Category Archives: Drupal

Building a virtual research environment VRE in Drupal in under 5 hours | Quinn Dombrowski

Building a virtual research environment VRE in Drupal in under 5 hours | Quinn Dombrowski.

This was a blog post pointed out by one of my classmates. The writer is obviously very familiar with Drupal (although she claims not to be a programmer),  which is not my case at all, but at least it gives me some idea of what can be accomplished in a day with Drupal once you become familiar with it.

This is an example of a fairly simple VRE (virtual research environment).

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Filed under Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, Drupal, VRE (Virtual Research Environment)

Unit 12: pre-installed VM versus DIY

I think the question here is really: what skills are really needed in a librarian working in digital collections? That is not easy to answer, because libraries vary so much in terms of staff size, budget, and training. I certainly feel much more confident about installing and configuring virtual machines (VMs) as a result of this course; but I wonder if it was the best use of class assignment time, especially since it could be so time-consuming. But if I was the sole librarian in a small non-profit or museum, with no technical staff, and I wanted to create and host a digital collection, the ability to create a VM from scratch would be important. I guess the question is, how common is this scenario, and how common will it be in the future? And what sorts of librarianship does the DigIN program want to support?

I don’t know if a middle ground might have worked better; maybe install only 3 VMS and spend more time on metadata and actually working with collections. I think DSpace and Eprints were sort of repetitive; maybe we could have been given a choice to install one or the other as our example of digital repository software. I think it was good to see Drupal because it is so ubiquitous, and to get an idea of the more technical end of the spectrum in digital collections management. And I think Omeka seems to represent the other end, the simple end of digital repository management.



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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, digital repository, Drupal, dSPace, ePrints, Library science, Omeka, SIRLS 675

Unit 11: Repository Software Homepages – an assessment

A repository software package’s homepage ought to be attractive, clear, and inspire the users’ confidence.  Some of these homepages do that better than others; but they are also geared toward very different audiences. In general I think each site is geared toward the user that could best benefit from it.

  • Eprints ( clearly states what it is, the interface is clean, and provides a live demo as well as links to documentation, downloads, and a description of the principles of open access.
  • Omeka ( again, the homepage is well-designed, attractive, and provides clear links to all the information a user could want. It seems geared especially to draw in the new or uninitiated user (i.e. me). The user could be an individual rather than an institution.
  • DSpace ( There is a lot of white space on this page. For some reason I find that intimidating. There is a very clear statement about what it is–if you know what an “institutional repository application” is. The logo at the top identifies it as a “scholar space” – This is definitely geared toward an institutional user/IT professional that already knows what an institutional repository is. This might be more confidence-building if you are an institutional administrator looking to find a turnkey application.
  • Drupal ( This is a very busy page. But the tag line: “Come for the Software, Stay for the Community” is catchy. The page goes out of its way to show you how world-wide its scope is; you can tell that the software is geared for IT professionals and developers; they even have announcements about DrupalCons (a very geeky term for conventions). This is definitely a geek community and that means that I am not the sort of user they are targeting.
  • PKP (Public Knowledge Project This site also has a lot of projects besides the harvester software. It takes a while exploring and reading to figure out what this site is and what it contains. It’s not for the casual user, and it seems to already assume that the user is committed to open source and open access projects.
  • JHove ( This is a site full of technical jargon, definitely targeting the technical user, not the casual user or the repository administrator.

I guess each site has its advantages for the type of user it is seeking. As a librarian or a non-profit or museum curator, I find the first 3 more attractive and accessible.

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, digital repository, Drupal, dSPace, ePrints, Omeka, SIRLS 675

Unit 5 – Using Drupal for my digital collection

Discuss either a) which module you decided to try to try from assignment 2 and how it enhances your collection; include if you like any problems or tips related to installation; or
b) now that you have some experience, how you feel overall about the suitability of Drupal for your collection.

It is clear that Drupal, in the hands of a trained Drupal programmer, would be a powerful and customized tool that could be used to manage my digital collection; although it seems that it is not really designed for the type of content I would like to include: many large searchable text files (in pdf or other formats, especially including files with specialized markup). When I say that it is not really designed for it, I mean that the native content types don’t lend themselves to it (although I have not experimented with the “book” type).  Of course there are many modules that add that type of functionality; I saw several that seemed designed to make RDF-type relations between nodes; but I was too intimidated by all the dependencies to try to install such modules, and the help material was too highly technical for a casual Drupal user to understand.

