Spotlight: Library of Congress Labs

The Library of Congress Labs banner.

It’s always exciting when an organization with as much influence and reach as the Library of Congress decides to do something different. Library of Congress Labs is a new endeavor by the LoC, “a place to encourage innovation with Library of Congress digital collections”. Launched on September 19, 2017, Labs is a place of experimentation,and will host a rotating selection of “experiments, projects, events and resources” as well as blog posts and video presentations.

In this post, I’ll just be faffing around the Labs website, focusing on the “Experiments” portion of the site. (We’ll look at “LC for Robots” in another post.) As of writing (10/3/17), there are three “Experiments” on the site — Beyond Words, Calling All Storytellers, and #AsData Poster Series. Right now, Calling All Storytellers is just asking for people’s ideas for the website, so I’ll briefly go over Beyond Words and #As Data Poster Series and give my thoughts on them.

Beyond Words

Beyond Words is a crowd-sourced transcription system for the LoC’s Chronicling America digitized newspaper collection. Users are invited to mark, transcribe, and verify World War I newspapers. Tasks are split, so the user only does one task at a time. Overall, however, it’s pretty similar to other transcription efforts already on the Internet; though, the tools tend to be better-working, less-clunky, and clearer than some other efforts I’ve seen.

#AsData Poster Series

The #AsData Poster Series is a poster series by artist Oliver Baez Bendorf,  commissioned by the LoC for their Collections as Data Summit in September 2016. the posters are beautiful and artistic, and represent the themes of the summit. One aspect that I like about this page, is that it’s not just the posters themselves, but includes more information, like an interview with the artist. That being said, it does seem like a bit of a placeholder.

While I was excited to explore the experiments, I’m hopeful to see more innovative ideas from the Library of Congress. The Labs “Experiments” have great potential, and it will be interesting to stay tuned and where they go next.

Keep an eye on Commons Knowledge in the next few weeks, when we talk about the “LC for Robots” Labs page!

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