Empowering the Next Generation with Makerspace

By elanascaglia

I live in a small town in Connecticut where the library is commonplace where everyone is equal providing a sanctuary from bad weather and a space for learning. Since I was a young child using the space I had seen technology creeping into the Library by educating children through film and books on CD’s. That was the extent of the technology I remember using in the library. Today it is very different, as I observed my local library the way the public use the space has changed through empowerment programs for children, adults and seniors alike, through Makerspace.

After being away for a couple years I found myself drawn to the library again. As my needs for the library have changed the library has changed drastically as to what it has to offer to the public. The differences from town to town reflect the use of each library and accessibility provided. Each town has a different need and ability to provide information access to the public.

The Westport public library has embarked on bringing technology to the forefront of the library by providing a Makerspace. Starting only three years ago, in 2014, Makerspace came to Westport through a grant provided by the Institute on Museum and Library Services (IMLS).[1] What this provides is a clear link to the next generation and the future of information repositories. The Westport library Makerspace has tools for all types of creations. Each Makerspace around the country has different kinds of tools, but here are some of the general ones; public access to 3D systems, SketchUp software, robotics, code academy, Ponoko, laser cutters, and updated computers for use within the institution.[2] Many workshops and classes that are provided by Westport’s Makerspace have an age limit, typically no one under the age of 8. This allows for users to be of a wide range of ages, just like the library space, Makerspace is open for anyone who wants to learn something new in a new way. In the most recent Annual Report by the Westport Library 2014-2015, there have been 11,304 people who have used Makerspace through workshops and 1,500 programs. Between the years 2014 -2015 1,200 people attended robot coding training and about 3,000 people attended the Makerfaire, which is recognized nationally by institutions using Makerspace.[3] Creating a safe creative space within a information center, Makerspace, fosters new ideas for the future.

The untapped potential for the technology used in Makerspace can be found in our local communities, just out of reach. Using high-grade technology may deter people who think professionals should be using the technology, maybe that professional will be you someday. The correct use of technology, whether that is a power tool or the use of the web, safety of the user is at the forefront of the Maker Movement. In looking towards the future we need to think about how to teach the next generation to use technology appropriately. When thinking about the potential of Makerspace it reminded me of the Larry Diamond’s article “Liberation Technology.” While Diamond is discussing the extremes of technology being liberated within China and other dictatorships around the world, we can relate the definition to the possibilities of Makerspace. “Liberation technology is any form of information and communication technology (ICT) that can expand political, social, and economic freedom.”[4] What is being made in Makerspace’s around the country may be the answer to the next big question that we have yet to ask.

How can Maker Movement tools be seen as liberation technology here in the United States? Makerspace allows for entrepreneurs to explore capabilities of a product or company they have created. By providing the free access to technological tools in the modern world of entrepreneurship, we will see a big positive impact on the economy. A “shift from primarily centralized [manufacturing] to include distributed small-scale manufacturing and assembly – great access to technology-aided and industrial-grade tools – allow makers to experiment with new materials, structures and products.”[5] Although the companies may be small and seen as not capable of working with larger companies, any opportunity to get a head start on knowledge and skills needed to survive in the economy is an opportunity to take with Makerspace. Socially, Makerspace has a huge influence on education of all ages K-12 and through higher education programs. The Maker Impact Summit report from 2013 lays out the key elements of Makerspace that effect, in a positive way, the education system. The maker movement “encourages learning dispositions…. Emphasizes the value of hands-on experience … [and] transforms consumers into creators.”[6] The only way that this can occur within the education system is if there are advocates for this type of change, which is a drastic shift to the long-standing structure of a ““push-and-drill model, in which learners merely interact with decontextualized content.”[7] Where as the Maker Movement is a ““why-and-how” model, in which learners probe, question and create.”[8] The unmatched potential for a change in the education system in America to occur, we can see where possibilities for Makerspace in politics could be vital. Starting from the smaller governments, locally “the maker movement has the potential to revitalize communities and change the way citizens engage with their civic institutions. Achieving broad benefits [of Makerspace] will require some changes in government policy at local, state and Federal levels.”[9] If our communities cannot connect within themselves then how are individuals or these communities supposed to connect nation wide. This is how Makerspace can represent a liberation technology. By reconnecting communities across the nation through the collaboration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), our nation may be able to return to its glory days, because right now we are stepping back and not moving forward.






[1] “Maker space.” Westport Library. Accessed on December 9, 2016. http://westportlibrary.org/services/maker-space

[2] Dougherty, Dale et al. Impact of the Maker Movement, Maker Impact Summit December 2013, Westlake, Texas. MakerMedia and Deloitte University Press, 2014. 7.

[3] Board of Trustees. Westport Public Library 2014-2015 Annual Report. November 2014. 22-23. http://westportlibrary.org/1440

[4] Diamond, Larry. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21 (2010). 69-83; 70.

[5] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 16.

[6] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 19.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Dougherty. Impact of the Maker Movement. 22.

