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The Digital Alcohol Studies Archives: Notes from the Digital Data Curator

[The following text is an edited version of a presentation “A Treasure Trove of Alcohol Science: The Digital Alcohol Studies Archives at Rutgers” hosted by the Scholarly and Professional Activity Committee of Rutgers University Libraries on December 1, 2021. See more.]

I’m happy to be a part of this project, and it’s great to be able to showcase our work so far. I think this project is a good example of what services that Central can provide for digital projects and collections.

The items in this collection are really diverse, and when we began looking at the different items, it was a good opportunity to evaluate what platforms would work best. We have a variety of different options – a toolkit – of digital collections platforms available to us now, and I’d like to go over some of the options we’ve considered and tried.

This collection initially got its start on a base version of WordPress. This is a great platform for content management, and for creating not just blogs, but responsive web pages hosting dynamic content. It can be used for showcasing digital media, and as centerpiece to guide users and site visitors to other platforms, but in and of itself, it’s not designed as a repository, or as a place for deep level digital collection management. We also have a bit of a challenge in this particular case, because this WordPress site is hosted off OIT’s Sites@Rutgers platform. This platform is really designed as a quick, simple, and free way to make departmental web pages, but it’s intended to be bare-bones and is not expandable. We can’t add plugins, change functionality, and most importantly, there’s no support for exporting and migrating resources and content to and from this site. It’s important to note that the Libraries has a more powerful and more expandable instance of WordPress, so if there are digital projects that need it, we recommend hosting a WordPress site within the Libraries infrastructure.

So, while sites@rutgers was a quick, easy method for starting this project, we knew we needed something better to really expand and grow this collection.  With that in mind, we’ve explored the other available tools.

One of these is Omeka. This is a great platform for exhibits, and for mixing and matching different types of content to tell a story.  As we see here, Judit has taken a number of resources from within the files of the Alcohol studies collection to tell a story about these resources, and explain their history. This is where Omeka really shines.  However, while Omeka is great for exhibits that are transient or even medium-term in nature, our main goal here is to have a digital archive.This is where our repository, RUcore, comes into play.

And so, we’re now in the process of building that digital collection in RUcore, the Alcohol Studies RUcore collection . This, as I’m sure we’re all familiar with, is our digital platform for digital collections that are integral to the libraries, and for which we expect to keep them long term, for years to come.  Our PDFs, and high quality, uncompressed versions of the images that Judit has curated over the years will find this as permanent digital home, and we already have 40 resources to start.There is some digital curation work required in converting some of these images into TIFF and approved archival formats and standards, so that we can be sure of the longevity of these resources when they go into RUcore.

Our next steps will be to create a digital collections page for the Alcohol Studies Archive, and , to migrate most of the web pages that Judit has on the sites@rutgers platform to a new Drupal-based website that is integrated with the libraries web platform. The goal is to give the collection greater permanence and longevity, as well as to make these resources discoverable and prominently available online.

The development site in Drupal: The Digital Alcohol Studies Archives (admin view)