Miller Center

Digital Development Resources

The Connecting Presidential Collections project is relentlessly in support of advancing digital resources in organizations of all sizes and abilities. But that’s not so easy! So we put together some resources to help you take the next step.

The most important thing? Start where you are, and find a way to move forward! Check out the information below—then hop on Twitter and let us know what you think!

Why should we prioritize Digital Development?

Small libraries and museums are master problem-solvers. You duct tape things together, you organize the storage room on your day off, and you solicit help from your communities in incredible ways. Much of digital development is just knowing where to start.

But when you have so much on your plate... why would you even care?

▿ What’s in this video?

Why prioritize digital development? Increasingly, your website is your most discoverable public face. Building your site with your users in mind is essential. Making your collections available online establishes your credibility while simultaneously helping to meet your visitors' needs.

We recommend starting small. People are hungry for trustworthy sources and a well-built site is the most effective way to establish yourself as such!

[ Read a full transcript of this video. ]

Further Reading

Organizations like the DPLA are doing tons of good work to empower organizations online. Read more in the help section below.

How to Communicate on the Web

top ↑

Most people who work with libraries or museums end up grappling with a website at some point—sometimes quite unexpectedly. What are some things a person should know when communicating on the web? What are some common pitfalls for libraries and museums? What are some ways to make the job easier?

▿ What’s in this video?

A chaotic website divides your users’ attention and hurts your user experience, which means visitors can get frustrated and leave with a negative feeling about your organization as a whole. What can we do about it?

We recommend five specific actions: 1) Think of your users FIRST, 2) Set clear goals, 3) Tailor content for web (not print!), 4) Adopt clear language, and 5) Use balanced calls to action.

Watch to learn more about these essential guidelines and tips to make it all a bit easier!

[ Read a full transcript of this video. ]

Further Reading

User Experience (and the challenges of UX-based planning!) is getting a lot of attention these days as more and more organizations grapple with what it means. One great publication to follow is A List Apart, a self-proclaimed resource for “people who make websites”—an intentionally-vague description since SO many different roles can go into communicating online.

A List Apart did a great writeup titled, “The Pain with No Name”—it's all about the essential (and essentially-difficult) task of organizing your site's content and presentation. From the article:

"...information architecture (IA) decisions are just as important as the look and feel of technology stack choices. We need to teach people the importance of semantics and meaning. We need to teach people to look past the way the rest of the web is structured and consider instead how their corner of the web can be structured to support their own unique intentions." - from A List Apart, "The Pain With No Name"

Dovetailing nicely with the IA discussion above, here's an excerpt from about the "mobile first" strategy:

"Once content is structured, the first context to pipe the content into is the mobile web. Why start [on mobile design] and not the desktop? The mobile web is far more restrictive, eclectic and unstable than other contexts. ....

"Scaling up from the mobile context versus scaling down from the desktop context ensures that your message, content and functionality remain intact as the screen real estate and connection speed increase. Scaling down runs the risk of your core message and functionality getting lost by the time you squish it all the way down to the mobile context."

Finally, from Usability Counts, “Untangling Brand And User Experience In 10 Minutes Or Less.” Why it’s useful: I want my users to understand _______ when they experience my site. How can I do that? Look and feel? User experience? How can I make my users see what I WANT them to see?

All About Metadata

The CPC project is all about metadata! But, independent of CPC, how can we make the best of use metadata? What does “metadata” mean in this context?

We’ve identified some common misunderstandings and pitfalls, along with some approachable solutions.

▿ What’s in this video?

This video is intended to clear up some confusion about metadata and provide general guidelines. Whether you're cleaning up old records or starting from scratch, we hope this information will help give new life to your collections!

This video answers key questions: What is metadata? What is a format/schema? What are some best practices for working with metadata? How can I ensure a long life to my work?

[ Read a full transcript of this video. ]

Further Reading

Want to learn more? The Society of American Archivists has a great set of resources for modern digital records, including Digital Archives Specialist courses.


What is Connecting Presidential Collections?

top ↑

CPC is a project from the U.Va. Miller Center that collaborates with partners to make presidential collections more searchable—thus improving the landscape for learners and helping bring visibility to our partners and their wonderful collections. How does it work? Watch below.

▿ What’s in this video?

Connecting Presidential Collections (CPC, is website that collaborates with partners to make it easier to search and discover presidential collections online.

At it’s core, CPC is an aggregator. We have two main goals:

  1. Make it easier for researchers and learners to find presidential materials.
  2. Raise the profile of our partner organizations by shedding light on their sometimes-hidden collections.

CPC only works because of partners like you! Watch to learn more.

[ Read a full transcript of this video. ]

Bonus video! “Open” Data?

Why in the world would a library or museum want to put their collection online? Amber Lautigar Reichert sat down with Waldo Jaquith, former director of U.S. Open Data, to learn more about the “open” movement. U.S. Open Data advocates for making raw materials (data, collections, etc.) fully available online, for free when possible. Why does this matter? Should you join the movement? What are some pros and cons? Learn more in this short interview: 


The CPC team is specifically advocating that libraries and museums post metadata about their collections online, open and free. We do realize that “data”, “metadata”, and “collections” are not technically synonymous… but we want all three to be made publicly available so we can occasionally be guilty of using those terms interchangeably. When it comes down to it, we think you should post what you have… whatever that might be! 

Not sure where to start? Start with metadata! If it goes well, consider posting thumbnails or digital images of the items. If THAT goes well, consider posting full text. Good luck! 

Where can I get more help?

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is doing great work in the area of open data and digital education. In fact, they have service hubs across the country who exist to help organizations go digital! Read more about the DPLA and its philosophy, then use some tips from this site to join the “open” movement!

Ready to go deeper? Check out the DPLA codex for an exploration of their data structure and API.

Additionally, CLIR (the Council on Library and Information Resources) routinely offers resources for increasing visibility of valuable hidden collections. Read more on their website.

Do you want to post collections online but lack tech infrastructure to do so? You could consider using a resource like Google's Cultural Institute. It provides a place for collections to be made public online alongside metadata of your choosing.

Further Reading

From Usability Counts, “Untangling Brand And User Experience In 10 Minutes Or Less.” Why it’s useful: I want my users to understand _______ when they experience my site. How can I do that? Look and feel? User experience? How can I make my users see what I WANT them to see?

This and all CPC content is being made available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license to facilitate sharing and re-use.

top ↑