Back to the Wall: A Year of Experimenting with the Main Library’s Digital Wall

The Cultural Heritage Digitisation Service (CHDS) has managed the Main Library’s Digital Wall since it was installed in late 2019.1 The Wall is made up of two sets of nine 4k screens which are operated by touch screens: users can navigate high resolution images of the library’s cultural heritage collections as well as watch videos that feature specific collection items, projects and pieces of work undertaken by library staff. When the Wall is not in use, it displays massive “Attractor” videos which run across all 18 screens, designed to draw users in. 

Much of our original ambition around using the Wall was curtailed by the COVID pandemic: even after the Main Library building was reopened, the decision was taken to deactivate the Wall’s touch screens to minimise the risk of the virus spreading, and we didn’t want to encourage people to loiter in the space for longer than was strictly necessary. Having said that, we did explore the use of Leap Motion controllers as a way of navigating the Wall’s interface without touch, but the pilot project showed this to be an unviable solution. 

As we entered academic year 2022/23, and with most COVID restrictions lifted, we decided to pivot in our approach to using the Wall. Instead of focusing solely on our own internally created cultural heritage content, we chose to explore whether there was an appetite to make use of it in other ways and encouraged colleagues across the University to propose alternative uses. As a result, over the last year we have used the Wall for a number of new purposes: 

  1. Advertising and highlighting interesting and relevant events to the Library community, such as the ECA Graduate Show, the Edinburgh Global photography competition and activities around Gaelic Week 2023 

Digital wall showing advertisement for images from Edinburgh College of Art 2022 Graduate Show

 2. Displaying student-generated digital materials and giving them a platform to showcase their work, for example through displaying winning entries from the Robert Blomfield student photography competition as well as the ECA show and Edinburgh Global events mentioned above. 

Digital wall showing images from Student Photography Competition including aerial images of the city and St James Quarter

3. Helping to make the library a welcoming and friendly environment for users, by showing the University’s official 2022 Welcome Week video throughout September and hosting a welcome banner for visitors to the library for the AHFAP conference .

4. Hosting events, in particular a Pecha Kucha seminar for the Digital Research Services team, which was attended by 20+ people and demonstrated the value of using the space in this way. 

Throughout the rest of 2022/23 we plan to continue experimenting with the Wall, with plans to show the winning entries from the Edinburgh Global photography competition, showcase material from the next ECA graduate show and the Bookmarks project, as well as display material related to A Carrying Stream exhibition in the Main Library. We are also hoping to have an event for National Video Game Day on 8 July, with some ROM hacking tutorials. 

We are very keen to continue exploring diverse uses of the Wall – if you are interested in getting involved or learning more, please get in touch and follow the Twitter hashtag #EdLibDigiWall ! 

By Gavin Willshaw (Digitisation and Digital Engagement Manager) and Stuart Robinson (Audio-Visual Resources Technician)




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