Today marks the launch of a new regular blog item for islandora.ca: Islandora Show and Tell. Credit for the idea belongs to the crowd at iCampCO, who reacted to our usual impromptu parade of Islandora site demos from the community by suggesting that this sort of thing should happen far more often. Colorado Alliance's Robin Dean coined the name "Islandora Show and Tell," and here we are.
The launch of Show and Tell coincided handily with the launch of a particularly innovative and beautifully designed Islandora site: Barnard Digital Collections.
Right off the bat, the site stands out for its striking home page, with a full photo background and simple search/browse box as a gateway to the collection:
Other customizations include landing pages for the collection (with new thumbnails), school newspaper, and yearbook; modifications to the OpenSeadragon viewer to add thumbnails; and a custom content model for digital exhibits that pulls in Islandora objects based on PID. If you want to see how the peices work, you can check out Barnard's custom code up on GitHub . They have also shared a detailed MODs form for photos with our Islandora Ingest Forms repo.
The collection itself is a delight, especially the newspaper and yearbooks. I always start any visit to a new Islandora site by dropping "cats" into simple search, because that's how my head works and odd words reveal interesting objects. In Barnard's digital collection, it helped me learn about 1938's Playful Play Day, a 1976 assurance from Allied Chemical that stockholders are people too, and a comic strip that captures the true spirit of 1991:
I highly reccomended taking your own tour of the collection and seeing what you can discover. Even if you're not a Barnard alum, it's a facinating and very accessible collection - and you can always share cool finds with the rest of us on #islandora. You can also check out the story of Barnard College's site development from the point of view of discoverygarden, Inc, who published a recent case study.
Now, for the actual Show and Tell. Martha Tenney, Digital Archivist at Barnard, agreed to answer some questions about their site and how it came together:
What is the primary purpose of your repository? Who is the intended audience?
The Barnard Digital Collections feature materials from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. We currently have three collections of digitized materials--the school newspaper, the yearbook, and photographs--but we hope to grow the collections substantially to include other digitized as well as born-digital materials. The intended audience is primarily the Barnard community--students, staff, alums, and faculty--as well as researchers and anyone with an interest in the history of Barnard and/or our special collections.
Why did you choose Islandora?
I came into my position with a strong inclination towards using Fedora and open-source software in general, but I wanted to do my due diligence and completed an environmental scan of various repository software solutions, both open-source and commercial. Islandora seemed to have the most features that we wanted, and I was excited about the active user community populated by other small institutions. (In particular, Joanna DiPasquale, at Vassar, was a tremendous help, providing us with guidance and advice throughout this process. I also talked with folks at the University of New Hampshire, Hamilton, and Grinnell, and they all provided great advice and guidance about the technical and administrative infrastructure that we would need to have to make Islandora work for us.) I would add that we chose Islandora over Hydra--another open-source Fedora-based repository stack that I think is really exciting--because we needed a more turnkey approach, and we felt that it would be easier to hire and train for the expertise needed to support Islandora in-house.
Which modules or solution packs are most important to your repository?
We lean a lot on the different solution packs for the various formats we have in the collections--the book solution pack, the newspaper solution pack, and the large image solution pack--as well as their dependencies. I also use the Solr module quite a bit, coupled with the form builder and the simple workflow module, to configure the search interface and manage the process of undergraduates ingesting and creating metadata for photographs.
What feature of your repository are you most proud of?
I love our front page. And I'm really proud of all the batch ingesting and metadata scripting that Dillon Savage (our applications developer) did to make the newspapers and yearbooks accessible.
Who built/developed/designed your repository (i.e, who was on the team?)
Lisa Norberg, Dean of the Barnard Library, had the initial vision for the digital collections and put the pieces into place so that I could be hired and so that we could bring on Dillon. Shannon O'Neill, Associate Director of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, helped to make the case for an open-source solution and supported me as I worked with many of Barnard's IT staff--particularly Rodolfo Nunez and Laura Hopwood from our systems group--to make sure we had the infrastructure required for Islandora and maintain our installation. On a day-to-day basis, Dillon Savage and I do the most work on the repository. Dillon works on custom development, fixing bugs, and scripts and batch ingests, while I work more on metadata, design, and overseeing individual ingests. Many undergraduates who work in the Archives, as well as other library staff, contribute to the collections by ingesting and describing photographs and creating digital exhibits. We've received input from many other folks at Barnard as well, and I hope the collections will become an even more collaborative project--bringing in faculty, students, staff, and alums--in the future. Finally, we contracted with discoverygarden to do our install and support; their expertise has been indispensable.
Do you have plans to expand your site in the future?
The photograph collection is still growing and will continue to grow quite a bit, and we hope to add more collections soon--likely starting with some manuscript collections. We'll continue to add items to the collections individually and do larger-scale digitization projects when time and funds allow. I'm also excited to see how we can use Islandora for born-digital materials, and Dillon and I are working all the time to improve searchability and add new features to the site.
What is your favourite object in your collection to show off?
I love the issue of the school newspaper, the Barnard Bulletin, from February 25th, 1965: a brief report on Malcolm X's final speech, delivered at Barnard three days before his assassination, is next to a story about the new editor of the Bulletin and an announcement about a campus SNCC meeting. I think it encapsulates the breadth of the collections--how they speak not only to the history of Barnard but also to the trajectory of women's higher education and to broader historical narratives.
Many thanks to Martha Tenney and Barnard College for kicking off Islandora Show and Tell. Stay tuned for more great islandora sites in the weeks to come!