Monday, November 14, 2011

Explore and Share Cultural Heritage Collections Online With Viewshare

From Trevor Owens, Digital Archivist, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is excited to launch, a free, easy-to-use tool that lets historians, curators, archivists, and librarians create interactive interfaces to digital collections. If you can create a spreadsheet you can create and share a dynamic online interface including maps, timelines, and charts that allow for rich exploration collection information with Viewshare. Stewards of cultural heritage collections can request a free account to use the tool by sending an email to

An Example of the Collection Interface created with Viewshare for a collection of photographs of segregated schools in Mississippi.

The best way to explain Viewshare is to walk through how it helped a user make a collection more accessible. Over a week last summer, Gloria Gonzalez, a junior fellow at the Library of Congress, used Viewshare to help tell a story about the Phay Collection, a collection of historic photographs she had worked with as an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi. As Gloria explained, “I care about this collection DEEPLY; I worked around 600 hours over the last year scanning the photos and slides while making an Excel sheet of the metadata at the same time.” Gloria, like many aspiring and professional historians, archivists, librarians, and curators across the country, cared both about the individual stories in each photograph and what the collection as a whole says about her community.

By uploading data from the collection to Viewshare, Gloria was quickly able to create a dynamic interface to the collection of photos she had worked so hard to make accessible online. Viewshare enabled her to place the items on an interactive map, create an interactive timeline, and create search tools making it easy to sort through and analyze the collection’s categories and data. She was able to do this without needing to write any code or build her own website. All Viewshare required was a little bit of patience to work with a point-and-click and drag-and-drop interface.  

Pamela Williamson, Curator of Visual Collections at the University of Mississippi, and Gloria’s manager on her project to digitize the Phay collection, explained how the Viewshare views supplement the existing online collection. “Viewshare really picks up where our digital collection management system leaves off. It allows the information presented by the collection to be seen and manipulated in a way that builds and expands our online Phay Collection.” The central idea behind Viewshare is that stewards of cultural heritage collections have a great deal of knowledge about their collection. Providing a tool that makes it as easy as possible for those stewards to create dynamic and engaging interfaces to their collections will support access to, and use of, those materials by anyone interested in understanding and exploring the history of the nation.  

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