the Heritage Protocol & University Archives project Degrees of Discovery. The digital exhibit includes additional items and information not included in the physical exhibit, providing new understandings about the various scientific developments on campus over the years.
Creating the digital exhibit offered an entirely fresh perspective of the objects I had curated for Degrees of Discovery. The first step was to determine the best way to view each object on a screen, rather than in person. Staging a physical exhibit requires an awareness of how items play off each other’s size, color, and texture; because digital items are more likely to be viewed individually, the focus lies with image clarity and whether the digital copy is a faithful representation of the original. After digitizing each object using scanners and conventional photography, I sat down to compile the information that would help people understand the objects they would now see on a computer screen. Rather than interpreting the items in relation to each other to tell a story, I needed to objectively observe each object in terms of size, genre, creator, and subject matter. The information I could glean from the item became its metadata. If you’ve used a catalog record in a library, you’ve seen metadata; it’s the information that describes the item, like the date of publication or its place in a larger series. This metadata allows users to search for objects if they have a subject, keyword, or title already in mind. Though arguably less creative than the initial curatorial development, the creation and implementation of the objects’ metadata is what makes it possible for users to find what they’re looking for.
To explore the digital exhibit, visit degreesofdiscovery.omeka.net.