Tag Archives: digital archives

Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern


Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern preserves the organic archive of Atlanta’s political left that has been inscribed on the walls of this local restaurant and bar over the past half century.”

This project treats Manuel’s Tavern, a dive bar in Atlanta, Georgia founded in 1956, as an archive in and of itself. In contrast to intentional, curated archives that exist as part of an institution, we are presented with an unplanned, accidental, “organic” collection of material. This material is sourced from the walls of the bar, on which hang an amalgamation of ephemera, politely referred to by the New York Times as “junk”.

The bar was once owned by Manuel Maloof, who was a major figure in local politics. The bar played host to many characters, mostly from Atlanta’s left leaning/democratic political scene.  Local academics began the attempt at digitizing the walls before a 2015 renovation triggered by a new developer buying up neighboring properties.

The objects include photographs, neon signs, posters, advertisements, paintings, an entire bicycle, and many odds and ends that hint at the political action being undertaken by the patrons such as this fundraising flyer for a local politician’s campaign.

Presentation & Audience:

The website of this digital archive is in three main sections or “portals”: immersive media, walls, and artifacts. The most exciting portion, in my opinion, is the walls portal which has 360° panoramas of each wall in the bar. Users can click on items to learn more like titles and descriptions, though some of the descriptions are lacking. It is clear the context for some of the more personal items has been lost to time (and maybe alcohol).  In the “artifacts” section of the website, each item is listed so that you can browse without using the panorama feature.

This project seems to focus on use for teaching. The website suggests using it for classes in history, english, political science, art, policy, and beyond. A portion of the site is dedicated to showing how the archive/objects from it have been used in assignments by local institutions like Emory University. Some student work has been incorporated into the public exhibit. For example, when browsing the artifacts portal, the description of a 1998 Atlanta Falcons pennant is accompanied by a Georgia State University student essay on a short history of the Atlanta Falcons. This helps provide some context to the meaning of the item to locals, and suggests why it hung on the wall of the tavern.

Other projects that are associated with this one are ATL Maps and Teaching Atlanta, which both have similar aims in use for teaching.


This project has made use of virtual recreations of spaces and objects. High-res panoramic photographs which were created with gigapans, or gigapixel panoramas. These are digital images with billions of pixels and usually consist of hundreds of single images stitched together.

The archive includes three videos—one which includes an interview with the current owner and original owner’s son conducted by the lead Academic on the project, Ruth Dusseault. This is a nice bit of oral history

Another video is an interactive “virtual environment”. This uses Unity WebGL, which allows you to render 2D and #d images in a browser with no need for a plug-in. It uses Javascript to render the scene. Unfortunately, the virtual environment currently only produces an error message. The same goes for the third video which is a 360 ° tour of the bar. It seems that this website has not been maintained as much as it could be.

Finally, the actual website was put together using Omeka.

What can we learn from this project?

If there is one thing that this project makes clear, it is the fact that we can look for archives in unexpected places. The website uses words like “unintentional”, “organic”, and “accidental” to describe the collection, emphasizing the fact that the material was not sought out or looked for but rather gathered in the bar “like driftwood on the beach”. Additionally, the material is left alone, physically and figuratively. “More product less process” indeed.

I think this project shows some of the issues with archiving/curating ephemera. Though the website says this archive “speaks for itself”, some objects have very limited information and I’m left with more questions than answers. The nature of ephemeral objects can mean that the context is easily lost. I don’t think that this makes this material useless or not worth saving, but it begs the question of how to deal with ephemeral material in the interest of giving it meaning. In this case, it looks like student work is used to provide some of this context.

The bar was opened in 1956, meaning that there are potentially still those alive who can provide some of that context. I think some sort of oral history initiative to hear from people who were there would be a wonderful accompaniment to this.

In the Spotlight: Reflections on the British Library’s Latest Transcription Crowdsourcing Project

By Evangeline Athanasiou. March 1, 2021

The problem: As we continue to make advancements in optical character recognition (OCR) technology, there are still circumstances that require the human eye’s capacity for nuanced visual recognition. In the case of hundreds of thousands of texts needing transcription, where can an organization find the time and resources to complete the task? The solution: crowdsourcing.

In 2017, the British Library acted upon their need to create transcriptions of a collection of playbills spanning the mid-eighteenth to twentieth centuries in order to make them easily searchable online. Because of their combination of different fonts, text sizes, and weights within single paragraphs and even sentences, these playbills rendered available OCR applications powerless. And, as an additional complication, even with the resources of an institution like the British Library, dedicating staff hours to transcribing these playbills (234,000 total) would cost too much and take far too long. However, without transcription, the metadata required to make these valuable resources accessible to researchers would remain incomplete. What now?

Enter In the Spotlight.

Image of the British Library’s In the Spotlight homepage. Screenshot by author.

Key personnel from the British Library’s Digital Scholarship and Printed Heritage teams came together to create a user-friendly crowdsourcing platform that invites curious amateurs and inquiring professionals to transcribe these digitized playbills piece by piece. By breaking down the transcription process into simple, clearly defined steps with plenty of examples as aids, In the Spotlight welcomes contributions ranging from the transcription of one title to a century’s worth of genres. Any contributors that are interested in sharing their findings, ideas, or problems while performing transcriptions are encouraged to do so through the discussion forum, which is also an excellent way to get feedback directly from the project’s founder, Dr. Mia Ridge.

In the Spotlight is part of the Library’s larger LibCrowds platform and uses an open-source crowdsourcing framework, PyBossa, in combination with a custom theme interface created through a JavaScript framework, Vue.js. The images of the playbills are made available through the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), which provides a set of standards for the optimal accessibility of digital images across various platforms. While these resources require their users’ understanding of the basics of their programming languages and standardized terminology, each provides a wealth of resources explaining their functionality and providing examples of their practical application.

By facilitating scholarly practice through transparent communication and meaningful engagement with the public, In the Spotlight exemplifies an impactful collaborative project in the digital humanities.