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Kate Lomax, Sara Wingate Gray

See this recent blog posting about Kate and Sara's work and how it has progressed since the competition.

Submitted Entry for 2013 Competition

Curatorial: Re-cultivating the Commons: an Exploration in Participatory Open Curation


Curatorial will be an open-source, collaborative, social platform, which enables users to easily access, create, curate, refine and re-purpose British Library digital collections' and their associated metadata.

The interoperability of open source software (e.g. Drupal) and other open source tools (e.g. Open Street Map) enables Curatorial 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, with the incorporation of gamification, inline editing and open data/content as core platform elements.

Users of Curatorial will be able to contribute new object metadata or edit original content, the results informing a contributors' "leaderboard", via a points system for contributions. This social gamification of the curation process aims to encourage contributions from the community, with detail, accuracy and validation rewarded. Gamification is a developing field < http://gamification-research.org/chi2011/papers/ > with the goal of improving user experience (UX) and engagement, while gamification of online collections and resources is emerging (e.g. < http://library.hud.ac.uk/blogs/projects/lidp/2012/10/10/lemontree/ >) as a powerful tool in the GLAM sector specifically, alongside social curation <e.g. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/meet.14504901189/abstract >.
Curatorial's customised crowdsourcing curation platform will utilise existing open source technologies to increase extensibility and ensure better integration with existing websites/platforms and Content Management Systems (CMS). Focusing on usability and user engagement, developed through a series of user-feedback cycles and platform build iterations, it also aims to follow the Open Definition < http://opendefinition.org/ > and OpenGLAM principles < http://openglam.org/principles/ > of collection openness, utilising open definitions of content and licensing wherever possible. This project functions in the first instance as a demonstration of functionalities possible for the platform, specifically informed by a particular user-group during the build and testing cycles. An early prototype of the platform, built to demonstrate core functionality can be viewed here:< http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/ >).

Curatorial's aim in opening up data and content for users is 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 openly contribute, participate and share BL data and content, alongside and in tandem with BL experts and curators, 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.

Kate Lomax
1. Web developer, Fossbox < http://www.fossbox.org.uk >
2. Co-founder, Artefacto < http://www.artefacto.org.uk >
3. Organiser – Flossie (women and open source) conference < http://www.flossie.org >.

Sara Wingate Gray:
1. PhD candidate, Department of Information Studies, University College London < http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dis/people >.
2. Co-founder, Artefacto.
3. Founder, The Itinerant Poetry Library < http://www.tipl.info >
4. Project manager, Poetry Center Digital Archive < http://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/poetrycenter >

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer*

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

How does openly re-purposing metadata and content enable new research to be conducted and new knowledge to be formed? How does an open source platform extend the model of digital research, learning and curation in the online world?

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections*

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

Curatorial aims to showcase BL content, and improve and encourage digital engagement with British Library collections in several specific ways:

1. Content Management Systems (CMS) for showcasing an Institution's digital content often privilege Institutional preservation and access functionality over and above user needs and access. Curatorial solves this issue by providing an open-source platform where users have the opportunity to collaboratively enhance an object's original BL metadata, and are free to select, examine and personally curate BL digital objects, producing their own unique 'curated' collections. New information concerning a digital object can be added by a user, providing granularity and richness to an object's description, in turn enhancing both its original metadata and the potential for greater discoverability within the collection as a whole (see project URL for working prototype, and wireframe mockups for other examples: < http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/content/wireframes >).

2. The BL's expert curation teams work with different metadata descriptors and standards according to specific collection needs and resources. Some BL digital objects currently have descriptions and associated metadata which do not tell or reveal the potential full story of an object (e.g. see 'Ticket for a pharmacy and dietetics lecture' from the Evanion collection < http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/evancoll/t/014eva000000000u04367000.html > which provides a fairly typical example of how the current object description metadata excludes pertinent object data that is otherwise only available by human visual examination of the image, such as the lecturer's name "James Home M.D.", full date, font types used etc). Similarly, recent pioneering online participatory curation experiments (e.g. NYPL's 'menu' project < http://menus.nypl.org/about >) demonstrate that when users are given the chance to contribute their own 'amateur' expertise to curation and metadata tasks, detail and accuracy come to the fore. Curatorial's users are able to submit additional paradata, corrections, or new metadata edits to moderators/curators. They receive feedback as well as user points for their contribution from the Curatorial community, with a 'leader-board' system providing gamification elements to encourage edits, contributions, accuracy and validation (see project URL for working prototype, and wireframe mockups for other examples: < http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/content/wireframes >).

3. Providing digital tools (such as open source software - OSS) and data in open formats < http://opendefinition.org/ > enables innovative re-use, transformation and likely interoperability. Many aspects of the richness (and further usefulness) of open BL object metadata are not currently digitally exploited: either as potential user functions, e.g. users having access to objects or collections specific timeline and mapping representations < http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/node/1 >; or as a more powerful means to enhance discoverability of BL content, e.g. through greater contextualising using space-time co-ordinates < http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/map-demo-1 >, or enabling personal curation via genre (Ticket/Leaflet etc.) or medium (Print on paper/Lithograph), as well as location or date < http://curatorial.artefacto.org.uk/timeline-demo >. Curatorial's use of open source software, and open source tools such as Open Street Map, explicitly enables us to test and potentially incorporate such different interoperable user functionalities, and different ways of digitally representing BL objects and collections. Displaying digital content in this way is likely to reveal previously undisclosed links and facets between individual collection objects, as well as the collections themselves, e.g. number of items in Evanion collection with similar dates, geo-location information, objects tagged with similar keywords and matching genre/medium etc.

