Curatorial 2.0: "Beards of the British Library" (Category: Research, Creative / Artistic, Entrepreneurial)

Name of Submitter(s): Kate Lomax, Sara Wingate Gray
Name of Team: Artefacto
Organisation: Artefacto

Curatorial v.2.0 is an open-source, collaborative, social platform which enables users to easily access, curate, annotate and share online via a range of social media platforms their own collections of the British Library's digital content. Using the British Library's Flickr stream <> we have curated an initial selection of images we've called "Beards of the British Library" as a showcase demo for how the Curatorial 2.0 platform operates: <>.
The interoperability of open source software (e.g. Drupal) and other open source tools (e.g. Open Street Map) enables Curatorial 2.0 to improve on the collaborative, social functionality of existing solutions such as wikis, by providing a more dynamic, user-led experience of digital cultural heritage collections. Digital cultural heritage content is often hidden in online institutional collections, which do not easily allow a user to discover, write about and share with other users the thrill of finding a new, interesting digital artefact. Curatorial 2.0 removes these hidden walls for users with the incorporation of an easy-to-use online platform, providing a simple and serendipitous discovery tool with the added valued of user-annotation, online sharing and open data/content as core platform elements. Curatorial 2.0 enables users to directly share content from their own online Curatorial collection via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Pocket.
Curatorial 2.0 has a focus on usability and user engagement. This has been developed through a series of user-feedback cycles and platform build iterations. The original idea and platform was produced by us during a British Library 2 day hackathon event in May 2013. In 2014 we continued developing the platform as part of the AHRC-funded Digital Transformations network project, "Data – Asset – Method: Harnessing the Infinite Archive"<> in collaboration with Nottingham University's Horizon team, the British Library and Loughborough University, producing Curatorial version 1.0. This enabled us to develop the Curatorial platform further and to incorporate a user-feedback testing cycle – a group of students and a course tutor from Loughborough University were given test users accounts for the platform and used the platform as part of an example assessment exercise for their Interaction Design course, navigating the platform to curate, annotate and share their own sub-collections of digital content. Curatorial v.1.0 used content from the British Library's East India Office collection, and you can see the prototype we developed for this phase of the project here <>.
Feeding in the results and user responses from this user-testing cycle, and incorporating lean and agile methodologies, we have now produced Curatorial 2.0. The ultimate aim of Curatorial as a platform is to open up data and content for users, and to provide and improve on personalised online social curation experiences. Open data and content provision can also help facilitate new research and innovation. By allowing and enabling users to easily, and openly, contribute, participate and share British Library data and content, the BL's rich cultural heritage represented in its diverse collections is likely to become more discoverable, and more connected via interoperability between different pools of open material in the digital world.
URL for Entry:


Twitter: @artefactors

Job Title: Kate Lomax: Chief Beard Developer, Sara Wingate Gray: Chief Beard Curator

Background of Submitter:

KL and SWG work together as co-founders of Artefacto, which is an emerging creative lab dedicated to enhancing, exploring and opening digital collections and materials for users and institutions in the cultural and heritage sectors.
You can read more about the various projects we have been involved with from our website: <>.
SWG has published a number of academic research articles and book chapters in the field of LIS, including:
[1] Gray, S. W. (2013). Locating librarianship's identity in its historical roots of professional philosophies: towards a radical new identity for librarians of today (and tomorrow). IFLA Journal, 39 (1), 37-44. doi:10.1177/0340035212472946
[2] Wingate Gray, S. E., & Corble, A. (2013). Back to the future! Re-visioning 21st century public libraries via a journey through time and space: the seven ages of the librarian in graphic novel style. In S. Sarda, Raqs Media Collective (Eds.), Sarai Reader 09: PROJECTIONS. Delhi, India: Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. <>
[3] Wingate Gray, S. E. (2013). The library has left the building: mobile librarianship's new 21st century model. In J. Kucsma, L. Chow, S. Sajonas, C. Fuchs, C. N. Wajda (Eds.), The global librarian. New York, US: ACRL/NY & METRO. <>

Problem / Challenge Space:

The major challenge we wanted to address was how to enable better resource discovery and share-ability of online digital cultural heritage content by users. We were interested in addressing the question of how an open source platform, combined with the potential of social media facilities, extend the model of digital research, learning and curation in the online world. How might this re-purposing of metadata and content in open ways enable new research to be conducted and new knowledge to be formed?

