What does an archivist do when the archives are closed?
Along with institutions across the globe, the Alexander Architectural Archives and Architecture and Planning Library closed our doors in March for the safety of students, staff, and visitors. Usually we spend our days surrounded by the Alexander’s collection of papers and books at Battle Hall, physically tied to the materials we work with. While we miss the stacks (and each other!), the transition to remote-work presented the perfect opportunity to focus our attention on digital projects at the archives.
Digital work gave us something to keep our hands full, but, more importantly, it gave us a way to continue to make archival resources available to researchers, also facing the challenges of remote work. Contributing to the University of Texas Libraries’ Collections Portal offered the best of both worlds. This recently launched Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) provides a platform for UT repositories to store and describe their digital materials, and share them with the public.
Luckily, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to digital projects at the Alexander. For as long as digital technologies have existed, the archival profession has been brainstorming ways to both preserve these technologies and take advantage of them to make archival materials more accessible. In 1999, the Alexander launched an online digital exhibit titled, Spanish Colonial Architecture as Represented in the Alexander Architectural Archive, described as “a collection of digitized drawings and photographs of eighteenth-century Spanish missions and [the] San Antonio’s Governor’s Palace. These records, dating mainly from the 1920s through the 1950s, reflect how the structures looked before various efforts of restoration and reconstruction. Selected from collections within the Alexander Architectural Archive, they include works by Harvey P. Smith, Stewart King, Ayres and Ayres, Robert Leon White, and measured drawings by UT Austin School of Architecture students in the Texas Architecture Archive”.
Twenty years later, this collection of digital scans is gaining new life on the Collections Portal. In my role as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander, I’ve been immersed in a world of arches and colonnades, uploading assets from the Missions exhibit into the DAMS and adding descriptive metadata.
Following UT’s shutdown, the staff at the Alexander shifted our focus to remote projects, including working in the DAMS to ingest an array of items, from floorplans to historic photographs. With over 2,000 combined items from the Alexander Archives and Library, our collection is only growing. As researchers continue to limit travel and conduct their work remotely, access to online resources has become more important than ever. Even as UT begins to implement new safety strategies on campus and we consider plans for reopening the archive, digital portals will remain a vital access point and a way for both institutions and researchers to see archival materials in a new light. When it comes to the digital, we as archivists are in it for the long haul, rain or shine, just like our commitment to preserving traditional paper artifacts.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Battle Hall in the future, and in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy browsing our materials virtually via the Collections Portal.
Hello, People of the Blogosphere! We figured it was time to provide an update on the efforts to digitize our copies of the journal Southern Architect and Building News. The bottom line: all our issues of Southern Architect are now available on the new University of Texas at Austin Collections website! There are still some kinks being worked out and changes being made to the site, but there are now hundreds of items available from institutions across campus for you to peruse.
One thing worth highlighting about the site is the sheer quality of the images. Particularly noteworthy is that the images lose none of their quality when users zoom in. Not only that, but now you can invert images to be negative, adjust saturation and brightness, rotate the image, and more.
Additionally, you can overlay the metadata for the issue over the image itself, which is a very useful feature when you are in the midst of reading the journal or looking at the images. This means you can see all the information you might need without having to abandon the image you are on or losing any edits you might have made to the image.
There are also several different ways of viewing the images, including scroll view and book view. This allows you to choose the format that best fits your needs, whether you want to read the article as if the journal was in your hands (book view), or see numerous images at a time and essentially flip through the whole journal several pages at a time (scroll view).
There’s tons to explore on this website. There’s also still kinks to be worked out. But please go and look at these amazing online collections from us, the Alexander Architectural Archives, and our friends around UT Austin!
Hello. It’s Abbie again, back with another installment on processing and publishing the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. I recently had the opportunity to present on this collection at The University of Texas’ 2019 Digital Preservation Symposium, where I discussed some of my solutions to born-digital access and preservation issues.
