The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Web/Tech
- Now on view at the National Archives is the exhibition, Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage, which presents the story of the dramatic recovery of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from a flooded basement in the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s secret police. [via AOTUS blog, NARA]
- We hope you are ready for it, Innovation is coming to the Arts and Industries Building !!!
- Advice on how to do family history research, part 1. [via New York Times]
- Historic costumes are on exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library, historic smell and all. [via The Collation blog, Folger Shakespeare Library]
- A warm welcome to Folklife Today, the new blog of the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center.
- May the WARC be with you, searching for the true meaning of web archiving. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- By now most of us are familiar with the variety of memes that can spread across the web like a virus, however this same type of spread of information can also be found in the 19th century albeit through different channels. [via MapLab, Wired]
- For more about the Iraqi Jewish Archive, check out the video below.
- On display for the first time since the 1990s, a World War II billboard goes up at the National Museum of American History. [via O Say Can You See?, NMAH]
- A nice look into Iron Mountain, a company that securely stores the records of companys, archives, and governments around the world. [via The New Yorker]
- The Internet Archive has a new collection of prominent and historically notable pieces of software, the Historical Software Archive, that you can play in your internet browser. [via Internet Archive Blogs]
- Jurassic Park is getting even closer to reality - Blood molecules found to survive for millions of years in a blood-engorged mosquito. [via The Torch, SI]
- Personal digital archiving is becoming more and more a part of our lives with the increasing prevalence of email and digital images occupying our world. The Library of Congress has an awesome new resource to share, Perspectives on Personal Digital Archiving, to help you preserve your digital life. [via The Signal: Digital Preservation, LOC]
- A preview of the National Museum Natural History's plans to renovate its Fossil Hall. [via Around the Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- This week, the National Portrait Gallery welcomed the arrival of Nelson Shanks’s The Four Justices, a tribute to the four female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. [via Face to Face blog, NPG]
- In São Paulo, Brazil recycling doesn’t happen in tidy blue bins, but rather through an informal network of independent waste collectors called catadores who search the streets gathering cans to be sold as scrap metal. A mobile recycling center gives the catadores the opportunity to create stools or other objects made of soda cans to sell. [via Wired Design, Wired]
Here at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, our website is built on top of a content management system (or CMS) called Drupal. For those of our readers unfamiliar with Drupal, it's an open source project that started its life as a message board system originally intended to help keep some University of Antwerp alumni in touch. The creator of the system, Dries Buytaert, wanted to call the site Dorp.org, dorp meaning "village" in Dutch. However, when seeing if dorp.org was available, he accidentally typed drop.org, and liking the sound better, saved the domain. Once he decided to release the site's code, he decided to name it Drupal, which is the English phonetic spelling of Druppel, the Dutch word for drop.
Currently, the Drupal community maintains a policy of only supporting two versions of the CMS. Currently, those two versions are Drupal 6, and Drupal 7. Our site was running on the former. However, Drupal 8 recently went into alpha testing, which means its release isn't too far off. So soon Drupal 6 will no longer be supported by the community.
To be proactive, I started on a 6-month project to upgrade our site to Drupal 7 before support disappeared. On August 28th, that project was complete and our new Drupal 7 website was rolled out.
Don't worry if you didn't notice it.
Aside from allowing the site's theme to respond to the browser's width (for those who are in modern, standards compliant browsers), the vast majority of the work was all on the back end. The functionality in Drupal is provided by modules, which are little add-ons that extend Drupal's functionality. Module developers tap into functions called "hook functions." These functions are fired off by Drupal whenever it performs a given task, and allows the developers to modify processes or data, or even piggyback off of it and provide their own tasks for the site to run. The premise is similar to one individual saying to another "Let me know when your going out for milk, 'cus I have some mail I would like you to drop off while your out." Drupal 6 contained 83 hook functions for developers to use. Drupal 7 has around 403.
Further complicating the issue, some of the hook functions had been changed, renamed, split into multiple functions, etc. All of these changed hook functions in the modules needed to be updated.
Luckily, I didn't have to upgrade all of the 170 or so modules used by our site. Some modules are in the "Core," or modules that Drupal comes with. Others are contributed modules, which are created by other Drupal developers and released to the community. These modules were updated by their maintainers. What were left were 14 completely custom modules that needed upgrading.
Another large part of the upgrade was coming up with the exact step-by-step process I needed to go through to get the site upgraded without any issues. This included duplicating the site on a localized server. Then the theme, contributed modules, and custom modules needed to be switched off. This would keep the site from crashing when the code base changed.
Then, Drupal 7 was downloaded, the database updated. After the database had been updated, the new versions of the modules had to be downloaded and re-installed. Luckily, I was able to create a command line script that ran on the server to do much of the heavy lifting. This scrip contained over 330 commands sent to the server in order to run the full update. The process took about 6 hours to complete. Once that was done, the code and database was uploaded to our new server, and the domain address was switch so the whole process was seamless.
Other Smithsonian websites using Drupal:
- The Field Book Project has even more records and digitized field books available online! [The Field Book Project blog, NMNH/SIA]
- You will be missed - This week, Secretary G., Wayne Clough announced that he will be retiring in October 2014. [via Around The Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- What the? That's crazy! An insect with mechanical gears in its legs! [via core77]
- That's a lot of websites . . . The British Library just completed crawling the entire UK web domain in about 11 weeks. [via Jennfier Wright, SIA]
- A recap of the best the Smithsonian's answers to questions from #AskaCurator tweets. [via Around the Mall, Smithsonian Magazine]
- Take a look how some iconic prints were edited in the darkroom. [via PetaPixel]
- The world's largest stamp gallery - The new William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum will be opening on September 22. Take a look at just some of the steps its taken to make it all possible. [via The Torch, SI and Pushing the Envelope blog, NPM]
- Engage with staff at the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of American History next Wednesday for Ask a Curator Day where museums around the world invite you to engage directly with curators and other staff.
- To kick off American Archives month, AOTUS (Archivists of the United States) David S. Ferriero, asks you to join him on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout where he'll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, from 2–2:30 pm, ET. [via AOTUS, NARA]
- Your vote counts! The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum invites you to vote for winner of the 2013 People's Design Award. [via Smithsonian Magazine]
- Coming up next weekend in Washington, D.C. is the Library of Congress' National Festival of the Book. [via LOC Blog]
- This weekend Bibilotech, the first all-digital public library in the United States will open in Texas. [via InfoDocket]
- Handwriting samples, birthdays, and grants - The mysterious authorship of a travelog in the Archives is solved! [via Smithsonian Collections Blog]
- In the theaters recently was the movie Lee Daniel's The Butler - A historical drama that follows the experience of an African American butler in the White House during eight presidential terms from 1952 to 1986. Eugene Allen, the subject of that movie, was interviewed in the 1990s by Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage curator Dr. Marjorie Hunt. [via Courtney Bellizzi, SIA]