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What Is Spotlight?
Spotlight is open source software that enables librarians, curators, and other content experts to easily build feature-rich websites that showcase collections and objects from a digital repository, uploaded items, or a combination of the two. Specifically, Spotlight is intended to be:
Full-featured — Using Spotlight, a curator can produce a feature-rich website focusing on a digital collection, with curatorial descriptions and features, about pages, full metadata records for objects, and robust searching and browsing of the collection.
Self-service — A Spotlight exhibit can be created by librarians, curators, archivists and others who are not web developers.
Integrated — Spotlight can interoperate directly with the digital repository, enabling seamless population of the exhibit with digital objects and their metadata.
Flexible — Spotlight exhibits can vary greatly in size and complexity; the curator can customize an exhibit site appropriately for a given collection and the goals for presenting it.
Spotlight is a plug-in for Blacklight, an open source, Ruby on Rails Engine that provides a basic discovery interface for searching an Apache Solr index.
To get a better idea of what Spotlight is, take a look at our demo videos, especially the tour of a completed Spotlight exhibit and the walkthrough of building an exhibit with Spotlight. See the Spotlight YouTube playlist for more demo videos.
Like many institutions, at Stanford Libraries we have a wide range of great digital collections and a range of ways we can publicize and/or make those collections accessible to people. Like most institutions we have a general website, in our case the Stanford Libraries website, that among other features enables our librarians and curators to create their own blog posts, news articles, and other simple pages. These simple pages are quick and easy to produce, but they provide only a limited sense of the richness or character of the associated collection, and no direct access to the objects in the collection.
With a little more effort, our librarians and curators can put together—within the library website—a mini-exhibit for a collection. While creating these mini-exhibits are definitely possible for a non-web developer (our library site is based on Drupal), it's not trivial, and this mini-exhibit is still situated within the larger library website, which limits it from having an especially strong focus on the exhibit. A user can’t search or explore the items in these mini-exhibits, and to see complete metadata for an item, they have to leave the context of the exhibit.
At the other other end of the spectrum, the Digital Library Systems and Services group at Stanford does create dedicated digital collection websites that are very effective in highlighting the uniqueness and richness of some great collections. But these collections sites require a significant amount of time from a small development team over at least a few months to produce. Stanford University Libraries, like other institutions, have many great collections that deserve this sort of treatment, but we lack the resources to produce them very often. Recognition of this gap in our options for truly showcasing digital collections in a cost-effective, on-going way, and the fact that many other institutions face the same challenge, is what motivated the development of Spotlight.
History of Spotlight Development
Spotlight was designed and developed primarily by the Digital Library Systems and Services group at Stanford University. Design began in the summer of 2013. We received feedback from the Hydra/Blacklight community at several stages during the initial design and development of Spotlight, most notably at the Hydra Partners meetings in September, 2013, and January, 2014, and at the Open Repositories conference in June, 2014.
The first phase of development on Spotlight took place in the winter and spring of 2014; the first production exhibit built with Spotlight launched in June, 2014. You can read more about that in the launch announcement.
A subsequent series of development sprints at Stanford during the winter of 2015 focused on a range of improvements, including extending the variety and flexibility of the widgets used to compose pages, support for importing non-repository items into an exhibit, and enhancing the visual attractiveness of Spotlight-built exhibits. Stanford now has several Spotlight exhibits in production.