Friday, December 19, 2008

Public launch of

Though online since March, 2008, the public launch of the accessCeramics project will occur in late winter and early spring of 2009. Scheduled for presentation at three national/international conferences and one regional northwest conference, members of the accessCeramics team will present papers, host a booth, and generally spread the word about the contemporary ceramics database. Check below for the names of the various conferences, their locations, dates and websites. Session dates and times will be posted later. Thanks to all of you who have submitted images to raise the numbers of the continually growing collection. For those invited artists who still have this on your "to-do" list, we encourage you to submit your images (or more images) for maximum exposure during the public launch of the website.

CAA (College Art Association)
Los Angeles, CA., February 25 – 28th, 2009

VRA (Visual Resources Association)
Toronto, Canada, March 18th – 22nd 2009

NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts)
Phoenix, AZ., April 8 – 11th, 2009

Northwest History and Heritage Extravaganza: Oregon Heritage Commission, The Washington State Historical Society, The Oregon Historical Society, Northwest Archivists.
Portland, Oregon, April 15-18, 2009.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winner of Survey Drawing

The accessCeramics team recently surveyed a group of accessCeramics users to help improve the accessCeramics collection and web site. Those taking the survey were eligible to win a $100 gift certificate.

I'm pleased to announce that Steve Hilton is the winner of the gift certificate.

We'll have more about our survey results on this blog in the near future.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

geographic diversity

Part of the beauty of using Flickr as our submission system for accessCeramics is its global reach. This allows us to seek contributions from artists who live just about anywhere. To reflect this, we just added a Google Map of our artist locations to accessCeramics.
As we're still building the collection, the geographic diversity of our artists is currently limited to the United States (Michael Moore is our lone international artists). As the collection grows, hopefully our national and international representation will grow as well.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

accessCeramics supported by NITLE Grant

Earlier this summer, accessCeramics was fortunate enough to be awarded a $19,000 grant from the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE)'s Instructional Innovation Fund--Western Region. The grant will facilitate the growth of accessCeramics and its use in liberal arts colleges in the 2008-09 academic year.

Funds will support our new part-time Submission's Coordinator, Miranda Costa, who is now helping to recruit artists for the collection. She is also providing technical support and assistance to artists as they add their images.

Funds will also go to support redesign of the accessCeramics website and improvements to the interface to make it more useful for teaching. Furthermore, grant monies will support travel to the NCECA 2009 conference, where we will be promoting accessCeramics to arts educators and artists.

As part of the NITLE grant, several ceramic arts instructors at liberal arts colleges around the country will be using accessCeramics in instruction this coming academic year. These colleges include:

Juniata College
Carleton College
Macalester College
Denison University
Kalamazoo College
University of Puget Sound
Hope College
Willamette University
Lawrence University

Instructors will provide feedback to us about the accessCeramics user interface and collection.

The accessCeramics team is grateful for NITLE's support.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

code4lib journal article

Issue 3 of the code4lib online journal was published today, and it contains an article I wrote on the technology surrounding accessCeramics. Some of the main points have already been discussed in this blog, though the article goes into somewhat more depth. If you're interested in some of the design philosophy behind accessCeramics, and perhaps some of the nerdier aspects of the project, it might be worth a look.

Friday, June 6, 2008

accessCeramics now PicLens compatible

accessCeramics is now compatible with the browser plugin PicLens. What does this mean? It will completely change way the images on the site are viewed.

PicLens creates a 'virtual gallery' view, which is a wall of images one can easily navigate. It also lets users view full screen slide shows of images. accessCeramics has browse-specific PicLens slide shows for any case. For example, to view all 'Coil-built' images, go to the browse screen, and click 'Start Slideshow'.

accessCeramics also supports PicLens Lite, so those without the Piclens plugin will get a similar Flash-based view.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Flickr Machine Tags Revisited

Over the weekend we added the ability to browse by different fields in accessCeramics. While this isn't really that hard of a problem, technologically speaking, it became clear that flickr machine tags couldn't handle this very well.

It came down to this. To get a list of the different values the images had for glaze, for example, we would have to do the following:

  • Make an API call to get a list of images in the collection

  • For each image, make an API call to get the list of tags & machine tags

  • Cycle through each set of tags and perform a regular expression match to find the 'glaze' machine tag, and store that value in a PHP array

  • Put the array in order, and print the results.

Or, if the metadata was in a local database like MySQL, we would have to:

  • Make an SQL query to the database, and process & print the results

In addition, the API doesn't support partial or truncated machine tag searches. For example, if I wanted to search for 'sculpture', I wouldn't get 'figurative sculpture' as part of my results set. This would require our users to be overly precise with their searches, which just isn't ideal design.

