28th August 2020

Virtual Exhibitions: Reflecting on the lasting value of a Skills and Knowledge Exchange Bursary

Thanks to the CENL Skills and Knowledge Exchange Bursary for participating at the 7th Estonian Digital Humanities Conference: Use of Digital Cultural Heritage in Research and Education that was held at the National Library of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia from 4/12/2019 to 6/12/2019 the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) made valuable connections in the GLAM sector, promoted our project Virtual Exhibition and gained a different perspective for its further development through a deeper insight in the field of digital humanities.

Right at the time of our visit, the National and University Library in Zagreb was planning to open its first Digital Laboratory so the timing for attending Mr Mahendra Mahey’s workshop titled A hands-on data exploration & challenge to become a derived data-set author on the British Library’s open data-set platform was just right because the workshop was also an introduction to the GLAM Labs Community. We immediately connected our Digital Laboratory to the idea and made valuable connections with British Library Labs as well as other members of the GLAM Labs Community that we have maintained to this day. After the conference, the Digital Laboratory NSK joined the GLAM Labs Community and Mr Mahendra participated at the official opening of our Lab in late January via a video message.

As for our Virtual Exhibitions project, presenting it at a conference that focused on digital humanities gave us a new perspective and goals to which we have steered our project ever since. Reuse of digitised heritage, education and democratisation became our focus as the bulk of the comments and conversations after our presentation were about the availability and user friendliness of the tools that we use. So, this first half of the year we focused on developing a new tool – a plugin for the open source CMS WordPress that every librarian and educator in Croatia can use for their own virtual exhibitions. The plugin is intended for creating stories that are map based which is vital for spatially focused themes. Especially now, when there is so much uncertainty and limits to travel, exhibitions such as these provide virtual escape to stories about cities, streets and landscapes around the world.

As the year progressed with the COVID-19 pandemic, it became increasingly important to build and offer these tools to our community so that they are empowered by the digital tools to reach and to stay connected to the public in a new way but with old enthusiasm, knowledge and creativity.