Over the past few months, the development work on the new Digital Commonwealth repository at the Boston Public Library has focused on functionality for ingesting metadata records via the Open Access Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). This functionality enables Digital Commonwealth to include metadata created by institutions around the state in the central search interface, with links that point back to the original item hosted by the provider. (Digital Commonwealth currently harvests records from ten institutions and consortia, including the State Library of Massachusetts, NOBLE, SAILS, and C/W MARS to name a few.)

BPL development staff have been working closely with each OAI provider to tailor the ingest process to their preferred metadata format (Dublin Core, PBcore, MODS, etc.) as well as the system used by each institution to provide the records (CONTENTdm, Omeka, etc.) The crosswalking process, which converts the incoming metadata records into MODS, also involves a number of data standardization routines, including the transformation of date data into a facet-able and sortable date format based on W3C Date-Time Format, and the conversion of geographic subject/coverage data into hierarchical geographic subjects (state, county, city, etc.) and numeric latitude/longitude coordinates using data from the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. Whenever possible, the ingest process also generates thumbnail images for each object which are then stored in the Digital Commonwealth repository, along with an archival copy of the original metadata record prior to crosswalking.

While all of this involves significant time and effort, the result will be more accurate and more complete metadata records from these providers, and a better search and discovery experience for users as well as better representation of the data within larger shared contexts such as DPLA.

So far the OAI harvesting has been restricted to a test platform. By late February the BPL expects to finish the work on the OAI feeds at which point the feeds will be added to the public repository site (https://search.digitalcommonwealth.org). The focus will then turn to migrating the last few remaining collections from the DSpace repository into the new repository, and integrating the informational content on the current Omeka site into the new design. While no official date has been set for when the new repository will replace the existing systems and be launched as the “official” Digital Commonwealth site, it is anticipated that this milestone will be completed sometime in March.

Over the last month or so, the development of the new Digital Commonwealth repository currently ongoing at BPL has focused on refining the batch upload process. The repository developers have been working closely with the BPL Digital Services metadata team to create a standardized spreadsheet format for ingest that will offer institutions the ability to provide rich metadata about their digital objects, while also being flexible, intuitive, and simple to use. This work has brought the goal of allowing institutions to do self-mediated batch uploads much closer, though there are still several issues to tackle before this functionality is ready to roll out.

Meanwhile, the beta testing phase of both the “Search” and “Admin” applications is ongoing and has received quite a bit of helpful feedback from a number of institutions/individuals that have taken the system for a test-drive.

The URLs are:
Search (public discovery): http://search.digitalcommonwealth.org/
Admin (ingest & management): http://admin.digitalcommonwealth.org/

In late September, development of the workflow for ingesting material into the repository via OAI-PMH will begin in order to aggregate records from the numerous institutions around the state that provide access to digital objects through their own repository systems. The BPL will be reaching out to institutions that currently contribute material to Digital Commonwealth via OAI-PMH feed to learn a more about existing data structures, preferred metadata formats for harvesting, back-end systems being used, and other details that will help this phase of the project move forward more smoothly.

Lastly, the BPL has set up a public Google Group email list for institutions and users to provide feedback or report issues with the new repository system. Anyone may read content posted to the group; membership is required to send messages to the list. See https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/digitalcommonwealth for details.


The BPL is pleased to announce that they have now moved into the “beta launch” phase of the rollout of the Hydra-based Digital Commonwealth repository platform.

The new URLs are:
Search (public discovery): http://search.digitalcommonwealth.org/
Admin (ingest & management): http://admin.digitalcommonwealth.org/

Not all features are fully implemented as yet. Here is what’s available:

Public Search app:

  • keyword search
  • faceted browsing of search results by format, subject, date
  • browse by collection, institution, or geographic location
  • image viewer with zooming functionality for viewing hi-res images in detail
  • users can create bookmarks and personalized folders of their favorite items
  • users can create an account, or log in via their BPL/MBLN library card or Facebook account
  • easily share items on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media
  • site designed to play well with tablets and phones

Member Admin app:

    • create digital collections
    • upload images
    • add metadata
    • edit existing objects (might be of special interest to members with items in DSpace)

For admin access, contact Tom Blake (tblake@bpl.org) to get started.

Features to be added soon:

  • batch uploads
  • support for other content types, such as postcards, books, and audio

Content from the initial test (alpha) server is being migrated to the new production-server repository. Upon completion all data from the current Digital Commonwealth DSpace server, http://repository.digitalcommonwealth.org, will be available in the new Fedora/Hydra repository. So far about 80% of the DSpace content is available. More is added every day. Once the complete migration is assured, the process will begin to shut down the DSpace server, currently hosted at UMass Amherst Libraries.

As the new repository is now in “beta,” the public link can be shared with colleagues both inside and outside your institution(s). The BPL will be doing a small amount of promotion for this, but intend to save the grand ribbon-cutting for when the system finally replaces digitalcommonwealth.org. Coming soon! Stay tuned!

We are still actively seeking feedback, suggestions, etc., so feel free to send comments by using the feedback form at http://search.digitalcommonwealth.org/feedback.