Because of situations like this, we decided to migrate the metadata to a MySQL database. We'll still include machine tag generation in Flickr as part of the process, in the event that API methods are added in the future. But storing all metadata in a local DB will greatly enhance the site's functionality and speed, especially as it grows to the volume we hope it will.

When this project began, we were hoping Flickr would be the database layer. To a certain extent it still is, but it just doesn't offer the same flexibility as a fairly simple MySQL database. It's still a cool idea, and hopefully Flickr will make some enhancements in the way machine tags are used and queried. With some of the recent chatter about an academic Flickr, hopefully the conversation that will move Flickr in that direction has begun.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

NITLE Summit

I gave a poster session on accessCeramics at the NITLE Summit in San Francisco last week and had lots of interest from folks in the liberal arts community. Since we didn't have internet access in the poster room, I put together a few screen shots to show off a few different views of the system.

One of the things I wanted to demonstrate was the ability to view the collection inside and outside of Flickr. I also wanted to show off the machine tags concept. People were pretty impressed that you could do a controlled vocabulary inside of Flickr. I also threw in a few shots of PicLens to demonstrate the flexibility of the Flickr platform.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why the numerous cataloging fields?

I've had several inquiries as to why we have such specific cataloging(metadata) fields for the ceramic images. It does take a little extra time and thought to add information to those fields, but the reason is a good one. Once we get the search field operational, we are hoping that this more detailed cataloging will shorten the amount of time that an instructor will have to search a site and will also return a more specific set of hits. If a professor wants to show some really good and varied examples of objects that are coil built, he/she does not have to search the entire site for said examples. Or a professor might want to show what ceramic artists are doing with installations. Typing one of the cataloging choices available in any of the metadata fields into the search field will produce the desired results. Watch for this "search" feature and others as we continue to develop the accessCeramics site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flickr machine tags

Much of the Web 2.0 world is flooded with tags to describe all sorts of objects. While tags are great, they are limited in that they are just keywords. In library catalogs and databases, we're used to searching by different fields (title, author, etc.). Tags aren't really equipped to fit this model, unless the search field is always 'keyword'.

Enter Flickr machine tags, which Flickr unveiled in January of 2007. A machine tag has the following syntax:

(example: ceramics:artist="Ted Vogel")

Not only does this allow 'field/value' relationships, but it also lets projects (like ours) group relationships together by using a namespace. In a nutshell, developers can use Flickr machine tags to create interfaces which allow users to search or browse by metadata fields.

When an artist catalogs an image for accessCeramics, machine tags are automatically generated for the image on Flickr, based upon the field values he/she enters. The creation of all these machine tags for each image lays the groundwork for the development of interfaces to search and browse by field.

As of this post, we're still developing our full searching/browsing user interfaces, though we have some elements in place. For example, a user looking at Lisa Conway's Peachy might notice that she used the Electric Oxidation glazing technique. A simple click on Electric Oxidation will reveal other pieces in the collection that used the same glazing technique.

We're hoping that the interfaces we create around images described by machine tags will help to elevate the use of Flickr within the academic and library communities.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

accessCeramics mentioned at VRA conference in San Diego

I just returned from the Visual Resources Association conference in San Diego. I had the opportunity to mention our database accessCeramics in two conference sessions. Librarians and visual resources professionals are becoming more interested in how people partner their image projects with Flickr. I had requests for the accessCeramics URL ( so people could pass it on to their instructors and requests for how Lewis and Clark College put the project together.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Showcasing accessCeramics

I'll be showcasing the accessCeramics Flickr site while at the Visual Resources Association Conference in San Diego, March 11th - 16th, 2008. When I return, I'll discuss the feedback I receive from conference attendees. It should also give good exposure to the artists already in the collection.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Welcome to accessCeramics

I'm Jeremy McWilliams, a team member of the Lewis & Clark College-based accessCeramics project. Our goal is to develop a contemporary ceramics image collection for educational use. The project is somewhat unique in that we're developing the collection using the image sharing site Flickr. It's a bit risky, since Flickr hasn't really gained mass acceptance within the academic community, though we think it will work. Flickr offers a great API for the development of the site, already has an infrastructure for distributed contribution to groups, handles copyright quite nicely with creative commons licenses, and is free for users.

This blog will discuss various aspects of the project and model during its development. Each of the current Lewis & Clark College team members (myself, Margo Ballantyne, Mark Dahl, and Ted Vogel) will offer different perspectives on the project. Mark and I are systems/technology librarians, Margo is the Visual Resources Curator, and Ted is the Assistant Professor/Program Head in Ceramics (that's his work above).

For now the site is here, at