3D Printing & Museums

In recent years, museums have been implementing 3D printing technologies to preserve cultural heritage and heighten the museum experience. 3D technologies provide curators, researchers, and scientists with the tools to restore historical artifacts, accurately capture artifact details, and digitally preserve resources. This technology has become more affordable and easy-to-use, making it more accessible and popular in recent years.

The list of museums that use 3D technologies continues to grow. This list includes institutions like the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florida Science Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, The British Museum, London Science Museum, and the Tokyo Printing Museum.

Digital technology in museums has largely been screen-based – websites, videos, interactive projects, digitization projects and so on. They have been so commonly implemented in museums, that visitors now expect digital interaction when they go to the museum. 3D technology has been used to scan and print museum objects for preservation for some time, but as a newer iteration of interactive technology it may soon become an expectation from visitors too.

On that note, 3D printing technologies are being utilized for creative engagement. It has proven to be applicable as a unique hands-on teaching tool for exhibitions and in museum learning programs.

Dinosaur model from the American Museum of Natural History’s “Capturing Dinosaurs” program.

In 2013, the American Museum of Natural History began using 3D printing as a tool to teach young kids about science and natural history. The first program they offered, “Capturing Dinosaurs”, allows students to work with fossils to reconstruct dinosaur skeletons. Students have access to real paleontologic artifacts and the tools needed to capture them digitally, to then create the 3D models. Its a unique and innovative program that allows students to get behind the scenes with scientists and learn how they use different technologies in tangible ways to study and perform research.

The British Museum uses 3D printing in a number of interesting ways. In an open-source effort, following the lead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they offer freely-downloadable 3D models for patrons to download and print works and objects from their collection. On the commercial side, in partnership with a company called ThinkSee3D, they have been using the technology to replicate famous works at the museum as small souvenirs available at their gift shop. Moving forward, the museum aims to use 3D printing in conjunction with virtual reality to innovatively showcase the museums’ works.

The British Museum includes this bust of Egyptian pharaoh Amenemhat III in their 3D downloadable collection.

The uses and benefits of 3D technologies are manifold, but there is still plenty to be discovered. How the technologies will be used in the future is unknown, but will likely continue to bring innovation and creativity to the museum experience and perhaps provide more access and opportunities moving forward.

Tina Chesterman (INFO 653-01)

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Posted in Museums, Open Access, Preservation

Coming soon: A token taxonomy to define the world of blockchain

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), which describes itself as “a member-driven standards organization whose charter is to develop open, blockchain specifications that drive harmonization and interoperability for businesses and consumers worldwide” has announced they are working with Microsoft and many other companies to develop a taxonomy and controlled vocabulary specifically for blockchain tokens.

In the blockchain context, a “token” is a digital representation of a fungible or non-fungible asset, such as currency value, real estate, or a piece of art. These tokens can have a range of characteristics and behaviors…

The Token Taxonomy Framework, as they’re calling it, will be “blockchain neutral,” meaning that it can be applied to any blockchain platform. According to EEA, having such a taxonomy will establish a common language and promote interoperability for businesses building platforms on blockchain. In addition to creating a taxonomy, EEA is also developing a method to attach metadata to tokens using the framework’s controlled vocabulary.

According to a post on Microsoft’s blog, the initiative aims to establish:

  • A definition of tokens and their use cases across industries.
  • A common set of concepts and terms that can be used by business, technical, and regulatory participants so they can speak the same language.
  • A composition framework for defining and building tokens.
  • Create a Token Classification Hierarchy (TCH) that is simple to understand.
  • Tooling meta-data using the TTF syntax to be able to generate visual representations of classifications and modeling tools to view and create token definitions mapped to the taxonomy eventually linking with implementations for specific platforms.
  • A sandbox environment for legal and regulatory requirement discovery and input.

EEA plans to release the first version of its taxonomy later this year, followed by “Token Definition Workshops” to educate the blockchain community about its use.