I did find an apparently simple module that added some necessary functionality to my site, i.e., the ability to search attached text files. The module is called, appropriately, search-files.Here is a screenshot of the kind of output the module produces:

sample of the results returned by the Drupal serach module

Because this is a crucial function for my collection, I decided to install it, even though it requires several “helper applications” in Linux.

Helper Applications

In order to extract text, this module calls ‘helper apps’ such as cat and pdftotext. Drupal administrators can configure any helpers they like. Helper apps need to be installed on the server and need to be setup to print to stdout.

Most Linux distributions have the following helper apps available:

  • cat – generic text (txt) files
  • pdftotext – Adobe Acrobat (pdf) Documents
  • catdoc – Microsoft Word (doc) Documents
  • xls2csv – Microsoft Excel (xls) files
  • catppt – Microsoft Power Point (ppt) files
  • unrtf – Rich Text Format (rtf) files

For more information about helpers and how to configure them, see hints for Linux and Windows. It is also possible to configure helpers in a shared hosting environment.

I assumed that my Linux installation might already have these applications available, although I could enable them separately if need be. So I downloaded and installed search_files-6.x-1.6.

I had no difficulty installing it or configuring it in Drupal. But it can’t search the pdf files I have attached, so I’m assuming I also need to install the helper applications in Linux.

UPDATE: as it turns out, this module worked in Drupal 5 but is broken in Drupal 6. Evidently it works in Drupal 7, so hopefully when I update my system I can get this working. Else I will need to find a different CMS, because this search functionality is crucial.

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, Drupal, Operating systems, SIRLS 675

Unit 4 – Drupal as a content management system – initial thoughts

This  week,  you  might  choose  to  comment  on  how  suitable  Drupal  might  be  for  your  collection.  Begin  to   develop  some  criteria  you  would  use  to  judge  how  well  an  application  such  as  Drupal  meets  the  needs   of  your  collection  and  its  users.  We  will  expand  on  this  problem  over  the  semester.

We have been reading about the need for humanities scholars to be able to use a digital collection with a degree of confidence about the nature and authority of the relations between objects, yet having the structure of those relations clear so that the information added is objective rather than subjective. What I would really like to make is a database or collection or semantic web of all the texts (with attached full-text) that George Eliot read or interacted with, with some degree of confidence added in about how influential those texts were. One could argue that there is a sort of taxonomy to how much she interacted with a text, in ascending order from hearing it read aloud, to reading it in translation, to reading it herself in the original language, to reviewing it, to editing it, to translating it from another language into English. These are all types of relations with a text. One can also argue that reading it more than once, or attesting to its influence in letters or in research notebooks, is also a measure of influence. I was reading about RDF, and that seems exactly the sort of inferential structure I want to be able to capture, starting with the simplest: What she read, with some sort of statement about her relation to the text, and a documentary page showing the authority for that relation. One can infer the direction of influence between texts according to who read what and when.

Because eventually I would want this to be part of a larger database of “Literary intelocutors,” I’m having trouble figuring out if the key entity in this collection is texts or a person. The way I envision the normalized tables in a database would be a table of persons, a table of texts, and a table of links between the two, in the form of “GE  read  Rousseau’s Les Confessions, in French, in 1834, according to these authorities, and here is a link to that edition of Les Confessions in French (or perhaps a digital image), plus a searchable English translation.”  I have been thinking that I needed to include all the standard metadata for each text in each entry, but that seems a waste of space. The new and useful information to be collected is the table of links, so all I really need to capture is what I have underlined; Each underlined phrase is a field in my collection.

Any content management system I use for my collection will need to be able to search and manage large attached text files in a variety of formats, to query the collection of these files with a full-text search, and have a faceted search that narrows the query results by type of relation, by subject, by language, by year, or type of text file. I also want to be able to widen the search if necessary, though, across subjects, dates, etc. The idea is to be able to use this collection to specify a group of texts to search, and to be able to document the relationships and direction of influence between them. I would love to be able to actually graph the connected nodes in some sort of network display and to assess the degree of influence.

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Filed under Content Management, Drupal, SIRLS 675