DCD Lab – Accessibility

On Thursday 16th of July, 19 of you attended the first DCD Lab.

The Labs are designed to promote discussion, experimentation and collaboration around a theme. The theme changes each time in response to what you (our user-led developers) identify as areas for exploration.

The themes are not limited to just ‘techy’ things but can be anything that relates to creating an open archive. One which people both want to use and do use.

The theme for this DCD Lab was accessibility. 

Amy Bowring, Executive and Curatorial Director, expertly led the DCD Lab. Amy started by introducing the theme of accessibility. Amy explained that accessibility was being discussed in its broadest sense. That is covering physical, mental, logistical and technological. For example this could be: 

  • Location of archive
  • Cost 
  • Need to order items in advance
  • Searching the catalogue to finding the items you want to consult
  • Physical access 
  • Caring responsibilities
  • Internet access
  • Poorly scanned items on website/database

Amy explained that part of her interest in making archives accessible comes from her own experiences. Her path to archives started through research, and she often felt like she wasn’t welcome. There were times when it felt like the archives were too precious for anyone to look at. Another participant made a very similar remark when she stated that archives would be accessible for her when she was able to turn the page. There very much is the feeling that archives are HANDS OFF.

Each participant then introduced themself, and spoke about what accessibility means to them. The comments included:

  • Accessibility to archives is ‘super important’
  • Want the ‘ability to research freely’
  • Poor cataloguing of archives. Only lists are available when it’s known that the archive holds a wealth of material
  • Ensuring archives are ‘accessible in the future’ and ensuring ‘sustainability of access’
  • Archive material is not available on-line

At this point, one fundamental of accessibility was highlighted when one of the participants lost their internet connection. A reliable internet connection and up-to-date hardware/software are necessary to ensure on-line accessibility!

During the DCD Lab several interesting case studies were described. For example, one participant mentioned her experience with a dance archive in a public library which holds a large archive relating to her particular area of interest but the archive material is not available to browse on-line.

She compared this to another archive held in a museum which had made all of the material she was interested in available on-line. Additionally, it was also possible to download and use the material. It was obvious which scenario she preferred!

Another participant described how the cataloguing of archives changes how we perceive the material and renders the makers invisible. In this case, the dancers shown in a photograph were not credited but the choreographer was, even though they don’t appear in the photograph. Thus, the dancers are rendered invisible, whilst the choreographer became visible.

Marcus (our developer) introduced ‘Dosido’, the test site for DCD Labs.

Marcus demonstrated the ease of adding new material, the auto-tagging and auto-describe features. Marcus stated that 500,000 photographs could be auto-tagged and auto-described in half a day. This provoked much delight as it was obvious that Artificial Intelligence [AI] can do much of the ‘donkey work’ on the first pass saving a great deal of time, which Amy stated was ‘great for a small organisation like the DCD’. 

Marcus also explained that the more the AI is used for auto-tagging and auto-describe, the more accurate it becomes. It can be trained. The more the AI is used, the more effective it becomes. It is an ‘effort amplifier’ and an ‘expertise amplifier’. 

We discussed how such a site would be great for outreach and engagement because volunteers can be involved to perform an editorial role. Researchers and enthusiasts can add value. 

The demonstration of Dosido was succinctly and beautifully described as ‘Very cool’ and ‘Holy Crud’. 

You can see Dosido in action and add your comments at our next DCD Lab on the theme of Searchability, on Friday 31st July 2020, at 10.00am PST, 13.00 EST and 18.00 BST.

We’d love you to join us. I’m sure you can spare an hour.  Come and be part of the experiment.