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Digital Exhibits Guide

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Scalar Support
Visit the blog, see Scalar's webinars and user guides, and more.

Scalar Guide
Quick link to Scalar 2 user guide.

Chicago Collections uses Box for file storage and co-working. After your exhibit has been approved, use this link to quickly get to your Box account.

Need Help? Contact Us

Slack is a messaging application used for collaborative work. You can use the Chicago Collections Slack channel to ask questions about digital exhibits and find digital exhibit collaborations or subject experts.

Send the Digital Exhibits Committee an email any time!

Introduction to Collaborative Digital Exhibits with Chicago Collections

Chicago Collections is proud to support digital exhibits created by members, found online at This guide will provide an overview of the exhibit process and help you design your exhibit in Scalar, the platform chosen by the Digital Exhibits Task Force in 2017.  This manual is a living document meant to guide you through best practices that are specific to Chicago Collections. Throughout the guide, we will link to more technical instructions found in Scalar's official documentation, as well as other resources. You can access the Scalar site any time in the "Quick Links" box to the left. You can also contact the Digital Exhibits Committee at any time with questions or suggestions for updating this guide.

You can navigate through the steps to digital exhibit creation on the menu to the top left, and there are various support communities on the bottom left, including the Chicago Collections Slack channel, Scalar's website, and contact information for the Digital Exhibits Committee, which reviews exhibit proposals and approves final exhibits.

Overview of Process

If you are interested in designing a digital exhibit, here is an overview of the process, which is described in more detail in the navigation tabs to the left. The timeline is a suggestion, and you should customize it to your individual needs.

  1. Proposing an Exhibit - You'll decide on a topic, discuss with your Exhibit Team (optional - you can propose an exhibit just by yourself), and secure permission from your Institutional Collaborators to use media files from at least three different institutions and submit a Digital Exhibit Proposal Form. This form will be reviewed by the Digital Exhibits Committee, the Content Committee, and the Chicago Collections Board. These three groups will advise you on any other potential collaborators or similar projects that might already be happening. (Month 1)
  2. Gathering Images and Metadata - After the Digital Exhibits Committee has approved your proposal, you'll be given a Scalar and Box account so you can start loading your media into the Scalar Media Database. (Months 2-3)
  3. Creating Your Exhibit - You'll write and design your exhibit within the Scalar editor, pulling items in from the Media Database. You can also add any widgets or code customizations. (Months 3-4)
  4. Editing and Testing - When your site is in its final stages, you'll send it to the Digital Exhibits Committee for approval. You'll edit the site if needed, and then you'll send it to the contact person for each institution that contributed an image (even if the image is pulled from EXPLORE Chicago Collections). They'll let you know if they have any corrections for captions. (Months 5-6)
  5. Final Steps - Once any institutional edits are made, let the Digital Exhibits Committee know that the exhibit is ready to be migrated to the public exhibits site. (Month 7)
  6. Bask in the glow of creating a collaborative digital exhibit about Chicago History!