Indiana University Libraries and Cultural Anthropology: scholarly publishing pioneers

March 30th 2017
Screenshot from November issue of Cultural Anthropology


The community-created Avalon Media System is at the cutting edge of innovation with the launch of a journal section exploring emerging audio and video possibilities.

For Immediate Release – March 30, 2017 –


The impact of the collaboration between the Indiana University Libraries and Cultural Anthropology is evident in the recent debut of Sound + Vision, a transformative section of the already pioneering, open access journal.

The journal’s editorial team, based at Rice University, turned to the Avalon Media System, a tool for managing access to digital audio and video content, to solve a critical problem.  “It is irresponsible, in the long term, for us to integrate content like this if we can’t make a commitment to our readers to preserve it,” managing editor Marcel LaFlamme explains.

Inspired by the possibilities that audio and video offer for scholarly communication, Cultural Anthropology had started to incorporate multimedia content into its online, non-peer-reviewed sections. However, these efforts were limited in scope and relied on commercial service providers.

According to Jon Dunn, assistant dean for Library Technologies at Indiana University, the Avalon Media System removes those limits. He said, “By keeping the infrastructure academic, we can make a commitment that the content will not be changed or removed at the whim of a commercial provider. And better than that, we can make that promise into a guarantee for the future.”

cover of November issue of Cultural AnthropologyAvalon is a product of the Hydra community, made up of over 30 educational, media and open-technology institutions dedicated to creating free open source software for digital content management, including the library technology teams of Avalon’s principal co-developers, Indiana University and Northwestern University. 

The Avalon player can be embedded right into a journal article, so media objects can be presented alongside text instead of on an external website. Already used by many universities for providing access to digital library collections, Avalon did not yet offer the more immersive elements Cultural Anthropology envisioned for Sound + Vision; specifically, the weaving in of new technologies instead of adding them on as supplements.

One of the editorial team’s first priorities was to secure the funding necessary to develop these capabilities. The American Anthropological Association supported the partnership’s vision through a $15,664 grant in 2016, paving the way to create what LaFlamme describes as a “more readerly experience of the article.”

Dunn and his library technology teams were ready for the challenge.  “We are working on the ability to not just embed the player, but to control the player through time points connected to the page, and to the reader’s interaction with the text. The video and text advance together. This is much more than just dictating linking between video and text,” he said.   

Dunn’s willingness to experiment is just one example of why journals seeking multimedia integration may find the best fit with library-hosted solutions.  For Cultural Anthropology, IU is a practical partner in both its offerings and approach, and an obvious choice despite its location miles away from its editorial office.

LaFlamme said, “What I feel good about is knowing that this content is living in IU’s repository. It will still be here 20 or 50 years from now. We set out to partner not just with any library, but with one that has a track record and experience in dealing with ethnographic materials.”

Dunn agrees that Indiana University – and its libraries – are on the frontier of exploring new roles. Open access publishing, interactive journals and searchable, persistent archives presented online are all new paths to knowledge being mapped out at daily at IU.  He says the Avalon Media System is a growing and flexible container for some of these new assets, pointing out that all revenue generated goes back into its development.

“Libraries are helping the academy of knowledge beyond the ways people potentially think about them.  This is just one example of how we are relevant to the academic environment today,” Dunn said.


Cultural Anthropology ( is the peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association. Established in 1986, the journal publishes four issues per year and is widely abstracted and indexed. In 2014, Cultural Anthropology went open access, which means that all journal content published since 2014 is freely available on the journal’s website immediately upon publication.

MEDIA CONTACT FOR CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY:   Jeff Martin, Director of Communications and Public Affairs,


The Avalon Media System is an open source system for managing and providing access to large collections of digital audio and video. The freely available software enables libraries and archives to easily curate, distribute and provide online access to their collections for purposes of teaching, learning and research. The project is led by the libraries of Indiana University Bloomington and Northwestern University and is funded in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by previous grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

MEDIA CONTACT FOR IU LIBRARIES:  Michelle Crowe, Director of Communications

Contact Info

Herman B Wells Library
1320 E. 10th St.
Bloomington, IN 47405
812-855-2576 (Fax)
Michelle Ann Crowe
Michelle Ann Crowe - Director and Media Contact
(812) 856-4817