Greenhouse Studios Supports Open Data at Hartford Public Library

Greenhouse Studios members are actively involved in the larger issues facing scholarly communications outside of our research. On the brisk morning of October 26th, I gathered with several other presenters mostly representing UConn at the Hartford Public Library to showcase projects that benefit from—or contribute to making available—openly and freely accessible data. This event, Open Data in Action, was held as part of International Open Access Week. Open data, as defined by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, refers to data that is...

1) freely available online

2) permits users to download, copy, analyze, re-process, pass to software or use for any other purpose

3) is without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

Open data fosters innovation, productivity, and democracy by keeping the doors of knowledge public, allowing information to flow freely. In today’s digital age, different forms of licensing prevent this from happening. I expressed my support for this cause by presenting my research for Omeka Everywhere, a development outside of Greenhouse Studios, at the Open Data Salon. Our installation of the software was populated with content from the Ellen Emmet Rand Papers, held by the University Library's Archives & Special Collections, and the William Benton Museum of Art—two collections which are also the basis of a Greenhouse Studios collaboration.

Omeka Everywhere Collections Viewer and Mobile App

Omeka Everywhere is an open-source software designed so that collecting institutions, such as museums, libraries, and archives, can display digitized materials on gesture-responsive touchscreen devices ranging from in-gallery, table-style displays to hand-held tablets and smartphones. This project, made possible by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, is a collaboration of George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, UConn’s Digital Media & Design Department, and Ideum, a creator of digital experiences for public spaces.The Omeka Everywhere suite of tools includes a mobile application that allows visitors exploring items on an in-gallery display to save favorites to their own mobile devices to be shared, studied, and enjoyed whenever and wherever they want.

My Open Data in Action presentation focused on the usability testing that I conducted for a preliminary release of the software. The ability to undertake this work relied on having access to open data. My research is inspiring refinements to the user interface design in preparation for the launch of Omeka Everywhere later this year. The team’s commitment to incorporating end user feedback into the design process is the key to achieving a gratifying learning experience rather than a frustrating one. This research, and Omeka Everywhere itself, which is free and open source, benefits the open access movement by giving smaller nonprofit institutions and their visitors the opportunity to engage with collections materials

I had a really fun time explaining my role in the project to fellow presenters, UConn students, and library visitors, along with other members of the UConn community. Presenting to my left was Greg Colati, a member of the Greenhouse Studios Steering Committee. Together with Repository Manager Mike Kemezis, he presented the Connecticut Digital Archive, which is an online Fedora-based preservation repository. Across the foyer, one of my professors in the Digital Media & Design Department, Anna Lindemann, was presenting with Graham Stinnett of Archives & Special Collections (ASC). Anna taught a motion graphics class through open access materials accessible through the ASC repository. Her students created a 3D parallax effect by using photos from the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers to highlight the influence of child labor around the globe. I was very impressed by the rest of the projects, which ranged from discovering stories of World War II through old postcards sent through Avon, Connecticut, to modeling the severity of disease through administrative healthcare data.

Driving by the Hartford skyline leaving the event, I reflected on the day and had a better grasp of how open access has benefited my life and society. I will continue to support open access and to utilize the open information available to me. I am looking forward to contributing to the myriad of open access information in conjunction with my work at Greenhouse Studios!

Andrew P. Wolf, Undergraduate Researcher

Greenhouse Studios Staff