Yale Daily News
The University plans to launch LUX: Yale Collections Discovery, a unique web-based platform that will allow visitors to explore more 15 million objects in Yale’s museums, libraries and galleries, next spring.
According to project manager Sarah Prown, LUX is part of a multi-year collaborative effort to improve access to Yale’s cultural heritage collections and to support teaching, learning, and research with Yale’s collections and of the whole world. The project, which began in 2018, will integrate the catalogs of the collections of Yale University Library, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art and Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History on a single platform. Work on the LUX 1.0 version began last year and is expected to be released in the spring of 2023. More than 70 Yale Collections and Information Technology staff are involved in the project.
“LUX has two goals – one is to bring together Yale’s cultural heritage collections into a single platform for research and discovery,” Prown wrote to the News. “The second goal is to make Yale’s collections more widely available to a global audience through this project.”
Prown added that the main challenge of the project is to bring together the different approaches of museums and libraries to the description of collections into a single dataset.
So far, LUX has been funded by both the University and a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2019. Although LUX has been listed as a potential “donation area” in the As part of the For Humanity fundraising campaign, not all donations have been directed specifically to the project, according to Susan Gibbons, vice provost for collections and scholarly communication.
Gibbons explained that the LUX project was inspired by Yale’s extensive collections, which are difficult to explore in their entirety without having a single search catalog.
“A Yale education is qualitatively different because of [the] opportunities to engage with Yale collections,” Gibbons wrote in an email to The News. “However, since the collections reside in many separate libraries and museums, it can be quite difficult to discover the full breadth of Yale’s collections without having a single discovery system. In response, we started the R&D process to create the LUX system.
Currently, the LUX dataset contains more than 50 million records of objects, concepts, and events in Yale’s cultural collections, according to Prown.
Raymond Clemens, curator of early books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, told the News that the new platform will improve the catalog search experience by producing a wider range of results.
“A university-wide catalog might suggest materials the researcher hadn’t considered until they appeared in his research, leading them in a new, hopefully creative direction,” Clemens wrote to the News. “For example, you might be interested in the Books of Hours, which are mostly in the Beinecke, but if you searched all of our collections, you would find fragments of them in the art gallery.”
Beinecke Library Director Michelle Light explained that “the sum is more than the parts” when viewers can experience art, archives and collections in one place. She added that when materials are brought together in context, students have the opportunity to find new connections and relationships they might not have seen otherwise.
Through the use of an integrated digital image viewer, LUX will provide a single location for users to search and browse all of Yale’s digitized collections. Prown explained that the platform will be able to seamlessly gather and present digital images, noting that the University has adopted the International Image Interoperability Framework for rendering and displaying digital images.
LUX will be built above a linked open data model, which creates an underlying network of connections between the system’s 50 million records. In “Managing the Web of Things: Linking the Real World”, Quan Sheng, a professor at Macquarie University, defines linked data as “relationships or connections between data from different data sources”, which can play a vital role for an intelligent application. The model will allow users to visualize collections contextualized by the relationships between people, places, concepts and events.
“There is not an institution in the country that has combined art, gallery, research library, and natural history collections into a single interface,” said George Miles, curator of the Western Americana collection. at the Beinecke Library. “At Yale and any other large university library, students and scholars typically have to access multiple systems to find out what’s at the university.”
According to Prown, the project team expects the initial phase to be completed by early summer, which will be followed by user testing and system enhancements.
Miles explained that LUX should be seen as an upgrade rather than a replacement for existing systems.
“In the context of something so unprecedented, the rollout is going to be uneven,” Miles said. “Most of us at the library anticipate that we will continue to use the library catalog for many things. It is less that LUX replaces existing systems than it integrates them, improves them, in a really useful and useful way.
Light added that LUX can serve as an example for other universities to integrate their respective collections.
“In addition to improving access to Yale’s collections, LUX can pave the way for other universities to follow,” Light wrote to the News in an email. “LUX will provide a model to unify online discovery of collections spread across multiple museums, libraries and archives.”
The LUX system is made up of several Components which are hosted in Amazon Web Services.