Use-a-Thon Dividends: Islandora + Alexa

We're taking another look back at Islandoracon this week, to highlight another one of the amazing projects that came from our Islandora 8 Use-a-Thon. We've seen how to build exhibits and how to generate audio thumbnails; now, let's dive into the deep end of Drupal contributed modules with team Blue Lobster's recipe to integrate Islandora with Amazon Alexa. You can see the pitch on these clever slides, but the basic premise is that since Islandora 8 plays nicely with pretty much any Drupal contributed module, even boundary-pushing tools like Alexa integration are on the table. The use case for the team was to use Alexa to create interactive exhibits that pull information from similar collection across multiple institutions (it turned out that both team members' home institutions have collections centered around the experiences of African American  nurses), but the true applications of this recipe are as varied as its components. Potentially, you could use this recipe to build an Islandora integration that can:

  • Send Citations, metadata, whatever we want to the user if they have set up their email
  • Creating a collaborative exhibit
  • Play audio and video objects and read transcripts
  • Respond to user search queries (like how many objects match the subject in the repositories)
  • Answer specific questions about the object (“Invocation Name, when was this recorded?”)
  • Interact with other applications or modules (got a print ordering system? Want to add event calendar items to your exhibit?)
  • Be accessed via web page, Alexa device, or phone app

Many thanks to Brad Spry (UNCC) and Mariee Vibbert (Case Western) for this innovative idea.

Islandora/Fedora Camp in Arizona - Call for Proposals

Doing something great with Islandora and/or Fedora that you want to share with the community? Have a recent project that the world just needs to know about? Send us your proposals to present at the joint Islandora and Fedora Camp in Arizona! Presentations should be roughly 20-25 minutes in length (with time after for questions) and deal with Islandora and/or Fedora in some way. The camp will be focussed on the latest versions of Islandora and Fedora, so preference will be given to sessions that relate to Islandora 8 and Fedora 4 and higher, but we still welcome proposals relating to earlier versions.

All we need is a session title and a brief abstract. Submit your proposal here.

Islandora/Fedora Camp in Arizona - Instructors Announced!

The first Islandora event of 2020 will also be our first joint event with Fedora! From February 24 - 26, we will be partnering with LYRASIS and hosted by Arizona State University to bring you a three day camp packed with the latest in both Islandora and Fedora. Registration is now open!

Our focus will be on the latest versions of each, so this is an excellent opportunity to learn all about Islandora 8 and get some hands-on experience. The camp will be led by a group of experienced instructors with expertise spanning the front-end and code base of both platforms:

Melissa Anez has been working with Islandora since 2012 and has been the Community and Project Manager of the Islandora Foundation since it was founded in 2013. She has been a frequent instructor in the Admin Track and developed much of the curriculum, refining it with each new Camp. Lately she has been enjoying the challenge of fitting two versions of Islandora into a single day of workshops!

Danny Lamb has his B.Sc. in Mathematics and has been programming since before he could drive. He is currently serving as the Islandora Foundation's Technical Lead, and hopes to promote a collaborative and respectful environment where constructive criticism is encourage and accepted. He is married with two children, and lives on beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada. If he had free time, he'd be spending it in front of his kamado style grill.

Bethany Seeger is a software developer in the library at Amherst College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts. She’s a Fedora committer, and also is the lead committer and release manager of the ISLandora Enterprise (ISLE) project. She was an instructor at Fedora Camp in Austin, TX, and co-led the ISLE workshop at Islandoracon 2019. Bethany has lurked in the Islandora community for a while watching Islandora 8 develop; during this time, she’s installed Islandora 7 (manually, and then using ISLE) and Islandora 8 (using Ansible). Currently she is working on migrating a custom Fedora 3 repository to Islandora 7 (using ISLE) with the hopes of adopting Islandora 8 in the very near future. Bethany enjoys explaining complicated processes in plain English.

Seth Shaw jumped directly into developing with Islandora 8, and became a committer in 2018. He developed the Controlled Access Terms module and an ArchivesSpace integration module. He has been teaching workshops for over a decade but this will be his first Islandora Camp. His day job is as an Application Developer for Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

David Wilcox is the Product Manager for Fedora at LYRASIS. He has been working with the Fedora and Islandora communities since 2011. David organizes camps and workshops for Fedora, where he is also frequently an instructor. The Arizona camp will be the first to feature both Fedora and Islandora, and he is excited for the opportunity to bring this new, combined camp to the community.