Adrienne Lang, INFO 653-01

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The Largest Online Catalog for Artists’ Books

While this post isn’t a current event, per-se I thought this would be an interesting topic to touch on for Knowledge Organization. When folks typically think of catalogs, we likely think of libraries and librarians as catalog proprietors. But there are many catalogs that are useful and created by people who aren’t working in the library field. I’m passionate about artists’ books and I find Printed Matter’s online catalog to be incredibly important for my personal and academic interests. On their website, Printed Matter boasts that their “online catalog is one of the largest and most comprehensive databases of artists’ books and related publications. The catalog contains records for approximately 45,000 titles, which includes inventory currently in stock and available for sale, as well as an archive of titles previously stocked.”

The fields that Printed Matter uses for their catalog entries are similar to MARC records and RDA standards. These fields include: publisher, city (of publication), year, pages, dimensions, cover, binding, process, color and stock id. Specifically, these would translate to fields including 245, 250, 264, 300, 336, 337, 338, 400 and 500. The entries also include short descriptions of the work. Artists’ books provide many challenges for catalogers and Printed Matter serves as a liaison for many libraries and librarians. Since the non-profits inception in 1976, this organization is “the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books.”


Joey Vincennie, INFO 653-02

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Posted in Books, Cataloging, Libraries, Uncategorized

Libro de los Epítomes Rediscovered

Guy Lazure from the University of Windsor in Ontario made the connection to Colón. The Institute reached out to The Metropolitan Museum of Art who then contacted Wilson-Lee and his colleague José María Pérez Fernández to verify its authenticity. The two are planning to publish an account of the contents with plans to eventually digitize the manuscript in collaboration with the Arnamagnæan Institute.

Hernando Colón’s Libro de los Epítomes manuscript has been making headlines after being discovered after hundreds of years. The 16th century book “hasn’t been seen for at least 400, if not close to 500 years, and so the assumption had to be that it was lost,” Colón biographer Edward Wilson-Lee said. It has seemingly been at the University of Copenhagen Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection in Copenhagen in the collection of Árni Magnússon, an Icelandic scholar who donated his library in 1730. Whether the book was misprocessed, uncatalogued, missing, lost, or simply unused remains unclear.

The cultural value of the book, which is over a foot thick and more than 2,000 pages long, is immense. It summarized books collected by Hernando Colón, Christopher Columbus’s son. He aimed to create the largest library in the world. Although he had upward of 15,000 books, only a quarter remain in the Seville . The manuscript creates a detailed glimpse into what those who could afford books were reading and collecting as well as summaries of books that may no longer exist at all. Colón collected ephemeral items such as pamphlets in addition to classic texts. The manuscript also provided an attempt to classify these items in a structured system.

This is an important look into knowledge organization and library building of his time. It also provides a look into early printing. This discovery serves as an crucial reminder of the importance of processing, cataloging, and preservation of rare books and special collections items.

Cassia Kisshauer (INFO 653-01)

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Posted in Archives, Cataloging, Libraries, Museums

“The Dark Side of the Dewey Decimal System”

Cassia Kisshauer (653-01)

Back in January the podcast “The Kitchen Sisters Present…” discussed The Dark Side of the Dewey Decimal System. The episode was in collaboration with the podcast Library Bytegeist and co-hosted by Molly Schwartz of METRO. The podcast provides historical context with brief biography of Dewey and his classification system. In the episode Schwartz visited Bard High School Early College to see how students “rebelled against” the Dewey Decimal System. The podcast specifically emphasizes the systems’ problems related to race, gender, and sexuality and the intersections of those. There was also acknowledgement that the hierarchical structure does not always match ways of approaching knowledge in the 21st century.

At BHSEC, students noticed there were few books about Black history or women’s history in the history section (900s). Instead they were considered social sciences. A student expressed concerns, “Why is that a political book about white people in America automatically goes to history but a political book about Black people or immigrants in America or women would be categorized in the 300s? If you’re in history you’re only going to find the stories of white men based on the DDC.”