The Paradox of Preservation

By elanascaglia

I would like to address Michèle Valerie Cloonan’s idea around the paradox of preservation. Archivist, preservationist, and conservationist have the difficult job of trying to keep an object the same as when it was made. Keeping with this paradox of what and how to preserve something I would also like to talk about Joan M Schwartz and Terry Cook’s concept surrounding the power of the archivist, to choose the objects that represent our history. Today’s struggle is on what to do with digital material, and how digitizing old material makes information readily accessible to society. The questions we must continuously ask are what to hold onto, how to maintain them, and why, to continue building a history for the future.

The paradox of preservation can come at a cost to the creation of history. “To conserve, preserve or restore is to alter” as stated by Cloonan.[1] The objects of history that represent a period of time are slowed down in their aging process to last as long as they can for our needs as librarians, historians, scientist, etc. To conserve something is the process of handling the physical material and to preserve is to house the object in a controlled environment. The paradox that Cloonan addresses is this exact issue, how to maintain an object or material when it was naturally meant to deteriorate overtime. Paper was not meant to last forever in the state that it was made or originally used. In my own lifetime I have seen my own projects, on paper, turn yellow or fade due to exposure to sunlight and air. How have we affected the material that was made over 200 -1,000 years ago? Have we altered history by saving and learning from these objects that the creator did not imagine reaching this millennium? What we know and learn today was chosen by archivist of the past for future use.

While reading Schwartz and Cook I began to question the history that I have studied and will study. What information is missing? What an archivist chooses to maintain, preserve or conserve is kept to inform the future of what has happened in the past. What about the objects that were not saved, based on the archivist personal influence? We cannot take individual feeling and thought out of the archivist, but when it comes to the choice of what will represent a time, place and people neutrality sounds like it would be a good position to take. Yet an archivist cannot be neutral in their actions of preservation as they are cognitive thinkers, making an important decision. Which does not mean they choose to omit historical material for the purpose of erasing the information from history. The power of the archivist has profound impacts on all aspects of society. “Control of the archive…means control of society thus control of determining history’s winners and losers”, which is a scary prospect when thinking about what our society would look like today if an archivist had saved one more object or chose something different.[2]

In this modern era we have are creating digital objects and materials that are meant to last forever due to a process that is in fact harmful to its preservation. Trying to keep up with preserving material being continuously generated and altered by multiple contributors brings us to recognize the paradox. These are objects that have been created digitally, like a photograph, video, website etc. One-way to archive and preserve these is to transfer the information onto a CD, DVD or hard drive. Which begs us to ask the question, is this worth holding onto, due to the issue of space. Digital material that has been created as long lasting intangible electronic files will increasingly be in need of a holding space. As archivist with the power to choose what to save, digital information is a new concept that is hard to grasp. At what point do we save something for an archive that could be changed at any moment with open source accessibility. We have to consider that “…digital documents force us to preserve them on their own terms,” making us think about what to preserve for further use and what can be let go.[3] Although digital materials make us question the future of archiving how can we use digitizing material to aid in preserving the past?

I would like to point to another paradox in the use of digital material as suggested by Paul Conway in the Cloonan article. While digital archiving is a difficult concept to grasp Conway states that the “application of digital technology: protects originals, represents originals and transcends originals.”[4] With the use of digital media the creators have to be cautious that their information will be inconsistent or altered throughout its existence. There is an optimistic use for digitizing material. Throughout the world objects have been archived for the purpose of preservation, allowing limited accessibility due to age and material instability. The older the object, the more damage can occur with the least amount of physical contact. Yet as Cloonan points out from a study done “the public believes that a key function of these institutions is to preserve cultural heritage than merely make it available.”[5] The British Library’s extensive collection of manuscripts, materials and objects from their worldwide conquest throughout history, has developed a project called Turning Pages. This project has digitized their collections while simultaneously limiting the close proximity of the public to the physical resources. Turning Pages has reconsidered the users contact in accessing information. As Conway states “…digital preservation brings the user into the picture,” which is what the British Library considered when making their collection available to the world. Along with open available access this digital tool allows the preservationist and archivist to do what they need at their own pace to maintain the material the way it is, without being interrupted by researchers interrupting their process.

The paradox of the field makes the job that more exciting. While constantly receiving material the archivist must choose what to keep, with the hope that the decision will be made to represent an encompassing amount of history. While the issue of power and neutrality are clear in this field the idea needs to be addressed, so that information is not lost and that history will be understood from all perspectives. Yet we cannot ignore the new digital future of history, but with proper use we can explore materials from the past that will not be with us much longer. Due to this contradiction the material saved has lived longer than it was meant too, surpassing its natural existence.




[1] Cloonan, Michele, Valerie. “W(h)ither Preservation?” The Library Quarterly 71.2 (2001): 231-242. 235.

[2] Schwartz, Joan M., Terry Cook. “Archives, Records and Power: The Making of Modern Memory,” Archival Science 2, (2002): 1-19, 4.

[3] Cloonan, 237.

[4] Cloonan, 236.

[5] Cloonan, 234.


