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What is Spotlight?

Spotlight is an open-source software platform with many built-in features that allow exhibit creators to easily build visually interesting websites that highlight collections of materials, much in the same way that a physical exhibit highlights physical objects. Creators building online exhibits in Spotlight are able to group objects into categories for browsing and to provide context for the objects and the collections through written text on feature pages.

Spotlight was developed at Stanford Libraries by a team from the Digital Library Systems and Services group. Since the first release of Spotlight in summer 2014, other libraries and institutions have contributed to this open-source, community project.

Why was it developed?

Spotlight was developed in order to help libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage organizations easily create online exhibits using content from digital repositories. Spotlight is designed to work with any repository software; at Stanford, Spotlight leverages content in the Stanford Digital Repository, allowing repository objects and their associated metadata to be easily added to a Spotlight exhibit.

Who can create a Spotlight at Stanford exhibit?

If you are a member of the Stanford community: faculty, staff or student, or partnering with Stanford staff -- and you are interested in exploring the use of Spotlight to showcase your digital content, for the public, research community or in the classroom -- please reach out to the Spotlight at Stanford Service Team. Contact information is available on our microsite.

Why might I want to use Spotlight to create an online exhibit?

If you have a number of digital items that you would like to highlight or draw more attention to than can be done with just online library catalog records (SearchWorks) or digital repository pages (PURL pages), then Spotlight might be the right platform for you. Spotlight allows you to:

  • place specific items side-by-side to allow visual comparison;
  • provide descriptive text about the scholarly impact or historical value (or whatever you want to say!) of specific items or of a set or collection of items;
  • bring together content from multiple collections for research and analysis by users;
  • pick and choose exactly which items you’d like to include -- it doesn’t have to be everything in a collection, and can include items from multiple collections;
  • create browse categories based on specific searches that can include items across multiple collections in your exhibit;
  • include background information about donors, collections, curators, institutions, funding agencies, or anything else relevant to the content you are highlighting.

What if my items are not in the Stanford Digital Repository? Can I still use Spotlight?

Yes, you can! While Spotlight works best with content that is stored in the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR), this is not an absolute requirement. Content not stored in the SDR (referred to as non-repository content) will often not have extensive metadata, which means you will have fewer options for creating browse categories or for users to take advantage of facets for sifting through content. Metadata can be added to these items, but be aware that this may take a considerable amount of work on your part. In addition, some of the widgets used to design the various pages within the exhibit work only with content from the repository. Check out these exhibits that use non-repository content:

I mistakenly added objects from the Stanford Digital Repository to my exhibit that I didn't intend. Help! What can I do?

It is easy to suppress viewing of these objects in your exhibit, by navigating to each object and checking the box marked private in the upper right-hand corner. Next, do a search of your exhibit, by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner, with no search terms entered. Look at the facets on your left, and you will see a facet called Item Visibility. This will list all of the objects you have marked as private, and they will not show up to exhibit visitors when your exhibit is published. Currently, it is not possible to remove objects from an exhibit once they have been added. This feature is on our wish list, and we hope to add this capability during a future development cycle.

What if I want to add images to my exhibit from another repository that are IIIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) compatible?

Spotlight includes the ability to add well-formed IIIF manifests from other institutional repositories to your exhibit. The display of IIIF images in the viewers used by Spotlight is not yet fully reliable, but this is a known issue we hope to make progress on soon. Please contact us if you have questions or need assistance with adding IIIF manifests to your exhibit.

What if my repository items are all files and not visually interesting images or videos?

You can use Spotlight for this kind of content as well, though it may take more work on your part to find other usable images to make your exhibit visually interesting as well as informative.

The Stanford Research Data exhibit is composed almost entirely of items that do not have associated thumbnail images and therefore do not have much visual interest. The curator of this exhibit identified images from within the content files themselves or copyright-free images on the web that could be used for mastheads and browse category thumbnail images within the exhibit. Likewise, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy exhibit uses sketches and drawings found within the reports themselves.

Can users search the full text of the files in my exhibit?

As a pilot, we are currently supporting full text search of the East Timor documents in the Virtual Tribunals exhibit. The search results page in that exhibit displays sample matches in the document text of any item that contains the search term or phrase. When viewing the detail page of an item, the item viewer offers an additional search feature that enables exhibit viewers to search the complete text of the item and discover all matches within the document.

We are in the beginning stages of exploring what we can currently support, and the requirements that the documents must meet in order for us to leverage the content for searching. If you have a prospective use case for full-text search that you would like to inquire about, please contact us.

How long does it take to create an exhibit?

The amount of time it takes to create an exhibit depends on a number of factors. Our Before You Start guide can help you with some of the things you should think about before you even request an exhibit. If you have planned out what you want to do before you get started, then creating the Spotlight exhibit should be straightforward. The more complex your exhibit -- the more browse categories, the more non-repository images you need to hunt down, the more content you need to write -- the longer it will take.

If you want your exhibit to include items from the Stanford Digital Repository, but they have not been added to the repository yet, this process can take anywhere from an afternoon (for a handful of non-image items added via self-deposit) to many months (for collections of thousands of items with rich metadata that need to be added to the repository via mediated accessioning).

If your content is in the repository but the metadata is not up to snuff, you may need to invest time in metadata remediation in order to generate the browse categories or facets you’d like to include in your exhibit. The time required for this can be extremely variable, depending on how much remediation is required.

Can a Spotlight exhibit have multiple creators/editors?

Of course! Once you have requested an exhibit and the exhibit stub has been created for you, you have the ability to add additional users with either curator or administrator roles. All Spotlight at Stanford roles require that you have a SUNet ID, or your are collaborating with a Stanford staff member on creating an exhibit -- someone who can sponsor you for a no-cost SUNet ID. See our Exhibit Documentation for information on these roles and how to add more users.

How do I get Spotlight at my institution?

If your institution has a digital repository, ask them if Spotlight is used by staff at your institution. If not, talk to your local administrator and tell them you are interested in using Spotlight. Please refer to the page on Spotlight Community for more information, as well.