Use-a-Thon Dividends: Generating Thumbnails for Audio

It's time to take a look at another awesome outcome from our Islandoracon Use-a-Thon: Waveform thumbnails for audio files, a handy addition to audio support in Islandora 8 that has the distinction of having become a standard part of the stack since the Use-a-Thon.

The idea came about from a collaboration between Renee Chalut from Vancouver Public Library and Jonathan Hunt from Catalyst. Renee shared a VPL collection of audio files that looks a little uniform, as the thumbnails were all the same:

This Vancouver West End Stories screenshot

FFmpeg to the rescue! FFmpeg is quite capable of using the waveform of an audio file to generate an image. With a few tweaks to Homarus to allow PNG thumbnails and generate the png, Islandora 8 can present distinct thumbnails for audio that actually reflect the content of the resource node:

Before and after screenshots of This Vancouver and a new Islandora 8 site with generated audio thumbnails

This is such a simple, but useful tweak that this pull request has made it standard in Islandora 8. Work continues to expand this tool to generate animated gifs as thumbnails (an improvement that could have application for video as well).

Call for Documentors - Islandora 8 1.1.0

We're gearing up for our second release of Islandora 8, and that means we need to document and test all of the awesome new features we've collected in the past few months. We're starting with a documentation sprint from November 11th to 22nd, focusing on improving what we've already got and adding information on

  • Breadcrumbs
  • IIIF Manifests
  • Paged Content
  • Multi-Paged Openseadragon
  • Text Extraction
  • Plus anything else you think is missing!

You can sign up for the sprint here. And all you need to participate is a free Github account so you can edit our markdown files. Even if you don't have any experience with Github or Islandora 8, we're implementing a buddy system to show you the ropes. Every page of documentation will have someone on hand to explain the features we're documenting and help you navigate Github. So this can be a great way to learn while making meaningful contributions to the Islandora project.

Also the committment level is as much or as little as you can give. Just claim a page from our todo list and pick away at what you have time to handle. If you don't want to document but have some in-depth knowledge of the stack or some Github/markdown skills, please consider signing up to be a buddy. Each page needs one, and it's another way you can make a small but important contribution to the process. We're also open to suggestions and improvements, so if you know of a gap in our documentation, feel free to add pages to the list. We'll try to knock out as much as we can in two weeks to make Islandora 8 even better!


Use-a-Thon Dividends: Creating Exhibits in Islandora

As we noted in last week's Look Back at Islandoracon, our Islandora 8 Use-a-Thon was a huge success and participants solved some pretty significant use cases using nothing but Drupal modules and configuration. This week I'd like to showcase one of the entries that didn't, but that presents a well-researched, very well demo-'d start list of options for creating exhibits in Islandora 8. Presented by The Exhibitionists (Mark Jordan, David Keiser-Clark, Don Richards, Lucas van Schaik, Alan Stanley, Charlie Tillay), we have Islandora 8 Exhibitions and TimeLineJS.

In the main thrust of the use case, the group lays out how to deploy a sleek, interactive timeline tool that can present your resource nodes. It's user friendly both to the manager who populates it, and the end users who use it to browse your exhibit, and it's already perfectly deployable in Islandora 8 (as we saw in a live demo!). They also explored some other ways to build exhibit-type views of resource nodes in islandora; it's well worth checking out the full recipe. TimeLineJS in action:

A screenshot of a TimeLineJS timeline featuring Nelson Mandela

Stay tuned for more from the Islandoracon Use-a-Thon in coming weeks! We have eight amazing entries, every one of which produced valuable recommendations for anyone deploying Islandora.

Looking Back at Islandoracon 2019

Last week, the Islandora community came together for its third major conference, dubbed Islandoracon and held in Vancouver, BC. Our hosts at Vancouver Public Library and Simon Fraser University put us up in some fantastic locations (see below!), but the real highlights of the week came from what our attendees brought with them to the workshops, general sessions, and Use-a-Thon


Vancouver, as seen from Vancouver Public Library's 9th floor
Vancouver, as seen from Vancouver Public Library's 9th floor


The conference opened with four half-day workshops, with "Islandora 101" style introductions to Islandora 7 and Islandora 8, an overview of Islandora ISLE, and training in how to build your own plugins (PDF). We closed out the main conference with more workshops, running two tracks of 90-minute deep-dives into different use cases and tools, such as Working with Linked Data and Ontologies, Islandora as an IR, and Preservation in Islandora 8.


