Tuesday, April 1, 2014

[Upcoming Event] Radiation mapping is too important to be left to experts: the role of maps in Japan after March 11, 2011

The Clark Library is happy to announce an upcoming event with Dr. Jean-Christophe Plantin. Dr. Plantin is a research fellow in LS&A’s Communication Studies Department and an adjunct lecturer at the School of Information. His main academic focus is the creation and use of participatory maps during public debates. According to Dr. Plantin, a tradition of ‘critical cartography” has highlighted that maps can either serve the interests of those in power, or empower those seeking social justice. This ambivalence of the cartography is present in contemporary web-based mapping application. 

japan radiation map.jpg

By using a variety of radiation maps, he will address the lack of information that occurred directly after the explosion of the the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on March 11, 2011. During his talk, Dr. Platin will focus on three points: how maps were used along with innovative initiatives to find radiation data; how mapmakers gathered and communicated online in this ad hoc crisis infrastructure; how maps were used to sort out different and possibly contradictory radiation measures and to make sense of the radiation situation in the country.

Dr. Plantin holds a master’s degrees from Université Paris VIII and from the European Graduate School, and a PhD from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne, France. He is currently teaching The Geospatial Web: Participatory maps, location-based services and citizen science (SI513/COM840) class at UMSI.    

The information of research conversation is as follows.

Date: April 7, 2014, 1-2:30 pm
Location: Clark Library Instructional Space, Hatcher South 2nd floor.
Light refreshment will be served.

This event is supported by the Clark Library and Asia Library.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Maps and Mapmaking in India - A Physical and Online Exhibit

The Stephen S. Clark Library is currently featuring its tenth exhibit, “Maps and Map-making in India”, in conjunction with the LSA theme semester “India in the World.”  The theme semester is coordinated by the Center for South Asian Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, a faculty/Steering Committee, and a Student Advisory Board. The theme semester will be working with various departments across campus to arrange exhibits, performances, films, lectures, discussions, symposia, and conferences across campus. This exhibit at the Clark displays the Clark and Hatcher Libraries’ extensive collections of materials from and about India, focusing specifically on the Indian Survey and the history of mapmaking in India.
For the first time in the Clark Library’s history of exhibits, an online exhibit was created simultaneously with the physical exhibit. The online exhibit mimics most of the materials and text from the physical exhibit while providing a new interface for users to interact with it. To accomplish this, we used Omeka, the content management system utilized by MLibrary. Omeka is typically used by cultural heritage institutions to display visual and text-based content online. The process of turning the physical exhibit into an online exhibit required looking at four main aspects of the process of building an exhibit: the structure, the materials, the tools, and the preparation.

For the most part, we were able to maintain the structure and materials of the physical exhibit by organizing the materials within each case into a corresponding page online. The physical exhibit space is separated into four distinct cases. As a result, the online exhibit has multiple defined sections including: James Rennell: the Father of the Indian Survey, Surveying India, Colonial India, Mother India, and Early Maps of India. With the exhibit as a whole, we chose to keep the content mainly on one page per section in order to preserve the connections that exist in the physical display cases. In one instance, we were able to make a distinction between themes more clear: one physical exhibit case was used to display two themes, but this was easily translated into two separate divisions in the online version.

The template provided by MLibrary within Omeka, although somewhat restrictive, does force all of the libraries’ online exhibits to follow an identical format. Though this ultimately creates a cohesive online exhibit space across the library system and improves usability for patrons, the limitations of the templates were a challenge to work around. In one case. we were forced to distill one section of the exhibit down to only the items that were most relevant to that section’s theme due to the fact that exhibit pages can only hold eight items. It ultimately better served the flow of the exhibit to list the excluded items in the bibliography than to create a second page within the section. The result was that this part of the exhibit couldn’t mirror the complementary physical exhibit as the other sections do. Another tradeoff exists in how we were able to display textual information. The physical exhibit posters that provide a narrative to go along with the items displayed are designed to be visually interesting and are works of art in and of themselves. The online format cannot accommodate this illustrative text display without sacrificing readability. Similarly, other aspects of the physical exhibit that are purely aesthetic, such as the saris that are displayed in one case, aren’t easily captured with Omeka. This was an important consideration when ultimately deciding to include photographs of the physical exhibit itself. With these additional images, visitors to the site can get a feel for what the exhibit would have looked like if they were able to view it in person.