Approach / Methodology:

Research methods the project uses include:
Design methodology informed by literature review and best practice developments in the fields of digital curation, social networks, open data/content, OSS.
We used lean development principles and agile/iterative development processes in producing the platform.
Qualitative research methods, including surveys/interviews as a core part of the usability testing. The sample user group from Loughborough University was selected using purposive sampling, and interacted with and tested the platform during the build and iterations cycles. User group sampling methodology was also informed by relevance of testing the platform (e.g. the users were Interactive Design students collection's emphasis). Use of qualitative research methods enabled the project to incorporate user input and help steer it towards best user-functionality, by identifying, and implementing what users found and chose as ways to interact with the data/content. This enables us to present the examination of the project as a case study of user experience in online participatory open curation.
The project also uses digital data visualisation techniques as an approach to demonstrate enhancements possible to digital collections and digital curation, specifically including a visual slideshow and timeline at both object and collection level.
Object usage statistics and user metrics from the user-testing phase of the project enabled us to analyse how users were navigating and experiencing the platform, and which will form part of the Case study and project write up, as well as informing future curation choices for which type of content might be best showcased in the platform.

Extent of showcasing BL Digital Content:

The Curatorial project has showcased a range of British Library content via its various phases of development.
Our initial build of the platform during our British Library hackathon session used metadata and images from the British Library's Evanion Collection.
Phase 2 (Curatorial 1.0) of the project saw us use the British Library's East India Office collection, focusing on images and metadata of landscape images and portraits from this collection.
Phase 3 of the project (Curatorial 2.0) has used metadata and visual images from the British Library's Flickr stream.

Impact of Project:

The Curatorial project has made an impact via a number of different avenues including:
[1] Achieving further funding from the AHRC Digital Transformations network "Data – Asset – Method: Harnessing the Infinite Archive fund. This provided us with a small initial development grant in 2014 which enabled us to build v.1.0 of the Curatorial platform.
[2] The Curatorial platform has be presented at various conference and presentations:
[a] "Launch of the DataTales project", 24 January 2014, British Library
[b] "Making the Most of Metadata", 12 February 2014, British Library
[c] "AHRC/Digital Horizon Infinite Archive" conference, 27 February, Nottingham University
[d] "Working with the British Library's Digital Collections and Data" conference, 4 July 2014, British Library
[3] We are in the process of writing up the project in article form to submit to a number of journals in the fields of Library and Information Science, Museums, Educational Learning and Technology.
[4] We have provided the code from our platform available via Git Hub.
[a] Original hackathon build: <>
[b] Curatorial v.1.0 Datatales build <>
[4] The Curatorial platform and its use of BL collections has been publicised via being written about and presented on by ourselves, project partners and external parties, such as:
[a] <>
[b] <>
[c] <>
[d] <>
[e] <>

Issues / Challenges faced during project(s):

The major challenge this project faced overall was in the cleaning, refining and use of metadata and data we used for the various phases of the project. For example, in the initial phases of the platform build, when we used the East India Office collections from the British Library, we encountered a major issue with the type of geo-location metadata available froths BL collection. We discovered that different format types were available and in use for proscribing geo-locations of digital objects - which did not naturally sync with the requirements of plotting open source mapping of longitude and latitude co-ordinates. We overcame this issue by pursuing various discussions with curators at the British Library, who were able to help us explore what exact data types were in use for geo-location co-ordinates. This enabled us to translate the originally provided geo-data (from BL metadata) into longitude and latitude data which we then used to code the geo-mapping facility we provided in version 1.0 of Curatorial.
Other challenges we faced in working towards a platform build of Curatorial 2.0 included a number of developer challenges in fixing bugs and dealing with non-standardised data.We overcame these challenges by using lean and agile project development processes - so that through iterations of the platform build and through a continuing dialogue and user-feedback testing cycle we were able to feedback into the development stages the appropriate changes necessary to produce Curatorial v.2.0.