‘Miranda’ to launch in fall 2018
November 2, 2017
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a significant grant to Amherst College, for the benefit of the Folger Shakespeare Library, for the construction of a digital asset platform. When completed, this platform will be a publicly accessible, intuitively searchable, and highly organized hub for the Folger’s collections, including images, audio and video recordings, datasets, transcriptions, and other digital holdings.
The $1,055,000 Mellon grant, announced this week, provides two years of funding, and will extend the work that began under a 2016 Mellon grant to build a prototype of the platform. The new grant will add three staff positions, and support partnerships with other cultural institutions to develop online exhibitions and digital collaborations. Named “Miranda” after Prospero’s daughter in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the digital asset platform will have its beta launch in fall 2018 and be completed by fall 2019.
“Miranda is the bedrock of the Folger’s digital future, and the foundation on which we will build many other projects,” says Folger Director of Digital Access Eric Johnson. “The Folger’s mission is to increase knowledge of Shakespeare and the early modern world, and Miranda will advance that mission by expanding our online audiences beyond the millions who already use our resources. Furthermore, a single system that can be continuously upgraded means we can spend more time working on innovations and improvements, and less on basic upkeep and maintenance.”
A unified access point
The Folger shares a wealth of digital resources, but finding them can require multiple searches in various systems. Images of fully and partially digitized books and manuscripts from the Folger collection; podcasts; videos; datasets; and transcriptions are scattered throughout a “Folgersphere” of websites and databases. Some materials are not displayed at all because the Folger has lacked an appropriate digital venue for them.
Miranda will create a unified access point for Folger resources, and will serve to make those resources easier to find, both by non-specialist users and external search engines. The platform will also incorporate existing and future “born digital” assets such as databases and digital texts.
Users will be able to save their searches, download items, and curate their own personal collections. This centralized digital infrastructure will provide a strong backbone for future Folger projects, from publications to exhibitions to projects that have yet to be conceived.
Designing the platform
The platform is made up of three components:
(1) A web interface that allows users to explore and discover content (collections.folger.edu)
(2) API services that allow and encourage other projects – whether at the Folger or elsewhere – to access Miranda’s collections. These will allow complex searching and filtering of data, as well as enabling developers to know the type and structure of different kinds of content stored in the platform.
(3) A centralized repository for the widest possible range of the Folger’s digital assets.
The platform will be compliant with the standards of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), a community of the world’s leading research libraries and digital repositories which work together to make digital media more widely available and interoperable. The Folger joined the IIIF Consortium in 2017 as a Founding Member.
Miranda is built with open source software and a modular architecture, with adherence to common web standards. This will ensure that its assets are accessible to anyone interested in connecting to the platform. A WordPress plugin will allow other websites to integrate Miranda materials into their WordPress-powered sites. (More information about the technology behind Miranda can be found at the developer portal.)
With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2016-2017, the Folger built the Miranda prototype, a small-scale version of the digital asset platform, in order to figure out how it would work. The prototype contains approximately 1,800 records, a small subset of the Folger collection that includes the fully digitized Susila-Birsimha, a Bengali rendering of Cymbeline by the older brother of Rabinadrath Tagore; images of the great Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry; and selections from a silent film adaptation of Taming of the Shrew (1908).
Explore the prototype at collections.folger.edu
Using Miranda’s capabilities, the Folger will create digital micro-exhibition and publication spaces to connect and share objects such as images of manuscripts, video, and audio files that have not been exhibited together before. Some of these micro-exhibitions will buttress current Folger initiatives such as the Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures (a project that is also made possible by the Mellon Foundation). Others will be created through new partnerships with external scholars and institutions, showcasing how items in the Folger’s collections interact with, and relate to, items in those partners’ collections.
With the assistance provided under this Mellon grant, Folger will develop four micro-exhibitions centered on areas of the library’s collection. They will each involve a partnership with another cultural organization or scholar who is working on similar questions of how to digitally preserve, analyze, and communicate research as well as share artifacts online.
The first two micro-exhibitions will be partnerships with Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, on the rich history of Shakespearean performance in the Indian subcontinent; and the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy, on commercial and information exchanges between Italy and England in the seventeenth century.
ABOUT THE FOLGER
Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. We provide unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of pathbreaking research. We offer the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages. Join us online, on the road, or in Washington, DC.