In the course of processing this collection, some of the most significant roadblocks were related to problematic disk images and metadata generation. These revolved around two distinct media types: zip disks and CDs. The collection contains 85 inventoried zip disks. When these were imaged and analyzed in BitCurator, the report came back riddled with error messages. Even though the disk images had been generated successfully, something was keeping fiwalk from generating the correct metadata. This made it impossible to determine necessary information like disk extent, content, and the presence of possible PII or malware.
When processing CDs, I noticed a group of about a dozen disks each had the exact same metadata. While some similarities are expected, I thought it was strange that that many disks from different projects could each have identical specs. I analyzed the disk images and physical disks and found that they were all CDs of photos processed by the same company. The original content of the disks had been overwritten by the company’s built-in structural and technical metadata, making the disk images virtually useless for research purposes. However, when these disks were mounted in FTK Imager, a write-blocked environment, it became clear that the original images were still extant – they just weren’t being picked up in the disk images.
In both of these cases, I knew that the original content could be reached but didn’t know how to access it while adhering to the best practices set up by both the digital archiving community and the resources at my disposal. The disks with these issues amounted to nearly 1/5 of the imaged collection, and many hours of research and testing were put into how I could reprocess this information. Ultimately, I found myself faced with a choice – I could either preserve inaccurate representations of the disk by retaining the existing disk images or preserve inaccurate representations of the metadata by extracting extant files instead of preserving a disk image. The issue with preserving the metadata as it stood was that it was wrong to begin with, and the resources at hand didn’t provide a solution.
When thinking about how best to reprocess this information, I was drawn to this quote from a study undertaken by Julia Kim, the Digital Assets Manager at the Library of Congress:
“Most of the researchers emphasized that if it came to partially processed files or emulations and a significant time delay in processing, they would take unprocessed and relatively inauthentic files. Access by any means, and ease of access were stressed by the majority.”
“Researcher Interactions with Born-Digital: Out of the Frying Pan and into the Reading Room,” saaers.wordpress.com
While we certainly don’t want to prioritize patron opinion over archival standards, this quote made me question whether sacrificing access and preservation to retain imperfect metadata could truly be considered “best practice.”
Working closely with the UT Libraries Digital Stewardship department, I created a workflow whereby I extracted files using FTK Imager and generated SIPS and a bulk_extractor report using the Canadian Center for Architecture’s Folder Processing Tool in the BitCurator environment. The only impact on the metadata was a change in the “Date Modified” field, which now showed the date the files were extracted and could be amended to reflect the most recent date in the file tree. While this is an unconventional approach to digital preservation, the resulting AIPs and DIPs are better representations of the original disks and will allow us to provide more comprehensive data for future researchers.
After my presentation, I had the opportunity to talk to a digital archivist about this workflow. We discussed how best practice is ultimately not about perfection, but about preserving and providing access to our materials and documenting the process. While somewhat contrasted from the theoretical approaches I’d both learned in class and adapted from online resources, this approach seemed more natural to me. It affirmed both my processing decisions and the opinions I’ve developed about what best practice in the archival community is and should be. This process has shown me how vital the user is to the archive, especially when developing workflows for digital materials.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love having opportunities to exercise creativity and problem solving in this position. It’s even better when those opportunities lead to breakthroughs that help me grow professionally and enhance the data we provide patrons. I’m excited to see new developments in our born-digital workflow as we get closer to making this collection available to patrons. Check back soon for a (final?) update from me – I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the behind-the-scenes work of born-digital archiving.
Hello! This is Abbie Norris, back with an update on the born-digital Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. For those who haven’t read my previous blog post, I am the digital archives Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architectural Archives. I’m currently working on the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection, which documents the work of a historic preservation firm based in Austin, Texas.
When I published my previous post, the collection was in the midst of being processed. I’m happy to report that processing for this collection is complete – all 813 floppy disks, CDs, zip disks, and flash drives of it. Processing is one of the first major stages of getting a collection from the donor to the public. It’s when the bulk of archival preservation happens. In this case, as in many born-digital collections, “processing” involved imaging (essentially, copying) the disks, capturing metadata like disk size and file types, and recording everything for documentation in the finding aid. We’re now able to determine the size of the collection, the types of files, and what we need to provide access to them.
