Digital Heritage Online: KU Leuven Libraries implements its new discovery platform

IMPORTANT: This post describes how you can view full objects when visiting our Digital Heritage Online collection. However, due to a major update of our archiving and preservation environment, some objects may not open for viewing. Please try again in a few days!

KU Leuven Libraries presents a new platform: Digital Heritage Online. It gathers all digitized heritage objects from its collections, with objects dating from the 9th up to the 20th century, in one viewing interface. The platform enables users to browse these digitized objects in an open and visually appealing way. It also provides a search environment within the Digital Heritage Online collection.

The user may browse the collections and items based on either content theme, material type, or location of the physical object. A fourth entry shows which objects were made digitally available during the previous three months.

Start window of Digital Heritage Online platform with four entries to discover the database.

By clicking on an object thumbnail within the collection, the user can consult the extended bibliographic information in the library catalogue and view the full object online.

Catalogue item description with ‘Teneo’ link to view the full object and detailed bibliographic information.

Additionally,  the extended object description names all collections to which the object belongs and shows other related items. This allows for contextualized browsing of the digitized collection in the library catalogue environment.

Catalogue item description with ‘Collection path’ showing the collections to which a single item belongs as well as thumbnails of related collection items, two features supporting contextualised browsing.

One can also execute specific searches within the Digital Heritage Online collection, excluding non-digitized collection items in the search results. Searches may be performed either in Digital Heritage Online as a whole or within its subcollections. Searches via the blue search button will include items in collections outside of the Digital Heritage Online platform.

Search results for ‘Leuven’ in the Digital Heritage Online collection, employing the search box on the left.

Digital Heritage Online may be accessed either directly via this link or through the homepage of KU Leuven Libraries’ integrated search interface and catalogue: Limo, by clicking on ‘Curated Collections’.

Limo homepage view with access to Digital Heritage Online as one of the ‘curated collections’.

Over the past ten years, KU Leuven Libraries has intensively worked on digitizing its documentary heritage. At the time of writing this blog post, the digitized collection held almost 88.000 objects and it is continuously expanding week by week.

Since 2016, we have focused our attention on opening up our digitized collection in a clearer and more user-friendly way. While we keep in mind the FAIR principles as a long-term goal, the most pressing needs were increasing the findability and accessibility of the collection. Parts of the collection were already available through aggregator platforms such as Europeana and Flandrica or KU Leuven platforms such as Magister Dixit and Lovaniensia. A selection of heritage objects figure in virtual exhibitions on our EXPO site. And whenever copyright and intellectual property rights allow consultation and use, digitized collection items can be consulted through Limo, the library’s integrated search interface mentioned above, where users can search the full library catalogue and view items that have a digital representation online.

The Digital Heritage Online platform now provides a clear access point and a search environment for our digitized heritage. It enables a unified view on all digitized content and a true visual browsing environment. It is, naturally, only a first step into opening up the digitized collection. Opening up the data itself (images, metadata and content) for use and reuse is firmly positioned on our agenda. But for now: happy exploring!

Accreditation

Digital Heritage Online is the result of a close collaboration between different services of KU Leuven Libraries. LIBIS took care of the design and technical development of the Collection Discovery platform in KU Leuven Libraries’ catalogue and search interface. Digital Heritage Online was the pilot project for this new Limo implementation. Together with the various collection curators and thanks to the many digitisation projects, the Digitisation Department designed a structure for the various sub-collections. Technical operations for bringing together the many heritage object descriptions in the correct Alma collections were carried out in collaboration with the Document Processing Department. The content coordination of Digital Heritage Online is in the hands of the Digitisation Department.

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