Unknown Speaker 00:01
All right. Welcome and thank you for joining us. My name is Ryan King and I am the Open Access Program Manager at the Smithsonian and serving as the moderator for today's talk, curating the digital 3d digitization and mapping. It is my pleasure to introduce my colleagues and panelist, Keith Wilson here is the curator of ancient Chinese art at the Smithsonian for your Santa Clara National Museum of Asian art. Emma Stein is Assistant Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Freer Sackler. Liz Chang, is web team lead at the Freer Sackler. And Farukh Rizzo is database administrator at Smithsonian central it the slides and links are available [email protected] slash MC n 19.
Unknown Speaker 00:58
So while this talk, we will be primarily focusing today on the role of curators, and the development of websites and gallery Digital Futures. We will be discussing working across departments across institutional units, and with external partners and third parties, and hopefully answering the questions. How can we support each other, be nimble, communicate effectively, Keith and Emma will present case studies on digital projects that they've curated. And we will then deep dive into how we came about these projects, how we work, followed by discussion prompts, and then open it up to the audience for q&a. And with that, I'd like to turn the mic over to Keith.
Unknown Speaker 01:37
Great, thank you. So I'm going to be talking about two different curatorial driven iterative projects. One is an online collection catalog that features a group of 1000 objects. The second is a cluster of applications that were inspired by a single object and one 3d data set. So the second case studies emerge from a 3d scanning project. These case studies I'm going to be talking about had very distinct goals, different teams, and divergent workflows. This afternoon, I'm going to focus less on the specific content and more on the organization of work and the structure of the product. Both of them have been viewed internally as successful projects, and what metrics show that they are being widely used internationally. So I, we're talking about things that we're proud of luckily. Sure, is this better? Okay, good. Sorry. Yeah, this room is a little big. Okay, so let's start with the collection based project first.
Unknown Speaker 03:03
Wait. There we go. I can write. I'd like to start with some of the concepts. These were kind of brainstorm the results of brainstorming on the curatorial side, and then a series of conversations with Liz, our database manager and other members of the web team, as well as our collection database manager. This project launched in 2014, and kind of came on the heels of the wind down of the Getty Oski projects. And in many ways, it was a kind of reaction to those OSCE projects. We had been one of the OSCE catalog grant recipients for a digital catalog that featured a collection of Japanese illustrated books that the museum had recently acquired. That collection included 900 titles and 2200 illustrated volumes. It used the ASCII toolkit and was very much embedded in that whole Getty initiated project. For jades, we wanted something quite different. In fact, we wanted something that was more homegrown, something that we were developing cheaply ourselves that was not reliant on external expertise or resources. It was something that we did not want to have as a kind of siloed digital resource, like many of the OSCE projects were at least our in our experience, but one that was drawing directly from a series of existing databases and huge research and archival records that the museum possessed. So really, the focus for this cataloging project was more on earmarking and linking rock Kurds and standardizing spellings to allow searchability. And in a broader framework, we wanted to also make full access to all of our records, that document basically a century of scholarship on this subject, which was important because there have been, you know, kind of ginormous, scholarly changes in the understanding of these objects over the 20 throughout the 20th century. And our records reveal changing scholarly assessments of these materials. So we wanted to make all of that available to encourage more history of graphic historical graphic research. In this rapidly evolving field, we also wanted to provide as fully as possible provenance histories, and all of our acquisition records, including purchase documents. So this was not a kind of circumscribed digital version of a print publication, but a massive amount of data that encourages users to make meaning through link data, allowing them to pursue their own questions, not just follow the ones that we thought they would be interested in. So things that it can be useful for our research in the artifact, purpose, subject, culture or date, material or manufacture previous owners and purchase transactions. There, as illustrated by this kind of flow chart, on the left hand side are those elements that we wanted to include that are very much object driven. So we envisioned, as I said, about 1000 object entries, spanning the Neolithic through the third century of the Common Era, focusing chiefly on jades, we wanted to expose art history, as well as conservation and scientific research that had been conducted on the objects, as well as all of the archival records, chiefly the purchase records that we have for objects in the free or collection that were bought, in large part in the first half of the 20th century. On the right hand side of this slide, you see some of the research resources that we wanted to make available, those are kind of more standard for online publications now. And the more vexing piece, maybe something we can come back to later is the desirability of linking our collection with like objects and other collections. As archaeological material largely excavated, corporate corpuses, were divided among a number of museums. So these heirloom objects are very difficult to put back together in terms of a kind of discovery context. And we had hoped that the catalog would facilitate more of that. And it's been only marginally successful in that we can come back to the reasons why.