Despite these challenges, the process of turning the physical exhibit into the online exhibit gave us the ability to add more value to some of the materials. Most importantly, we added more metadata to each item within the exhibit and were able to link each item to its record in Mirlyn - a convenience that is not possible in a physical exhibit. This should help users in terms of researching and locating the materials within the exhibit and in the library after the physical exhibit has been taken down. The bibliography page is meant to do this as well by linking other materials referenced or used in creating the exhibit. The online format also allows for additional features that encourage users to interact more closely with the materials than they would be able to when viewing the items in person. The most notable of these features is the zoom function that allows for very close examination of the fine details in the maps. In the physical exhibit, some of these maps are displayed behind glass, predetermining the proximity of the viewer.
Placing the materials online in this way also allows for broader outreach to the library website’s visitors who may not have been able to walk through the physical exhibit. It creates an enduring version of the information that will persist long after the physical exhibit is taken down.

The physical exhibit will be on display in the Clark from January 16th through April 22nd. The online
exhibit can be viewed here. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Literary Maps

Learn more about this map and others like it here.
The Clark Library is excited to announce a new exhibit that’s been published on the MLibrary’s online exhibit space! Lisa Lorenzo and Corinne Vieracker have spent this fall exploring the world of literary maps after some research involving a previous blog post on the resource Placing Literature. Even though the Clark Library has several literary maps from around the world, the decision was made to focus on maps of the United States for this exhibit. The first two sections of the collection include a series of printed maps of the United States as a whole or by regions like Michigan. The next two sections include maps with a focus on American authors like Ernest Hemingway and modern online literary maps. Together, all of these maps represent a variety of different authors, novels, and genres. Some include classic titles and authors like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, while others include plot titles that were popular at the time of their publication but are presently less well-known, like The Riverman by Stewart Edward White.
Literary mapmaking was particularly popular during the mid-twentieth century, especially for use in classrooms. Many of the Clark Library’s literary maps are from this era, though some date back earlier to the 1920s and 30s. Interestingly though, there has been somewhat of a resurgence of literary mapmaking using online tools and social media to create interactive literary maps. The handful that have been included in the exhibit have been put together by public libraries, newspapers, or educational institutions but also allow for submissions from the public. They all also make use of an interactive interface that allows for a dynamic interaction with the map that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional printed map.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Maps for Artists

This past Monday I had the opportunity to travel to New York for a screening of work by the OpenEndedGroup at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The group (Paul Kaiser, Marc Downie, and Shelly Eshkar) is best known for their pioneering work in 3D film, including the piece Plant, which you may have seen when it was shown at the Duderstadt Center or the DIA in 2012.

A still image from Plant

Of particular interest was the screening of "Circling Detroit," part of their "Detroit transect" project that I became involved with when they were Witt Artists in Residence here at University of Michigan's Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. The project aims to present a portrait Detroit by focusing attention on a single street. That street is Brush Street, which provides a fascinating slice of information about the city. Its length stretches from the Renaissance Center on the edge of the Detroit River, past the Tigers' and Lions' stadiums, by the bustling Medical Center, through the once grand neighborhood of Brush Park, past the site where the first Model T was manufactured, all the way out past the large, and now emptied, Ford Factory. In order to gain insight into the history of the street, the artists were interested in looking to the map collection available here at the Clark Library. It is fascinating to trace the course of Brush St. over the years, watching it extend farther and farther as Detroit grew.

