Islandora Conference Debrief

PALS staff member Alex Kent had a great time at the Islandora Conference in Hamilton, ON, Canada.  It started with a Hack/Doc at McMaster University’s Mills Library.  The conference itself was located at Liuna Station.  IslandoraCon2.jpg

There were a number of informative sessions and in particular the workshops were quite valuable.

Islandora CLAW Hack/Doc and Workshop

Of particular importance was the chance to learn more about Islandora CLAW.  CLAW is the name of the project for moving Islandora from Drupal 7 to 8 and from Fedora 3 to Fedora 4.  At the start of the Islandora Conference the first MVP (minimum viable product) was released in time for the Hack/Doc.  It was fun being among the first to see the CLAW MVP demonstrated at the Hack/Doc.

Here is the Google Doc that the group was able to finish

I was also able to attend another session on the CLAW, and have more of an idea of what the CLAW means for Islandora.   Essentially, everything will be done through Drupal.  In theory CLAW opens up a lot more to a non-technical user in that a lot more can be done through the Drupal interface.

One major impact of the CLAW for administrative users of Islandora is that the XML Form Builder will no longer be needed.  This functionality will be handled using Drupal forms builder.  One should be able to do a lot more as well, including handling styles and theming of metadata displays.

Another important feature is that in CLAW one can do an export before making an update.  To my understanding, this export would be in the form of a CSV zip file.  This could be very useful when making changes to a form and you want to create a backup before doing so.

Before these sessions I did not know much about CLAW, but I am now more comfortable with where it is headed and the plans for it.

Move to Islandora Kit

On Friday I attended a workshop on the MIK, or “Move to Islandora Kit.”  This workshop was meant for developers, and I am not one.  However I was still able to learn a lot about what the MIK can do.  It seems like a very powerful tool, or group of tools.  For details on the workshop, see GitHub here.

It is a framework that is designed to be extended, and depends highly on configuration.  It is a command line application that essentially creates Islandora import packages which can then use standard import functionality within Islandora.

Developers behind the MIK are hoping to automate the process completely, so that it can be run, for example, overnight.

The MIK is definitely worth exploring if you need to migrate content into Islandora.

Conference sessions and workshops

There was some great content this year in the sessions.  Digital Enchida had one on XACML and permissions that was really quite interesting.  They are working on using the “Organic Groups” Drupal module to allow users to organize content and users into groups, which can then have their own permissions and roles.  Users can request access to these groups as well.   For more information on their project, click here.


One thing that was really interesting and encouraging to see was that Lyrasis is working on combining ArchivesSpace and Islandora.   In fact, they already have a working prototype, and demonstrated this at the conference.  It looks promising and we will be following their work.  For more on their project, follow these links:

Islandora as an IR

Another good workshop was Bryan Brown’s on Islandora as an institutional repository.  It really helped clarify the functionality Islandora has available.  Collectively these functions are a group of modules known as “Islandora Scholar.”  They consist of (and this is directly from Bryan’s presentation):

  • Citation and thesis content models
  • Embargos (supress objects/datastreams by date)
  • Google Scholar integration (HTML meta tags and search)
  • Dynamic citations
  • Import objects via DOI/PMID/RIS/EndNoteXML
  • Export citation collections as RIS/RTF/PDF
  • Check Sherpa/Romeo status via ISSN

In his presentation Bryan also talked about the Institutional Repositories Interest Group’s plans to take a close look at the current IR functionality in Islandora, and how it will be impacted by Islandora CLAW.   This is a process that will require a lot of effort and volunteers.   If you are using Islandora’s institutional repository functionality, please seriously think about helping the institutional repository’s interest group’s efforts.

Infrastructure and Performance 

One workshop that was quite valuable (even to a non-developer like me) was one by Gavin Morris and Luke Taylor.  Here is a link to their slides.   The workshop format (90 minutes) was perfect for this presentation, as it allowed them to give detailed information on their server setups.  They are definitely worth contacting if you have questions about infrastructure, DevOps, and performance in Islandora.  Gavin Morris leads the Islandora DevOps interest group if you want to get more involved.

Networking, and workflow management

As always the most valuable aspect of the conference is meeting new people, and reconnecting with friends.  It’s always fun to hear about what people are doing and their plans.

We also had a great dinner on Thursday evening, discussing workflow and various challenges that come about.   Mark Jordan had some very good thoughts, and is a great person to contact about workflow in general.   None of us took notes (it wasn’t the right venue or time), but there was a strong interest in continuing the conversation beyond the conference.

If you are interested in talking more about workflows we should use the Google Group for now, and see where the discussion heads.   Perhaps we need a place where everyone can share documentation on workflows.   If you have any ideas on this, please don’t hesitate to post in the Google Group.

Final musings

I really enjoyed the second annual Islandora conference.  Getting a chance to meet people in person is invaluable.   There were a number of sessions with great content, and the 90 minute workshops in particular were useful.   I wish I could have contributed more during the Hack/Doc, but it was still a useful way to learn more about Islandora CLAW.

I’m looking forward to the next conference!






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