2. Scoping and Structuring Your Work - Data, Metadata, and Project Management

A successful digital art history project starts with good data that is well managed. Chapter 2 focuses on what art historical data is and how it can be organized to start a digital project. The resources in this chapter will explain best practices for data cleaning, storage, and standards for art historical content.

2.1 Readings

Appleford, Simon, and Jennifer Guiliano. “Designing Your First Project.” DevDH.org, 2013.

Baca, Murtha. “Scholars’ Workspace: Developing Tools, Methods, and Standards for Teaching, Conducting, and Publishing Humanities Research in Digital Form.” presented at the Digital Art History Summer Institute, UCLA, July 2014.

Baca, Murtha, and Getty Research Institute. Introduction to Metadata. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute, 2008.

Christie, Michael. “Computer Databases and Aboriginal Knowledge.” International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts 1 (2004): 4–12.

Harpring, Patricia. Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies: Terminology for Art, Architecture, and Other Cultural Works. Los Angeles, Calif.: Getty Research Institute, 2010.

Kramer, Michael. “What Does Digital Humanities Bring to the Table?” Issues in Digital History, 2012.

Lewis, James P. Checklist for managing projects adapted from Project planning, scheduling & control: a hands-on guide to bringing projects in on time and on budget (Chicago: Probus Publishing Company, 1991).

Ramsay, Stephen. “Databases,” in Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, Hardcover, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2004).

Rosenberg. “Data before the Fact.” In Raw Data Is an Oxymoron, edited by Lisa Gitelman, 15–40. MIT Press, 2013.

Sperberg-McQueen, C.M. “Classification and Its Structures.” In Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, Hardcover. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2004.

Wallack, Jessica Seddon, and Ramesh Srinivasan. “Local-Global: Reconciling Mismatched Ontologies in Development Information Systems.” In System Sciences, 2009. HICSS’09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on, 1–10, 2009.

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2.2 Resources

“Introduction to Data-Cleaning”: The School of Data offers a helpful overview on data-cleaning in general.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: An authority on providing subject access to collections using standards.

Getty Vocabularies: The Getty vocabularies contain structured terminology for art history. Compliant with international standards, they provide authoritative information for catalogers, researchers, and data providers.

Porter, Vicki, and Robin Thornes. 1994. A guide to the description of architectural drawings. New York: G.K. Hall.: Guidelines, conventions, and standards for describing architectural drawings and documents, with examples and recommendations for authority files and controlled vocabularies.

Baca, Murtha. 2002. Introduction to art image access: issues, tools, standards, strategies. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.: An online publication that addresses the issues that underlie the intellectual process of documenting a visual collection to make it accessible in an electronic environment.

Baca, Murtha, and Patricia Harpring. 2006. Categories for the description of works of art. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute.: A set of guidelines for the description of art, architecture, and other cultural works.

Besser, Howard, and Jennifer Trant. 1995. Introduction to imaging: issues in constructing an image database. Santa Monica, Calif: Getty Art History Information Program.: An online publication that introduces the technology of digital imaging and creating an image library.

Omeka’s About Page: Think that you may want to use Omeka? Check out the About page and see how museum professionals, archivists, and educators are using Omeka.

Art Historical Data: A presentation by Johanna Drucker on what is considered art historical data.

Content Management Systems: A presentation by Wendy Kurtz on content management systems basics.

Work Plan and Workflow Development Guidelines: A presentation by Johanna Drucker regarding the steps needed to assemble and run a digital art history project.

DH Project Management: The Very, Very Basics: A presentation by Miriam Posner on essential project management basics.

Villanova University Project Planning Lecture: A lecture by Wayne Brantley on the importance of project planning.

Digital Methods in Art History: A list of digital art historical methods developed by Johanna Drucker

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2.3 Tutorials

For Data

“Using a spreadsheet to clean up a dataset”: Clean up data using Excel.

“Introduction to OpenRefine”: Developed by Owen Stephens on behalf of the British Library, this is a great walkthrough to get you started with the program.

“Cleaning Data with OpenRefine”: A shorthand introduction to the tool and what it can do for cleaning data by Seth van Hooland, Ruben Verborgh and Max De Wilde

Verborgh, Ruben, and Max De Wilde. Using OpenRefine: The Essential OpenRefine Guide That Takes You From Data Analysis and Error Fixing to Linking Your Dataset to the Web. Birmingham, UK: Packt Publishing, 2013.: The book is styled on a Cookbook, containing recipes - combined with free datasets - which will turn readers into proficient OpenRefine users in the fastest possible way. (To get to the book, click on “EBSCO eBooks.”)

“Cleaning Up Your Excel 2013 Data”: I like OpenRefine, but if you prefer, you can use Excel to do some data-cleaning. Lynda offers several video tutorials on using Excel to clean data. Search for “Cleaning Up Your Excel 2013 Data.”

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Interested in programming? This online resource is written for office workers, students, administrators, and anyone who uses a computer to learn how to code small, practical programs to automate tasks on their computer.

“Cleaning OCR’d Text with Regular Expressions.”: For those at the intermediate level, this tutorial walks you through how to take an OCR’d document and use Regular Expressions to make it easily viewed in Excel and prepped for geocoding.

Designing Databases for Historical Research, by Mark Merry: Read this before you try to design a database for your research. The registration process is very weird and annoying, but it’s worth it; this is an excellent primer for the beginner.

For Content Management Systems

Creating a blog post in WordPress: After you have set up your blog site, this tutorial will walk you through how to make your first post.

