On Monday, June 24, 2013, Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts held a free half-day workshop focusing on developing lesson plans featuring digital content.  The workshop was held at the Whittemore Library, Framingham State University, and was attended by school library media specialists, new teachers, and professionals from cultural organizations interested in making (and using) digital content for educational purposes.

The workshop included an introduction to Digital Commonwealth the organization (a collaborative initiative promoting digital content of Massachusetts cultural institutions), the existing Digital Commonwealth portal and repository (an online discovery and storage platform), screenshots of the upcoming new system (currently in development by the Boston Public Library, a partner organization to Digital Commonwealth), and examples of existing lesson plans using digital content.

Attendees responded favorably to the variety of digital content available via the metadata within the existing portal which includes links to video clips from WGBH’s Open Vault;  images of historical broadsides from the State Library of Massachusetts; and audio files and photographic images from NOBLE’s Digital Heritage.  Marianne Brown, a new teacher, talked about how she developed a lesson plan featuring photographs from the Watertown Free Public Library (digital images of these photographs are stored in the current Digital Commonwealth repository).  Marianne’s lesson plan is available as a PDF on Digital Commonwealth’s lesson plan page:  http://digitalcommonwealth.org/lesson_plans

Kim Cochrane, Curriculum Librarian, Framingham State University, and Nancy Heywood, Digital Projects Coordinator, Massachusetts Historical Society, led the workshop.  Both Kim and Nancy serve on Digital Commonwealth’s Outreach Committee and will review and revise the program. They hope to schedule two more workshops later this year.  For information and notification about future workshops, email Nancy Heywood: nheywood@masshist.org.

Digital Commonwealth is pleased to announce the addition of three new members on the board of directors to replace outgoing board members. The three new members are Debra DeJonker-Berry from the Jonathan Bourne Public Library, Kelcy Shepard from Amherst College, and Elizabeth Thomsen from the NOBLE network.

These new members will be replacing Sarah Campbell from Holy Cross; Jessica Colati from Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and Kristi Chadwick, former President of Digital Commonwealth, who is the current Director of the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton.

Debra DeJonker-Berry has worked for the past year as the Information Systems Librarian in Bourne. Prior to this position she brings to the Board the experience of nearly twenty years service as the director of public libraries in Halifax and Provincetown Massachusetts.

 Kelcy Shepard is currently the Head of Digital Programs at Amherst College. Previously she worked at UMass Amherst as the Digital Interfaces Librarian.  She’s been publishing, teaching, and presenting widely on a multitude of archival-related topics such as metadata, EAD, XML, and The Archivist’s Toolkit since 2000.

Elizabeth Thomsen is a long-time Member Services Manager for NOBLE, the North of Boston Library Exchange. She is responsible for training of staff at the 28 public and academic libraries that belong to NOBLE. She also oversees NOBLE’s Digital Heritage Omeka repository. Perhaps she is also familiar as the presenter of “Future of the Past: Digital Libraries in the Age of Social Media” at this year’s Digital Commonwealth conference.

The Digital Commonwealth welcomes these three exceptional new members to its Board of Directors!

Two of the three collections in the new Chicopee Public Library’s Chicopee Archives Online, 427 records in total, have been harvested into the Digital Commonwealth’s Omeka repository: Chicopee Weekly Journal and Soldiers Record.

Amber Clooney, Electronic Reference Services Librarian at Chicopee Public Library, provided the following information about the archive’s collections and future plans:

Chicopee Archives Online was developed to enhance access to some of the city’s unique historical items. The site was initially developed to host the Soldiers Record, which is a handwritten ledger that contains the personal stories of over 500 local men who served in the Civil War. The stories contained in the Soldiers Record seem to be primarily based on interviews with the soldiers themselves, or based on contemporary records and accounts from friends and relatives if a particular soldier died during the war.

According to an article in New England Magazine from 1898, most of the records were compiled by George Dexter Robinson, who lived in Chicopee after the Civil War, before he became Governor of Massachusetts (Robinson is also famous for being Lizzie Borden’s defense attorney). Transcription of each page is an ongoing volunteer project. There is a full description of the Soldiers Record here: http://www.chicopeepubliclibrary.org/archives/soldiers_record

In addition to the Soldiers Record, the site includes scanned copies of a partial run of the Chicopee Weekly Journal from the mid 1860s; and a year long run of The Olive Leaf from 1849, a literary newspaper for local factory girls.

In near future, we will be adding scans of the local City Directories. The Directories are the most used items in the local history room, and are showing a lot of wear and tear as a result. When the Directories are added to the site, patrons will be directed to use the digital copies so the print copies can be preserved. We also plan to add a photo collection from the 1920s , and we hope to add some items from the collections of the Chicopee Historical Society.