Perhaps the most exciting resource came in the form of the Sanborn Insurance maps that we have in the collection. These maps were used by insurance agencies interested in the building materials of different structures. Rather than produce a new map every year with updated information (as things were demolished and constructed), the publishers distributed updates that could be pasted over the map a map-owner already had in their possession. This process creates a fascinating visualization of the layering of time and history. Brush St. stretches over many pages of the atlas, which we scanned and provided to the artists. These scans will be aligned with images of the street as it is today, as well as Google Street view, in one of the films the group produces. Looking through the maps of Detroit is certainly inspirational, and it is very cool to think how they could be used in new art.

A page from one of the Sanborn insurance maps

-( Clara McClenon)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Research Resource: Google Cultural Institute

Google has been partnering with hundreds different cultural institutions including museums and archives to digitize collections and share them more widely with the Google Cultural Institute. The site includes a wide variety of exhibits ranging from art to landmarks to images and text. The data and information combined with the digital exhibits vary from exhibit to exhibit. Some exhibits have a ton of text to describe the materials, while others use mapping to give the user context. The different exhibits in Google’s Cultural Institute appear to differ just as all other museums and exhibits.

However, a user can do more than browse the collections. A user can save different items as well as create their own gallery. These two options can allow users to save their research on a platform that is easy to access that still contains the item’s metadata and zoom capabilities. By creating a gallery, a user can save groups of items that may be similar according to their own personal research or interests.

Furthermore, users can compare items side by side. They do this simply by dragging and dropping the items they want to compare into the compare tab at the bottom of the page. This tool allows the user see both items next to each other as well as allowing the zoom function to be used on each.

Finally, users are able to share items on a variety of different social media platforms and via email, this may help with sharing material with collaborators in any given project.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Giving New Life to the Henry Vignaud Map Collection

During the summer of 2012 Erin Platte and Tim Utter began work on a project dealing with a group of antiquarian maps from the Henry Vignaud Map Collection at the Clark Library.  In 1923-4 the University of Michigan acquired the personal library of the American diplomat, Henry Vignaud, who lived in Paris during the turn of the 20th century.  Vignaud was not only a diplomat but also an avid scholar and author, who compiled an extensive collection of materials, including books, atlases, maps, and other materials, relating to early American history.

The Clark set out to closely re-examine his collection and discover the provenance.  The project focused on a particular group of Vignaud's map, specifically those which were printed in Amsterdam during the 17th century by the famous cartographic families of Hondius and Jansson.  These maps document an illustrious period in cartographic history, including the competition between the Hondius-Jansson and Blaeu families, but also the golden age of Dutch cartography.  Platte and Utter worked with approximately 200 maps from broken atlases and analyzed their physical characteristics in order to organize them into four distinct groups, based on similarities. The close examination of the maps and the subsequent research into their history led to a series of exciting discoveries for the Clark, including the discovery of a rare atlas from 1630 and approximately 40 map states which appear to be previously unknown and undocumented.  A selection of maps from the project and the results are featured in the exhibit "Rediscovering the Jansson & Hondius Atlases of Henry Vignaud."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clark Library Exhibits Going Digital!

Have you visited the Clark in our new space and seen one of the many fascinating exhibits in the new display cases?  If you have been unable to visit or were not able to explore an exhibit as fully as you might have liked, the Clark exhibits are now going digital and are available through MLibrary! “The Geography of Colorants” (featured January 17- April 18, 2013) and “Travel Through Maps & Narratives” (featured August 17, 2012 - January 10, 2013) are now available online with the same content and text as the originals.  If you would like to see any of the maps, please contact the Clark and we will happily arrange for you to examine them.

“Travel Through Maps & Narratives” was curated by Melanie Langa and Grace Rother.  The exhibit explores the various reasons that humans have found to travel. Focusing on travel as close to home as the Great Lakes and as far away as Mecca, the exhibit gives a good overview of the many meanings of the word "travel".

“The Geography of Colorants” was curated and designed by Grace Rother and Sarah Helm. The exhibit was based on and inspired by the thesis The Geography of Significant Colorants: Antiquity to the Twentieth Century by Melissa Zagorski and maps from the Stephen S. Clark Library Map Collection. This exhibit explores the use of color in antique maps and the geographical origins of the colorants used to make them.

Please check back for additional exhibits coming soon.