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Reading Collections in the Edison Papers

Published onMar 19, 2024
Reading Collections in the Edison Papers
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Abstract

This essay examines the work to conceptualize and develop online reading collections for the Thomas A. Edison Papers. The online environment, called Reading Rooms, enables remote access to primary sources documenting Edison’s work and inventions. In the Reading Rooms, users can collect primary sources that they visualize, connect, and annotate via the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). By facilitating the navigation of large-scale documentary collections, Reading Rooms contribute to creating a reader-centered interactive experience in the Edison Papers.

1. Reading Primary Sources

Reading primary sources is an essential component of work in the humanities, often drawing from digital collections and editions of texts and audiovisual materials. In the Edison Papers, the digital edition publishes primary sources related to the work, research, and inventions of Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931). Given that the nature of primary sources impacts the type and format in digital publishing, all varieties of digital editions adapt and translate some essential aspects of the original, targeted primary source into digital formats, where some editorial mediation is required. In the case of personal papers, where authorial intentionality is missing, there is a greater uncertainty on what constitutes a “project,” “archive,” “edition,” “database,” or “research collection,” as Kenneth Price shows in his discussion of the Walt Whitman Archive (K. Price 2). The Edison Papers draw primary sources from several repositories, considering the conceptual specifications discussed by Price. As an integrated edition, the papers include a book edition of selected, transcribed, and annotated documents, along with an image edition from which documents are taken, so that thematic connections across Edison’s research and inventions overcome what Joris van Zundert called “information silos” that may cause problems for digital scholarly editions (11). The primary sources have been assembled in a digital edition in ways not envisioned by Thomas Edison. Collecting materials based on themes, such as Edison’s work and achievements, requires curatorial practices to make contents available, both in digital and traditional printed book editions of personal papers, to a wide readership of scholars and curious readers alike. By selecting images and text formats, primary sources can be seen individually or collectively, so those interested in digital publishing need to consider what Stan Ruecker and Jennifer Roberts-Smith call “interpretive experience design”. One of the guiding principles in the Edison Papers digital edition is a layered access, which also reflects the origins of the Edison Papers as a collection drawing from several repositories and archival sources. Multiple layers of access were already envisioned in the various formats in which the papers became available—first through the Edison Papers book and image editions available on Johns Hopkins University Press Project Muse, next with microfilm sources shared in the Internet Archive, and with published primary sources in HathiTrust and JSTOR.

Edison-related primary sources first became available online in the 1980s. The advancement of the Edison Papers meant that changes and innovations occurred after the project started with a broader, yet selective, microfilm edition. The Edison Papers had a companion book edition derived from over five million pages of documents in the archive of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, in addition to nearly 20,000 documents from over 100 other archives and collections. The original microfilm database was the foundation for a digital image edition in the project. Starting in 2000, images were collected from the microfilm edition and other repositories to create an online digital archive. This archive now has more than 154,000 documents that users can browse. The archive is built on Omeka-S, which is a content management platform. In more recent times, in 2022, the book edition volumes were digitized and shared on Johns Hopkins University Press’s Project Muse, in a format designed to facilitate browsing and annotating the documents, while the main themes remained searchable through volume indexes; materials are presented as open-access content.

Given the project’s origins and development, reading environments in the Edison Papers are examined using two main concepts, primary sources and reading skills, to conduct research in digital formats. Much of the ongoing confusion in digital publishing derives from terminology. Kenneth Price has discussed how the diversity and ambiguity in digital edition formats also derives from an encounter—or, conversely, a contrast with—former modes for historical research. This is a point that Amy Murrell Taylor has raised in the context of moving away from “a physical experience, a journey even, because for a very long time the archive has been a physical place” (151). Taylor acknowledged a variety of methodological problems in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, a project that was equally an “archive of problems” and evidence of “the exceptional” (151). Once scholars realize that mode of historical research is no longer viable as the exclusive way to study primary sources, though, they need to search for other ways to conduct historical research on primary sources. As Taylor argued, “[...] archives are changing and so too are our stories” (151). Going from documentary edition to a fully searchable online database, the Civil War Governors of Kentucky project became an opportunity process for historians to understand what strategies and methods are at stake when primary sources’ formats change, while also keeping a scholarly community as the primary referent and audience (Taylor 152; 154). Although studies on digital publishing concentrate on text editions criteria from the point of view of book studies and text criticism, I argue that reading habits have also shifted from physical places to digital archives and repositories. Reading is, thus, an act of historical awareness whose modes are influenced by “material and formal aspects of the writing surface and the writing itself, the text, the reader, and the context(s) in which something is read” (Krauß et al. 1–2). As S. Michael Putnam discussed in the context of education studies for digital formats, information flow differs from printed textual information intake, because “[u]nlike a book, which is a finite and unchanging resource, a learner cannot simply turn pages to review information” (Putnam 6). In those new research conditions, predictably, digital browsing and reading become regular tasks when readers get used to the new form and format of information. Being able to self-generate questions relevant to the research is essential, according to Putnam. Furthermore, for user-generated interest, “[p]rior knowledge is critical within the search process, as the learner uses it to assess whether the information is pertinent to the topic or task” (Putnam 4). Leah Price insists on online readers’ perception of “losing oneself rather than finding information” (64). Indeed, familiarity with internet technologies contributes to readers’ access to “global information sharing” (Putnam 2). Consequently, this transition is an interesting user experience study that enriches digital scholarship.