This may also open up new avenues of research and investigation, as well as likely facilitating the interpretation of BL content for new audiences and making BL content more visible, easier to discover and more used. The British Library's cultural heritage remit to collect "for the nation" is a commitment to preserving, cultivating, and maintaining access to a 'knowledge commons' for us all. Using open source software, tools and open data demonstrates this vision for a digital public, which is why we've chosen to use this method and toolkit for our project, as well as it representing our professional ethos of working towards OpenGLAM principles <http://openglam.org/principles/> of collection openness.

Our project will specifically use the Evanion Collection of Ephemera, and we will work with BL curators and Lab staff to identify other object metadata samples from e.g. Victorian Popular Music, Kensington Turnpike, Topographical Drawings, and Illuminated Manuscripts collections to enable testing of the platform to account for variations in object metadata and its digital representation.

As a test collection of objects for the Curatorial platform, this multifarious digital content will provide the basis for first build and development of the platform, and user testing, feedback and further iterations. Platform functionality will ultimately depend on user input and what users find as the best ways to interact with the data and content – this will be determined by a rigorous user testing and feedback cycle during the build phases.

It is noted that Curatorial, as OSS, has the capacity to function as an aggregator of multiple BL collections, leading to the possibility of future development enabling full/er BL collection showcasing.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved*

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

Research methods the project uses include:

Design methodology informed by literature review and best practice developments in the fields of digital curation, social networks, gamification, open data/content, OSS.

Qualitative research methods, including surveys/interviews as a core part of the usability testing. A sample user group, selected using purposive sampling, will be identified to interact and test the platform during the build and iterations cycles. User group sampling methodology is also informed by relevance of test content of platform (e.g. Evanion collection's emphasis on typographic elements lends itself to a sample test-user cohort of graphics/design professionals). Use of qualitative research methods will enable the project to incorporate user input and help steer it towards best user-functionality, by identifying, and then aiming to implement, what users find and choose as ways to interact with data/content. This presents 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 open mapping and open timelines at both object and collection level.

Object usage statistics (available from the BL) and user metrics from the Curatorial platform will be used and analysed, forming part of the Case study and project write up appraisal.

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team*

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

At the BL's two-day hack event, we created during this 48 hour period an experimental version of the platform: < http://blhackday.cakewalk.webfactional.com/node/1 > which demonstrates our immediate skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out this project. Discussions with BL Labs staff and curators on the day informed our initial design process, while further discussions since have helped us refine the project, and we aim to have ongoing conversations with BL staff and curators during the project timeline in order to successfully develop the platform.
Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis*

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).


The project would utilise a series of open source tools to convert, publish, amend and visualise BL open collections data. This includes the Drupal framework/CMS to manage authentication, workflow, content management and user interaction. Data cleaning/refining will occur before ingestion into the platform, while Leaflet and OSM tools will be used to map the content, and timeline.js and other open source visualisations tools will also be implemented. Tools used will prioritise interoperability, data portability and standards-compliance. An experimental version of the project platform was created during the BL 2day hack event, which provides evidence of our team's technical capabilities/expertise: < http://blhackday.cakewalk.webfactional.com/node/1 >


Access to BL collections metadata was provided during the BL hackday, which immediately provided us with a testing ground of sample metadata to explore and work with. In conversation with BL Labs staff and curators during the hackday, we identified curated collections to sample and use (i.e. Evanion) and began to investigate the opportunities and challenges of curating this metadata exposition. The project will continue to work in collaboration with BL curators & Lab staff to help determine issues of curated object metadata already discovered (i.e. geo-location coding differentials), and other ongoing metadata issues (e.g. different standards for collections), informed by discussions with the BL and the design and results of our user-testing feedback group (i.e. graphics/designers professionals).


Software: GNU General Public License ( https://drupal.org/licensing/faq/ )


Content exists in multiple forms as part of this project, e.g. original BL metadata and user-contributed metadata. Legal technicalities therefore depend on existing BL data/content licensing arrangements, but ideally we would like the project to follow OpenGLAM principles < http://openglam.org/principles >, which the BL's Illuminated Manuscripts collection (for example) explicitly already does < http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/reuse.asp >, providing the collection under the Public Domain Mark

< http://creativecommons.org/about/pdm >. With other examples such as Europeana's Licensing Framework < http://pro.europeana.eu/documents/858566/7f14c82a-f76c-4f4f-b8a7-600d2168a73d > Creative Commons ©© therefore suggests itself as the appropriate framework, and we would aim to have further discussions with BL staff to determine the most applicable legal terms for data/content, with the goal of mutually aligning BL collections licensing and a commitment to open metadata and open content licensing where possible.
Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team*

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between July 6th - October 31st 2013
[All activity described here is assumed to be undertaken by Artefacto, unless listed otherwise]
July 6 - 31st 2013

1. Literature review conducted, informing design methodology of platform first build cycle.
2. Meetings with BL Labs staff and curators to focus curation selections for platform and object/collections metadata exposition issues. Cleaning/refining of metadata occurs.
3. User feedback group identified, selected, briefed on project. First phase of qualitative research with user feedback conducted (survey).
4. First iteration of platform build, informed by ongoing meetings & discussions with BL Lab staff and curators, results of design/lit review, and first phase of user research.

August 2013
Beta test phase 1 of platform: User feedback group engages with platform. 2nd phase of qualitative research conducted (survey) alongside monitoring of platform usage/analytics. User feedback research incorporated into ongoing build issues, alongside discussion points from BL Lab staff and curators.

September 2013
Beta test phase 2 of platform: User feedback group engages with platform. 3rd phase of qualitative research conducted (interview/survey/observation) alongside monitoring of platform usage/analytics. User feedback research, and further feedback/discussion points from BL Lab staff and curators, incorporated into final build version of platform, to be completed by October.

October 2013
Write up of project report; write up of Case study of user experience in online participatory open curation; platform ready to be showcased.