Unknown Speaker 08:08
There are six primary content units on the catalog, and you can see them here. So it's objects places, people, essays, videos, and research resources. For us. Currently, the places are limited to just archeology and mapping of excavations throughout the 20th century. And for now, the people unit is just past owners, we had hoped that this will develop into a more kind of robust biographical resource. As illustrated in this subdivided and reconnected J disc. The team is really made up of three different units there was the curatorial unit, and you can see our responsibilities there. The image and collection database managers as well as the web group and what we can return to the issue of how the Jade's team worked in the context of other digital projects, maybe during the discussion portion. Whoops. It's very sensitive. There. And we may also want to return to the architecture of the site with Farukh during the discussion, but suffice it to say, this kind of skeletal outline of the structure the catalog suggests that the user is interacting with a finished product that is drawing from a number of internal existing Smithsonian databases and resource platforms, including our collection database, we use TMS as well as our digital assets. management system. And we have an internal web servicing unit called Eden, which we're using for indexing and searching.
Unknown Speaker 10:16
A little bit of a status report of the 1000 objects that we envision, including on the catalog, we have over 600 entries complete. So we're kind of on track for where we thought we would be. And the completion date for the project is 2021. It was seen from the very beginning as being iterative. So I think we're, we're pleased with where we are. For something completely different, I thought it might be useful to talk about a 3d project that was really a number of applications that grew out of a single 3d scanning set that we initiated a number of years ago. And this is a project that just kind of keeps on giving. It had a very different kind of history, a very different implementation team. And so I thought it might be an interesting comparison or contrast to the online catalog. The focus of this project was the cosmic Buddha, one single object, not 1000. The subject here is a sixth century, nearly life size Buddhist sculpture. And because it's missing its head and hands. Anecdotally, I would always see visitors just kind of walked by it, it's a fragment in the gallery, it's great limestone, it's not complete. It was not getting the kind of attention that I felt it deserved. So for me, recognizing this as one of the most important sixth century Buddhist sculptures in the world, I wanted to increase the attention that it received in the gallery, and then also through other means digital, presumably, on the web, preferably. And so this was really the genesis from my interest in trying to figure out what kind of tool would make it more. Having received more scholarly attention and more popular attention, as well, as the result of the 3d scan, there have been a series of applications for 3d data in digital space, not in a gallery space, as well as in mixed spaces. And this was done chiefly with the collaboration of the Smithsonian's digitization program office, we have a separate unit within this Smithsonian that's responsible for all things digital, institutionally speaking, and that is where the 3d unit is currently housed. Through the projects and the applications chiefly, we also interacted with a number of outside vendors that had its own kind of dynamic. For the on site. I mean, the online viewer and reader, which I'll introduce in a second, we worked with Autodesk. For a accessibility application, we worked with touch graphics, and for a kind of mixed use more gaming environment for the 3d data, we worked with Magic Leap. We're working currently with Magic Leap. And the initial scans were done in 2011 as part of a gallery installation initiative. At that point, we had absolutely no idea what we were going to do with the digital data. We just captured it and there was an opportunity we thought with you use it someday some way. So we did high resolution scans of this sculpture in the empty gallery as you can see here. Within a year or so negotiations with Autodesk led to the creation of the Smithsonian's 3d viewing platform that was developed in association with Autodesk and the cosmic Buddha was one of the so called charter collection objects in the Smithsonian that were on the 3d site when it launched in 2013. What was really appealing for me was the viewer allows you to of course manipulate the 3d data. And in large part This makes researching the sculpture a lot easier for outside researchers anywhere in the world. The toolbar is pretty robust and it allows you to do things like through playing with the surface occlusion see the very shallow relief that covers this sculpture in much clearer detail. We also developed a kind of flat mapping application that allows you to take those 3d content units and spread them flat, almost like a virtual rubbing.