One student discussed difficulties with categorizing LGBTQ fiction. By creating a new section for LGBTQ books, a person looking for a new read in the fiction section may only find heteronormative books. One work around the library found was adding rainbow stickers to LGBTQ books within the fiction section to help those seeking queer stories in the fiction section without separating them

Perhaps what interested me most about the podcast, however, was the discussion I saw outside the library world. It has popped up on my Twitter feed from friends working in food service, churches, universities, and activism. While few were shocked to learn a man at the turn of the century abused his power in sexist, anti-Semitic, and racist ways, several expressed their surprise that institutions [libraries] they considered open, progressive, and welcoming were using the system.
This forces us to consider the question… why use it?
One defense provided in the podcast came from a librarian who emphasized, “Classification systems aren’t like a mandate from on high, [they’re] a craft. It gives you these tools and you can work within them. As a librarian it’s your job to be able to adjust it. Every classification system can be tailor made to fit your own library and your own community.”

A fun side note from the podcast: I loved hearing about professor and cataloger Greg Cotton’s road trip game with his kids- they called out three digits from passing license plates, and he would tell them what it meant according to DDC!

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The Barack Obama Presidential Library Goes Digital

“The First Digital Archive for the First Digital President”

Beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, 13 presidents have established presidential libraries to preserve and provide access to the historical records and materials of the Presidents. The libraries are administered by the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), but built by the Presidents themselves. Because of this, the location of the library is up to them. The Barack Obama Presidential Library is the 14th presidential library, and the first digital one.

President Barack Obama at his first Twitter Town Hall at the White House in July 2011. Image Source: here

It didn’t always appear it would be this way. Plans for the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago carried with it the assumption that it would be just that. Instead, the project developed into what now will be the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The center will include a presidential museum, but no research library will be at the site. Instead, the actual paper records will be housed in an offsite NARA facility. All of the some 30 million pages of unclassified paper records from the Obama administration will be digitized and available here.

The news of the first digital presidential library was met with mixed reaction. To many, it is a move in the spirit of democracy, with increased accessibility at its core. Others, however, worry that the privatization of the Obama Center may undermine, “the ideal of nonpartisan public history.” Moreover, some fear the move will result in a “hard-to-navigate data dump”.

One thing that’s for sure, is that a vast majority of Obama’s presidential record is already digital. More than a long paper trail of documents, Obama left behind a digital  trove of millions of emails, tweets, Snapchat and Instagram posts, and so much more. In fact, the Obama Foundation says, “95 percent of the Obama Presidential Records were created digitally and have no paper equivalents.” It appears the move to a digital library might have written itself.

Tina Chesterman (INFO 653-01)

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Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Libraries, Open Access, Preservation

Coding Culture and Consequences

This new book entitled Coders: The making of a new tribe and the remaking of the world by Clive Thomson is a call to pay attention to the influence of coders.  It is a reflection on how the niche culture of coding has come to shape our cultural landscape. This article by Smithsonian magazine gives us a peak into the book.

What makes a good coder?


Coders book cover

“The people who succeed at coding are the ones who can handle that epic, nonstop, daily frustration. The upside is that when they finally do get things working, the blast of pleasure and joy is unlike anything else they experience in life.”


“Coding is, in a way, a very artistic enterprise. You’re making things, machines, out of words, so it’s got craft—anyone who likes building things, or doing crafts, would find the same pleasures in coding.”

Where’d the women go?

60s & 70s

“For a bunch of reasons. [Early on,] you saw tons of women in coding because [hiring] was based purely on aptitude and merit, being good at logic, and good at reasoning. But, beginning of late 1960s and early ’70s, coding began developing the idea [a coder] ought to be something that is more like a grumpy introverted man…. Even when you had female coders on staff, when you’re crashing on a big project, and everyone’s working full time, the women have to go home. There were literally company rules saying that women can’t be on premises after eight o’clock at night, and laws in some states saying if they’re pregnant they had to leave their job.”


