Miller Center

What is Connecting Presidential Collections?

Transcript

My name is Amber Lautigar Reichert and I’m a web developer with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. The Miller Center focuses on study of the presidency and seeks to apply lessons of history to modern life.

Today I’m here to tell you about an exciting grant project we’ve undertaken thanks to the IMLS.

Connecting Presidential Collections (CPC, presidentialcollections.org) is website that collaborates with partners to make it easier to search and discover presidential collections online.

At it’s core, CPC is an aggregator. An aggregator gathers information about items in the name of making those items more discoverable. It’s important to note that it does not gather the items themselves—the items remain with the collection-holders, who we refer to as “partners.”

CPC only works because of partners like you. We work with partner organizations to make collections more discoverable, increasing their visibility and making life easier for researchers and learners.

In our case, a partner will send us metadata about their collections, and we make that metadata searchable through presidentialcollections.org.

A partner may provide all or some of their collections to be added to CPC. A partner can choose which collections and which pieces of metadata to provide. They then export that from their computer system—this might be library software like PastPerfect or ContentDM, or a home-grown system—and provide the information to CPC. We can work with a wide variety of formats and, for the most part, are happy to receive data in whatever format is easiest for you to export.

Once we receive that metadata, we fold it into the CPC index, thus making it searchable. The Presidential Collections site uses software called Solr to index data and Blacklight to display that data in a usable way.

The most important piece of metadata for each record is the URL. The URL is what lets the user click through to the partner’s website for more information. It also is an important way that we make sure a visitor knows the partner is in fact the holder of the collection..

CPC equally serves 2 very important goals:

The first goal is to make it easier for researchers and learners to find presidential materials. Once someone knows an item exists—even if it’s not fully available online—they know who holds the item and thus where to go for more information about it. The world of presidential materials is geographically, thematically, and technologically disparate. The CPC hub simply gives visitors a clear place to start.

Our second goal is to raise the profile of our partner organizations by shedding light on their sometimes-hidden collections. We make sure that every record is labeled with the organization’s name, and every record has a link to the original item on our partner’s website so that a visitor can learn more.

In a world that’s constantly competing for attention online, we hope this can help raise the digital profile of our partner organizations.

As time goes on, the CPC website will be able to serve as a central hub for all kinds of presidential research. Someone might visit the site to find the location of presidential papers or letters from a specific time period.

Researchers might use the site to uncover usage of certain keywords over time. Artists might use the site to study physical artifacts—like furniture or clothing—that are housed in presidential collections across the country.

CPC is a firm believer in open data and open source principles. It’s built on open source software and all of the code is available for free through Github.

Here’s the thing:

CPC doesn’t work without partners. We need organizations who house presidential collections to be a part of it! The process is free, we do the legwork, and thoroughly ensure that your organization is acknowledged as the holder of your collections. In short, helping you helps us.

Visit presidentialcollections.org to learn more!