Rockefeller Archive Center Bibliography now in Zotero!


I’m very pleased to announce that the Rockefeller Archive Center’s substantial (and rapidly growing) bibliography of publications based on work completed using our collections is now available in Zotero. This is the culmination of several months of hard work on the part of many individuals here, working together to create functional requirements, evaluate potential solutions and select the best option, and then migrate our existing bibliography into Zotero. A big thank you to James Allen Smith, Lee Hiltzik, Michele Beckerman, Judy Russo and most especially Rachel Wimpee for all of their efforts!

Since we opened to the public in 1974, the RAC has kept track of publications generated by our researchers based on their research here, so as you can imagine we’ve compiled a pretty long and valuable list of citations. The bad news was that it was in a Word document. This made maintenance, let alone use, increasingly difficult, and we knew it was time to move to a citation management system. After coming up with a list of requirements, we evaluated a list of potential systems and ended up choosing Zotero as the best match.

Then it came time to migrate a bunch of completely unstructured text to Zotero. This required a number of steps, starting with a variety of regular expressions to structure each citation into discrete elements by wrapping them with faux tags. Fortunately, citations were divided up by the kind of thing they were citing – books, journal articles, etc – so I was able to leverage LibreOffice’s ability to handle regular expressions as well as formatting (which matters a lot in citations!) to do most of this work. I then imported that “structured” data into OpenRefine and cleaned up the odd data that resulted from inconsistencies in citations, stray carriage returns in the middle of citations, or translated titles in brackets.

After that I was able to easily dump this data to RIS format, which could be imported into Zotero!

I sincerely hope that you don’t have to do something similar to what I just described, but if you do, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to share further documentation. There are also some tools out there that will transform text to structured citations, notably Deborah Fitchett’s Ref2RIS, but it turned out that our citations were too non-standard for those tools to work effectively.





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