“Then in the mid-1980s, something happened. All those kids like me [mostly male] who grew up programming those first computers started arriving on campus. That created a dichotomy in the classroom. In that first year of class, it felt like a bunch of cocky boys who knew how to code already and a bunch of neophytes of men and primarily women who hadn’t done it before. The professors start teaching for the hacker kids. And so, all the women and the men who hadn’t coded before start dropping out.”

Consequences of code

“They were naive, for a bunch of reasons. One is that they were mostly younger white guys who’d had little personal experience of the sorts of harassment that women or people of color routinely face online. So for them, creating a tool that makes it easier for people to post things online, to talk to each other online—what could go wrong with that?”

“The financial models for all these services were “make it free, grow quickly, get millions of users, and then sell ads.” That’s a great way to grow quickly, but it also means they put in place algorithms to sift through the posts and find the “hot” ones to promote. That, in turn, meant they wound up mostly boosting the posts that triggered hot-button emotions—things that triggered partisan outrage, or anger, or hilarity. Any system that’s sifting through billions of posts a day looking for the fast-rising ones is, no surprise, going to ignore dull-and-measured posts and settle on extreme ones.

And of course, that makes those systems easy to game.”


– Elizabeth Phyle INFO 653-01

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Posted in Books, Knowledge Structures, Uncategorized

Programmed Art at the Whitney Museum

Some may not classify a game that’s been modified by an artist to be considered art, but at the Whitney Museum’s Programmed: Rules, Codes and Choreographies in Art, 1965-2018, it is. This exhibit caught my attention when I visited the Whitney recently to see their Andy Warhol exhibit. Programmed offered visitors an alternative look at how digitally rendered art can be categorized.

The content in this exhibit celebrates art through programmable codes (or instructions) and how these codes can be used to manipulate the artists’ medium (computerized program or image sequence). All of the pieces in this exhibit were created through various types of computer programs, which were used to establish the structure and color of the piece. They are grouped in one of two categories: “Rule, Instruction, Algorithm”, which focuses on the rule-based conceptual art practices prior to digital art technologies and “Signal, Sequence, Resolution”, which focuses on the coding and manipulation of the moving image. Walking through the exhibit it was hard for me to differentiate between these two groups since nearly every piece has some sort of tech-based manipulation applied to it.

I had issues navigating this exhibit in the beginning because there was so much going on. It was overwhelming at first because there was music playing from the main installation, Nam June Paik’s Fin de Siecle II  and other installations around it. I approached a gallery attendant to get some pointers, and it was at that point that she mentioned the art exhibited in Programmed, although collected by the museum over numerous decades, was not fully curated and categorized until about 5 years ago. I found that hard to believe since the Whitney collects so many types of art and has the repertoire to archive their digitized content along with their standard art pieces (paintings, drawings, sculptures).

As our material culture adjusts to changes to technologies, artists have then created pieces that are beyond the traditional facets of medium. We know a painting can be categorized as such because of the media used – cotton canvas with acrylic, for example. But what happens when an intangible media is used, such as HTML, which is a system that helps put codes, bits, and bytes together to manifest words, colors, and images? How do archivists categorize these pieces of art? This computational art has blurred the line between fine art and a modern style of art indicative of the current systems we have available.

For more information on this exhibit, click here

Tiffany Chan, 653-02

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Crowdsourcing Classification at the Museum of Jurassic Technology


I’ve long had a fascination with the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. The museum is a famous idiosyncrasy, defying logical organization and traditional museum paradigms. As a self-described “cabinet of curiosities,” the museum fiercely challenges categorization. It is steeped in esotericism, yet strongly encourages accessibility. Its website defines it as such:

Like a coat of two colors, the Museum serves dual functions. On the one hand the Museum provides the academic community with a specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities. On the other hand the Museum serves the general public by providing the visitor a hands-on experience of “life in the Jurassic.”

The museum is packed full with objects and is a playground for the easily distracted, like myself.

One of their exhibitions, “Garden of Eden on Wheels,” combines collections taken from trailer parks in the Los Angeles area, while another exhibit documents the works of Hagop Sandaldjion, a microminature artist. The museum also includes a reading room where visitors can browse and even borrow books.

