Day of Digital Archives: The Challenge of Choices

This post is part of the Day of Digital Archives Project and is cross-posted here.

Like a lot of places, the library at Dominican University has a mix of systems we regularly use, and it’s often a challenge to determine what we want to use going forward.

For instance, we have our digital collections of images in a ContentDM repository, and are starting an insititonal repository for scholarly works in DSpace. These systems are great for what they do, but as we create more hybrid digital collections in the future, we will need to use additional systems for display and access. Where do we go from here?

An example of the Civil War Sheet Music Collection

I will use the example of a Civil War sheet music collection to discuss how we are looking at this challenge. This collection was digitized ten years ago as part of a grant. The original system for display and access was a simple series of static HTML pages and links to image files all in a directory. At one point it was on the library’s website, but as the library transitioned to a content management system and personnel changed over the years, the site and its files ended up in a folder on a server that was no longer online. I knew the files were there, since I’d taken a look at everything on the server, but didn’t know a whole lot else about it. One day a few months ago, however, someone asked me if I’d ever seen the files: since no one had seen anything of the collection for awhile, they wondered if the files had been lost. I showed them where the files were, but now came the next problem–how to make them available to the public again?

We could, of course, just transfer everything to the new library website

Current look to the collection of static HTML

as it was. But as you might imagine, web design and practices from 2001 look pretty dated in 2011. It seemed like a good chance to examine our digital collections practices. Our first thought was to install Omeka and use that. The problem with that idea is that our campus doesn’t have any Linux servers, which Omeka requires to run. The solution in that case would be to outsource that particular server need–our campus IT department, quite understandably, would rather not run servers they don’t have the expertise to fix when they break. We have held off on this, because another option was suggested–the whole campus was switching content management systems again, to a mix of Drupal and Sharepoint. Why not try using Drupal? I personally really liked that idea, as the more tightly integrated our digital collections were with other campus systems, the easier it would be for the rest of the campus community to find and use these collections.

But, as is hardly surprising, we find that this project is hard to find the time and resources to complete, so at this point we are in the same boat–though at least the files have been moved to be with the rest of the digital collection files. We hope to have something in place soon to experiment with, but until then we are researching our options. We like having lots of choices when it comes to what system to use, but it’s all too easy to suffer from analysis paralysis.

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