Since digital publishing, in the Edison Papers, draws from several sources, the editorial format in the Edison Papers integrated edition more closely represents the historical uniqueness of sources, consequently, so that a visual interface replicates the experience of scholars browsing primary sources in person, through the image repository and concurrent digital edition. Reading interfaces enable the delivery of images and texts from multiple servers on the web to create a reader-centred interactive experience displaying primary sources from the combined collections documenting the work of Edison. The Edison Papers editorial team recognized that the Edison Papers needed to enable both scholars and non-expert users to discover, use, and understand these primary sources in a customizable way. While most print books present transcribed and annotated documents in chronological order, digital formats replicate the outline and scope of textual history and criticism. Integrating International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) views into the Edison Papers produces a resulting digital edition that is customized, based on readers’ queries, and designed to promote collaborative reading, scholarship, and applications in pedagogy. The desired outcome is a versatile investigation of technological advancements and industrialization in 19th- and 20th-century history of technology, deeply connected to the context that readers find meaningful for their own queries. Unlike medieval to early modern texts for which Mirador viewer was primarily designed, 19th- and 20th-century materials testify to the modern history of technology and open reading associations through related, topic-based analogies.1 IIIF features can track these via viewing and annotation features. An emergent framework in the New Literacies theory has been discussed in terms of “a paradigmatic shift in which the notion of ‘being’ literate has been replaced by the continuous process of ‘becoming’ literate through responsiveness to changes in the form and function of new technologies” (3) The purpose of the New Literacies theory is “to understand nonlinear and interactive text, as well as multimodal representations within reading, writing, and communicating on the Internet” in order to handle workflows online, in a “nonlinear environment” (Putnam 3, 8).

Prospective users of the Edison Papers are scholars, educators, and non-expert users who might be studying new technologies and industries, for example telecommunications, electric light and power, materials processing, batteries for industry and automobiles, and the development of entertainment technologies such as sound recording, motion pictures, and radio, but also concepts in cultural studies, including invention, creativity, and engineering work (Israel; Rutgers, Edison). Curated finding aids and indexes help to inform readers and pedagogical resources are useful for K–12 educators who can reuse item-based essays. Educators can also show exhibits and StoryMaps as spatial and temporal data visualizations and connections to primary sources, to promote collaborative projects and teaching highlighting US history, industrialization, and growth in the areas of technology and enterprise, in the period from the Civil War to the Great Depression.

The interconnectedness of online and analog formats has informed textual media in Edison studies, an area where Lisa Gitelman and Theresa Collins maintain that “media came to denote the varied technical forms of communication, forms which are nominally said to contain the information—the ‘content’—that they communicate” (4). The question of opening up digital contents for optimized reading environments as mutually influenced factors has been studied by Miao-Hsuan Yen and Ying-Tien Wu, who argue that readers can form an opinion of complex topics through “supporting and opposing arguments and evidence from multiple perspectives” (14). Thus, the results are not about access, or not merely about access, given that readers’ own preferences connect with “attainable online material” or sources that are easily retrievable, so that people can read and understand those sources “in a balanced way.” Accordingly, users might be inclined to pick what is known as “myside information” or selective exposure, whereas it is equally important to “critically evaluate other-side information,” and information layout has an equally important role for readers to learn, validate, or reject two sides of a given question (14).

