Rebooting the Fred Wah Digital Archive

Submitted by Deanna.Fong on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 21:46

This summer, Janey Dodd, Ryan Fitzpatrick and I got to work on a new iteration of - a bibliography and digital repository of the work of Canada's fifth Poet Laureate, Fred Wah. The project builds on the SSHRC-funded work of Dr. Susan Rudy, who completed a bibliography of Wah's work at the University of Calgary in 2008. The comprehensive resource includes scans of print-based materials, digitized audio and video recordings, and a scholarly apparatus of exegetical and biographical material. The project was formerly under the banner of Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler’s Artmob (York University), a user-driven interface for the curation and navigation of multimedia archives. Artmob was built using custom code in Drupal 5, an open-source content management system; however in the absence of long-term support, the site could not be maintained.

Our goal is to create a new iteration of the bibliography with additional archival materials under the auspices of Simon Fraser University’s Special Collections and the Department of English. This will involve migrating the digital files to SFU’s servers, and developing a content management system that can be maintained with minimal labour and funding, while meeting the highest standard of digital archiving.

We received analogue copies of Susan Rudy's files, as well as the digital surrogates of these files that were hosted on Artmob (a Dropbox transfer, courtesy of Bill Kennedy). Our work so far has involved comparing the set of digital surrogates against Rudy's original bibliography to track down any missing artifacts. These items will be located, scanned by the Digitization Lab (under the direction of Digital Initiatives Librarian, Ian Song), and added to the repository. We are also checking the digital files for quality and readability; one of our goals for the current version of the site is to have full-text search capabilities, which means that all files will have to be converted using OCR. We're rescanning any files in which the quality might affect OCR processing. Finally, for Fred's works that appear in anthologies and periodicals, we would like to offer more contextualizing information about the publication—its contents and its materiality. To this end, we will be rescanning these artifacts to include their covers, TOCs and contributor information (where applicable), so that researchers can get a better sense of Fred's work in its original context.

Finally, in the interest of determining which content management system might best support the archive, we'll each be developing a test site with a limited data set using of the big three CMS's - Omeka (Ryan), Wordpress (Janey) and Drupal (Deanna). We'll compare the functionality of each platform and document our findings on the blog.