Unknown Speaker 15:12
The reader allows you to annotate and color the different units. And it's also possible to develop deeper annotations, through tours, which are almost like articles on the site. So not only is it facilitating, I think, more focused research on the object by specialists. But with the annotation tools, it's the website allows for a much more robust kind of teaching tool. Because we were worried that maybe not everybody was aware of the 3d resource, we decided to have a gallery installation with the sculpture and kiosks that we're running the 3d website, in kind of a lab space, it's something that we never would do in the Freer Gallery if you've been to the Freya, it's it's kind of beautiful bows are building early 20th century. We typically don't do digital in the free or galleries but with the free or being closed at this time, we were able to move the sculpture over and create a very different kind of lab space installation that I think expose the 3d resource to to new audiences. It also allowed us to raise questions about the way that 3d objects have traditionally been studied in China. And the comparison with engravings was a really kind of powerful comparison. Maybe because of the success with annotation of the sculpture through the website, when we were considering an application to the Smithsonian's accessibility office for developing a kind of in gallery application for the blind and the visitors with low low vision, we proposed doing an installation with a 3d printer using the 3d scan data. And that's what we're developing currently, we're we should be finishing this by the end of the year. So it's touch activated 3d learning based on the sculpture. And then we also did, um, touch activated details from some of the narrative scenes. And that's what you're seeing in this kind of schematic rendering. And at about the same time, last year 2018, we were approached by Magic Leap, with an interest in developing some kind of a kind of mixed reality application that would use the cosmic Buddha 3d data to the idea here is to allow that data to be used in a more like gaming environment that allows for long distance interactive experiences, and kind of guided interpretation and storytelling of the 3d model that can be done through groups that are in in various locations, not all in a particular classroom. This too, is in kind of a pilot phase. So I can't give you a lot of information about it. But just to give you a couple of screen grabs of what's possible, is I was able to identify scenes that I thought were most interesting, most important and to identify the figures. And so I as the instructor, in a classroom kind of virtual classroom environment, can tell the various stories that are illustrated on the surface of the sculpture everyone else with mixed reality headsets on anywhere in the country can be watching this and hearing me talk about it, which kind of blows my mind. But as I say, I've had very limited experience with the application so far. So stay tuned with that one. I think the 3d piece with the cosmic boot applications for me the takeaway was that if you have a really robust and important set of 3d scanning data, and you keep your eyes open, you will come across all sorts of applications that you can take advantage of to bring new audiences to that 3d data. Maybe I'll stop there and turn it over to Mr.
Unknown Speaker 19:39
Great, thank you. Thanks, Ryan, for inviting me to be part of this panel. And before I start, just a big thanks to Liz Chang and her team for actually building the website that I'm about to show you. We're going to talk a little bit more about workflow and the ways that our teams work together. You In the panel discussion afterwards so for now, I'm just going to give you a brief overview of the website. So the main website for the Freer and Sackler has pages that are devoted to each world area covered by our collections. Historically, these have been more like a taste or a preview of the area than a comprehensive catalog. As part of a curatorial fellowship for Southeast Asian art I came on a couple of years ago, and the web team and I were given the opportunity to develop out the Southeast Asia area we area website and make it much more robust. Southeast Asia itself encompasses the nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. It's a large area. And now our southeast Asia collections area page, which you see here serves as a portal into all objects, projects and resources related to that region, at our museum. The site went live last September, after about a year of development. And you can access it from just about anywhere on the Freer Sackler website through a collections dropped down that's at the top of the screen. So you can see that circled in the slide. And we developed two major features for the website and a multitude of other resources. Since we're in Art Museum, first the objects. Here, we sorted our southeast Asia objects by material. This is especially useful for our collection, because there are about 75 objects made of materials such as stone, bronze, gold, and wood. But we have more than 800 ceramics. So before the online collection, mixed all of those together, and it also included our study collection, which is even larger. And what this meant was that the major works in the collection for Southeast Asia got completely lost. Now the filtered objects search separates them into categories that are organized and easy to browse. The second major feature is the places a map. So over the course of about the last decade, I disappear from time to time to south or southeast Asia. And while I'm traveling, I spend most of my time doing active fieldwork. So what I do is I go out to sacred sites, and I document them, I take