r e p l i c a: @ the university of toronto

project description
The goal of the project is to enhance teaching and research with new media by providing a central storage and retrieval system of digital reproductions and associated data.

When development is completed, this project will permit faculty to:

The project team has selected the name "Replica" for the project because all of the digital reproductions stored in the database will in fact be copies of other digital reproductions (photographs, slides, and later videos and audio recordings) which themselves are reproductions of original works of art, artifacts and/or analog reproductions.

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project rationale
The University of Toronto encourages its faculty and graduate students to take advantage of the opportunities which multimedia technologies provide to enhance the quality of teaching, research and community outreach. Unfortunately, numerous obstacles exist for faculty members and graduate students who wish to incorporate digital reproductions into the classroom. They must locate, download or digitize and prepare the reproductions for use with appropriate software. The time investment required is a serious disincentive for faculty and graduate students who wish to use such digital reproductions. Furthermore, scholars are isolated from one another. Faculty and graduate students may be unknowingly digitizing or downloading the same or similar digital reproductions. This represents duplicated effort and a waste of new media capabilities.

A need exists for a database of digital reproductions, which will support faculty use of digital reproductions and encourage greater adoption of multimedia technologies in teaching. Such a resource will facilitate student learning by providing students with access to digital reproductions for a variety of projects. Since the database will be accessible via the World Wide Web, some (copyright cleared digital reproductions) and associated data will also be available to the wider community. Finally, scholars in the humanities have only begun to explore the potential of digital reproductions for their research. The project directors, as well as several interested faculty and graduate students, intend to explore this potential as soon as development of the database has been completed.

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project history
In 2000, both the Museum Studies and History Departments began work on separate image database projects. In December of 2000, the Project Directors decided that common interests warranted combining the projects.

The Museum Studies department, under the leadership of Professor D.T. Ruddel, initially conceived of a web-enabled databases that would be an addition to the current web site for the Museum Studies Program. The new database would be used primarily for providing dynamic access for faculty, staff, and students to information about various institutes (museums, art galleries, heritage houses), slides, scientific instruments and to find the best solution for adding a web database to the current web sites to provide students and the faculty access to various resources online. Several departments were approached as potential collaborative partners prior to the History Department: including the Centre for Academic and Adaptive Technology, CHASS, U of T Network Services, and the Fine Arts Department. The Museum Studies department intended from the beginning that this project would be the beginning of a larger collaborative project, that would span collections across interdisciplinary departments.

Professor Adrienne Hood of the History Department began preliminary investigation into an image database project three years ago (in 1998). As an historian who worked extensively with material culture, she realized the value such a database could have for her research. In addition, she was an avid user of new media in her teaching, and quickly saw the advantage of an image database for use in the classroom. Other members of the department expressed interest, and so with the support of the department and funding for a research assistant, Professor Hood began to develop an image database for the history department.

In December of 2000, the two directors came together, pooled their resources, designed, and began to develop the current project.

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system overview
When completed, Replica will consist of:

The REPLICA database - which contains:
# Attributes of the digital reproductions,
# Pointers to directory locations for the digital reproduction files,
# Location of originals of digital reproduction files and located of related non-digitized copies (genealogy of each digital reproduction, including generation of current copy if known),
# Copyright clearance information,
# The identity of the owner of the digital reproduction,
# The identity of the user who added the information & image originally (link with REPLICA.USER database), date record added and modified.

The REPLICA.USER database which contains:
# Identification data about accounts (names, passwords) that have write access to the REPLICA database. A user can either be an individual (Prof. Smith) or a group (the class of HIS1145S). In the case of a class, the account will allow the students to peruse a set of digital reproductions previously selected by a professor.
# Access control information - which users not only have write access to the REPLICA database, but who have access to creating read-only group accounts (i.e. to allow a class access to a set of selected digital reproductions).
# List of an account's previously selected digital reproductions - a carousel feature - to allow the user to save a search and/or to group digital reproductions for further study.
# User account expiry information.

A FILE SYSTEM that contains the digital reproductions -- including:
# Sub-directories as appropriate,
# Access permissions as appropriate.

# An index page providing a logon to the database, as well as information about the project itself (contacts, related links, participating departments),
# A distinct "look" for each participating department, with forms accessing the database geared to the academic needs of each department,
# A password logon system with minimal "guest" privileges to users outside the university community.
# Functions for searching the database, displaying and downloading records according to access control information.
# Functions for allowing authorised users to select and retain search information, and/or to group digital reproductions for further study (creating, in fact, a customised "slide carousel").
# Functions to permit authorised users to add, delete and modify their own records in the database.

A separate, password-protected ADMINISTRATOR'S INTERFACE providing:
# Control over the REPLICA.REPLICA.USER database to set user permissions for the REPLICA database.
# Maintenance functions for REPLICA & REPLICA.REPLICA.USER database and the FILE SYSTEM

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project credits

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replica operates at the University of Toronto, Canada, hosted on a Computing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) server
this page created March 17, 2001, last updated January 27, 2003
copyright replica 2001.