One of the things I love about born-digital archiving is the problems that arise that require creative solutions. This is especially true for an archive’s pilot born-digital collection, as is the case for Volz. Items like CDs and floppy disks degrade at a faster rate than paper materials, meaning that sometimes you try to open a disk that physically appears fine, and it won’t show any of your files. One major question people have is, “If all of the information is stored on a CD, why do you have to copy the contents in a disk image? Why can’t you just continue opening the CD to access the contents?” Luckily, the answer is simple.
Imagine you have a 13th century codex and a 1990s floppy disk. Which one is easier for you to read? With the codex, all you have to do is open it. It will be fragile and you might not know the language in which it’s written, but much of the information held in the book will be visible to you. Now, consider the floppy disk. When was the last time you used one? Does your computer still have a floppy disk drive? More than likely, the answer is, “No.” Even if it does, think about the files on that disk. Can you still open a WordPerfect document from 1992?
Given that the Volz collection dates between 1980 and 2009, the types of files present on the disk vary widely. Some, like .txt and .tif files, are still widely accessible and are projected to remain active filetypes in the future. Others, like .jpeg, are still accessible but are not recommended for preservation because of their lower quality and the potential for their use to cease. Finally, there are the files that you try to open with modern software…and nothing works. These files can be either old versions of proprietary software and discontinued software.
This is where creative solutions come in. There are a variety of tools, many borrowed from the criminal forensics world, that allows us to look at files from twenty years ago. Because the digital archive field is still developing and many of the projects use open access tools, the software an archive uses to read and provide access to old files can resemble a patchwork quilt. Now that I know exactly what types of files are in the collection, I love exploring access solutions and finding answers to questions that have persisted since I began working here.
In many ways, finishing processing feels like finishing the first segment of a relay race. I feel accomplished for finishing a major task, but there is still a long way to go. Now that processing is complete, we have to finish writing the finding aid and establish methods for researchers to access the collection. It’s going to be an exciting few months, so check back here to learn about what providing access to a born-digital collection looks like at the Alexander Architectural Archives.
Hello, People of the Blogosphere! We’ve been very busy working on a number of projects this summer, one of which has been the Southern Architect and Building News digitization project.
Part of what’s so neat about this project is that we get to collaborate with other wonderful folks around the UT Libraries. The downside of this is that it means we have to coordinate and make decisions together about the workflow, standards, and overall goals. This does make it take a bit longer than if all the work were happening in-house here at the Library.
So far, we have sent several batches of about 10 volumes over to our friends in Digitization Services to be scanned and ingested into the Data Asset Management System (DAMS). They have input some metadata for us, but part of what we have to decide here at the Library is what our metadata schema will look like. There is a lot of information we could include in our metadata, so we have to make some choices about what will be most meaningful to our end users and how much information it is realistic to enter for each item.
The last batch of Southern Architect has been sent to PCL to be digitized, which is pretty exciting! Once this is finished we will pick them up and they will join the rest of Southern Architect to await metadata entry! Currently all the already digitized copies of Southern Architect are back at the Library, so once the paged content issues with the DAMS are fixed, we should be ready to go all-in on metadata!
We’re slowly working our way through some of the issues with the DAMS. This project is for the long haul, so it is going to take some time to get Southern Architect and Building News digitized and available online. But, we also known what a special publication it is and how fascinating it is and its value to architectural history! We can’t wait to keep working to make sure every one can see for themselves what makes Southern Architect so special and important!
Hello! My name is Abbie Norris, and I am the current digital archives Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architectural Archives. My primary job is processing the born-digital content received in the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. This collection contains the records of the Volz & Associates, Inc. architecture firm, which is focused primarily on preserving and restoring historic buildings and interiors. The collection showcases notable buildings from Texas and United States history and is an excellent resource to discover how much is needed to keep historic buildings authentic and alive.
The Volz Collection is significant to the Alexander for several reasons, but most importantly, it is the archive’s first large-scale born-digital accession. In addition to analog records and building materials, the collection includes roughly 450 floppy disks, 250 CDs, 90 zip disks, and one lone flash drive. These materials document the life of the firm from the early 1980s to the mid 2010s. So far, we have imaged over 100 filetypes representing everything from office files to construction reports to historic photographs. It’s a diverse array, and as the project moves forward, we’re faced with many questions about how best to provide access to researchers.