Omeka Vocabulary Worksheet: A glossary of terms to introduce you to the way Omeka works.

Up and Running with Omeka Tutorial: Once Omeka has been installed, this guide will walk you through how to populate and build your site.

Building an Omeka Exhibit Tutorial: This tutorial specifically addresses how to create an exhibit in Omeka.

Installing Omeka Themes: Want a different look to your site? Omeka offers documentation on how to change the theme of your site to give you more options that the ones built into the out-of-the-box content management system.

Installing Omeka Plugins: Want additional functionality in your Omeka site? This resource demonstrates how to install plugins which can help you add functionality to your site. You can find a list of available plugins on the Omeka site.

Preparing for CSV Import: Have organized data you want to import? Omeka has instructions on how to import a CSV file.

Managing Item Types in Omeka: Are your objects unique? Item types in Omeka are user-defined type of object, with associated metadata. While Omeka comes with predefined item types with fields, you can easily edit these types, or add your own types. This resource shows you how.

Omeka’s Documentation Page: For additional troubleshooting, Omeka offers a very thorough set of documentation.

For Project Management

Making Things Happen, by Scott Berkun: While this resource is designed for business professionals, its principles are generally applicable.

“Issues in Large Project Management,” by Lynne Siemens: Siemens’s class is legendary among DHers, and many of us are alumni of the summer course she teaches at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. The course packet contains a wealth of useful information, including sample project documentation.

Tito Sierra’s presentations on project management: Sierra, a director of product management at EBSCO, has a terrific collection of presentations on project management. They are simple, to-the-point, and immensely useful. See in particular Project Management Basics and The Project One-Pager.

DevDH: Developing Digital Humanities Projects: This site, the work of two experienced DH project managers, contains an abundance of very useful lectures and presentations specific to DH project development.

Workflow for Planning a Digital Project, by Johanna Drucker: If you are just starting a digital project for the first time, this short resource will help you plan appropriately.

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2.4 Tools


Excel: The most reliable tool for creating a spreadsheet for your data. If you are not sure what platform to use for your data, Excel is a good place to start.

Google Sheets: An online platform for organizing and storing your data in a spreadsheet.

OpenRefine: For cleaning up spreadsheets and is free to download.

Content Management Systems for Smaller Projects

WordPress: Great for making a quick website or blog.

Scalar: Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online.

The Getty Scholars’ Workspace: An online environment designed to support collaboration with a toolset specifically designed for art historical research.

Project Management

Add to what you are already doing: Try using Google Tasks to organize and Doodle for scheduling.

For Meetings: Go to Meeting, Fuze, WebEx

For collaborative organization: Basecamp, Trello, Confluence

For Issue Tracking: JIRA

Image Annotation

ThingLink: This is a fun tool for linking different parts of images to videos, images, webpages, or whatever you want. It’s easy to use and especially nice for teaching. Example.

Neatline: Designed for mapping, Neatline can also handle image annotation. Example.

Gigapixel: Much like its sister platform, StoryMaps, GigaPixel makes it easy to take a step-by-step tour of image annotations. Example.

Prezi: Some people hate Prezi (I’ve heard people say it gives them vertigo), but used responsibly, Prezi can be a useful, fun tool for presentations. If PowerPoint is a film strip, Prezi is a blank canvas. Rather than moving from slide to slide, you can hop around a canvas, zooming in or panning out as the mood strikes. And you can embed Prezis anywhere, making them quite useful for sharing information. Example.

Exhibit Platforms

If you have a collection of sources, you might want a way to show them off. Here are a couple of platforms designed specifically for organizing collections and arranging them into stories.

Omeka: You can use Omeka to create collections and exhibits of stamps, artifacts related to a historical event, or artists’ books. The real strength of Omeka is its metadata (the information you enter about each item in your exhibit). It uses a standard called Dublin Core that makes collections compatible with one other. It has a lot of cool plugins so that you can do things like allow people to contribute items to your archive. You should be aware that there are two “kinds” of Omeka: omeka.org, which you install on your own server; and omeka.net, which is hosted for you. Some people like the former because you can customize it more heavily, but omeka.net is perfectly fine for getting started.

Google Open Gallery: This is a very new platform, so details are scarce, but it’s an exhibit platform that appears to have some nice visual features, good search and filtering capabilities, and a low learning curve. You have to request a login, which takes about a week. Example.

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2.5 Projects

1. Getty Provenance Index

2. Digging into Image Data to answer Authorship-Related Questions, Dean Rehberger et. al.

3. Digital Sculpture Project

4. Digital Harlem

5. Kindred Britain

6. Raphael Project

7. Renoir Paintings and Drawings

8. Rossetti Archive

9. Accademia di San Luca

10. Smarthistory

11. Van Gogh Letters

12. RomeLab

13. Renaissance Melancholy

14. Artl@s

15. JanBrueghel.net

16. Mukurtu

17. The Real Face of White Australia

18. Baca, Murtha, et al., Pietro Mellini’s Inventory in Verse, 1681: A Digital Facsimile with Translation and Commentary, (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015), http://hdl.handle.net/10020/mellini.

19. Delphine Burlot, Martine Denoyelle (dir.). Élie-Honoré Montagny’s Recueil d’Antiquités, A Digital Critical Edition. Paris : Institut national d’histoire de l’art. Disponible sur http://digitalmontagny.inha.fr/ (Consulté le jj/mm/aaaa).

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