The goal guiding a visual digital edition and IIIF-based reading environment for the Edison Papers is to verify if visual methods and visual reading are essentially grounded in juxtaposing images of interest, and other additional tasks, thus replicating a physical and intellectual reader experience that dates back to St Augustine’s in-depth encounter with texts: “when he was reading, he drew his eyes along over the leaves, and his heart searched into the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent” (qtd. in Fischer, 237–293). While building collections involves bringing in materials from the digital book edition, digitized primary published sources, and related archival materials, the experience of designing a reading environment addresses users who can discover, use, and understand these primary sources in a customizable way, thus expanding capabilities of the prior version of the digital image edition, where the Edison Papers provided a basic modality for users to save a set of documents.

The technology chosen for the Edison Papers Reading Rooms is IIIF, which mediates and delivers images and texts from multiple locations online. Any audience would initially benefit from the zooming view, as offered by Universal Viewer, via the Internet Archive and its IIIF manifest, and that feature would be an actionable way for unspecialized audiences to connect with primary sources and view details closely, while moving around the picture. In IIIF-compliant digital collections, an Image Application Programming Interface (API) is needed to retrieve images, giving specifications as follows:

{scheme}://{server}/{/prefix}/{identifier}/{region}/{size}/{rotation}/{quality}.{format}

(“Image Information.”)

A digital edition is not necessarily linear, either in terms of contents, chronology, or spatiality, since it connects materials thematically; users, however, also have the option of linear viewing. In the digital edition, sources can be linear, paralleled, and contrasted, so that resulting levels of sources are set out to enhance the accessibility of complex historical collections in digital environments where no hierarchy is established. Dorothee Birke has argued that an increasing number of readers are becoming interested in reading contents online, both individually and socially (Birke 149–154). Through IIIF manifests, users can reconstitute a physical notebook and still have each document’s metadata; primary sources can be drawn from the Edison Papers book edition, but also other collections such as printed materials from HathiTrust and JSTOR.

Given the broad applications possible in digital history and digital humanities alike, the topic of usage metadata has implications for the study of digital images and cultural heritage. An experimental demonstration of this effect was first carried out by Chifumi Nishioka and Kiyonori Nagasaki in their work with digital libraries, where usage analysis metrics are used to evaluate collections and usability (“Understanding IIIF Image Usage” 211). They assessed IIIF image usage by counting the number of accesses to each pixel of images; next, they visualized the most popular regions of images in heat maps showing where scholars most often pan and zoom IIIF images in Mirador Viewer. They also examined viewing patterns using eye-tracking studies to find which regions of images, overall, have already been examined via IIIF image viewers, for whose complex visualization they reported that heat maps are useful tools to understand “where users tend to look” (“Understanding IIIF Image Usage” 211; “Measurement and Visualization” 309–310). Another technology involved uses a scan path that tracks eye positions and eye movements in time, where a circle on the graph corresponds to fixations, that is, gaze maintained on a single location (“Understanding IIIF Image Usage” 210–221). The image framework supported by IIIF allows for assembling digital images in an array or sequence. Nishioka and Nagasaki have studied IIIF as the medium technology that enables users to share and view images, as well as metadata for the images at the hosting institution and global scholarly usage, including annotations and transcriptions (“Measurement and Visualization” 309–311).

In the Edison Papers, Reading Rooms replicate the environment of a library or archive for scholars to collect, collate, and compare sources based on their research needs. The Reading Rooms environment presents the materials in the layout of an exhibition, in a format alternative to light box features often used in art history, where users can zoom in on images, one at a time (ARIES: ARt Image Exploration Space at the Frick Art). With interoperable images, both individually and in side-by-side layouts display primary sources to readers in a uniform view and one tab only. As Leah Price warns us, there is no such thing as “the myth of the self-made reader – of an unmediated communion between a reader’s mind and an author’s” (9); at the same time, current and future technologies, trends, and market expectations are time-specific: “in 1913, a journalist interviewing Thomas Edison on the future of motion pictures recounted the inventor declaring confidently that ‘books[…] will soon be obsolete in the public schools’” (165). Gitelman and Collins have similarly noted that “[w]hen media are either new or obsolete they cannot evade our notice but rather seem emphatically to call attention to themselves according to the multiple, dynamic conditions of their apprehension and use” (2). Print reading and online reading differ not only in formats but also in the way in which information is presented, so that no precise correspondence exists, either in layout or in user experience. While print reading proceeds in a linear fashion, or from beginning to ending, online reading is selective both in terms of content layout and page sequence, via links and complementing media. From such views, readers’ motives are foundational to commitment (“[e]ngaged reading is motivated, strategic, knowledge-driven, and socially interactive” (Naumann 263–264)). In that sense, readers’ literacy is an evolving skill and practice, because people are literate in a print-based context and in an online environment alike, though with different tasks and expectations. Print-based literacy is “textually oriented and static,” so that model is outdated compared to online reading. Leah Price wrote that:

