#DivBlk: Principles in Action During a Website Migration

5) URLs and Scholarly Implications (Part I)

Semesters: Spring — Summer 2019

Committee: Co-chair Kelli Coles (PhD student), co-chair Michelle Byrnes (undergraduate), Lauren Cooper (librarian), Quader’a Henry (undergraduate) Caleb Trotter (CCP alum), and Keith Jones (Library IT Systems Programmer) with Jim Casey (co-director) providing strategic input

Graphic of platform decisions made

Iterative stages of website migration plan.

It was Spring 2019. It had been nearly a year since initial work began to migrate content from Omeka Classic to WordPress and Omeka S, and needed to contend with hundreds of missing exhibit pieces. We also didn’t feel our Omeka S installation was ready for public consumption nor did we have the skill set and expertise to refine the SOLR search functionality and Omeka S content display. Other areas of the project were getting tangled in the double-entry being done and feeling restrained by our out-of-date Omeka Classic installation.

We needed to separate out the launches. It felt like we were driving two cars at one time which didn’t allow us to engage deeply with our challenges. We decided to focus on getting the WordPress platform complete and finalized, and then shift our attention to our database needs. Additionally, we had been discussing moving off the Library servers to Reclaim Hosting for our new platforms. Originally, we planned to stand up WordPress and Omeka S on the Library servers then migrate over to Reclaim Hosting. However, the Library server that all the CCP sites were on needed to be decommissioned and this was a natural moment to make the jump to an external third-party host, one that was familiar with academic institutions and scholarly endeavors.

What we decided to do was launch WordPress and an interim version of our current Omeka site at a new URL, omeka.coloredconvention.org, with the idea we could do easy redirects by appending << omeka. >> to the main URL so:

http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/275
would be
https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/275.

We planned to finish the WordPress site in spring and focus on the Omeka site in summer. However, we ran into a number of unexpected issues in this approach.

We created the omeka.coloredconventions.org instance on Reclaim, and installed a fresh updated version of Omeka. Keith Jones, our Library IT Systems Programmer, followed these instructions to export  our roughly 180 Convention documents and we installed this file, along with our child theme file, to the Reclaim server. It was a surprisingly easy process which made us uneasy. We had booked two weeks for this migration and any related fixes/clean ups, but it took just a day after the Website Committee discussed this plan.

Here is where the planned two week task became a two month project: We had 1,355 Items in Omeka. We planned to only transfer about 200 Items that comprised the archive of Convention Minutes; not the Exhibit materials or CCP-related group photos or files which accounted for more than 85% of Items. When we migrated just the 200 Items, they were assigned a new Item ID # in Omeka; thereby changing their URL address. We would have to match the old URL to the new URL for nearly 200 items. Then, once we figured out our database issues, perhaps on a new platform, we might introduce a new URL address for a document. We wanted to figure out if there was a way to maintain our Item ID #s.

Because Items had been deleted and we were only transferring the documents and collection we wanted, the only way to keep the Item ID #s intact was to migrate the entire Omeka Classic installation. We were once again faced with a huge knot to untangle.

Takeaway

In order to move forward, we needed to segment out the work so we could engage deeply with our challenges. With our interim plan, we faced a new challenge to maintain our document URLs. We could have simply accepted that Items would have new URLs and write a script to redirect them. However, we considered the scholarly implications, both immediately and long-term, of changing URLs for people who cited the documents, used them in syllabi, and referenced in their research, including ourselves. In the position we found ourselves (in between platforms, and working on a temporary solution), we also considered the administrative implications of what we could undertake and manage.

READ MORE: #DivBlk: Principles in Action During a Website Migration

The Colored Conventions Project appreciates the support of:

 

The Colored Conventions Project was launched & cultivated at the University of Delaware from 2012-2020.