lots of photographs. And I also note the GPS coordinates so that I can map them later. Many of the places I've visited have really never been documented before. And what excites me the most is looking at the interaction between the sacred architecture and the natural landscape around it. So over this decade, I amassed a huge database of places. But it was just on my computer and I would use it for research talks and selective publications. But working with the web team at at the Freer Sackler gave me the opportunity to make all of that field research useful public and accessible to a broader public. So this is an interactive map that brings together objects in the Freer and Sackler collections with the types of landscapes and environments that they came from. Even from a zoomed out view, you can see that there are literally hundreds of sacred sites in the region. And these points only represent the ones that I've been to. So there are many, many, many more. Each point is color coded to represent a different type of place. Yellow is a shrine or temple. Green is a city, blue is a regional area. And purple is a place that's associated with Freer and Sackler objects.
Unknown Speaker 24:10
So you can filter what you see by using the drop down menus that are below the map. And you can filter by the type of site or by country and we also made a selection of featured sites to draw your attention to places of special interest that have a lot more robust information. On the see more pages, you'll see a little clickable link for Seymour in each of the pop up windows. It uses Google Maps as its base and it works similarly. So you can just zoom way in and explore or you can select a site from a drop down. Selecting a point brings up a pop up window with an overview of the site and an image and then when you click on See more, you can delve into reading more content and viewing full size and images that really bring you right into the place, I definitely invite you to explore, I'm just showing you a taste. On the main page. The options also direct you to further resources, which include podcasts and videos of lectures, and performances, online publications recommended readings and information about our conservators work both at the Smithsonian and at museums in the region. The other options on the main page give you access to listings of past, present and future Southeast Asia related exhibitions and events, and of course, an opportunity to support the museum. A few months after launching the site we did around of user testing, that I'd be happy to talk more about afterwards. And the basic way that we did it was in person and on an individual basis. So I gave a series of prompts asking our tester to do tasks or find things on the site. One member of our web team observed and took diligent notes, and our visitor research specialist asked some follow up questions. Over the next several weeks, we organized all of our findings, and started to implement changes to help clear up sticky points or places that were less intuitive. Currently, our museum is undergoing a process of rebranding, changing colors and design formats. So you'll see when you visit the site, that it already looks slightly different than what I showed you today. This is part of the beauty of websites, though they're dynamic. And though they have their challenges, they can continue to evolve.
Unknown Speaker 26:45
Thanks. So both of these, or all three of these case studies were curatorial, the driven in house that the Freer and Sackler but route, as part of the support, overall support, it structure at the Smithsonian, is going to go through an overview kind of how that different information travels in this flowchart both from our website, but also how it powers that dams, collections and other items.
Unknown Speaker 27:21
Thank you, Ryan, thank you leads. And thank you, Emma, and Keith, glad to be part of the team. I'm a DBA. at the Smithsonian Museum, I maintain a MySQL cluster, which basically has over 100 plus databases, a lot of websites, that website, we host that databases. And as a DBA. My main basically responsibility is to backup maintain databases, make sure the database is up 24/7, as well as performance tuning, etc. But I came across this project, they, they asked me for a couple of data extracts. So I got involved with this project, basically, start getting a role and responsibility of a ETL person to extract data from the data source, which is a TMS, and creating a sort of summary database, aggregated database tables, to bring that data into MySQL, so that this data can be used by this web application and other web application. The data that I'm bringing in is collection of people, objects and exhibition data. So one of my main responsibility is to watch the performance of the databases to make sure to create what is called materialized view, or table in instead of creating a view for those who are familiar with the databases, to tune the performance with bring the data into a table, index it properly to make sure that when you searching many, a table that has over the 1020 median, you can get the data back within fraction of second. So really that is very removed from what Keith and Emma and other people are doing in my board. I just focus on the data performance tuning and basically cleansing the data and making this data mart but I call it data mark because I bring the data from the source. I do the data extraction manipulation, bring them into this stage area database that get the data available. All this data gets refreshed daily or On Demand. That data gets refreshed and it's ready for anybody who wants to write the API to get the extract the data or if even if they want directly tap to that data, and use it in the website.
