University for the Creative Arts

Inspire active engagement with digital collections

Inside a library, a person sits at a computer. This is Epsom Library at the University for the Creative Arts.
Library, UCA Epsom

University of the Creative Arts logo

“We found CONTENTdm to be focused on the specialist needs of the library, museum, and archive sector with a wide customer base and proving good value for money.”

Amy Robinson
Digital Curation Manager, University for the Creative Arts

Since 1997, the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) has managed the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS). VADS provides a national collection of more than 140,000 digital images and associated metadata from 300+ sources. The collection represents digital images of relevance to the visual arts education community originating from libraries, museums, and archives across the United Kingdom. It’s open to anyone to use for free for noncommercial educational purposes. During the academic year 2019–2020, VADS received nearly 800,000 views from 192 countries. Library staff wanted to build on this success with more ways to engage with the collection.

Hosted library solutions save time

As a starting point, UCA staff sought to improve the underlying software and hosting platform. They had used the previous software since 2008 but found they no longer had the dedicated resources to support their internally developed system. As CONTENTdm offered a hosted solution, this meant their team could spend more time on other activities.

“We wanted a fully supported and hosted solution, and we were also able to introduce a number of new features with CONTENTdm,” said Amy Robinson, Digital Curation Manager at UCA.

The new website launched in October 2020 after a year-long project to migrate existing VADS images, metadata, and webpagesconsisting of 122 different metadata filesinto CONTENTdm.

“Researchers from around the world can access the collection, allowing them to conduct research without having to travel and... can gain access to resources that they may not be able to otherwise.”

Researchers can now interact with items in new ways. CONTENTdm’s embedded Mirador Image Viewer, for example, gives users the option to compare VADS images alongside those of other repositories worldwide, as well as adjust image brightness, contrast, and saturation.

“We have also introduced the Internet Archive BookReader, which displays books on VADS with a page flip viewer. Previously, we had a different piece of software for the page-turning functionality and now that we have migrated the content to CONTENTdm, we have saved money as we no longer need the additional software,” said Amy.

CONTENTdm also supports a highly visual, customized website that helps to highlight the VADS collection.

Enhanced options to view and share

The team was involved in the development of a new CONTENTdm featurethe ability to save images to a personal saved items page. Users can then export these lists or share links with others, helping to extend the reach of the resources. By using CONTENTdm, the team also introduced a new image zoom feature to see certain collections in much greater detail, as well as a new faceted search to narrow results and browse the collection using key metadata terms.

“Having the VADS collection available online is very important,” said Amy. “Researchers from around the world can access the collection, allowing them to conduct research without having to travel and they can gain access to resources that they may not be able to otherwise.”

Services used by University of the Creative Arts



  • Surrey, United Kingdom

Library at a glance

  • Offers courses in architecture, crafts, fashion, graphic design, illustration, fine art, photography, film, media, the performing arts and creative business
  • Holds more than 400,000 books, journals, and databases, as well as archival material and special collections of rare and unique items such as the back catalog of Oscar-winning animator Bob Godfrey
  • Home to the national image repository comprised of 140,000 items and associated metadata from 300 collections

Related stories

photo: University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library, exterior

Boost visibility of archival and special collections

Learn how University of Scranton improved organization and discoverability by combining digital collections in one place.

Yvette Wilks at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition, May 2018

Ensure local history includes all communities

Discover how the University of Massachusetts Boston collects photos, stories, and videos that better represent all Massachusetts communities.