Peter Blasevick 2017-07-11 15:16:19
Design, develop, and implement a digital sports hall of fame (DHOF) in 18 months—that was the game plan in August of 2015 when I was hired by The Pingry School, an independent, coeducational K–12 college preparatory school in New Jersey. This interactive experience would be available at kiosks located in the new athletics center and on the school’s website. The goal was to allow users to search for and locate every sports team, athlete, and hall of fame inductee in the school’s 150+ year history. Thanks to the dedicated work of our technology department, two excellent vendor-partners, and a three-semester-long parade of bright and eager library school interns, the project finished in regulation time and under budget . . . With a few important lessons learned along the way. Dealing with Brittle Photos After the initial research and planning, I began the first step: digitizing more than 1,200 framed photographs of Pingry’s sports teams, dating from the turn of the 20th century. The newer photographs were generally housed in modern, plastic frames. However, nearly everything before 1970 was enclosed in wooden frames with real glass, nailed and screwed together, making their disassembly challenging. Not surprisingly, the older photos were often quite brittle, thanks to acidic cardboard backing and up to a century’s worth of sunlight exposure. These 1,200 photos were scanned using an Epson 11000XL flatbed scanner as 24 bit color, 600 ppi archival tifs. An additional 600 team photographs were either scanned from yearbooks or available as born-digital files. Edited masters and several different sized files were then created from the master tifs. Metadata for 40,000 People Next came an even more time-consuming phase of the project: the collection and creation of metadata. We wanted to create robust records to ensure both findability and interoperability with other collections. The resulting records contained nearly 30 unique metadata fields, with all information entered into a Google Sheet as a holding document. While collecting each team’s year, sport, win-loss record, and championships proved challenging, especially in the case of older teams, the greatest test was identifying the players, coaches, captains, and managers in each photo. Nearly 40,000 people needed recording—averaging out to more than 20 individuals per team in more than 1,800 images. The comprehensive information was collected from numerous sources, including yearbooks, school newspapers, athletics department records, alumni, and some good old-fashioned detective work. Long live the Internet! Building the Repository Originally we thought the DHOF would be in two parts: repository software to house the photos and metadata, and a web portal for end users to access the collection. For the repository software, we chose the open source software Dspace. Dspace is widely used and fully customizable; however, Pingry didn’t have the bandwidth to handle all the support and coding. After much investigation and a number of RFPs, we settled on the Ohio-based company Longsight, which both hosts and supports the repository. Of course, the DHOF required an attractive, intuitive user experience. We needed a web developer to design and code the front end interface, transforming our wireframes and grand ideas into a dedicated web application. We found that partner in the Canadian design firm Libéo. Making Data Entry Fun The repository was up and running by April 2016, a full six months before the web application design was completed, and we wasted no time in creating the records for each team. This creation was a three-step process: entering the metadata, attaching four separate image files to the metadata record, and ingesting the record into the Dspace collection. I soon realized that, under the best circumstances, I could enter 20 records per day into Dspace. We had nearly 2,000 records to enter. I needed help. That help came in the form of three semesters worth of fantastic interns from the Rutgers University MLIS program. Working with these young library and archives professionals was a treat, and together we came up with any number of fun ways to get through the monotony of endless data entry. As we neared completion, a calendar hanging on the wall marked how many days remained before the project was due, how many records remained to be entered, and how many entries per day were required to hit our goal. The pressure was on! The “PPDB” As the metadata entry progressed, we came across a significant roadblock: how to make the app as Internet-like as possible. In other words, how could users “surf” the app in the way they could a website, continuously clicking on the next player, coach, captain, or team name to be brought to a new page. We solved this by building our own authority file for all of those people, nearly 10,000 in all. The Dspace software contained previously written features that let it interact with both the LCSH and ORCID authority files, but they had nothing for a personalized database of names. The solution came about as developer Peter Dietz from Longsight wrote the needed code for Dspace, and our own tech team created a dedicated database of all former school students and employees which we named, uncreatively, the Pingry Persons Database or PPDB. The new app now offers a high level of functionality with a powerful search feature. Searches send requests to two separate databases: when searching for a team, the app looks to the Dspace repository itself. When searching for a player, the app first searches the PPDB, returns results based on the names entered, and only searches Dspace once a returned result is selected. Because of the PPDB, the most exciting feature of the project came to life: no matter where you are in the app, the user would be able to click on any team member’s name and be brought to that person’s own page, displaying all of the teams to which they belonged. Planning Installation While the DHOF would ultimately be accessible on Pingry’s website, the primary interaction would happen at the new athletics center’s walk-up kiosks. We decided against using a mouse, keyboard, or tablet to control the app, instead opting for touch displays. The DHOF was designed in portrait orientation, allowing users to comfortably access it on their phone, and the two ELO 3202L 32" LCD touch displays are hung accordingly. Powering the displays are two Intel NUC small form factor PCs hidden behind the monitors. Victory The project was completed in time for the January 2017 debut of the Miller A. Bugliari ’52 Athletics Center and was greeted enthusiastically by alumni at its grand opening that May. In addition to telling the history of Pingry sports through a modern interactive application, the school gained two useful tools from this project: a front-end web template that can be re-skinned and re-purposed for future digital collection displays, and our own Pingry Persons Database that will be used to tag students, faculty, and alumni in any future collections we create. Take a tour of our new athletics center at www.pingry.org/bac and test drive the DHOF at halloffame.pingry.org.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.