Cultivating Place-Based Information with Omeka

These notes are intended as a guide for maintaining and developing C-DASH. The Cambridge Digital Architectural Survey and History. C-Dash is an archival tool that creates a newtork of information about places in the city.

Visit the C-Dash pilot installation running on the Azure cloud. We have a C-Dash Slideshow that illustrates a lot of the big ideas and context.

The collection of documents is managed with ten file cabinets filled with folders, each of which is labeled with a street address (most of the time) or the name of a place. The file drawers are roughly partitioned to districts, with the folders being alphabetized by street-name.

The digital documents in C-DASH are scanned page-sides that are named to reflect the subject address or name and an index number that distinguishes sequential document in number (per folder) and page number (per document).

The scan files went through a process of semi-automated validation of the addresses, and sorted into six document types (see table, below) to discriminate Interior or Exterior photos, Maps, Correspondence, Ephemera, Articles, etc. This process resulted in the name for each scan file to be formalized into a code that can be expanded into an automatically generated metadata page, and a network of information about places, related documents, and the scanned pages of those documents.

The indexing of places and documents in a searchable database and as a display of points on a contemporary or any number of historic maps is much easier and more convenient to browse than the file cabinets in the Historical Commission's office. To accomplish this, we use a tool-kit named Omeka-S. A collection of open-source digital asset management tools based on the web server extension PHP -- specifically the LAMINAS framework for building data-driven web sites.

Omeka-S is a free-to-use, open source project has a thriving community of users, developers and contributors along-side a paid staff of developers who publish two or three new releases per year. Many of the un-paid contributors have developed extensions that are vary high-quality and useful.

One of the important themes behind this project is to create a container for the collection that is sustainable over time -- so that it is easy to extend the collection and to fill in new information about documents and places and their connections. The data and the images should be easy to back up so that they are secure against disasters and mistakes. It should also be easy to upgrade the application when necessary and to extend it with new improved features.

All of this resiliency is a challenge arrange, especially since some if it will require folks with special skills and understanding. The particulars of these are discussed in the section on roles. To summarize: we anticipate the functions that are necessary to build and maintain the security of the collection assigned to an Manager role. A sys-Admin role is necessary for understanding, managing and trouble-shooting the application and its backups in the context of the cloud host. A Developer role covers the skills necessary for upgrading the applicaion -- which may become necessary if security issues become a problem or if it becomes necessary to add or modify features of the application.

Most of the tasks involved in the day-to-day-mamagement of the archive should be easy to do for a person who is willing to learn -- and who is provided with decent documentation. Adminstrative tasks dealing with backups and monitoring the cloud-based application would require a person who is comfortable with Azure cloud infrastructure (or your facility may be usng another host. ) Upgrading and implementing new features in the applicati0on wil require a person who undertsnads how to deal with web sites, Cascading Style Sheets, PHP code -- particularly the Laminas framework.

One of the goal;s of this documentation is to provide an understanding of all of this as we can withot duplicating the fundamental documentation provided by others.