Projecting back the printed book’s current definition as not-app erases a long history of what would only later come to be called “interactivity”: readers underlined print, copied out passages, disbound books to arrange their pages in new orders. Universalizing the printed book’s current function as not-database occludes how often readers have skipped and skimmed their way through print—browsing, searching, inking a homemade index into the endpapers. (L. Price 22)

Reading generally takes place in an environment whose cultural norms influence both the reading contents and the ways in which those are accessed. Krauß et al remark that “both the object and its inscription are shaped by cultural conventions […] a reading community’s reading practice” (1–2; see also Naumann 263–277 and L. Price 158-59). This inspiration to be progressive and inclusive readers contrasts with the idealistic goal of pursuing a main, correct text, also known as textus receptus in material book history and text criticism studies and described by Price as “establishing authoritative or definitive texts that encouraged the selection of a single text” (K. Price 11). In the digital edition, stratified levels of sources enhance the accessibility of complex historical collections in digital environments. In a layered access to the editions, the Edison Papers offers a practical knowledge architecture, as well as Reading Rooms where not only scholars but non-expert users can discover, use, and understand these primary sources.

2. Reading Collections and Environments

Given the large scale of the Edison Papers, Reading Rooms allow a customized reading environment where users display reading collections, as they would in a library or archive with the purpose of collecting, comparing, and annotating primary sources. The goal is to offer scholars the opportunity to build their own thematic research collection for their projects, similarly to the affordances at JSTOR workspace. Reading collections and environments are a way to think about the context of primary sources and the future uses of digital editions. The concept has been applied to a framework in manuscript-based collections, for example a Scholars’ Workbench in METAscripta.

The Prototype Reading Rooms incorporate selected, transcribed, and annotated documents in the image, or book edition from which documents are drawn, including extensive metadata related to each document. The resulting reading experience can be seen in IIIF interfaces that deliver images and texts from multiple servers on the web (Snydman et al). IIIF is designed to provide access to image-based resources around the world, support programming interfaces between repositories, and cultivate shared technologies for using images. This environment, named the Reading Rooms, has the purpose of opening reading collections in digital spaces for scholars, in particular to hold together a thematic collection of their own, by filtering primary sources and collecting materials of interest.

Figure 1: Proof of concept for the Edison Papers Reading Rooms (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license).

As an artificial go-between, Reading Rooms facilitate navigation through contact points that are meaningful for users in a variety of views, by keeping track of searched, browsed, and annotated materials that readers selected. Other digital room portals, such as the NYU Abu Dhabi Arabic Collections Online and the Virtual Hill Museum have provided users with a customized view of textual and visual sources available in several digital formats. The case for sources in the history of science and technology demonstrates the need for better strategies and integrated resources in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) sector, where significant differences have been found to include interconnected repositories such as The Wellcome Collection and the Notre Dame repository, Marble (Museums, Archives, Rare Books, and Libraries Exploration), both of which connect institutional museum and library collections in a shared repository showcasing both areas seamlessly. Critics of viewing-based portals contend that such case studies enable multi-perspective, side-by-side viewing, thus preventing a final, established version of text to read as “correct.” Van Zundert (2018) disputes textual uniformity on account of the “intellectually hedonistic ideal of publishing the definitive edition” which, in turn, hinders “teleological conception of resource and reuse” (11–12). Additionally, digital editions may, or may not have the format of a book, or stem from authorial intents to produce texts resembling a book at all (Driscoll and Pierazzo). The philological attention to readings derives, according to Jeffrey C. Witt, from a holistic goal he calls “the textual idea” which does not necessarily account for the different types of artifacts in cultural heritage, for example how ancient or modern manuscripts differ from archives and personal papers.

Through digital media and platforms, digital editions also point to a relevant aspect, the intentionality of personal papers. In Thomas Edison’s work, a variety of contents, in textual and visual forms, constitute miscellaneous notes that had not originally been envisioned to shape universal, one-directional readings. The question of intended audience and mode of communication, however implicit, has been discussed in the scholarship of archives and museums. Witt maintains that “the textual idea” shapes scholars’ goals and the vision they have of their own outputs and deliverables through IIIF, regardless of the context of book manuscripts or the different field of archives and personal papers; for example, while some texts have been intended and designed by their authors to serve a purpose conveyed in certain forms and media, and to address specific readerships, other cases have fewer clear boundaries.

