As a previous blog post has noted, Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library have embarked on a partnership that will soon result in a new state-of-the-art digital repository that will provide a range of vastly improved hosting and presentation services to Digital Commonwealth members. Based on the Fedora Commons/Hydra open-source repository system, development of the new architecture is well under way thanks to the hiring of two programmers by the BPL. Its initial public release is planned for April, 2013, to coincide with the debut launching of the Digital Public Library of America.


For those of you not familiar with Fedora Commons, the name Fedora is an acronym that stands for Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture. It is often confused with the Fedora Red Hat Linux operating system, but has no relationship. Rather, it is a flexible, modular, repository platform for the management and dissemination of digital content. First developed at Cornell University, the Fedora Commons and DSpace organizations joined forces in 2009 to establish DuraSpace. Both repository platforms are now managed and developed under the auspices of the DuraSpace nonprofit group.


The Hydra Project  is an open-source application framework which is supported by a community of partner institutions including Stanford, University of Virginia, Notre Dame, and other major research universities. Hydra adds additional functionality for creating customizable digital object ingest workflows on top of Fedora’s stable and highly scalable file management back-end. Other components of the system include Solr for indexing and retrieval and Blacklight as a front-end interface for discovery and access to the content stored in the Fedora repository.

New BPL Digital Commonwealth Repository

The new platform will provide a reliable technical infrastructure for Digital Commonwealth, with the benefits of greater stability, increased control, and the ability to support an extensible and flexible application which offers more detailed description of collections and items, efficient management of digital objects, and an array of interactive and user-friendly features for both contributing institutions and end-users.

The development of the new repository by the BPL will proceed in stages. Its initial release in April simply aims to replicate the basic functionality of the existing Digital Commonwealth repository ( using the Hydra framework and an updated metadata schema for description based on MODS. All objects and metadata records that are currently in the repository will be migrated to the new platform prior to this release. Records currently harvested by the Digital Commonwealth Portal will also be harvested by and made available in the new repository. Since OAI-PMH harvesting may not be added prior to this initial release, however, the inclusion of the Portal records may have to occur at a later date.

Features of the new repository will include:

  • Deposit of simple digital objects (images, text) in the repository via a web-based upload form
  • Creation and description of collections to organize digital objects
  • Description of digital objects using a “basic” or “advanced” metadata entry form
  • Keyword searching (basic and advanced)
  • Faceted browsing by collection, institution, format, subject, date, etc.
  • Feature-rich interaction with digital images (zooming, panning, etc.)
  • Ability for end-users to create, manage, and share personal collections of items

All functionality will be contained within the web application — there will be no need for contributors to download or install any software locally or deal with upgrades or migrations. Additional functionality, such as support for batch uploading of items, deposit of more complex digital objects (such as double-sided postcards, books, oral histories, video, etc.), GIS-based graphical browsing, and embedded audio/video players, is currently in the planning stages and will be added in future releases, which are expected to be released frequently.

The Digital Commonwealth Portal, Repository, Technology, and Standards (PRTS) committee is working closely with the BPL on the development of this new system.

Please direct any questions, comments, or concerns to

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