Rebecca  Cooper

  • Title / Position: Architecture & Instruction Librarian, Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library
  • Organization: University of Virginia
  • Twitter: @rcooper

I have an M.A. in Art History and and M.S. in Library Science. I've worked in libraries for several years, but have also worked with museums and other cultural insitutions. My role has always been one of connecting people with information-- and teaching them about ways to connect with said information.

I am the first in most rooms to suggest the use of new technologies to solve a problem or streamline a workflow. Straying from "traditional" library instruction, I have taught UVa classes how to use tools like RSS, Google NGram, and Google Maps to shake up their research and gain new perspectives on their scholarship. I am never seen without my iPad and iPhone, and firmly believe that location-aware devices such as these are going to revolutionize the next generation of scholarship. I once succeeded in transitioning an entire team of Roller Derby skaters from a yahoo group to a dynamic Wordpress site, an online forum, and a Google Docs file system. I run entirely on coffee.

I know HTML, am currenly participating in Year of Code to delve into javascript, and I'm pretty good with a WordPress site. I adapt easily to new tools. Like many librarians, I have a good knowlege of the issues involved in intellectual property, preservation, and organization of information that affect how we access, store, and disseminate information. But I also understand the academic work of the scholar, and how (particularly in art and architecture) information is sought, re-mixed, and pushed out. I am thirsty for more ways to mash all these skills together. I am also an extreme fangirl of excellent informaiton visualization and clever presentation of data.

If all of this fails to convince you, do keep in mind that I can also be entertaining during coffee breaks. I am extremely proficient at discussing the following topics: Roller Derby, SyFy Made-for-TV Movies, Charlottesville tasty noms, and where to find the best craft beer. It goes without saying that I would also not hesitate to use any of these as a test-case for exploring new digital techologies and/or scholarship tools.

  • Possibilities for Local History



    As the librarian for UVa’s School of Architecture, I work with many scholars who are deeply interested in the history of communities.  Often, the interest is local (Charlottesville), but our historians and urban planners are also digging into communities throughout the United States and the world.  While the research is often centered on architecture and urban planning, it extends to interdisciplinary aspects of food planning, use of public space, and many other directions.  In terms of media, it encompasses images, texts, primary documents, maps, oral histories, planning documents, and just about anything else you can imagine.  I find so many wonderful new ways of discovering local history resources, many of which are the direct result of DH technologies like Omeka, GIS, etc.  But, implementation is scattered, and often limited to the silo of a single institutional collection.


    I’d love to create a vision for the ideal local history portal for researchers.  I imagine that it would combine multiple aspects of some of my favorite sites (HistoryPin, WhatWasThere, the NYPL MapWarper, Visualizing Emancipation), along with characteristics of tools like Omeka (and I have a feeling I’ll be adding NeatLine to that list soon).  It would also need to transcend silos of individual institutional collections—bringing together photos, documents, etc. from the local historical society, university archives, local planning and preservation org, public library, and more—while allowing those institutions to promote and “brand” their own resources.


    I’m hopeful that there’s a group of folks that might be interested in playing a game of “Imagine going to one site for a city/town and being able to….”.  I would guess that many of us will contribute knowledge of projects that are inching us closer to this research utopia, and we might also come up with some “boy, it would be great if someone developed…” ideas as well.  At the end, we might walk away with a road-map to some amazing possibilities, and hopefully some excited people that might want to collaborate to make that a reality.

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