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Byte and The Walters won the 2017 gold Applications and APIs MUSE award from the American Alliance of Museums for The Walters Ex Libris website.
Based on The Walters’ digitized collection and TEI open data format, Byte designed and developed a user-friendly interface for The Walters' digitized manuscript data, making it possible for users to search and browse manuscripts and specific folios, flyleafs and other manuscript parts. We built an interface that made the unique manuscript data at once engaging, searchable and even serendipitous.
We then developed a strategy for how users would search & browse all 300+ manuscripts. We found that the data wouldn’t support a search box approach, so we designed a custom search strategy consisting of three main access-points: filtering by established keywords, filtering by user-created keywords, and by sample, didactic searches.
The Ex Libris details included a live view of results as the user searched, paired with progressive de-activation of keywords, to prevent the user from reaching zero results. We see this attention to detail as an investment in the user, so that she may spend less time wrangling the interface, and more time exploring manuscripts, adding them to their collection and sending their collection to friends.
The Walters was awarded three matching grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in addition to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, to begin digitizing the collection, working with digitizers Arial Tabritha and Kimber Wiegand. With over one-third of the collection digitized, the Ex Libris site was built to grow over time as more manuscripts are digitized.
The Walters Art Museum, based in Baltimore, MD, holds a world-renowned collection of more than 900 illuminated manuscripts over a thousand-year span. Highlights of the collection include Ethiopian and Byzantine Gospel books, French and Flemish books of hours, and masterpieces from the Safavid, Mughal, and Ottoman Empires.
The MUSE Awards competition received more than 200 applications from a wide variety of institutions in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. This year’s entries included videos and films, interactive kiosks and installations, VR experiences, applications and APIs, digital communities, websites, audio tours, and more.