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Wednesday, March 27 • 1:30pm - 2:50pm
Expanded Practice: Implementing Alt Text and Net Art Preservation in Digital Collections

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In the past decade, digital collections have played a growing and vital role in the library and archival professions, with encoded finding aids, digital image collections, and curated digital exhibitions expanding the breadth and depth of resources available online. Yet not all users have been able to enjoy the benefits of these collections, and some cultural materials created for the web remain difficult to adequately capture and represent. This two-part interactive panel will explore technologies for enhancing accessibility of digital collections using alt text and will provide concrete steps for creating high-fidelity collections of online artworks and other web sites.

The first half of the panel will address accessibility best practices in image description. When we discuss access to information, what does true accessibility really mean? How can our repositories ensure that access to our collections includes the needs of every user?

When the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Library completed their first digitization project in 2016, they learned everything not to do regarding accessibility of digital collections. Since that time, the library has become committed to changing how they approach digital engagement, adapting their workflows, embracing universal design, and sharing knowledge about the tools they used to provide better access to text based, photographic, and audiovisual materials. This interactive session will explore discoverability versus accessibility, challenge us to consider how different users interact with our materials, and conclude with an exercise in constructing examples of alt text—the first principle of web accessibility—to help provide greater access to our digital collections.

The second half of this panel will focus on archiving born-digital art on the web. Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing over thirty-five works, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.

The New Museum Archives and Rhizome are collaborating to document and preserve past First Look exhibitions using Rhizome's open source web archiving tool, Webrecorder, in concert with other archival processes. These experimental works present complex challenges, including external dependencies, proprietary social media and hosting platforms, and eccentric navigation structures, which require nuanced technical approaches and appraisal. This interactive session will present a range of use cases that demonstrate how Webrecorder can be used to capture complex online works, followed by a workshop where attendees will be guided through the process of capturing a range of websites using the Webrecorder tool.

Our thanks to Stephanie Noell, who was integral in the development of this panel session.

Learning Objectives
  • Audience will implement best practices for creating alt text.
  • Audience will walk away with hands-on experience using Webrecorder to archive websites and an understanding of how this work intersects with other archiving workflows.


Molly Szymanski

The Art Institute of Chicago

avatar for Amye McCarther

Amye McCarther

Archivist, New Museum
Amye McCarther is an archivist and media conservator at the New Museum in New York where she oversees the museum’s archival and preservation programs including the Digital Archive Oral History Initiative and Archives Fellowship program. Her previous experience includes audiovisual... Read More →
avatar for Courtney Yevich Tkacz

Courtney Yevich Tkacz

Archivist, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Courtney Yevich Tkacz has served as the VMFA Archivist since 2003. She manages all archival functions, including acquisitions, processing, and reference. She also directs the digitization program, including project management, metadata creation, and designing user interfaces for the... Read More →

Wednesday March 27, 2019 1:30pm - 2:50pm MDT
Grand America Hotel: Venezia Garden Salon (1st Floor) 555 Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111