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Getty Publications: how Quire is creating solutions to open access publishing

Quire website homepage

In anticipation of MuseumNext’s Digital Collections Summit next week (4-6 October) we caught up with Erine Cecele Dunigan, Community Manager for Quire, an open-source digital publishing tool developed by Getty.

Erin will be giving a talk on Wednesday 6 October entitled, Open Access: Getty’s Approach to Digital Collection Catalogues.

Here she explains what Quire is, its quest to be a fully open-source tool and supporting the Quire community through a pandemic.

What is Quire and what benefits does it provide museums and cultural organisations? 

Quire is a modern digital publishing tool developed by Getty. It’s ideal for creating dynamic publications in a variety of formats, including web, print, and e-book. In addition to being optimised for scholarly and visually rich publishing, Quire books are designed for longevity, sustainability, and discoverability.

Getty originally conceived Quire as a solution to its open access publishing needs, but the tool quickly gained the attention of other organisations within the fields of digital humanities, arts, and academia. While access is currently available for free upon request, we will be launching as a fully open-source publishing tool by Spring 2022. Open-sourcing Quire will enable others to leverage the work Getty has done to create, customise, and distribute critical digital scholarship online, at a low cost, and with little ongoing maintenance.

What does your role at Getty Publications involve? 

I joined the Getty Publications team in March 2020 as the Community Manager for Quire. I came on board to help Quire become a fully open-source tool. A goal we will accomplish next year! The open-source model means that there is an active community supporting Quire and continuing its development beyond the direct oversight of Getty. I cultivate and support a vibrant community of users and contributors. This includes facilitating contributions to Quire’s core code and creating resources to help people navigate the publishing process. I work closely with our Product Manager and Getty developers to communicate user feedback and oversee the development of new features. I also work with Getty Publications on their various Quire projects and provide assistance and support for other departments within the Getty Trust that use the publishing tool.

Catalogue entry from French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum published by Getty using Quire in 2021

What are the aims and objectives of Quire regarding how museums best utilise their digital collections and how do you go about achieving them? 

We developed Quire with a built-in understanding of high-quality scholarly publishing and best practices. Elements like high-resolution images, formatted tombstone information, linkable footnotes, pop-up references, and page-level citations are integral features of Quire’s core code. One of our goals is to help museums create discoverable, sustainable, and enduring digital collection catalogues.

These catalogues can be used to create an immersive reading experience with more depth of content and narrative connections than your standard collections pages. Quire is an affordable tool that helps museums extend the reach of their collections and share valuable research and knowledge. So far, at Getty, we’ve published five digital collection catalogues with Quire, and we have five more in the pipeline. We recently compared unique page views between the catalogue object pages and their online collections pages. It’s clear that the Quire catalogues are exposing the objects to new audiences, ultimately serving as a beacon for Getty’s collection.

How has COVID-19 affected your work and what lesson have you learnt? 

Cover page of Fault Lines: 2020 Senior Thesis published by Mills College Art Museum in 2020

I started working with Quire a week before the US went into lockdown. Fortunately, due to the nature of digital publishing, Quire afforded a smooth transition to remote work. It also provided some unique solutions for our community. For example, Mills College Museum of Art was forced to cancel their BFA senior thesis exhibition due to COVID-19. However, they decided to use Quire and quickly adapt their students’ material to an online exhibition.

This gave their graduating studio majors and minors an incredible opportunity to showcase their hard work and celebrate their accomplishments. Over the next few months, other organisations, including the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, used Quire to solve the various challenges brought on by the pandemic. I have really enjoyed supporting our community through this difficult time.

What are some of the latest/future developments Quire is working on to improve the way we work with digital collections and publishing? 

We are adding some exciting new features to Quire, including 360-degree rotating images, deep linking images with annotations, accordion sections, and catalogue filters. And we continue to refine our website. We are actively updating our documentation, creating additional tools for our users, and sharing the work of our community on our Community Showcase. As a soon-to-be open-source tool and ever-evolving initiative, our community members’ participation, feedback, and contributions are what enable us to continue developing Quire and finetuning its capabilities. So stay tuned for more exciting developments from Quire in the months and years to come.

If you’re interested in digital collections, join us for the MuseumNext Digital Collections Summit next week.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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