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On The Move … Again

The Legacy Center is once again contemplating a move but this time it’s a virtual one.  As part of a wider digital history project to encourage young students’ understanding and interpretation of history through primary documents, the Center is adopting a new software called Islandora to manage and preserve its repository.  

Islandora logo (The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections)

Developed at the University of Prince Edward Island, Islandora is an open-source software designed to preserve and manage the data that is associated with an institution’s collection. Since Islandora’s creation in 2006 it has been installed at over 60 institutions around the world, ranging from small research labs to university libraries to major museums.

Having looked at other possibilities such as Collective Access or building onto our existing custom system, we were attracted to Islandora because of its integration with Drupal. We had considered Fedora in the past but found it cumbersome.  Because Islandora works with Drupal’s content management system, not only does it manage objects, it makes it easy to preserve their digital form.

Legacy Center digital collection interface (The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections)

Our current digital collections interface

We are still at the early stages of this process. Working with our colleagues at the Drexel Libraries,  we are just starting to learn what Islandora can do for us and how we can customize it to meet our needs. So far we have learned how to add objects like images and multi-page objects such as books and small pamphlets, add metadata, and view and modify datastreams.

We’ve encountered a few challenges so far. One of our biggest tasks is not related to the software directly but critical to our project nonetheless: prioritizing our objectives. How do we make the best use of our budget?  How do we incorporate the needs of our diverse user group, from academic researchers to high school students? Do we focus on just the digital history project initially or the entire collection?

One of our top priorities is ensuring we make the best use of our budget. Since this project is grant funded by Pew's Heritage Philadelphia Program we have pretty strict rules about how we spend our money. Even though the software is open source we’re working with Discovery Garden (DGI), Islandora’s development and client solutions team, for the initial installation and some training. We’re still determining what other project components we’ll outsource and what we’ll manage in-house.

Another challenge we face is in understanding error messages and how to fix them.  Some of the metadata we have entered for objects seems to disappear. Thankfully, between DGI, our library colleagues, and the Islandora Google Groups forum we are confident that we can troubleshoot the problem.

Our goal is to have Islandora ready for testing in late fall, populated with all our digital history project items as we prepare for a full migration of our digital database. Eventually we hope to expand the number of resources available digitally and continually offer new ways for users to interact and explore primary documents. Stay tuned as the project evolves and we learn more about Islandora. To learn more about the digital history project, visit the now completed project: Doctor or Doctress?