May 22, 2022

metaLAB (at) Harvard: “Wedding Digital with Traditional Form”

From the Harvard Gazette:

During a crowded reception at Harvard’s Arts @ 29 Garden, Travis K. Bost, M.Des.S. ’12, reached toward a small shelf of books and removed a green volume.

Choosing a book happens all the time at a University with more than 70 libraries, 17 million volumes, and miles of shelves. But it was also a larger act: Bost had designed the shelf, which was fitted with a microcontroller and photocells, to show information about the book being removed. When he picked out William Cronon’s “Nature’s Metropolis,” a computer screen flashed related information, including naming books by the same author.


The projects were different, and included “Paper Machines,” which turned a century of global land reform data into dramatic visualizations; a color-coded map representing a decade of library acquisitions at Harvard, part of metaLAB’s Library Observatory project; “Feral Copyright,” a project puzzling over digital-age issues of creativity and ownership; a map that plots global news reports from National Public Radio, revealing a geographic display of American news interests; and a Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters.

And the projects were the same. All represented elements of metaLAB’s core mission of finding new ways to access, annotate, remix, display, and share information from what might be broadly called the humanities. Jeffrey Schnapp, metaLAB faculty director, calls this modern challenge “knowledge design.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.