11th European e-Accessibility Forum
e-Accessible Culture

19/06/2017, 9am-6pm
Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, Paris

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From text to art: building accessibility into the JSTOR and Artstor digital archives


Speaker's information

Lauren Trimble

ITHAKA is a US not-for-profit organisation responsible for JSTOR, a digital archive of academic journals, books and primary sources, and Artstor, a digital library of over 2 million high-quality art images for education and research.

Lauren Trimble joined JSTOR as a User Advocacy and Accessibility Specialist in 2013, having worked for Bloomsbury Publishing as a marketer. At JSTOR, she has pioneered a regular process of accessibility evaluation, future implementation and issue prioritisation for development teams. She has also trained ITHAKA staff on accessibility and served as the accessibility liaison between JSTOR and university librarians. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London and works extensively with 826Michigan, a non-profit that enables school age children of all abilities to write skillfully.



Through JSTOR and Artstor, Ithaka make academic journals, books, plant specimen, art and other primary sources available online to secondary schools, universities and individuals. Users are primarily undergraduate or graduate students, PhD candidates, faculty staff, independent researchers and librarians.

Through a financial and legal push orchestrated by key academic institutions and supported by internal accessibility and UX staff, ITHAKA committed to an accessibility upgrade for its JSTOR archive. The head of the legal department made meeting WCAG 2.0 standards a priority and, after a full audit of the JSTOR site, specific tasks were listed for the development teams. Through systematic employee training, there is now a system in place to catch accessibility problems before they arise.

Ithaka is now however faced with a host of new challenges with its recently acquired Artstor platform. Artstor is a visual tool that allows users to view high quality images of and metadata for a growing collection of art. Artstor has over 2 million images including photography, painting, sculpture, manuscripts and decorative which come from a wide variety of museum and other institutional contributors.

Given the visual nature of Artstor content, the data that categorizes and describes these images is increasingly important to a user with disabilities. The organisation is faced with the challenge of systematically providing descriptions for the non-textual content that lives on Artstor so that anyone can access the sources on offer. This will require a two-pronged change: a change in how content is ingested from contributors/publishers and a useful and uniform means of describing images.

The first step is to ensure that all publishers and contributors are providing the same baseline level of data. Then a means of describing these images needs to be established. Through Artstor Labs and tools developed elsewhere, Ithaka is exploring several means and methods for collecting this data, including through crowdsourcing tools.

Watch Lauren Trimble's presentation on YouTube. For subtitles, please use the CC button, and if you require a transcript do not hesitate to contact us at contact[at]


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