For further questions, contact Amber Clooney at Chicopee Public Library.

Here is the latest update from Eben English, Web Services Developer at the BPL, who is helping develop the new Fedora/Hydra repository for the Digital Commonwealth:

The initial development phase for the new digital object management system to store and provide access to digital collections from Digital Commonwealth members is currently underway and will soon be complete. Items and metadata from the existing DSpace repository (http://repository.digitalcommonwealth.org) have begun to be migrated into the new system, and functionality for the item ingest forms as well as the end-user search interface is in the process of being implemented. It is anticipated that all basic objects from the DSpace repository will be ingested by the end of April, and support for (and ingest of) more complex digital objects (items with multiple images, books, oral histories, etc.) will be added by the end of May.

The new repository will be debuted at the Digital Commonwealth annual conference on May 1 – the 3:00 breakout session, “Digital Commonwealth 2.0: Creating Online Digital Collections with the Redesigned Repository System,” includes a full demonstration of the application, while a related session at 1:45, “Digital Commonwealth 2.0 and Metadata,” will demonstrate how to create metadata for digital objects using the new system.

For a full schedule of the conference and program descriptions, view this PDF document.

7th Annual Digital Library Conference

May 1, 2013, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, at the Devens Commons Center,
31 Andrews Parkway, Devens, Massachusetts.

Registration Fees:

Digital Commonwealth Members: $95
Students: $95
Non-Members: $110
Advanced Registration Deadline: April 20, 2013

Register Today!

For full schedule and program descriptions, view this PDF document

9:45 – 10:45        First Keynote

The Digital Public Library of America: Interconnection and Advocacy on a National Scale

Amy Rudersdorf, Assistant Director for Content, Digital Public Library of America

When DPLA launches in April 2013, it will become a central repository for a vast array of data about digitized and born-digital collections from all over the United States, from public to academic to special libraries (think Digital Commonwealth) and national collections (the Smithsonian and the National Archives, for two). Access to the data will be available centrally through a DPLA portal, but also as an open API, enabling anyone, anywhere to develop apps, services, and tools to answer their personal or organizational needs. Keeping the data open in the “cloud” so it can be used by the “crowd” means that librarians in New York and Texas can use it one way, historians in Florida and Alaska another, and maybe even schoolchildren in Australia still another.This talk will provide an introduction to DPLA and its mission and goals, update our Digital Commonwealth partners on our progress, and make a case for opening up our nation’s library, archives, and museum data to the world.

12:00– 1:30       Lunch and Second Keynote

Share and Tell: Digital Stewardship and Digital Storytelling

Butch Lazorchak, Digital Archivist, Library of Congress

Libraries, archives and museums provide the “building blocks” for lifelong learning. Organizations like Digital Commonwealth provide the technical infrastructure to ensure that these digital building blocks are stored, described, made accessible and preserved over time.

The stewardship of digital information is an incredibly valuable service that requires technical expertise and diligence along with significant resources, both human and monetary. But while our community’s expertise in format obsolescence, ingest mechanisms and administrative metadata helps to ensure that the digital materials under our care are technically protected, it doesn’t ensure that people outside our community understand the work we do and its value.

That’s why, more than ever, we need to remember that we’re in the storytelling business.

Storytelling is a way for us to talk passionately about the resources under our care and to build the emotional case that the work we do has value. These are not fairytales; many of the stories we tell don’t necessarily have happy endings. But the resources we steward are the building blocks for our patron’s stories and help people understand their place in history, the economy and the world.

There are so many exciting advances in technology that affect the work we do. We’ll take a quick survey of some interesting things (crowdfunding for government; citizen archivists; personal digital archiving; digital mapping) and try to get to the essence of why they’re important to our profession and our patrons and explore how we can leverage them to tell stories about the incredible value we have in our digital commonwealth.

Are you a teacher (4th grade to 12th grade) who is interested in developing lesson plans featuring digital content?  Could you benefit from a half-day workshop focused on learning about digital collections and ideas about how to use digitized primary source materials within the classroom?  Please consider attending a free workshop on June 24th!  The workshop will be held in the Room UM (Upper Mezzanine) 16, Whittemore Library, Framingham State University, State Street, Framingham, from 9:00 AM until 1:30 PM on Monday, June 24, 2013.

Although individual teachers are certainly welcome, this workshop is an excellent place for team teachers or grade-level teams to hear about a statewide initiative presenting digital content from cultural institutions in Massachusetts, learn about some existing lesson plans,  and get some advice about how to prepare new plans featuring digital content.  The workshop will also include some hands-on time when attendees will start developing something to use in their classrooms!

To register: http://members.digitalcommonwealth.org/events

For information and notification about future workshops, email Nancy Heywood: nheywood@masshist.org.

