Wrapping up six months focusing on a single major project is a delightful period indeed. The journey is just as important as the destination as I discovered long ago. In this instance, there’s a lot to learn from both the results and how I got there too.
It all started with one stubborn librarian, who couldn’t accept that all the hard work, attention, efforts, time, and money that had been invested into collecting, abstracting, indexing, preserving, and digitizing an extremely unique collection over time should be forgotten and forlorn. This site fulfilled its role as a pilot for me to get a Short Research Leave in 2021, when I was able to focus on sorting things out and planning a viable solution for 22 days. With that accomplished – and with support from both CAS and NBL – a sabbatical leave in the Spring of 2023 resulted in a sustainable Digital Alcohol Studies Archives with the components as planned:
Now listed on the Rutgers Digital Collections portal, the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives Collection features its own landing page on the RUL website, which, partly, follows the original structure formerly designed for the CAS Archives Pages on CAS Information Services. The site presents the history of CAS and the archival collection under headlines similarly to this WordPress pilot: as Publications, Notable People, Special Collection, and Summer School.The Digital Collections search portal, allows searching and browsing the 1,000+ documents in RUcore by document types and collections with options to narrow down searches to full text, full records or any of its parts, subject, and more. The Omeka digital collections platform focuses on images to showcase representative content for forthcoming events and celebrations.
With its over 1,000 items, the size of the collection speaks for itself. One “item” can be a single image (with detailed description) or a 100-page document collated from several, related texts, all indexed, OCR-ed, and full-text searchable.
The original fourfold goal of the project has been accomplished as follows.
- PRESERVATION: Preserving materials already digitized at CAS by previous librarians and staff, the Digital Alcohol Archives Collection now functions as the repository for resources on early alcohol history as well as the role Rutgers has played in the evolution of the field. Related resources that formerly existed on now-defunct library websites and in former databases, as well as in external storage or on shared drives were pooled into a stable, shared resource. Archival quality images and pdf documents will find a permanent digital home in the Rutgers University Community Repository (RUcore). The Fedora-based platform is able to store, manage, and deliver any type of digital information, supporting in-document searching perfectly.
- ACCESS: The overarching focus of the Digital Alcohol Archives is to provide access to materials otherwise unavailable for the public and raise awareness to this availability via multiple access points. To increase visibility and discoverability, new pages were added on the RUL website to complement the Alcohol Studies Database, serving as the front end of the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives. This fully RUL-controlled platform further ensures longevity and sustainability, as it comes with the potential of adding further pages and content locally. The RUcore digital platform is used for complex resources such as PDF-borne pamphlets and documents in order to support searching the full text of documents and metadata. Each bibliographic record includes a detailed description and a persistent URL with a DOI. Technical resources also include the Omeka digital collections platform with a focuses on images, as its exhibit function allows to showcase representative content for forthcoming events and celebrations.
- MODEL: The revived Digital Alcohol Studies Archives project has been a great example a successful collaboration within RUL units and externally, with CAS, in an online work environment. Selecting and assessing content, exploring options, developing and testing workflows, and refining processes have been documented for the benefit of the community of librarians, archivists, and researchers who wish to embark on similar projects. Mentoring and teaching graduate students during the creation of the digital archives as well as experimenting with automation can serve as a model for other areas in libraries.
- REFLECTION: An open access digital collection may foster reflections on past experiences and promote life-long learning by providing context for current trends and translate past practices to current issues in addiction research, education, and treatment. Researchers with special appreciation for the past learn from past mistakes and success by analyzing historical context to better understand where the field of addiction studies has come from and where it might go from here.
Too many to list here! Here are a few highlights from the Accomplishment section of my monthly recaps.
- Drupal provides a powerful front end, but it can only work through communicating my needs to the developers
- Multitasking, if applied cautiously, can actually work, to some extent, in this type of work
- It’s amazing what our current tools can do with older documents or items scanned long ago
- Images take a lot of time to process
- Digitizing weird stuff such as collectible t-shirts is not only fun, but builds communities in many ways
Takeaway: The show must go on (and it will)
Total number of total files uploaded
- Omeka: 187
Total number of pages and posts
- Drupal: 22 pages, 27 media items
- WordPress: 60 pages, 78 posts, 414 images