open source

Digitizing the Past: My Time as a Digital Cultural Heritage Intern

By Grace Robbins, Office of Digital Research and Scholarship Intern, Fall 2019

 

During this semester I have been working as the Digital Cultural Heritage Intern in the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. You might be wondering, what in the world is digital cultural heritage? It seems like a fancy title, but for what? Essentially the concept of digital cultural heritage is defined as preserving anything of cultural significance in a digital medium. Anything we preserve becomes part of a “heritage” to something, whether that be to an individual person or a whole culture. I was interested in working more with the intersection of digital humanities and archaeology after volunteering on the Cosa excavation in Italy directed by FSU. Archaeology is such a material driven, hands-on discipline (and science!), and it proves to be an effective tool to understanding–and interacting with–the past. However it generates so much data. Archaeologist Ethan Watrall writes, “The sheer volume and complexity of archaeological data is often difficult to communicate to non-archaeologists.” Furthermore, many discovered artifacts and architecture remain inaccessible to most of the general public. Thus, the goals in my internship revolved around understanding how digital platforms affect accessibility to these “heritages,” specifically in the contexts of archaeology and the humanities, so that scholarship is furthered for people in academia but also, hopefully, the general public.

I did most of my work with the Digital Cosa Project, which included uploading data from the Cosa hard drive onto DigiNole, FSU’s Digital Repository. My tasks confronted some organizational and technological challenges, however, as the large amount of data to be ingested meant rethinking the best way to organize the digital collection. We ended up switching plans from organizing by excavation year to organizing by type of file (artifacts, plans, maps, stratigraphic unit sheets, etc.). I also practiced coding, which most historians or archaeologists may not be familiar with. It begs the question, should these disciplines incorporate more digital education in the future? How useful would this be?

I also wanted to experiment with visual technology, including 3D applications such as 3D modeling and 3D printing.

meshroom photo

3D model of a trench from 2019 excavation season being built in Meshroom, a free and open source photogrammetry program.

I especially enjoyed learning about 3D printing because it ran simultaneous to the FSU Archaeology Club’s “Printing the Past” exhibit in Dirac, which displays one important way digital humanities can further archaeological knowledge: hands-on learning! I couldn’t have learned about ancient Rome better than when I was unearthing ancient material on the dig and providing such artifacts in the form of 3D printing for non-archaeologists to interact with bears pedagogical significance.

printingpast

Standing with the Cosa poster for the “Printing the Past” exhibit by the FSU Archaeology Club. I helped 3D model and 3D print the 3rd object from the left, an inscription found in the 2019 excavation season.

3D scanning was not as easy of a task, as new technology always comes with a learning curve, but in the future I want to continue working with this practice.

scanning

3D scanning the Napoleon Bonaparte death mask in Special Collections.

In my time at the internship, I have broken down my understanding of digital humanities from a broad concept to a web of applications that further humanities and archaeological knowledge. I will continue to work in the internship next semester, and I hope to continue mastering 3D modeling and printing and am looking forward to developments in the Digital Cosa project as we finalize our plans for the Cosa digital collection. Most importantly, I am eager to experiment with more creative ways these digital applications can be used in academia and the general public that will enable us to be more “in touch” with the past.

 

FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY JOINING OPEN TEXTBOOK NETWORK TO ADDRESS AFFORDABILITY CONCERNS

Florida State University Libraries is joining the Open Textbook Network (OTN) to encourage broader adoption of free, openly licensed textbooks and course materials that are available at no cost to students. The OTN is an alliance of 600 institutions working together to promote access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks.

The cost of commercial course materials has risen at 300% the rate of inflation since 1978, and research suggests that this trend has a number of negative impacts on student success. According to the College Board, undergraduates spend an average of $1200 on textbooks annually. Faced with these costs, many students choose to not buy a required text, make do with an older edition, or take fewer courses — and some even drop or fail a course completely.

In addition to hosting the Open Textbook Library, arguably the premier source of peer-reviewed open textbooks, the OTN promotes broader adoption of these resources at member institutions through:

  • Faculty development workshops to support instructors in identifying and adopting open textbooks for their classes;
  • Staff training to enhance institutional support for open textbook adoption on campus;
  • Collecting data to demonstrate the impact of open textbook adoptions on affordability and student success.

