Wolbach UX Overview

Project Goal

To foster a 1-year student driven project where gesture and touch-based technology is experimented with and adapted for use at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) John G. Wolbach Library.


Justin A. Daoust, Student Developer
Christopher Erdmann, Head Librarian, John G. Wolbach Library
James Chin, Project Consultant, Brown Graphics Group


In 2010, the Harvard Library embarked on an ambitious journey to spur innovation within the library community on campus with the creation of the Harvard Library Lab.  The Lab is supported through Arcadia funding and is currently asking for project proposals from librarians, faculty and students that create or improve library services.

The first Library Lab proposal deadline ended on December 1st, 2010, to which, the John G. Wolbach Library submitted a proposal titled “The Wolbach User Experience Lab." The ambitious proposal was accepted for development and has since transformed into a focused project.

Now titled “Wolbach UX," the project focuses on developing a proof-of-concept touch and gesture-based application, using software developed at Brown, which allows users to view and interact with digital material in new and innovative ways. The ultimate aim is to produce applications that will be used by groups at the CfA such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Chandra Education and Public Outreach.

Brown Graphics Group

The Wolbach UX project relies heavily on work done at the Brown Graphics Group. Two years ago, the Brown University Library collaborated with the Brown Graphics Group to develop an application called Garibaldi on the Surface to showcase the Garibaldi Panorama. Brown digitized the Panorama in 2007, creating a digital copy of the 273-feet-long piece of artwork. The application, Garibaldi on the Surface, developed for the Microsoft Surface, includes interactive features like hotspots, associated media (images/videos), and audio narrations. This past year, the Brown Graphics Group evolved "Garibaldi on the Surface" into a more general application called Large Artwork Display on the Surface (LADS) that explores innovative methods of touch-based exploration and interaction with all forms of high-resolution, large-format artwork.

Special Thanks

The Wolbach Library has benefited greatly from its collaboration with the Brown Graphics Group and would have never been able to accomplish as much as it has without their assistance. We are also thankful to Microsoft Research for allowing the library to participate in their Surface SDK Early Access Program (EAP).