Brooklyn’s Museums and Libraries Collaborate to Grow the Arts and Information Digital Landscape

Tula Giannini

Since becoming dean in 2004 of Pratt’s School of Information & Library Science (SILS), I have served as principal investigator for a series of four grants funded by the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), that I designed and secured for Pratt-SILS in partnership with Brooklyn’s leading cultural institutions, Brooklyn Museum (BM),
Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and Brooklyn Public Library (BPL). Purposed to advance museums, libraries and archives in the digital world through digitization projects expanding digital sources for researchers, these collaborative grants have created new innovative programs that integrate digital technology, art and information while supporting SILS students for tuition scholarships, conference travel, workshops, seminars, and internships with stipends to carry-out project work on-site at the collaborating institutions.

In 2000, Pratt was the first library and information science school to introduce cultural informatics, defined at the intersection of culture, digital technology and information science, to serve as an overarching theme for research, curriculum and program development. In 2008, building upon our 2005 3-year IMLS funded project for
$591,206 IMLS with BHS to support archival education and a new archives certificate program, we again sought IMLS funding to advance our efforts in cultural informatics and to situate our work in the emerging digital landscape. This resulted in a 2008 grant for $946,324 with the Brooklyn Museum under the rubric, M-LEAD (Museum Library
Education and Digitization) that introduced a 12-credit museum libraries certificate (the only such program in the US). In 2010, Pratt was awarded a 3-year grant for $971,404 under the rubric Project CHART (Cultural Heritage Access, Research and Technology) in collaboration with our three former grant partners – BHS, BM and BPL. Project
work, done by Pratt students supervised by museum staff, centers on digitizing, describing and providing access to Brooklyn historic photography collections across the three Brooklyn institutions via a newly created project Web site hosted by BPL at The project provides tuition scholarships to a new 18-credit curriculum within the MSLIS entitled Digital Management for Cultural Heritage.

Most recently, in June 2012, we were awarded a 3-year IMLS grant for $261,987 for M-LEAD-TWO (Technology-Web-Online). As a continuation of M-LEAD-1 with BM, it extends project collaboration to the Frick Reference Library and the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) that includes the Museum of Modern Art. MLEAD-TWO expands and enriches NYARC’s shared online catalog (Arcade), and the digitization of collections by the
three collaborating museums facilitated by the project’s student internship program.

On the education side in addition to the certificate programs and internships, Pratt’s IMLS grants have inspired the introduction of a new dual-master’s with Pratt’s Department of Digital Arts and the expansion our dual master’s degree with the Department History of Art & Design which currently has 44 students in the program. Dualdegree students as well as those in art librarianship are advantaged by the increasing digital context of Pratt’s
curriculum evidenced by courses such as digital humanities, digital scholarship, information visualization, museum informatics and digital preservation and curation, all of which support our new digital humanities concentration.

This study brings focus to Project CHART (2010-2013), with special attention to the recent launch of the project Web site highlighting Brooklyn historical photography collections digitized by the project’s three partner institutions. The Web site incorporates the open source meta Web design tool, Drupal, as well as social media for user interaction as well as GIS and augmented reality software to explore new ways to link cultural resources to communities and users. Further, it brings insight to the challenges and rewards of collaborating across Brooklyn’s premier cultural institutions, icons of its diverse and vibrant arts community.

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