7th Annual Digital Library Conference

May 1, 2013, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, at the Devens Commons Center,
31 Andrews Parkway, Devens, Massachusetts.

ConfLogoDC2013

   Registration Fees:

Digital Commonwealth Members: $95
Students: $95
Non-Members: $110
Advanced Registration Deadline: April 20, 2013

 

Keynote Speakers:

Breakout Sessions:

Introduction to the Digital Commonwealth
Karen Cariani, WGBH and Digital Commonwealth Vice-President

Preserving and Preparing Materials for Digitization
Donia Conn, Preservation Consultant for Cultural Heritage Collections

Continuing Education Opportunities
Jamie Roth, JFK Library and Society of American Archivists instructor.
Ross Harvey, Simmons College, Digital Stewardship Certificate Program.
Joseph Fisher, UMass Lowell, graduate of the DigIn Certificate Program.

Digital Commonwealth 2.0 and Metadata — Make, Morph, Manipulate, Master
Tom Blake and Danny Pucci, Boston Public Library

The Future of the Past: Digital Libraries in the Age of Social Media
Elizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE

Digitized Local Newspapers
(presenters to be announced)

Rapid Fire Inspiring Projects Lightning Round 
Presentations by several Digital Commonwealth members

Dealing with Vendors
Michael Bennett, University of Connecticut and Paul Coute, Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium

Digital Commonwealth 2.0: Creating Online Digital Collections with the Redesigned Repository System
Steven Anderson and Eben English, Boston Public Library

Digital Commonwealth is pleased to announce the release of an Omeka replacement for the digital harvesting Portal. Now when you navigate to http://digitalcommonwealth.org, instead of accessing the old Portal you access a new site built on the open-source Omeka repository platform. We pursued this replacement to allow us to continue providing customer services while the Boston Public Library (BPL) develops a permanent repository solution that will combine our old Portal functionality with the member digital collections hosted currently in our DSpace repository.

First some background information

The Digital Commonwealth technology infrastructure has always been difficult to grasp. From the beginning our system structure consisted of two platforms: (1) the primary system running our Portal at http://digitalcommonwealth.org that harvested member metadata records and made them discoverable through a robust interface and (2) a DSpace digital repository (http://repository.digitalcommonwealth.org) to host digital collections for those members who lacked the means to host their own content. Metadata about the digital content stored in the DSpace repository has also been discoverable via the search tool in the Portal.

At the time Digital Commonwealth’s original system was developed, Open Source repository solutions for providing OAI-PMH harvesting (such as Omeka) were not available. DSpace, for example, only recently began offering that functionality.  Our initial  Portal was a solution developed by an independent programmer. Although the system was quite advanced for its time – offering faceted browsing, thumbnails, and indexing – it was difficult to maintain and prone to inexplicable service interruptions. The back end also restricted our abilities to harvest new collections or update information pages and provide timely updates of our organizational goals and achievements. These latter limitations were considered particularly critical this past year as Digital Commonwealth undertook several major initiatives and attracted many new members.

The two major components of our system (the Portal and DSpace repository) were originally hosted on a server at the BPL and then later moved to the library at the University of Mass Amherst who have generously hosted our server services for the past few years.  As time went by we began to face several challenging issues.  One, our server was aging and needing replacement. Two, it was hard to maintain both components of the system and difficult to make adjustments and upgrades.

We were weighing options for a replacement of our aging system when the BPL stepped up with an offer to help establish a second generation Digital Commonwealth. They offered to construct the repository side, focusing on technology by developing and managing a new state-of-the art system that would combine the services and functionalities of DSpace and the Portal. We forged a partnership, explained in this blog post, and the BPL went on to hire two programmers and are now well on their way to making their offer a reality. A member of the BPL development team offers some details about their project in this recent blog post.

At the same time, Digital Commonwealth began the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We have also revamped our bylaws and have begun work on a new strategic plan. Another part of this transition to what may be termed Digital Commonwealth 2.0 was to establish Omeka as a transitional system until the BPL repository was ready for prime time.

Omeka

For simplicity purposes, the new Omeka system was meant to replicate the old Digital Commonwealth Portal as much as possible. We retained the same basic design for example. Although we sacrificed some functionality, such as faceted searching, and have limited the harvesting of some collections, such as the Massachusetts State Library and UMass Amherst because of their size and complexity, we have gained much in our ability to continue maintaining active services. Omeka provides a much more stable and easily maintained system that is also much more easily updated and kept current.

Keep in mind that this is a temporary “bridge” solution while the real replacement of our old system is under development. We appreciate your patience as we navigate this complicated transition to the next exciting phase of Digital Commonwealth.

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.

Fedora 

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.

Hydra  

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 (http://repository.digitalcommonwealth.org/) 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 digitalcommonwealth@gmail.com.