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Viewshare, a new application from the Library of Congress (LOC), provides a free platform for creating and customizing the presentation of digital data. This project is part of the LOC's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), which provides a host of online resources (collectionspublications, and presentations) focused on preserving and archiving digital content.

Although Viewshare was just introduced a few weeks ago, it is already drawing attention from librarians, historians, and museum curators. What do all of these groups have in common? One similarity is the need to organize artifacts and pieces of information in larger collections. And in an age of digital access, these professions are tasked with creating and organizing vast amounts of documentation in digital formats. While designed for "individuals managing and creating access to digital collections of cultural heritage materials," you may find ways you can use Viewshare as a tool to organize your research as an instructor or student collecting or analyzing data for an ongoing project.

Trevor Owens, Digital Archivist with the NDIIPP's Office of Strategic Initiatives, outlines several examples of how Viewshare enhances understanding of an existing data set

  • Getting a big picture view. A collection of artifacts or a set of data include many individual items or components. When viewed together, as opposed to a slideshow or list of single entries, you can learn more about them as parts of a whole. Viewshare enables users to more readily see the big picture, allowing for better understanding of the data and potentially sparking additional research questions. 
  • Identifying patterns and inconsistencies. Looking at graphic representations of data, especially large sets of data, can help you to identify commonalities and gaps in the information presented. Owens provides two examples – one presenting a series of images and their location of origin on a street map, and a collection of national data that can be viewed by state. The map view (also presented in a screenshot below) quickly shows gaps in where the images originated, while the by state listing of data reveals a spelling error that may have affected how the data was analyzed and reported if it had gone undetected.  

Viewshare Use and Demos


A brief video introduction explains how you can utilize a drag-and-drop administrative tool to transform the information contained in a typical spreadsheet into an interactive interface. Through first importing your data, then generating multiple view options, and finally embedding the Viewshare interface on your own webpage, you can also easily share your work and provide access to your collection online.

The Viewshare interface creates different ways to view your data, including maps, timelines, and charts. The screenshots below illustrate how the application allows us to interact with a collection of images, in this case, 245 illustrated trade cards (early versions of today's business card) from businesses located in Brooklyn, New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

In map view you can see where the businesses were located along Fulton Avenue.

In chart view you can conduct a search for the cards based on associated metadata, such as type of business.

In list view you can scroll through each card's entry and details.

How might you use this tool? Consider the possibilities in your research as well as in your courses if you present data sets to your students. Viewshare creates a more interactive way for you to share your data and for others to explore your work, and can also help students to "see" relationships that exist.


Getting Started


You can find out more by visiting the website and begin by requesting a free account. Review the tutorials provided to Read, Watch, Create, and Follow Viewshare collections. And read about how others are using the platform, like this graduate student from UCLA

While Viewshare itself is just getting started, there are additional resources from the Library of Congress that you may be interested in reviewing for potential use in your research and with your online students.  Make your connection with the Library of Congress and the NDIIPP by subscribing to their newsletter. You can also follow them on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.