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Spending days at this beautifully crafted and innovative digital library

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Spending days at this beautifully crafted and innovative digital library

Americana by

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For the John Carter Brown Library - situated on the grounds of the Ivy League Brown University in Providence, US - Dutch strategic digital design agency Fabrique created the impressive and carefully crafted online library The Americana. A platform that encompasses the John Carter Brown library's impressive collection of more than 75,000 rare books, maps, manuscripts and art works. Our Dutch Digital Design curators are inspired.

History of the John Carter Brown Library

The story of the John Carter Brown Library begins in 1846, driven by one man’s love of learning and passion for history. Today it is a place where the historical legacy of the Americas is preserved and protected to foster deeper understanding of the present, and to inspire their impact on the future. A place where the past and the present meet - housed in a magnificent Beaux-Arts style. A unique place and experience for visitors.

The Americana - a destination in its own right

The John Carter Brown library's digital counterpart is not an extension of the physical library, but a destination in its own right. The Americana is a true digital library: where you can learn, teach a class, collaborate, do research, have exhibitions and much more. The Americana provides the experience of a meaningful day at the library for anyone, anywhere, anytime - from researchers and scholars to everyone who is interested in the early Americas. It breaks the pattern of most digital archives.

Fabrique have created tools that empower users to annotate, create projects and publish research findings both on the platform and beyond. More features will be rolled out in the future - expanding on the knowledge of the library, so the collection becomes a true living collection. 

The Americana experience

As the platform offers all these sophisticated functions, it is crucial that the interface is kept simple.

The system is designed for 'accidental' discovery. Starting with a dynamic homepage that presents different objects with each refresh. The next step will be to push The Americana 'search' function to another level: to visualise all 75,000 objects as a whole - through interactive behaviour that responds to search enquiries. This includes showing how an object is interconnected with other objects to send users down different 'rabbit holes' for further discovery.

Collaboration with the client

The great collaboration between agency and client enabled Fabrique to create an innovative and impactful product. Client and agency shared a common goal: to create a truly digital library that is meaningful for its users whose research and findings can be impactful for future generations. The client became part of the team:

Every meeting with the client is full of laughter, deep thinking, firing each other up with ideas, relevant and irrelevant anecdotes and lots of chocolate. The team feels like a family. Fabrique

What's next for The Americana?

The success of The Americana has allowed the agency to explore many more new features. For example, how to best use AI to enhance the experience. How to further evolve the digital experience of a day at the library - full of new discoveries and surprises.

Fabrique - together with the client - have great ambitions with regards to this project. They want to explore technologies that can bring library objects to life: how does the object feel, smell, sound when you turn the page of that book or fold up that map. 

So far, so very good!

Love this. Minimalist & straight-forward design. Curating your own collection or even exhibition makes it a much more interactive experience than an actual library. This is where the strength of this website lies. Dutch Digital Design curators