Through interoperable images, IIIF-compliant images present materials to readers in a coherent way, allowing deep zoom, comparison, page layout, annotation through a IIIF image viewer, Mirador Viewer.

Figure 2: Visualizing items via Mirador viewer allows for deep zooming and rich metadata drawn from the Internet Archive materials in the Edison Papers (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license).

The Reading Room was developed as a project with Mirador 2 viewer specifications, prior to the release of Mirador 3 viewer as a widely available tool. Strategies to enhance viewing and annotation might involve Reading Rooms offering an instance of Mirador Viewer 3, where, in addition to current implementation of Mirador 2 with a window opening two or more items and item collections that have been available on one of the Edison Papers editions, annotation features would be specific to each area of the image. As a result of the Reading Rooms, scholars could bring together documents from the Edison Papers digital image and book editions, along with related materials from other digital archive collections, as well as published primary sources in HathiTrust and JSTOR, so they can build and annotate their own thematic research collection. Readers can, then, connect with contents through a digital process that Steven R. Fischer has discussed in terms of “a veritable reading revolution” (297). Furthermore, image manifests provide metadata and become consumable documents that researchers, scholars, and students can then utilize in novel ways based on the evolving toolsets of the digital humanities.

Users engaged with digital publishing benefit from collecting and curating materials they are interested to read. The concept of providing multiple layers of access proves to be a useful tool for enhancing the accessibility of complex historical collections in digital environments. A reader-centered approach enables an interactive experience displaying primary sources both from textual and image-based collections documenting the work of Edison. Researchers can access and collect documents, write notes, and keep copies for their own research needs, as they would in a library or archive reading room, or reconstitute a notebook as a cultural artifact, an aspect that is missed when presenting a notebook as a series of individual documents. One of the applications of Mirador Viewer is comparison, when a window opens two or more items or item collections jointly. Comparing and contrasting two or more items reproduces a “quasi-book-like experience” (Campagnolo 324), thus extending the boundaries of book history to include e-books and online reading, as Leah Price argued (11–13). Comparing several primary sources in a tab takes variants and alternate readings into account, both individually and in side-by-side layouts, in a unitary view where one tab only enforces a “teleological conception of resource and reuse.” That type of flexibility is helpful for iteration, while also enforcing an open mindset that is not geared towards achieving “the definitive edition” (van Zundert 11–12). In that process, users can view every image in deep zoom, but also in side-by-side displays, so that both the layout of the image itself and a specific page order become a part of historical inquiries in the online reading environment, in the historical research that scholars can document. Additionally, the IIIF image viewer used in the Reading Rooms, Mirador, offers annotation features that help scholars to “understand, approach and interact” with sources, and, therefore, bring “a paradigmatic shift” in cultural heritage (van Zundert 8, 20).

Annotations are a convenient way for scholars to comment on primary sources. Ancient sources have inspired early IIIF viewing, and digital image features and IIIF draw from manuscript-based studies of classical, medieval, and Renaissance texts that have influenced the design and implementation of Mirador Viewer, the IIIF-compliant image viewer designed and built by Stanford University (van Zundert 2; 23–40). One of the earliest projects in IIIF annotation took place at the Vatican Library in partnership with Stanford University, with funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation between 2016 and 2019 (Campagnolo 323). The outcome of the project, “Thematic Pathways on the Web,” consisted in more than twenty-six thousand annotations of IIIF images. The conceptual origin for that type of visualization comes from book studies and material history, in an idea anticipated, in theoretical terms, by Fischer when he discussed “the parchment keyboard” as a remnant of non-digital modes of writing and, consequently, reading; he wrote: “In what pertains to the printed world, the ‘parchment keyboard’ perpetuates a system and script unlikely ever to be superseded” (Fischer 293; see also L. Price 51–52). As IIIF became a new technology to interpret the digital medium, cultural influences are certainly ascribable across digital publishing and digital editions, so that a sort of “stimulus diffusion,” a concept essential to the history of writing, can contribute to illustrating the history of reading in digital formats, as well (Fischer 294). An example of that set of adaptive skills is found when users benefit from “self-regulated learning” as they reorient their reading experience by adapting “prior knowledge or memories of similar situations experienced in the past” (Putnam 6–7). Putnam challenges the concept of textual forms and consistency, since the so-called “text” or “emerging text” is not fixed but “[...] changes each time the learner explores a new resource or clicks a new link.” Textual layouts are unique to each digital experience, and Putnam acknowledges that a special set of skills is required for readers to “be proficient in predicting, navigating, and adapting within an environment that lacks organizational features like page numbers or a table of contents” (Putnam 4). Through iteration, users’ reading experiences are not only text-oriented, but also medium-based, with the option of detailed metadata to complete historical documentation for users.