As diverse as the filetypes are the kinds of buildings included in the collection – though many are tied by one important identity. Volz worked on buildings of many functions, styles, and preservation needs. While these buildings span the United States, the majority of them are located in Texas. Included are the Governor’s Mansion, the Alamo, the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch, and the Alexander’s own Battle Hall. I love working with this visual representation of Texas history. Whether it’s by noticing design similarities between county courthouses or the way historic landmarks are used and maintained, the collection is an in-depth look into how architecture shapes our state and its identity.
In my four months of working with this collection, I’ve learned an incredible amount about both the intricacies of born-digital archiving and the breadth of work architects do. Through the frustration of software bugs and the triumph of imaging previously unreadable disks, this is a fascinating collection that provides many learning opportunities.
The next steps of the project are to finalize the creation of a finding aid for these born-digital materials and to determine methods of access once the collection is published. Check back here soon for collection updates and an in-depth look at the world of born-digital archiving at the Alexander Architectural Archives!
Here at the Architecture and Planning Library, we have long been obsessed with fascinated by our impressive collection of Southern Architect and Building News journals. Printed from approximately the late 1880s to the early 1930s, Southern Architect was published to highlight the architecture and architectural news of the Southern United States, with similar content to American Architect. Our Special Collections contains the largest known collection of Southern Architect ranging in date from 1892 to 1931.
The journal itself contains articles and advertisements relating to all things architecture in the South. The articles include pieces on homes and buildings around the South, complete with drawings and/or photographs. Taken together, Southern Architect documents trends in architecture, society, technology, and advertising that make it an important part of architectural history.
It has been a longtime goal of our Librarian, Dr. Katie Pierce Meyer, to digitize Southern Architect. We’re so pleased that we have finally received funding to do so! We are currently working with the Head of Digitization Services for UT Libraries, Anna Lamphear, and her team to digitize and make available on the UT work-in-progress Data Asset Management System. Digitization Services is producing high quality, searchable scans of the journal and then uploading them to the DAMS.
The digitization is going much faster than we anticipated, so we are now in the process of adding further metadata on the digitized issues. Part of that process is developing a workflow and a standard for our metadata. Our Digital Initiatives GRA, Zach, Dr. Katie, and I are currently working on identifying the most important metadata attributes and creating a standard for us to follow as we all work on entering metadata.
This project is still in its early stages, so that’s all I can say for now about it. But, we’re really excited about finally getting Southern Architect digitized and making it accessible, and we hope you’re excited too! Stay tuned for more news on this awesome project!
Hello y’all! Katie (2.2) here. I admit that Battle Hall Highlights has not been quite as active on the blog front from the Library compared to other years – apologies for that, but it was for a very good reason! The University of Texas at Austin Libraries have been working on implementing Omeka as a platform for publishing digital collections and exhibits from UT institutions. Our own Katie Pierce Meyer (the Librarian here at the Architecture and Planning Library) was instrumental in bringing Omeka to UT, and APL is proud to now have three exhibits available via Omeka. As GRA for the Library, I spent the majority of my semester migrating content from our website, which was housed and designed via Drupal 6, to UT’s Omeka. The three exhibits on Omeka now are “Our Landmark Library: Battle Hall at 100,” “Their Maya Story: George and Gerrie Andrews,” and “Eugene George: Architect, Scholar, Educator, Photographer.” Each exhibit posed unique challenges in migrating the content, and have provided invaluable experience in creating exhibits via Omeka.
So, what is Omeka? It is a free, open-source platform for publishing digital collections and exhibits. Developed and updated by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Omeka has several iterations (Omeka S, Omeka.net, and Omeka Classic), but originally started out as a platform designed for small institutions with limited resources.