The main conference opened with updates about the Islandora Foundation, the Islandora community, and the exciting new world of Islandora 8 and its much closer connections to Drupal, before opening up the floor to a wide variety of sessions submitted by members of the Islandora community. We have been gathering up slides and linking to them in the conference schedule wherever we can.


Our first-ever Islandora Use-a-Thon was designed to explore what we can achieve by leaning into Drupal and solving common use cases with contributed modules and configuration. Our community rose to the challenge beyond our wildest expectations, and we'll be spending the next few weeks unpacking the results for you. Every one of the eight entries produced something of real and immediate value for Islandora, giving our judges (Alex Kent, Danny Lamb, Rosie Le Faive, and Bethany Seeger) a real challenge to pick these top three winners:

Third Place: Archives & Archives-Adjacent

Goal: gathering specific use-cases to support archival materials in Islandora 8


Second Place: The Islandora 8 Collectioneers

Goal: "Search within this collection". Stretch goal: "Search underneath this collection, including subcollections"


First Place: What’s in a Name(space)?

Goal: Defining a path forward for multi-tenancy implementations in Islandora 8



Overall, it was a pretty incredible week and a real celebration of our community and all that we can acheive together. Next year we'll go back to holding smaller Islandora Camps around the world, but stay tuned for Islandoracon to return on 2021!

Paged Content Sprint Results

I would like to thank everyone involved for yet another successful community sprint. Our goal was to implement paged content, the #1 requested feature from our recent community survey. This included

  • Generating IIIF manifests for paged content
  • Adapting our openseadragon module to read IIIF manifests
  • Adding a 'weight' field to our default content type, Repository Item.
  • A draggable UI for re-ordering pages
  • Extracting text from pages using OCR

After two weeks of intense sprinting, with two more for testing and merging in the code, I am pleased to announce that we have implemented each and every one of these features. The community has provided a fully functional paged content solution, replete with automated tests! This is an incredible achievement for us, further showcasing that large features and high quality code can be provided by our small but focused group of community contributors.

Speaking of whom, the next time you use paged content in Islandora 8, you have the following fine community members to thank:

  • Seth Shaw - University of Nevada at Las Vegas
  • William Matheson - Prince Rupert Library
  • Nat Kanthan - University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Eli Zoller - Arizona State University
  • Minnie Rangel - University of Texas at Austin
  • Jared Whiklo - University of Manitoba
  • Danny Bernstein - Lyrasis
  • Jonathan Hunt - Catalyst
  • Joe Corall - Kent State University

In particular, the Islandora Foundation would like to thank first time sprint contributors Minnie Rangel, Danny Bernstein, and Joe Corall for their pull requests. We'd also like to recognize Alan Stanley from UPEI, who developed text extraction for both images and PDFs prior to the sprint for UPEI's CANARIE funded Research Data Management project.

For those who would like to see the feature first-hand, we'll be distributing VMs containing it (as well as other improvements) at Islandoracon. We'll also be updating our sandbox at as well. It all depends on one final installation pull request, which once merged, will also make the code available from our dev branch for those inclined to run the installer themselves.

Upcoming Webinar: Islandora 8 and Research Data Management at UPEI

The University of Prince Edward Island, birthplace of Islandora, is working on a CANARIE funded project to create a Research Data Management (RDM) platform that utilizes and extends Islandora 8.

Still a work-in-progress, the project team will share and demonstrate aspects of the current iteration of the RDM platform including:

  • A review of the RDM use case and an overview of the features we are developing/implementing
  • UPEI's approach to content types, integrations, microservices, and preservation
  • Features that have integrated back into the core platform
  • Tools and features that can be applied beyond the RDM use case.

Register now to join us on November 7th at 9:00 AM Eastern.

Islandoracon Pre-Conference Information

Islandoracon is coming up in a little over a month! We have some information to share with attendees in advance of the conference to help you prepare:



We are using Sched for the conference schedule this year. If you have a Sched account, you can sign in and pick out sessions in advance. This isn't required, but it can be helpful for speakers to know who's planning to come to their sessions.


Islandoracon is hosted by Simon Fraser University at their Harbour Centre location and Vancouver Public Library at their central library, both located in downtown Vancouver.
  • Monday, October 7th: Half-Day Workshops at VPL
  • Tuesday, October 8th: Main Conference Sessions at Harbour Centre
  • Wednesday, October 9th: Main Conference Sessions at Harbour Centre
  • Thursday, October 10th: Main Conference Workshops at Harbour Centre
  • Friday, October 11th: Islandora 8 Use-a-Thon (Hackfest) at VPL
Conference locations for these and other venues (social events, hotels) are marked on this map:
Addresses and room numbers are in the schedule: (depending on the view you're using, you may have to mouse over or click on individual sessions)

Getting Around

Vancouver has a great transit system with an easy-to-use route planner:, but we have an additional guide written up by our local team, with extra tips for getting around Vancouver:
Please note that Lyft and Uber do not operate in Vancouver at this time.

