3D Models in the Classroom: Every Rock has a Story

In collaboration with CDIL, the DS team digitized a series of rock specimens utilized in Prof. Ethan Baxter’s Fall 2021 Earth and Environmental Sciences class, Every Rock has a Story, to be used in interactive videos and, eventually AR experiences. A total of approximately 35 rocks were digitized (see examples), a subsample of the more than 60 3D models that were created this year through a combination of photogrammetry and laser scanning (see our collection). (See the Digital Studio’s 3D technologies page.)

Apple’s Reality Composer, a Free AR App

In collaboration with the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning (CDIL), Digital Scholarship and the BC Libraries have begun exploring the use of AR experiences in teaching and research. As part of this effort, we have been experimenting with Apple’s Reality Composer, a free AR app that allows for the creation of basic AR experiences without the need for coding skills. Here you will find a series of AR projects created with it. Clicking the image on an iPhone or iPad* will automatically open the model.

*Currently, these experiences are only accessible through Apple iPhones or iPads running an up-to-date iOS. We have iPads and Reality Composer as part of our 3D modeling station.

Animated robot AR model as seen on the Apple Quick Look gallery

Lion-headed stamp AR model created in the BC Digital Studio

Simple 3D models in Apple’s .usdz format allows them to be opened in AR and to be in a WordPress or Omeka page, as seen here. Clicking the image on an iPhone or iPad will automatically open the model in AR when pointed at a horizontal surface; clicking on a Mac or PC will download the AR file.

The two models above are simply models, but using Apple’s Reality Composer allows you to create more complex experiences with basic interactions without needing to code.

In the example below, built for a Boston College biology class, 3D models of hominid skulls were created using photogrammetry, uploaded into Sketchfab, and placed in AR to share with students, in order to replicate the experience of engaging with the models in the classroom.

Simply click the 2D image of a skull, and the AR experience will begin to load. Please note that the experience may take 15 seconds to 1 minute or so to load depending on the iPhone or iPad in use and the internet connection, and requires a flat, horizontal anchoring surface.

AR experience created by Nina Araújo; 3D models by Matt Naglak.

Hominoid skull

A second example was created using 3D models of an active excavation site just outside of Rome, Italy. It allows users to “re-excavate” a specific ancient tomb on the site and see the specialized burial technique that was utilized. The experience opens at life-size, so a relatively open space is necessary (Trigger warning: a 3D model of an adult skeleton uncovered which dates to around 100 BC is shown). 3D models by the Gabii Project; AR experience by Matt Naglak.

Ancient tomb outside of Rome Italy

Interested in AR but on a Google or Android device? Check out the variety of AR apps available for download from Google Arts and Cultures or from the Google AR/VR page. Note these apps are mostly also available on Apple products as well.

Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music

Launched at the end of 2016, the Séamus Connolly Collection of Irish Music is a digital archive featuring traditional tunes and songs collected by master fiddle player Séamus Connolly, Sullivan Artist in Residence in Irish Music at Boston College (2004 to 2015) and National Heritage Fellow (2013). Freely available, the collection offers over 330 audio recordings featuring more than 130 musicians via SoundCloud, with accompanying stories, transcriptions, and introductory essays.

This project was created through a partnership between Séamus Connolly and the Boston College Libraries.

Jesuit Online Bibliography

The Jesuit Online Bibliography is a re-envisioned, open access and fully searchable database of bibliographic records for scholarship in Jesuit Studies produced in the 21st century. This database contains more than 15,000 records of books, book chapters, journal articles, book reviews, dissertations, conference papers, and multimedia content, with the records also being accessible through The Portal to Jesuit Studies, an open access resource for Jesuit research and scholarship.

The Boston College Libraries project team developed this resource in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies (IAJS). Built using open source technology, the code used is available in the BC Libraries’ GitHub repository.

Keywords: Database, Metadata, Open Access

The Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era

The Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era contains over 600 “first-hand” drawings that document in lively and specific ways nineteenth-century America’s struggle to establish its national identity.

Joseph Becker (1841–1910) and his colleagues were artist-reporters who witnessed scenes of Civil War battles, railroad construction, the Chicago Fire, and other newsworthy items of their day. Upon having made sketches, the works were sent to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, where wood engraving illustrations based on them were engraved and published.

This project is a collaboration between Boston College Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Group at the and the Art, Art History, and Film Department in BC’s Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences.

John La Farge, Stained Glass in New England

John La Farge Stained Glass in New England complements the exhibition John La Farge and the Recovery of the Sacred shown at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College from September 1-December 13, 2015 and curated by Professor Jeffery Howe of Boston College. This project includes images of all the currently known works of stained glass windows by La Farge in churches, museums, and universities in Massachusetts, many in Rhode Island, and some of La Farge’s most notable windows in New York. In addition to images of La Farge’s windows, the Digital Guide provides a biography of the artist, timelines regarding La Farge’s artistic career, maps of the windows’ locations, architectural descriptions, and lists of museums that hold La Farge’s works.

Missionary Linguistics in Colonial Africa

Missionary Linguistics in colonial Africa / Corpus de travaux linguistiques des missionnaires provides linguistic analyses of continental Africa and Madagascar languages compiled by French Catholic missionaries between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The corpus contains multilingual (and multi-directional) dictionaries, descriptive grammars, vocabularies, and various hybridizations of these genres. In addition to the catalogue of titles, the corpus can be explored, filtered, and searched along several parameters, including: the target language documented, author(s), missionary organization(s), and place of publication. An interactive period map allows the texts to be explored geographically, by place of publication and target language locus.