Omeka is meant to be easy to use and simple to upkeep, especially for those with limited technological know-how (e.g., me). So, with some persistent encouragement from Katie Pierce Meyer, UT eventually decided to install Omeka as a platform for the UT Libraries to upload digital collections and exhibits. So only our three exhibits, and one about South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Books, are available via Omeka. There are various reasons Omeka has not gained traction: it is necessary to first have a digital collection about which to build an exhibit which takes a great deal of time, it has been time consuming to try to coordinate with the UT Data Asset Management System (DAM) to develop a metadata standard, and, simply, Omeka is not perfect.
Where other exhibit builders (such as Scalar) are more image-focused, Omeka is quite metadata-heavy. This is evident in the limited theme options (basically, themes are the design layout, or style, of the exhibit) currently available on UT’s Omeka, which tend to be text-based with smaller images. Hopefully, as more institutions digitize items and see the existing exhibits on Omeka, the site will grow in popularity as a platform for UT’s Libraries to share more of their unique collections.
In late December of 2017 to early January of 2018, all Omeka content was migrated from Omeka.org to Omeka.net. What the Libraries and the IT team decided to do was host content via Omeka servers rather than host it themselves. This created the opportunity for each institution to have their own independent Omeka site that they control. When we worked in Omeka.org (the homepage of which is pictured below), everything was in the same bucket, so to speak. At that point, two of our exhibits were completed, and the Architecture Library and the South Asian Pop Culture Collection were the primary users of Omeka. Now, the South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Books has its own site, and we have our own website now (which you can see here: http://utlibrariesarchitecture.omeka.net/) that we can customize to fit our needs as an institution. The site is still a work in progress, as we are working on adding more content, but we now have three exhibits (all discussed thoroughly below) publicly available for everyone to enjoy and explore!
Battle Hall at 100: Our Landmark Library
Pros: Learned how to import items one at a time
Cons: Took three to four months to complete, took a while to standardize metadata (had to go back and change early entries), and there was a lot of trial and error (in both uploading items and in building the exhibit and making it look well-done)
Theme: Thanks, Roy (the fullsize image display is rather small, as are the thumbnails, menus are confusing because Omeka menu is on left and exhibit menu is on right of the text, and the metadata page is text-heavy with a thumbnail image at the very bottom, nice galleries of images, though)
The first of the three exhibits I migrated was Our Landmark Library: Battle Hall at 100. This one was migrated “by hand,” if you will, meaning I moved each item individually, entering in the metadata and adding the image files myself. The main takeaway? This method of importing items is slow. Containing approximately 140 items, there was a lot of trial and error (mainly human error) in migrating Our Landmark Library. Namely, it took time to find the best standard for the metadata, because I wanted to be sure to include all the information included in the old exhibit on Drupal. Eventually, I found a standard, wrote it down, and followed it for the remainder of the items, before going back and changing the ones I had already uploaded. So uploading the items was the first phase of this project. The second phase was reconstructing the exhibit in Omeka. I
wanted to maintain the original order of the exhibit, which was simple enough. The hardest part of building the exhibit was putting together the galleries, which were pretty big in this exhibit. Formatting the exhibit to have a nice flow to it (no big gaps or spaces between what are called “blocks” on Omeka, a means of separating and formatting parts of a page), keeping the images in the correct order, and writing captions for each image was not challenging so much as time-consuming. Even though this exhibit took a long time to complete because of the method of uploading each image myself, I am glad I had the experience. I became intimately familiar with how Omeka works, and the rhythm you can get into when uploading every item and formatting an exhibit. I definitely have a great appreciation for how long building a digital collection can take. I did not have to digitize any of the items or create original content for the exhibit, but it still took a long time to move everything. If it took three, almost four, months for me to migrate an exhibit of only 140 items, I can only imagine how long it would take for large collections.