Unknown Speaker 30:19
Awesome. So, as I mentioned, these were all curatorial driven projects. And I know, you mentioned a little bit already briefly, about the beginning of the project for the Southeast Asian portal, but I just wanted you to speak a little bit about the genesis of this site and how it kind of went from idea to to be moving on into establishing how it would play out and be implemented for your Sackler.
Unknown Speaker 30:55
Great, thanks. So it was, it was sort of assigned to me when I started to make a website for Southeast Asia. But what that was, and what it included, beyond our collection, was really not defined at all. So that was, that was a huge opportunity. And I very much wanted it to live in a place that would be easy to find on our website, because some of our online scholarly publications get easily buried and or not, or not so visible. So putting it somewhere where it would link directly to any of the other world areas and would be sort of an intuitive place to find was very important. When we first started discussing it, I brought it to listen, Melda Melda really built the web and did a huge amount of work on this on this site. And I brought it in the form of a PowerPoint using using our kind of basic layout for for the website for for the main website and modeling it off of that. So do you want to say a word about them?
Unknown Speaker 32:19
I guess it was, that was really helpful. So that was an interesting contrast with keys project. Heaps was one of the first online catalogs that we did really in house and probably one of the first times we worked very closely with curatorial. So that was very interesting, where when we asked Keith, like what is in this catalog? What are you expecting? What kind of data are you looking at? You know, he brought he brought like a great big printout of like object records that we had to look through and sort through and figure out like, what is additional to like, entrepreneurs that we already have online? And how do we get that information into our database, whereas with Emma, you kind of had this model where we had built like an online catalog before and our site was really had a template. And so you'd brought this PowerPoint that had everything was almost like a wireframe, which is really, really helpful for us. And it was great to see curatorial like it was not something we expected, where you actually thought through things in a web manner. I thought that was really great. And so maybe that's like an interesting evolution between the two of you. And I don't know, Keith, if you want to talk a little bit about that.
Unknown Speaker 33:31
Yeah. We spent one entire summer I have a coordinate Oh, Kellyanne is here with us, too. But curatorial, the digital department and our database managers met, usually three days a week, one entire summer trying to map all this, you know, starting with, as Liz said, the things that we wanted to push out, and just figuring out how much of that we could push out where it would be coming from what we needed to concentrate on in terms of our curatorial work, the digital work, the database work, and all of us really were forced to learn a little bit more about each other's jobs and responsibilities, the the pros and the cons. And I think for me, that was maybe one of the richest professional experiences I've had in my museum career. Because I think that permitted a kind of organic roots up kind of true collaboration. It wasn't like a traditional print publication where the curatorial staff is responsible for creating content that then is handed over to somebody else to deal with. This was really an organic approach. And I think that's one reason why it might have been successful.
Unknown Speaker 34:59
To feel like that really paved the way for more and more like collaborate like true collaborations between our teams to which we've, I feel like we've always kind of moved in separate circles. And I think learning to speak each other's language a little bit more and be more comfortable. Like, since we don't have a specific, like, digital interpretation team for us to actually say, like, hey, you know, maybe we should present this this way? Or maybe we should, you know, do this as this kind of format. I think that's really cool.
Unknown Speaker 35:32
Or no, oh, no, you can't do that.
Unknown Speaker 35:38
And, Emma, this was your first digital project at the museum. Were there any surprises or things that came up? And as Keith mentioned, is different from working on, say, a print publication or academic paper? And so what were some of the aha moments along the way for you?