“As only the second university in Florida to join the OTN, FSU is positioned to become a statewide leader on textbook affordability,” said Julia Zimmerman, Dean of University Libraries. “We believe that this membership will yield significant benefits for faculty and students across the University, providing our faculty and staff with expert training on how to find, evaluate, and implement open textbooks, and generating tremendous savings to students as a result.”
To date, OTN member institutions have saved their students over $8.5 million dollars on course materials. The Open Textbook Library includes over 400 titles, the vast majority of which have been peer-reviewed by experts across the country. Further, the OTN reports that approximately 40% of participants in its faculty development workshops go on to adopt open textbooks in their courses, resulting in near-immediate savings for students without compromising academic freedoms or integrity.

FSU Libraries plans to host OTN workshops for faculty and staff in Fall 2018, during International Open Access Week, Oct. 22-28. These workshops follow the University’s first Open Education Symposium, which the Libraries hosted in March 2018. More details about the Fall 2018 workshops will be announced as they become available.

For more information about FSU’s OTN membership or the Libraries’ Open & Affordable Textbook Initiative, contact Devin Soper (dsoper@fsu.edu | 850.645.2600). For more information about open textbooks and educational resources, more generally, visit http://guides.lib.fsu.edu/oer.

Automagical Repository Harvesting

Over the last couple of years, FSU Libraries dedicated librarians and staff to in-house development of an institutional repository platform that is open-source, flexible, and modular. I was hired as the full-time repository specialist for the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship recently and I quickly realized the strategic importance of the institutional repository concept: its purposes, benefits, and potential future impact intersects with the key issues surrounding libraries, technology, scholarly communications, and digital scholarship today.

One of my early tasks focused automating metadata harvesting from other repositories. Figuring out a time- and cost-efficient way to tackle the tracking and depositing of new publications is a key challenge in the field of scholarly communication today. Aside from the issue of how much time this takes per scholarly object, this framework lends itself to human error and, as a result for researchers, decreased scholarship discoverability, accessibility, and validity, which at times can be in tension with the overall goals and purposes of an institutional repository. Publicly accessible APIs provided by public repositories offer the chance to eliminate or greatly reduce the time it takes to process a deposit and the risk that bibliographic information will be inaccurately transferred from one system to another.

In response to this challenge, I have developed two tools to increase the efficiency of repository ingest. PMC Grabber is a PHP-based tool that uses PubMed Central’s APIs to programmatically search the PubMed Central database, pull metadata from the database, and transform the metadata for ingestion into FSU’s institutional repository. With this framework, the Libraries can run constructed searches every six or twelve months and stay on top of new publications from FSU researchers posted in PubMed without a hassle. While the tool does not fully automate the ingestion workflow from harvest to deposit, it significantly mitigates the time-intensive task of manually discovering and creating ingest records for individual articles.

PMC Grabber Workflow Diagram

PMC Grabber Workflow Diagram showing distinct steps, database table layout, and outcomes.

phpLiteAdmin_structureMenu

SQLite database management menu after using PMC Grabber.

phpLiteAdmin_embargoTable

SQLite database embargo table populated after a search using PMC Grabber.

The other tool, codenamed WOS (Web of Science) Grabber, combines a workflow using different tools and applications as well as the core concept of PMC Grabber. The goal is to capture all FSU-affiliated publications appearing in Web of Science with minimal participation necessary on the part of authors. Using a combination of Web of Science searches, Zotero, SHERPA/RoMEO API calls in Google Sheets, and OpenRefine, thousands of publications can be identified and staged for ingest. The end result of the workflow  is a set of publications that can be filtered to discover different sub-sets of articles: (1) those that can be deposited into an institutional repository as publisher versions with no author intervention; (2) those that can be deposited into an institutional repository as accepted manuscripts/final drafts; and (3) those that only allow pre-print versions to be deposited into institutional repositories. Using WOS Grabber I was able to quickly and easily identify over 2,000 articles published in 2016 affiliated with FSU. 500 of these articles (a good 25% of all Web of Science indexed scholarship from FSU!) were open access and were immediately added to our ingestion queue, and a little more than 1500 of the articles were identified as allowing final draft deposit into a repository.

Overall, my involvement with this projects has been positive and signals a promising future for repository managers looking to leverage emerging technologies and centralized repositories. My experiences suggest that through the use of new tools and technologies, what is still being described as an unmanageable goal is quickly becoming a feasible solution for institutional repositories. Libraries with sufficient resources (in terms of skilled personnel and funding) should continue to push the envelope in this area and discover different ways to improve repository workflow efficiency and, ultimately, user access to scholarship. If my experiences are any indication, an investment in and a focus on this kind of work will have great returns for everyone involved.