Their Maya Story: George and Gerrie Andrews
Pros: Quick with CSV import, less trial and error, building the exhibit only took two days; Easy metadata standardization when done in Excel ahead of time
Cons: Figuring out the CSV import (must be done very quickly or it has to be started all over again); Mapping elements (sometimes difficult to match column headings with element names for DublinCore metadata)
Theme: Neatscape (nice display of the images, and large, easy-to-read text, the menu at the bottom is the only downside, only available in Omeka.org); Big Picture (current display in Omeka.net, large image display, allows easy navigation between items in galleries and between pages in the exhibit)
After (finally) finishing the Battle Hall at 100 exhibit, I moved on to the George and Gerrie Andrews exhibit, Their Maya Story. This exhibit Katie Pierce Meyer and I imported into Omeka via a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file that had been generously created for us. When importing a CSV file, you choose “elements” of metadata that align with the columns in the file (e.g. the “Title” column matches to the “Title” element in Dublin Core, or the “Geographical Location” column might match to the “Spatial Location” element); it is important to note that not all column headings have a corresponding element to match to, so it helps think about this somewhat beforehand. After a mishap during which Katie and I took too long matching columns to elements, we successfully uploaded all 116 items to Omeka in less than two minutes, complete with metadata and attached image files. I then began to build the exhibit in Omeka. I again wanted to be faithful to the original exhibit. I wanted to try a different theme this time, so I chose the theme called “Neatscape,” which does not permit any customization or changes to the display the way some other themes do. The only
problem I have with Neatscape as a theme is that the menu for the exhibit is at the very bottom of the page, so you have to scroll through the whole page in order to reach the menu. One of the perks of Omeka is that it allows users to change themes without changing the content or layout of the
existing content of the exhibit. We decided to go with Neatscape so that we have an example of what it looks like as an exhibit, though we may change it in the future if we find a theme that works well for our content. A major asset of Neatscape is that the metadata pages for individual items does include a small thumbnail immediately to the right at the top of the page, meaning that (unlike in the Thanks, Roy theme in the Battle Hall at 100 exhibit) users do not have to scroll all the way down the page to see only a small thumbnail image that, when clicked on, then leads to a larger image. Building the exhibit was much the same as before, only this took merely two days, between using the CSV import and having had the experience of building an exhibit. It is amazing how much time the CSV import cut out, so I definitely learned that it is necessary to have all the metadata standardized in a CSV file in order to make the process much easier and more enjoyable.
After the migration from Omeka.org to Omeka.net, the Neatscape theme was no longer an option, so I chose to use the Big Picture theme, which emphasizes images. The thumbnails for the galleries are large, and the images displayed when a user clicks on an item is larger than any of the other themes. We still have not figured out how to add zoom functionality to our exhibits. That is a task that the Library’s new Digital Initiatives GRA, Zach, is going to be working on in the coming months. So the Andrews exhibit required a little bit of tweaking after the migration from Omeka.org to Omeka.net, but we wound up with a better outcome because of it. The Big Picture theme is currently my favorite among the three I have tried so far because of the large image display, which is preferable for some of the items we might include in future digitization efforts.
Pros: More theme options because of the move to Omeka.net, quick because of CSV import, nice to have the exhibit ready to go whenever the CSV file was done so that all that remained was to add images and galleries; took only one day to complete the exhibit
Cons: Harder to build an exhibit without the images ready to go in, quite a bit of wait time due to the migration of all Omeka content from UT’s servers to Omeka.net
Theme: The Daily (there is a nice menu that scrolls down alongside the content to navigate between pages, large text, large image display)
This exhibit about Eugene George was done in a slightly different order from the others: instead of importing the items and then building the exhibit, I built the exhibit first since our CSV file was not ready to import. So I copied over all the text from the exhibit, and created blocks of text and galleries to mimic the original order of the exhibit. We had to wait on the CSV import until after the migration from Omeka.org to Omeka.net, which took longer than expected, but in early February, we received the go-ahead to import items into the new site. Katie, Zach, and I sat together and worked on standardizing the metadata in the CSV file before importing it into Omeka, which mostly consists of renaming columns and copying
over the desired metadata content. After several failed attempts at importing the CSV file, we realized that because our website is now a legacy site (http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/apl) that the links included to connect the JPEG images with their respective metadata would not work. So, we changed those links to include “legacy” before the link, and
the CSV import worked perfectly! With those items now in Omeka.net, I was able to add them into the pre-built exhibit. I then went back and made sure that the galleries and text looked nice, made the necessary edits, and the exhibit was ready to go! For this one, I chose The Daily as the theme. Overall, the theme looks nice, with large text, large image display within the exhibit. The menu that scrolls along beside the content allows for quick and easy navigation among the pages of the exhibit. The pages where item metadata is displayed are less text-heavy than in the Thanks, Roy theme used for the Battle Hall exhibit (and feature the image at the top of the page instead of a thumbnail at the bottom), but the image displayed is not as large as that in the Andrews exhibit.