Unknown Speaker 35:56
Yeah, thanks. Certainly, in writing and doing a print publication, like an article or a book, you have, you have an endpoint, you have a kind of defined number of pages or words that you're expected to reach or trying to reach, or trying to cut down to more likely. But with an end, you can watch it built in a sort of linear fashion, the pages stack up. But working on a website, there was a kind of magic to it. And then incomprehensible aspect. Because it's it's infinite, there's an it's a web, it's not linear there, there are infinite things that can be linked together infinite number of possibilities of what can be clickable, and what can open up to another page. So I found that there was there was this moment where I was sort of writing and picking pictures and trying to think, in terms of the design and the spatial layout. But eventually, in a way, it was more like that moment in a print publication where you sort of hand everything over, because at a certain point, Liz did it. And then there was on the on the screen, and I still have no idea exactly how that happened.
Unknown Speaker 37:25
And really, for both you and Keith, as a curator, how can digital teams best prepare and support you on the beginning of these digital initiatives?
Unknown Speaker 37:44
I'm thinking of the, the initial stages, after the this content based discussions, when we first started to imagine both the appearance and the functionality. This created some wireframes, which, you know, wireframes are sort of helpful, but kind of not because there's there's no clear sense from a wireframe, how it's actually going to function. And that the interconnectedness of things that Emma was talking about something that you have to imagine. And because this was really a kind of pilot project for us. And it was being conceived, as we were working on a number of other templated aspects of our website, a lot of the function that we had in mind didn't exist yet, even on the website. So I think, for me, having the web team kind of close our eyes and describe to me how it would function was was an important step.
Unknown Speaker 39:00
If I can add, I think there was that, that process of learning how to speak each other's language is really important. Because I've found I could have something in my head, I could have sort of a pathway in my head and I didn't know how to communicate that. I didn't know how to describe it in such a way that it could be realized. And there were moments when in talking with with Liz and Melda we found we were we were kind of talking we were talking about the same thing, but we were literally using different words for it. And and eventually just just slowing down and explaining to each other what what we meant. And finding finding alternate ways of describing it was really helpful and it took some patience. and also learning how to explain to each other what was possible and what wasn't possible, was also very important, and not straightforward.
Unknown Speaker 40:14
One person who's missing from the table is our database manager or collection database manager. Because we were building so much on the collection database on TMS, which is not necessarily meant to be a publication tool, figuring out what adaptations we could make to object records, that would make it a more viable source for the content that we want. And on the catalog, we did have to make a number of structural changes and reuse some of the fields in our previous use of the collection database. So I think for me, it was that kind of organic sense that across the museum, there were a number of departments that were kind of pulling in the same direction in a way that I didn't often experience.
Unknown Speaker 41:14
So it's communication happening both among the curators, researchers, the internal web team, but also I wanted to rope in Farooq on the talk of working with various because you don't work at a specific museum, you are somewhat removed from what's happening on the front. And even more so that and getting back to almost playing the phone game, I'm having to do multiple iterations of translating what we're asking and trying to make different sites and products do. So how is that working with the various Smithsonian units in your role? And how does that kind of play out in those conversations, and different things that our teams can help ask or provide to make your job easier to?
Unknown Speaker 41:59
Well, as a DBA, as I said, my main responsibility is maintaining making sure the database is up and running 724, seven, and the backups are there. But then at the same time, you have to constantly watch these databases, because if one website, you'll have a developer that has a bad query a statement, and basically will hog all the resources of the CPU, memory, everything. So constantly, I have to wash the stare, you know, analyze these queries, and constantly go back to the owner to the developer and ask them and sometimes be harsh with them to say, I'm gonna take your site down if the squid is not fixed, for example, but we have a heat system in place. And also, I have a lot of time I have open communication with a lot of, you know, owner of the website, they either directly will call me send me email, or you have a heat system that creates a ticket. And they say, okay, like, in case of this, this project, my main contact person was Melda, Washington that she will basically come to me and say, Okay, we need to write this query a statement, this is a query. What do you think about that? So I have to go and read it and just go back, provide the feedback, sometimes we have to change it. Sometimes I would say, you know, don't create the view, we put the table, we push the data. And, yeah, it's, it's really nice to be at the same time that you are a bae. And then at the same time, it's very fulfilling. And when you see the website is up and running, and the query goes against the table that has, you know, 100 million records, and it's coming back winning fraction of second. And you love that. That is that is what I do. And basically, with a lot of, as I said, we have 100 plus databases on the website, and there are days that it will come hectic, because you're looking at a lot of query that they running at the same time. And basically, it's bringing database to his knee and you have to constantly be working with the developer. Yes.
