A while ago, I posted a general update laying out the major areas that the D-Team was working on. A bit over six months later, it seems like a good time to update on where our focus is now.
We continue to devote much of our energy to improving the underlying infrastructure which supports our applications. We’ve implemented Graylog, a log management tool, and are currently refining how we use it by building out dashboards and alerts so we can proactively monitor and quickly remedy any systems issues.
We’re also embarking on a substantial project to deploy all of our locally developed applications as Docker containers. This will involve learning about new technologies like Kubernetes, as well as building on what we already know about containerization. Stay tuned for a more detailed blog post about that work.
Access to Archival Collections and Data
Over the past couple of years, we’ve invested a fair amount of time into improving access to the RAC’s archival collections and data. Following up on the launch of our re-visioned discovery platform (known as DIMES), we’ve recently launched the RAC Collections API, which provides public access to the underlying data used in DIMES.
We’ve also been working with the Processing Team to enhance data about people, families, and organizations available in DIMES. We’re close to launching enhanced pages which pull in data from external sources like Wikidata, Wikipedia and the Social Networks and Archival Context Cooperative.
Another substantial ongoing initiative in this area is scaling processes which support the availability of digitized content available in DIMES. This includes turning several manual and/or script-based processes into regular services which make use of the event-based infrastructure that we created for Project Electron as well as automating the Archivematica ingest process.
We’ve also just completed a review of our current practices and requirements for PDFs created as access derivatives of digitized content. This assessment project will feed into three separate initiatives:
- Scaling researcher-driven digitization processes by further automating PDF creation.
- Improving machine-enabled access to digitized content by improving OCR quality.
- Implementing the IIIF Content Search API in DIMES.
Usability and Accessibility
The D-Team is committed to ensuring that every system and interface we implement or customize is as usable and accessible as possible for the largest number of people possible. As a result, building organizational awareness and competence in these areas has been and continues to be a major area of focus for us.
The Usability Observers team, which we put in place during the development of DIMES continues to provide invaluable insight and support for ongoing usability testing.
We’ll also be following up on the development of our Style Library and Guide by implementing those styles across our web properties. In addition to aligning the visual language, one of the main goals of this project was to raise the accessibility baseline across all of our web properties.
We’ve just embarked on a project to create an accessibility statement for the RAC. An accessibility statement is typically found on an organization’s website and articulates its commitment to accessibility and how people with disabilities can access and use its services, identifies existing and known barriers or limitations on accessibility, and provides instructions for reporting an issue or requesting accommodations. While this document rooted in our current state of accessibility, it can help us identify and elucidate future projects and plans related to accessibility. One of these will be a comprehensive web accessibility audit of all our web properties to bring them into compliance with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines.
Underlying all of our work is an ongoing commitment to collaboration, both as a means of creating excellent work products and more importantly as a way of building skills and leadership across the organization. Almost of the projects mentioned above are collaborative in nature and draw on the expertise and perspectives of our colleagues across the organization.
We’re also working on some other projects which don’t fit neatly into the categories above, but are important precisely because they involve working very closely with other teams:
- With some folks from the Processing Team, we’re updating DACSspace – a tool to evaluate resource records in an ArchivesSpace instance for DACS compliance – to make it more extensible and maintainable. Working on this project together has reminded all of us just how far we’ve come as developers and maintainers of code.
- With members of Collections Management and the Records and Information Management Program, we’re revising user documentation for the transfer of digital records.
- In collaboration with the Reference Team, we’re looking at ways to streamline the cost estimation process for digitization requests. There’s more that we’re doing that’s not articulated here, but if you’re interested in hearing more about any of these efforts, or if you’ve recently done something similar, please reach out! We’re always interested in learning from our community.