By the time I built the Eugene George exhibit, I had a far greater understanding of how Omeka works and how long it might take. With the CSV import and the exhibit pre-built, this exhibit took only one day to complete. This means that just one day of intensive work is needed to build an exhibit when the CSV import is used to add the items, versus nearly four months doing an item-by-item import for the Battle Hall exhibit. It is easier to build the exhibit as you go, as I did with the Andrews exhibit, rather than having it already built. I found it far easier to make changes as I went along building the Andrews exhibit than to have to go back afterwards as I did with Eugene George.
In spite of my limited technological expertise and lack of knowledge about Omeka, I found the platform very easy to use. Exhibits and importing items (whether individually or via CSV file) takes time and patience. For collections less than 50 items, importing items one-by-one is fine, but for larger collections, the CSV import saves a great deal of time. It is intensive to create a CSV file with all the pertinent metadata, but it is preferable to having to individually import 200 items and type in metadata for each. With a CSV file, the standardization is done before the items ever make it into Omeka.
In terms of Omeka.org versus Omeka.net and the Administrator side of things, not much has changed. However, it is nice to have our own site to manage and customize. Since the change to Omeka.net, we have been able to play with the website and are working toward making it exactly what we want. It is still a work in progress, but it looks pretty sharp! The ability to manage our own content, look, and navigation is something we never could have achieved through Omeka.org. Once the Libraries adds links to the UT Libraries website to reach all of the Omeka sites (the South Asian Popular and Pulp Fiction Books site, the Benson’s site), it will allow users to easily access the incredible digital collections that are forming on Omeka. Additionally, Omeka.net provides more options in terms of themes than Omeka.org. Though some do not translate between the two, the increased options have allowed us to try different themes for each exhibit to see what is the best display and format for Architectural exhibits. Hopefully Zach or someone with more technical coding expertise can find a way to add zoom functionality to our images, something that will increase the usability of our items.
Overall, working with Omeka was an enriching experience for me. Coming from a library/archives background, getting to do a project like this was incredibly rewarding. With a free platform like Omeka, anything is possible. Even a relative luddite like myself can use it to build digital collections. For the most part, I am handing off the reigns of digital projects to Zach, but I’m proud of the work I have done on these three collections. They are not perfect, but I learned so much about building digital collections from the experience of migrating this content. And currently the Architecture and Planning Library is paving the way for other UT institutions in using Omeka as an exhibit platform, about which we are extremely excited. Please explore our Omeka site and enjoy the exhibits as much as I enjoyed building them! Signing off for now, your Friendly Neighborhood Omeka Semi-Guru.
Hiya! I’m Zacharia (Zach if you’re feeling friendly) and I’m the new Digital Initiatives GRA here and APL. I’m going to be in charge of making sure you wonderful people will still be able to find our online exhibits once the sites have gone offline.
So I thought I’d give you a little how-to guide about how you can access our old exhibits while they’re in migration. So without further ado let me introduce you to our new best friend: The Wayback Machine!
The Wayback Machine is a delightful little site hosted by the Internet Archive that is dedicated to archiving the entire internet forever (give or take a few hundred thousand versions). Today I am going to walk you through how to access the old APL legacy site and all the associated content.
Step 1: Accessing the Site
The Wayback Machine works by automatically scraping webpages, creating exact replicas of the site on a given day which can be accessed from the main interface. These are stored versions of a site at the time of scraping, and will not reflect any changes made to the site following the date of scraping. Think of it as visiting a historical site.
The url for our old site is https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/apl. So we’re going to copy that and paste into The Wayback Machine, which should look something like this: (Please note that the images are best viewed in full screen so don’t fret if you can’t quite make out specific text, just click on the image.)