Unknown Speaker 44:18
And I think Milan was worked with, I think, both of you and sitting down at a point in time with kind of a mapping diagram showing kind of how the TMS fields and our collections management systems are mapped out to different database tables, table cells and trying to get everything in terms of how you want the collections filtered and sorted and searched and, and working with Farouk on that but I did want to as kind of a follow up to that mentioned the life happens but so do software updates and there was a migration to a new version of TMS mid project. How was that
Unknown Speaker 44:53
for you? Oh, that was very interesting because you are in the middle. As I said, I was involved with writing this ETL extract tool that basically gets the data from TMS, massage, Atkins validated and KDA, basically aggregated summary tables, which is ready to be tapped by every website. And then all of a sudden, in the middle of that, either you find out or, or you get the email to say, Oh, by this, by the way, the source is changed. Now in a sort of, you know, the data that we have, we will get extracting data completely from like putting two different data sources, now they are coming from or they can merge into one, the data type is changing or, or you know, the column is gone, or the column has changed from one data type to another. So, basically, what is important to me in that is not that, changing the code, but rather having communication, open communication, not only from a standup job that I do, I'm away from the curator and web developers, but also physically located somewhere else. And I think communication is a key aspect, to have this open communication in build the relationship with the developers, with the database administrator or database manager, people in each Smithsonian group to, to, so that they are feel they feel comfortable to come to you. And they trust you. Because in you know, a lot of times, it's very hard to go back and say, You know what, the squatty can can change it, you get the same result. But instead of 20, join, you can have five join, or you don't you know, so it's a big challenge. But I think communication is a key from my standpoint with the web developer, and database manager.
Unknown Speaker 47:03
So, Liz, how, when are you and your team brought in? And how does that communication and coordination among the various departments typically work? So how are you brought in first from either a curator or educator or any other department asking for a digital project or new web feature? And then at what timing? Also, does your team communicate out to say for room or someone else at a different Smithsonian unit on those kinds of projects?
Unknown Speaker 47:37
We tend to be brought in, it's oftentimes casual, actually, like, like a hallway conversation, someone just catches you. And they're like, hey, yeah, so we have this project I want to work on and then you do get like the formal kickoff meeting, more and more, we're doing that we have actually started having project managers. So that's good. Since hallway, conversations are not always great. Sometimes it doesn't get communicated. We're pretty small team. We're down to two now. Yeah, so that's good, at least in terms of communicating with when to like bring in for group that is really at an as needed basis, which is probably not the best process, it would probably be good to get all parties involved at an earlier stage. And that is something we've slowly learned over the course of these projects is that it's not just like, me, and Keith that needs to be in the room initially. It's like so like, you know, having our TMS admin or having even the editors and photography and all those different components together.
Unknown Speaker 48:52
So most of the work was done in house. But Keith, you did use a few outside contractors for portions of the cost include a project that you mentioned now are there, what are some of the benefits or issues of using outside and people and platforms you've experienced?