An ethos of subjective truth pervades the MJT; perception is paramount and visitors are “forced to construct their own narratives.” What sort of classification does a museum so resistant to institutional imposition utilize? How do we make sense of all of these disparate objects and artifacts? How would you even begin to make a finding aid? In the museum’s original form—in the 17th century, ostensibly founded by Charles Wilson Peale—its guiding principle was one of philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, which championed the imagination above the modern perception of “reality.” None of the museum’s exhibitions are digitized, imbuing the museum with an even greater elusiveness.

The museum primarily operates with the help of library volunteers it’s maze-like layout challenges the traditionally arranged interactions between visitor and objects. Aside from specifically curated exhibits, the classification of permanent collections is left to the visitors. There are the traditional descriptive elements, such as placards, that give the objects in the museum context, but there are no docents and the texts themselves are painfully opaque. It is up to the visitors themselves to create coherence: note cards are available for crowdsourced classification.

Hana Van der Steur is the archivist of the museum and explained that very little planning goes into the museums curation, due to the meekness of the budget. There is never a central idea or scheme that go into the museums classification. What are the benefits of this? What are the drawbacks?




by Sarah Goldfarb, LIS 653-01

Posted in Archives, Classification, Library, Museums, Uncategorized

Classification of Books about Books

On April 5th, I had the honor to take a tour with the Pratt Chapter of the American Library Association to the Grolier Club. Founded in the 19th century and moved to the current location on 60th St at Upper East Side in 1917, the Grolier Club is a society for bibliophiles. The Club’s Library is currently headed by Pratt Alumna Meghan Constantinou, who manages over 100,000 volumes on the history of the book. Subjects range from bibliographies, histories of printing and graphs processes, type specimens to fine and historic examples of printing, binding, and illustration (grolierclub.org).

Certainly for library science students like those of us in the tour group, how to organize, catalog, and classify these books was the key question. Constatinou, after leading us into the library, took out a framed print that includes a little map of the library’s layout and a primary index of the classification system. This was created by Henry Watson Kent, one of Grolier’s head librarian at the beginning of 20th century and later appointed as librarian at the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kent was a student of Melvil Dewey at Columbia University. Therefore, after learning the freshly invented Dewey Decimals and probably hearing the process of how Dewey conceptualized the entire scheme, Kent customized the system for the Grolier Club to accommodate the holdings in the library.


Classification Chart at the Grolier Club

We can find some similarities between Grolier’s chart and the Dewey Classes. For instance, the 70-89 classes include Fine Arts and Literature, which align with the 700 and 800 classes in Dewey. Grolier’s classes from 00 to 19 seem to have been extracted from various Dewey subdivisions. In Dewey, for example, 014 classifies items “of anonymous & pseudonymous works” and 016 “of works on specific subjects.” While on the Grolier chart, both 14 and 16 are used to tag “Rare and curious books, with examples; History of special books.” Additionally, 018 and 019 remain unassigned in Dewey till today while the Kent assigned 18 and 19 specifically for “Book Clubs; The Grolier Club.” Interestingly in the current Dewey, 367 is named “General Clubs,” which is probably where the same books might belong, if the library that houses them follows standard Dewey.

While the similarities are listed above, a major difference is probably how Kent assigned typography, decoration, and printing, which are grouped into 30 to 39 on the Grolier chart. This is certainly very effective since the Grolier Library has a large amount of holdings on these subjects and they all relate to the design, craft, and production of the books. If one uses the current Dewey, the books will probably be scattered in the following sections:

094 Printed books; 686 Printing and related activities (*which is where books on typography usually goes to); 729 Design & decoration; 740 Graphic arts and decorative arts; 760 Printmaking & prints; 761 Relief processes (Block printing); 765 Metal engraving

It is indeed interesting to learn that the Dewey Decimal System, even in its early stage, had been customized and librarians like Kent used their creativity and systematic thinking to outline unique systems that still benefit us today.

— Evian Yiyun Pan, INFO 653-02

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by Hugh McLeod

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