Now I have already scraped the legacy site as of January 31 and February 6. The next screen you see should contain the url you just entered and a series of calendars with the dates January 31 and February 6 highlighted. These represent specific “images” or captures of the site as it looked on those days. There shouldn’t be any difference between the two so pick your favorite date!
Step 2: Navigation
Now those of you familiar with the old site should recognize a lot of what you see, with the exception of the Wayback Machine interface, which will look like this:
This is the Wayback Machine navigation bar. From here you can navigate between different captures of the site at will and see a timeline of their development. Now the navigation of the old site works the same as it once did, however when you select a link you may see this image:
The Wayback Machine archives each webpage individually, and must redirect and access different versions when you go to a new web page. What that means is that when you click on a link you are redirected to the Wayback Machine’s most recent or closest temporal capture of the webpage that is being linked.
Step 3: Accessing the old Online Exhibits
My work at APL primarily revolves around making sure you fine folk can still access all of our old online content, so let’s see if we can’t access one of our old exhibits: The Architectural Legacy of Herbert Greene. As we are still on the main web page we will need to move over to the Works and Projects page. Before moving on I would like to point out that the entire legacy UT Libraries site is not fully accessible on the Wayback Machine, just these exhibits which I have manually captured. So keep that in mind as we go forward.
In any case, the Works and Project page should look like this:
If your screen does not look like this please select the “Works + Projects” button. All of our exhibits are housed under Exhibits and Curated Resources, but all the other pages found here are fully accessible so feel free to look around.
Once you’re looking at the Exhibits page, select the hyperlinked text Online Exhibits and Curated Resources to find the list of old online exhibits. Fun fact, you can also access this delightful blog from here and see all the archived posts!
The Architectural Legacy of Herbert Miller Greene is the first item on the list. If you click on it should take you to:
There is a chance that the images or other script may not load. This is a result of a problem with the given date of capture. If you are having this issue, access a different capture from the navigation bar (such as January 31) to see the full site.
Ta-da! It’s like the site was never taken down! You can freely explore the exhibit to your heart’s content.
All of old exhibits will be available in new formats on the new libraries site, but in the meanwhile (or if you’re feeling nostalgic) you can use The Wayback Machine to find all of your favorite content just the way you liked it.
I’m looking forward to sharing our progress on the new site as time goes on, and I’ll be back real soon with more awesome stuff to show you!
The Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) Board has awarded $192,268 to the General Libraries of The University of Texas at Austin to further the development of the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) program.
TARO is designed to assist scholars and citizens across Texas in locating important archival materials relating to the history, culture, social, and economic conditions of the state. Many of these materials have been long forgotten, overlooked, or virtually unknown for generations.
The General Libraries is the lead institution in a consortium of libraries including the Austin History Center, Houston Public Library, Rice University, Southwest Texas State University, Texas State Library and Archives, the University of Houston, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas Pan American, The University of Texas at El Paso, The University of Texas Medical Branch, and The University of Texas at San Antonio. The consortium will use the TIF funds for the creation of electronic finding aids to unique archival materials at these institutions. The electronic finding aids will be mounted on a website already in existence for the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) project (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro).
The co-directors of the project are Mark McFarland, Assistant Director for Digital Library Services, General Libraries; and Kris Kiesling, Coordinator of Technical and Digital Services, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
Students, faculty, independent professionals, avocationists, genealogists, K-12 students and teachers, and anyone with an Internet connection can avail themselves of the electronic finding aids to learn more about these unique materials located in libraries, large and small, across the state.
This is “Phase II” of TARO. Plans for future phases include (1) the digitization of the archival collections themselves so that the citizens of Texas can have clear, ubiquitous, any-time access to important archival collections held throughout Texas, and (2) the addition of more library partners to increase the variety and quantity of information available.
Since its creation by the 74th Texas Legislature in 1995, TIF has awarded approximately $1.2 billion in telecommunications infrastructure grants to its four constituent groups- public schools, libraries, institutions of higher education, and public, not-for-profit healthcare facilities.
Blog from the University of Texas Architecture and Planning Library