Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The future of the Libertarian Labyrinth archive

There's been a sort of elegiac quality to many of the responses to my recent change in focus and keywords. For me, although there are obviously costs involved with shifting from rhetorical ground that I've invested a lot in, the changes almost all seem like upgrades and improvements. It's a question of making the body of work I've done and the body of materials I've collected as useable as possible. That seems to mean a less partisan focus for the writing and the continuation of some ongoing improvements in the archives. Last year's big project was to improve the citations for materials in the Labyrinth wiki, and the additions of COinS metadata to a large number of articles. This year's move from a Mediawiki-based archive to one built on the Omeka platform means that cataloging data will take center stage, allowing me to begin to specialize the archive for research purposes. I've been wanting to bring together my various bibliographic projects for some time, and Omeka seems to be the right platform to do that. Omeka also provides much greater control over text formatting, so it will be possible to present the documents in the archive with more of their original formatting intact, and makes it easy to attach pdf/A file facsimiles where that seems most appropriate. It has a powerful, if complex, advanced search system, which will let researchers zero in more closely on the desired records. In fact, making the most of the system's capacities will probably be an ongoing project. The raw catalog may be a little less inviting to casual browsers than the wiki, but the ability to build exhibits will mean that I will fairly quickly be able to give the key collections a rather attractive presentation. Indeed, the ability to more easily curate and display individual authors' oeuvres, the content of particular magazines, or annotated texts (etc.) will free me up to use the catalog not just as a text repository, but as the bibliographic reference that I've angling towards for some time. At the same time, a developing partnership with my friends at The Anarchist Library means that some materials from the archive will also get distribution there, and in a little more systematic manner than we've managed so far. We're currently working together on improving the cataloging system for both sites, with vague visions of anarchist union catalogs no doubt dancing in various heads. 

I'm hoping for a sort of Grand Opening about June 1. There are 2000+ wiki articles and blog posts to at least look over, in order to migrate all the texts currently available to the new archive, and there are indexes and finding aids to update. There are hard decisions to be made about metadata schemes and maybe a little reprogramming of some plugins to be done. But there is already a lot of information on the new site, with over 1000 bibliographic entries migrated and more texts input each day, and I would be interested in any feedback on the general look and feel of the place.

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