First Week as an Open Content Curation Intern

Hello,

My name is August, and I have now joined Mayu as the other Open Content Curator Intern you will be hearing from throughout the summer. We are working with Lorna Campbell and the rest of the OER Service team to continue developing the University of Edinburgh’s growing collection of resources available to the public. It has been a very exciting first week, and I am looking forward to sharing more of my experiences with you all in the next couple of months.

I have been spending my first days here at work reading up on copyright laws, exploring the collections of the University, and also reflecting on my own need for and experiences with Open Educational Resources. I study English Literature and History, so the libraries of Edinburgh are at this point considered dear, dear friends of mine. In High School, I was using previews from Google Books to snatch bits of information from publications otherwise inaccessible and scouring university websites for publicly available dissertations, hoping the introductions on the topic might provide the information I had searched high and low for. Transitioning to university, then, truly felt like stepping into a room with infinite open doors. However, I actually started university a year later than planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was for me, as I am sure many of you can relate to, an incredibly isolating time, and it was a heavy blow to not be able to pursue my degree as planned. Independent learning became a crucial skill, and, not being affiliated with any institution at the time, I relied on OERs to continue my education while remaining at home. I firmly believe that it is the best interest of everyone that institutions such as the University of Edinburgh continues to push for accessible learning, and I appreciate this opportunity to help contribute to the exchange between the University and the local communities it aims to serve.

Beyond academic interests, I grew up playing the viola, and finding sheet music quickly became a pain as soon as I did not have a teacher to pass me material. I have been making good use of the sheet music collections in the Main Library, but digital access to play around with new pieces remains fairly limited. However, in the spirit of sharing music freely, I wish to share part of the “Discover the Instruments” series published by St Cecilia’s Hall and Music Collection in collaboration with the Educational Design and Engagement team here at the office. This clip shows Rose Logan playing the Hardanger fiddle (Hardingfele), an instrument I know (and love) from growing up in Norway. She’s playing a “brureslått,” one of many traditional wedding tunes that are such a joy to play. As an additional treat, if you check out the rest of the playlist, there is a viola demonstration showcasing the delightful alto sound of this frankly underrated instrument!

Video of Rose Logan playing “Brureslått etter Ola Mosafinn” on the Hardanger fiddle, the traditional folk instrument of Norway. Calum Macphail, The University of Edinburgh, CC BY-SA, 2021.

The second OER I would like to highlight for you was actually created by a fellow intern, Emma Carroll, and Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in Residence. Together, they created the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Visualisations, an interactive Wikidata map showing the available data on the Scottish witch trials. The trials were largely unfamiliar to me prior to moving to Edinburgh, and I came across them in my first-year course on Early Modern History, where I attempted to gain understanding of why people believed in witchcraft. In all honesty, it remains a hotly contested debate, and scholars are unlikely to have a definite answer for years to come. All this to say that I believe it is absolutely crucial that research into the witch trials continues, alien as they may feel, and Emma and Ewan have produced a tool that is impressive, comprehensive, and accessible. Well done indeed.

 

Picture of the home screen of witches.is.ed.ac.uk

Witches.is.ed.ac.uk, Emma Carroll, Ewan McAndrew, The University of Edinburgh, CC BY, 2022.

 

I am unlikely to be producing any maps of my own anytime soon, but I will be working on many other exciting projects this summer. Our team will be collaborating with the school of Geosciences to produce publicly available materials. A little not-so-fun-fact is that in 2018, over 70% of sources on Geosciences cited on Wikipedia were blocked behind paywalls, even higher than the already high average on the site (Wikimedia). After learning this, I am more excited than ever to contribute to the accessibility of this field, and I encourage you to keep an eye out for any new materials being published over summer.

 

The best of wishes, and until next time,

August

 

Work Cited: Wikimedia. “How Many Wikipedia References Are Available to Read?” Down the Rabbit Hole, 20 Aug. 2018, medium.com/freely-sharing-the-sum-of-all-knowledge/how-many-wikipedia-references-are-available-to-read-d831be23e1bf. Accessed 19 June 2023.

Header Image: Meadows on a sunny day, August Enger, 2023, CC BY 3.0