Checking in at the Conference

There will be a registration desk at Vancouver Public Library on Monday, and in the lobby at Harbour Centre from Tuesday to Thursday, where you can pick up your conference bag, program, t-shirt, and name tag. We will have a selection of stickers at the desk that you can add to your name tag if you choose to share your pronouns, including some that can be filled in if we don't have yours pre-printed.
We will also have wifi information at the registration desk and printed in the programs.


Conference Catering

On Monday, October 7th at VPL, we will be serving coffee breaks and lunch.
At Harbour Centre (October 8 - 10), we will be serving a light breakfast, snacks and coffee at breaks, and lunch.
On Friday, October 11th at VPL, we will be serving coffee breaks and a pizza lunch.
If you told us your dietary requirements on registration, they will be provided for in the menu on every day of the conference. Dietary requests, we've done our best. If you didn't let us know, it's not too late! Please provide any restrictions ASAP so that we can get them in with our caterers.

Social Events

Use-a-Thon Social (October 7)

Join us at Poet's Corner in the Vancouver Public Library from 5:00 - 6:00 PM for gourmet cookies and milk, learn about the Islandoracon Use-a-Thon (this year's version of a Hackfest), and sign up for a team!

Trivia Night (October 8)

We've got a room booked out and I've got some obscure questions ready to go. Join your fellow Islandorians for bar trivia, 6:30 - 8:30 on the Terrace at Rogue's. Bring a team, or find one when you show up.
Appetizers provided. Drinks and additional food available at your own cost.
Maximum six per team. Prizes TBD, but it's really about the bragging rights :)

Bill Reid Gallery (October 9)

Included in the cost of your registration is a reception at the Bill Reid Gallery ( from 6:30 - 9:00 PM on Wednesday, October 9th. Canapes and drinks will be served. To help us get an accurate headcount for catering, we ask that you let us know if you plan to attend:

If you wish to bring a guest, extra tickets can be purchased from our Square store:

The BRG is home to the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Collection and special exhibitions of contemporary Indigenous Art of the Northwest Coast of North America. A docent will be available for tours, but space may be limited.


Half-Day Workshops (October 7)

If you have not already done so, please sign up for the half-days workshops on Monday, October 7th. Space may be limited, and preference will be given to those who have signed up in advance. Signing up will also give the workshop leaders a way to contact you if there's information you need ahead of time.

90-Minutes Workshops (October 10)

Sign-up is not required for the 90-minute workshops at Harbour Centre on Thursday. Please see below for advanced information for specific workshops:

Preservation Capabilities of Islandora 8

People who are attending the "Preservation Capabilities of Islandora 8" workshop on Thursday afternoon will get more out of the hands-on portion of the workshop if they can arrive with Islandora Bagger installed on their laptop (installing Islandora is not required, just Islandora Bagger as described in its README file). However, having Islandora Bagger installed is not essential; the instructor will try to accommodate participants who don't have it. Also, if your institution has developed or is developing a digital preservation policy or action plans, please come prepared to discuss them during the workshop.

Introduction to Fedora 5.0

We will be using a virtual machine for the hands-on portions of the Fedora workshop, so please follow these instructions to get the VM up and running on your laptop *before* you arrive. We are doing this in advance so we do not have to troubleshoot problems at the event.

NOTE: The VM uses 2GB of RAM, so you will need a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM to run it.

  1. Download and install VirtualBox:
  2. Download and install Vagrant:
  3. Download and unzip the 5.1.0 release of the Fedora VM:
  4. Using a Command Line Interface, navigate to the VM directory from step 3 and run the command: vagrant up
    1. Note that this step will take a while as the VM downloads and installs a full virtual environment
  5. Test the VM by opening your web browser and navigating to: http://localhost:8080/fcrepo
    1. The administrator username/password is fedoraAdmin/secret3
  6. Turn off the VM by running the command: vagrant halt
That is it! Please let know if you run into any problems.
More information about the conference is available on our website.
If you have any questions, please reach out!
Islandoracon would like to acknowledge that the land on which we will gather is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (TsleilWaututh) Nations.