Friday, 16 July 2010


I'm very excited! I just looked at a Web site that lists all the "high profile" folks using Drupal for the Web sites. I'm also nervous. The excitement and the nerves are linked. This is because I told Susan a few weeks ago that I would commit to Drupal as the front-end for our archival materials. So, there is a lot to live up to and I'm also stuck with a decision I made, so it is all my fault! No pressure! :-)

Why Drupal?

Well, when I was building the second incarnation of the archive interface (the first was a prototype put together by Susan), it started out as a bunch of Web pages and a Solr-based search engine. The back-end data was created using a combination of source data and metadata gleaned from the EAD catalogue, the output of FTK and a spreadsheet that was the result of some appraisal work by the archivist, all munged together by some Java code that did the transformations, created the thumbnails, etc.

As time moved on it became apparent that additional features would be nice to build into the interface. At least one of the Project Advisory Board members suggested it would be nice to see a more Web 2.0-like features and I've long thought that having reader-generated tags and (perhaps) comments attached to the manuscripts might be a nice idea. Other features also arose, and soon I realised that I'd have to either build database-driven site to make all this happen (which I suspect would've been rather ropey) or, far more sensibly, use one that already existed.

By wonderful coincidence (though the kind of thing that often happens) I saw some emails on the Fedora lists about Islandora. Secretly harbouring a desire to visit Prince Edward Island ;-), I took a closer look and it was there that I chanced on Drupal and it seemed to fit the bill quite nicely, offering comments, tagging, types of content, and user management. Further, it is extensible, has a bewildering, if full of promise API, and will hopefully mean I can build a "publication pathway" that interfaces with the preservation store (indirectly) and can be managed by the archivists in a nice Web-friendly way.

Does the excitement and the nerves start to make more sense now?

It is still early days, but I have re-factored the Java code to output content (fixing a major memory leak in the process!) suitable for import into Drupal and have developed a module that imports that content, including the structure of the collection as Collection - Shelfmarks - Items. It aint much to look at just yet, but it is getting there.

As I have further adventures in Drupal-land I'll keep you updated!

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Graduate Trainee Presentations - Archiving Digital Audio

Since I am the graduate trainee for the futureArch project I also participated in Oxford's Graduate Library Trainee Scheme. During our year at Oxford all the trainees have to undertake a project. There aren't many restrictions on what this project can and can't be about; the only prerequisites are that it is additional to our day-to-day duties and is useful to each trainee's library. After talking it over with Susan I decided to research digital audio files and produce a guide to archiving digital audio.

On 7th July the trainees held a Project Showcase where each trainee gave a five minute presentation on their project. For anyone interested, most of the presentations (including mine) are now on slideshare. Five minutes is really not very long for a presentation and so I had to severely condense mine, although I've expanded my presentaion notes to include more detail - these are also on slideshare.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Our first local 'dead' hard disk acquisition

We've imaged lots of removable media over the past year (~ 400, according to Victoria's stats), and I've also done a  fair amount of forensic imaging of material on-site with donors (live acquisition) . One aspect of our 'forensic' armoury that has not been subject to so much testing is the imaging of whole hard disks at BEAM. So-called 'dead' acquisitions.

In the past few months two new accessions have presented us with an additional four hard disks. This is excellent news, as I have finally had the chance to use our forensic computer's Ultrabay (write-blocking device) to image a real 'collection hard disk'. Everything went smoothly. So far so good.