Addressing the Benefits and Limitations Of Traditional and New Methods of Research

By elanascaglia

When attempting to understand the world around us, we begin by asking a simple question. Research becomes our response to answering those questions through methods and tools available. As information sources and technology have developed, access to that information has broadened. The event I attended provided me with the knowledge that our answers are not always in the places we look first.

Digital Art History: New Tools, New Methods focused on the development at the Frick of their Digital Art History Lab (DAHL). Hosted by the New York Chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA/NY) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ARLIS/NA is a non-profit organization created by art librarians in 1972. The organization addressed the lack of communication with the field of art libraries. Today ARLIS connects art librarians, and those interested in the field, through “programs designed to provide members with introductions to new technologies, new cultural institutions and to current artistic activities.” Digital Art History has been the most recent development in how technology helps answer established questions.

With the recent developments at the DAHL staff members of the Frick discussed their developments in the world of Digital Art History. The talk focused on distinct software systems and methodologies that could aid our own personal research. The key points that stuck out to me were discussed by Dr. Louisa Wood Ruby aided by Samantha Deutch on new developments in photoarchives, the work of Dr. Titia Hulst and her use of innovative methodologies and finally the work by Ellen Prokop’s work with GIS. I would like to make a connection with these new methodologies to PERCS steps in “The Methods of Field Work,” and how they can relate to the technological advances outside of the social sciences [1].

Dr. Louisa Wood Ruby is the head of Photoarchive Research at the Frick. Working with a group of international photoarchivists they created PHAROS, an art research database. PHAROS is still a work in progress but the public has minimal access to what is already done. The goal of PHAROS is to make resources available to researchers and institutions to find lost copies of masterpieces, including the finding of previously unattributed work.The database will have collections from North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. The range of material will be unique to this software because of the materials from western and non-western cultures. The Frick uses PHAROS to reorganize their photo collection by consolidating misplaced copies. In relation to PERCS step 30 we as researchers ask, “Do we have a responsibility to choose a venue of publication that will speak more directly to the participant community?[2]” I believe PHAROS will create a responsibility of sharing with researchers and large institutions collections for studies never conceptualized in the past due to lack of informational resources.

Another new resource of information implemented by Dr. Ruby has been ARIES (Art Image Exploration Space) with the aid of Samantha Deutch, the Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick. DAHL, along with NYU’s computer science department, created ARIES as a new tool for image analysis. ARIES allows art historians to implement technology into long standing practices like comparing and contrasting attributes. Through ARIES a researcher can find previously unknown works with the ability to manipulate images to prove a connection to a masterpiece. PERCS step 21 addresses the issues of the changing conditions in research and how to maintain promises, or stated truths[3]. With new technologies available to aid in research, many of those stated truths can no longer be considered unquestionable. Debated theoretical facts of the past can now be questioned and put to the test. ARIES can aid the researcher in diving deeper into their own curiosities to prove new theories.

An interesting software system that was introduced to the digital art history world, at this event, was Cytoscape, presented by Dr. Titia Hulst. It became clear that Cytoscape was initially created for large data collecting lab science projects, like in biology, to envision their microscopic entities as a network of connections through imagery. Dr. Hulst used Cytoscape for a large amount of data gathered about art dealers and collectors in New York City during the 1960’s. With such a range of material collected on a grand scale, finding a connection would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. PERCS step 12 stated that research “often involve[s] taking knowledge from one community for the use by another,” in this case using software from biology for investigating aspects of art history[4]. The most interesting part of Dr. Hulsts’ study that I took away was realizing how art historians have evolved to use technology to help maintain being visual learners. Cytoscape allows for this way of learning by querying data tables to create connections overlooked and unimagined until displayed as an concrete digital image.

Another technology that aids in art historical visual learning is the practical use of GIS (Geographic Information System). Presented by Ellen Prokop the Associate Photoarchivist at the Frick’s Reference Library, Prokop introduces how GIS can help answer questions but also posing new questions to ask. Like PERCS states in step 11 you need to find your motivation for doing the work because we are inherently curious and want to fulfill that curiosity[5]. To focus a study through a period eye and understanding GIS can be used to recreate a space back in time. The project Prokop focused on was the influence of El Greco on artists of 19th century Paris, like Cezanne. GIS maps were overlapped with use of todays map of Paris with one from the late 19th century along with data queried to focus her search. Prokop made a connection that counteracted the idea that El Greco was the father of modern Parisian art. She noticed, through the layered maps that the works by El Greco seen by the public were forgeries and the real ones were on limited view within Paris at the time. While GIS is typically used for archeological research, art historians have found a way to use the software to develop questions and find information hidden within the maps that we now can use to understand an art form through a historical lens.

Due to art historical research done through GIS, ARIES and PHAROS, inadequate questions can be satisfied through new information resources previously unused. In modern society databases and/or software systems wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of art historians, librarians, computer scientists, and lab scientists to evolve research capabilities unimagined 20 years ago.

[1] Elon University. Program for Ethnographic Research & Community Studies. The ethics of fieldwork module. Retrieved from http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/org/ percs/EthicsModuleforWeb.pdf

[2] Elon Univeristy, 12.

[3] Elon University, 9.

[4] Elon University,6.

[5] Elon University, 5.








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