The Reading Rooms provide remote access to connect resources in the Edison Papers, to navigate a large-scale documentary collection, and to visualize texts, images, and artifacts together, as the user chooses to select and visualize digital images jointly. For reasons of accessibility and inclusion of diverse sources in history, the Edison Papers editorial team conceptualized a meeting point for all users who intend to explore the digital edition in a free flow of information, so that the user experience is open to a variety of editorial decisions, from collecting to displaying, prioritizing, and annotating primary sources and possibly including secondary sources, as well. The Reading Rooms create a user experience that enables users, especially scholars, to create their own thematic collections, to annotate items and collections, and to have stable Uniforn Resource Identifiers (URIs) for quoting those annotations. IIIF is conducive to collaborative research since its data model is based on the web Annotation Data Model, so it is possible for users to connect IIIF sources among themselves, and with the work of other scholars. Furthermore, the Edison Papers have also invested in making sure that materials are available, along with the metadata. The range of digital editions work reflects a variety of purposes and targeted audiences that was already an influential aspect to consider in the field of print editions (“selected editions, reader’s editions, and some boldly claiming to be authoritative or definitive editions” (K. Price 3)); for a wide audience of scholarly interests, see van Zundert 2–3). The Reading Rooms are intended to allow users to pick one, or more images, zoom in and out, compare images, side by side, building a digital exhibit, with one or more images, and rearrange two or more images in various layouts, in addition to 2.0 Mirador and above features of annotating digital contents. So far, access to individual users has been provided item by item both in the digital edition and in the book edition.

The scale of the Edison Papers is immense, and there is a learning curve for all users that the Reading Rooms should facilitate. In that virtual recreation of an archival environment, Reading Rooms are places to view images in deep zoom, to compare images and to build images that belong to the same context, both in light of the structure of the image itself or in a specific page order. Furthermore, it is possible to annotate images through Mirador Viewer. The digital edition also provides access through item sets, that is, to folders and volumes. The process of understanding sources in a digital format is conducive to the task Ruecker and Roberts-Smith call “engage audiences in complex acts of interpretation.” Since a layered access to the editions pertains to design and planning, it impacts the experience of not only scholars but non-expert users to discover, use, and understand primary sources in history as objects (Owens; Ruecker and Roberts-Smith; Longo).

Figure 3: The user interface in the digital edition offers options for individual items, item sets or collections of items, but also topic-based queries structured around metadata; additionally, users can find indexes and finding aids (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license).

Through layered access, images are juxtaposed equally, without hierarchical layouts. Such an approach is mindful of webpage layout and eye-tracking studies in digital and web page design. The visual layout of information poses a problem for viewing multiple sources synchronously, thus replicating a common scholarly task in digital formats. The mediated access can be a valuable starting point for non-scholarly queries, and search and finding aids remain useful for both audiences. What multiple layers of access achieve in connecting the book edition, the image edition, and the primary published sources is to enable reading environments, so that the discovery, reading, and interpreting moments of research accompany a raising awareness of reading and using technology for accessing historical sources.

Given that digital editions rely on layout approaches based in the print medium, Reading Rooms transfer, adapt, and innovate book contents in digital formats. Thanks to content portability and interconnectedness that is a key value to IIIF APIs, the type of digital edition implemented at the Edison Papers enables a customized reading environment and convenient personal reading collections. When the Edison Papers Reading Rooms connect examples hosted in other repositories, the Reading Rooms foster new ways to interpret digital history and an ideal pedagogical approach for educators and students to discover, use, and understand these primary sources in reading environments that include hypermedia such as audio and visual materials.

Thanks to the flexible image standards relying on interoperable contents, IIIF viewers and editors in the Reading Rooms are very engaging tools for digital historians and educators who gain remote access to primary sources in the Edison Papers and have an easier user experience in a large-scale documentary collection. Through IIIF technologies, users can view media-based contents, such as texts, images, and audiovisual materials.

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