Unknown Speaker 49:07
I worry about the sustainability of things that are created with outside vendors. And because a lot of these were pro bono projects, and we really lucked out with Autodesk, creating our 3d viewing platform. That was a true collaboration between the Smithsonian's digitization program office and Autodesk and even at certain points, the curator so I was able to ask for certain kinds of custom applications for for my sculpture. But that's no longer possible. Autodesk is no longer servicing that 3d platform. The Smithsonian is responsible for its future. We're in the midst now of migrating it to a an open source kind of agnostic environment, which is, I think, a great development for the field. But we've lost all of the kind of tech support that we had from Autodesk at the very beginning. Likewise, the Magic Leap thing, I think it's, it's an experiment for them. And it's an experiment for me, I don't really even know yet quite where it's going. I don't know if it's going to have legs. I don't know if it's going to have a future. It takes a fair amount of my time to kind of conceive it, to develop it to work with them, find out what's, what the capabilities are. But yeah, there's always a kind of nagging voice in the back of my mind saying, What if this doesn't go anywhere? But it seemed like, too interesting. To felicitous kind of occurrence for me to say, No, I don't want to do it. But I think that the downfall is, I don't know what the results are going to be on the front end.
Unknown Speaker 51:04
And I have one final question before we open up for q&a. But an important one, the cost of these digital initiatives, how do you fund these?
Unknown Speaker 51:18
The 3d projects were were great because they were all, you know, as I said, pro bono things. So I didn't have to worry about finding the money to make these great applications possible. They were there a gift, it's really it's really my time and the institutions time. For the online catalog. It's been this kind of strange, serendipitous kind of process at times, my museum will ask for a kind of chargeback on things. And so I have to scurry around and try and find money. Early on, I was supposed to find money for the web based development. So I had to raise money for this and Melda and Courtney, for the early stages of one of the catalog, then that was okay, I didn't need to raise money for them anymore. It was for the photographer. I had to even though he's a staff photographer, you know, he's paid to take photographs to get his time for this catalog. I was supposed to pay for it. So yeah, I had to run around and find money for that. So it's been a kind of unexpected financial journey. Luckily, I've been able to find the money that we needed at the various points. So what's going on? I don't know, if I had not been able to find the money, whether it would have come to an end or not. Let's hope that doesn't come up.
Unknown Speaker 52:53
Where either. Were either of those projects, grant funded at all, as well.
Unknown Speaker 52:58
Yeah, I mean, the money I raised was either from a Smithsonian scholarly studies grant or an outside foundation.
Unknown Speaker 53:10
Southeast Asia, we did all in house. But but the map itself well, the objects had already been photographed, because for the the objects page in Southeast Asia, those records linked to our main online catalog, and everything had already been digitized. Fortunately, the map relied on on research that I had done before I came to the Smithsonian, if we want, so that was funded by, you know, other other grants as part of my doctoral research, but if we want to build it further, and represent other countries that are there, that will require grant funding. So that's something to apply for in the next three years or so.
Unknown Speaker 54:04
Awesome. Thanks, Emma lids, Keith and Farouk. I'm going to come around now with microphones. So just raise your hand if you have questions. And I'll swing by and then we'll let lets Mr. Baruch?
Unknown Speaker 54:34
Think there's a button.
Unknown Speaker 54:39
Now it's working. Yeah. So it's not a question. First of all, thank you so much. It was really interesting to hear what you were saying. I just wanted to let you know that in terms of Magic Leap, since it's being built in either Unity or Unreal, whatever assets they create should be usable on another platform when magically tanks which there's a good chance And, as of, you know, industry news the last couple of weeks, but maybe it will survive. But in any case, you're you'll have the assets and you'll be able to import them into another device.
Unknown Speaker 55:11
Oh, great. Yeah, that's good to know. Excuse me, sorry.
Unknown Speaker 55:25
Thank you. Hi, thank you great projects. I'm Mark. I'm from the low art museum, University of Miami. I'm also an MCN. Board Member. I just wanted to comment about the affordability of the 3d documentation is not a solution. But my experience in my prior position. Most universities have very active and exploratory 3d documentation programs going on. And they're very interested in experimentation and establishing relationships and expanding their portfolio. So I've worked with the University of Florida, University of Miami, and also a local firm down in Miami, who have all done significant pro bono 3d documentation to establish those relationships, expand their portfolio, and just increase their own experience with those platforms, so just strongly suggesting outreach, you know, build community partnerships and certainly look to the academic institutions around your your community.
Unknown Speaker 56:30
All right. Well, great. Thank you all so much. Appreciate