Open Access Week Display

Thank you for checking out our Open Access Week Display! All of the content below with an orange tag has been made Openly Accessible to anyone around the world via our Open Access Publishing Fund. Scholars from BC who have authored this work have chosen to make their content available by working with publishers who do not charge subscription fees.

We will be having a meeting to discuss the Open Access Movement and how you can get involved at Boston College.

Orange QR Codes

The QR codes you see here on each article will link you directly to the online, open version of that article. Open Access publications mean that even if you were not on campus, you would be able to access this content with a working internet connection and nothing more. All of this content has been submitted by BC authors, and the Article Processing Charges associated with making the article open access are covered by Boston College Libraries as an aim to create more accessible assets worldwide.

Green Price Tags

These articles are from subscription journals – because we are on the Boston College campus, we have access to these articles while we are logged into the VPN associated with our BC usernames, however, this is not open access – and it is not accessible to users who are not affiliated to a subscribing institution. The price tags indicate how much full access to the article would cost.

Open Access Rocks?

Indeed, most rocks are freely accessible. These are here to highlight the 3D sketches of rocks that have been used to illustrate the collection for a geology class during the pandemic. Using these models, students can study geological formations in detail from wherever they are, without having to commute or interact in person. As technology improves and develops, finding new ways to deliver lessons or educational materials will increase accessibility across the board, and engage new learners who may have had large physical barriers that can now be circumvented.

It is not just articles that are open access. Books can be published open access as well. Peter Suber’s Open Access costs to own physically, but the entire content can be accessed online through the publisher’s website.

Digital Accessibility

What is Digital Accessibility?

Being able to access the web means having access to the modern economy, crucial social spaces, and, of course, vast information. Conversely, not having equal access to the web means not being able to participate in society fully. Unfortunately, reduced access is the reality for many people with disabilities who cannot always navigate the web as efficiently or effectively due to a lack of consideration for their technology design needs. (Interfaces not designed with the visually impaired in mind, for example, can be frustrating at best and impossible at worst to use.) However, there is a growing awareness around this issue, and efforts by such groups as W3C WAI, which has established web accessibility guidelines, have led the way. 

To contribute to this vital effort, all who create web content should educate themselves about how to make it as accessible as possible. Reviewing W3C’s Essential Components of Web Accessibility (or see the full guidelines) is an excellent place to start learning. The University of Iowa has a free Accessibility 101 course, which provides helpful instruction on accessibility principles. Web browser extensions, of which there are many, can be used for usability testing. (Usability testing is crucial when designing websites for people with disabilities.) The BC Libraries Digital Scholarship Group recently added an accessibility section to the DS Handbook, containing a growing list of accessibility-oriented resources for digital scholarship project creation. Finally, one helpful set of standards to keep in mind for designing accessible content is POUR:

  • Perceivable: This refers to the users ability to identify content based on their own senses. For many, this may mean using predominantly visual cues, while for others it may mean using none. Alternative text for images, as well as emerging technologies that may include cues for smell and taste are great examples proactive “perceivable” technology.
  • Operable: A user must be able to successfully navigate and interact based on the tools provided – sometimes this could mean the exclusive use of a keyboard instead of a mouse, or allowing for voice commands when working through an interface.
  • Understandable: All users should be able to comprehend the content they are viewing. Presentation and design should be predictable in its layout and design, color choices and patterns should work to improve overall flow and make the interface more comprehensible. Right now, the push for Universal Design would create a consistent style for websites, which could make online interfaces much more consistent and navigable based on the common use.
  • Robust: Websites ought to provide every option to individuals who want to view their content via their necessary means. Making sure that alternative inputs, such as voice commands are acceptable, and that the site can be run on a variety of browsers that may provide specific accessibility related plug-ins.

As you create content online; think about how it can be used, perceived, and understood as a resource for folks who might gather information through a variety of different means, methods, and senses.

Digital Scholarship Online Workshops: Fall 2021

The workshop schedule for the 2021 Fall semester has been published. Go to the Digital Scholarship events page to find out more details and register today. Topics range from exploring some foundational tools in Excel and diving deeper into programs like Tableau, a data visualization tool, or Omeka, an open-source digital exhibit publishing platform.

Below are some examples from programs like Tableau and Omeka, as well as some examples of GIS projects that students have worked on in the past.


Figuring out the best ways to showcase different statistics and research can be difficult via traditional print-based media. Tableau exists to help scholars tell the full story of their data; by using interactive graphs, charts, and infographics, data can be contextualized in ways that are more intuitive, and users can showcase or highlight certain trends and patterns.

Below are a few examples of Tableau projects that have been developed from previous workshops.


Omeka is a a web-publishing platform that can be used to develop and present digital projects. It is a relatively basic program at its core, with extensions and flexibility that can help create the right project and user experience. The “Introducing Digital Projects” workshop on October 14 will cover the essentials of getting started with Omeka.


Geographical Information Systems can capture, analyze, and present geospatial data. GIS workshops will help to familiarize with concepts and tools used for mapping projects.

Each year the Digital Scholarship team awards a contest for a GIS project created at Boston College. Information on the contest and to see previous project, check out our GIS Day website and this project from last year’s winner below.

This poster highlights different aspects of the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in the United States between May 2020 and January 2021.