Friday, April 25, 2014 - 09:30

Part II of this post can be found here.

The Problem

Recently, organizers of the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women approached us because they wanted Drupal to display a Zotero group library populated with references to relevant digital scholarship projects, including the tags that had been associated with them by the conference organizers.

Figuring out an Approach

The Zotero plugin for Drupal requires Biblio, which was a little more furniture than we wanted in our Drupal site. In addition, it’s been a little while since the module’s received any love (stay tuned for news on that front)! New Jack Librarian’s 2012 post on loading Zotero into a webpage with PHP suggested a compelling and quick solution, but didn't really suit this non-bibliography-ish data, and it didn't let us leverage the Zotero tags in Drupal taxonomies. 

So, we sidestepped the plugin using Drupal's feeds Xpath parser, which allows you to use Xpath to select XML nodes in an incoming feed, and map them to fields in a Drupal content type. 

The Setup

Here’s our endpoint. A page with content that has been brought in from a Zotero library. I’m not linking to the page, because it’s likely to change location. 

1. First, we needed the right content from Zotero. If you go to a Zotero Group Library, view the whole library, and then subscribe to the feed, the default query is as follows:[group-id]/items/top?start=0&limit=25

So, it's not all of the content, and more significantly, we don't get the tags.

After playing with the API documentation we decided on the following[group-id]/items/top?start=0&format=atom&content=mods

Tags were mapped as follows in MODS

<default:subject> <default:topic>[tag]</default:topic> </default:subject>

2.  Once we could get the content we needed from Zotero, built two content types: one to process the feed, and the other to store the resulting nodes. 

Our "Zotero Custom Feed Item" was set up with all the fields we needed to leverage in a view at the end. 

3. After our content types were set up, we navigated to Structure > Feeds importers > Add importer and we created a feeds importer attached it to the Zotero Custom Feed Processer content type we created in the last step. Here are our basic settings for the feeds importer.

Of particular interest here are the mappings, which use Xpaths as their source. Note also that we needed a unique element. We used the Title, which is not really ideal, but worked well for our content. Any unique field will work. Also important here was that we want Zotero tags to search the Drupal Taxonomy Vocabulary "Tags," and when a term does not exist, we want the importer to create it. 

4. Once our importer was set up, we created a Zotero Custom Feed Processer node. This is where we put our actual Xpath queries, and the url to the feed we want to parse, and imported the content. 

* Oxygen wrote the Xpaths for me. 

When you import from your Feed, you can dump out the results of your queries. This will help you troubleshoot if you’re not getting the results you want. 

Finishing touches

We used Drupal Feeds Image grabber to get an image into most of the content. It’s a crapshoot - sometimes the image is spot on, and sometimes it’s pretty random. I’m sure there’s tuning that could be done. Though it’s a little outdated, there’s a great screenshot/tutorial for FIG here

We set up the view to display our content, and used Taxonomy menu block to give us a navigation panel for the tags. Feeds Tamper helped us clean up some of the output.

One problem we had that we didn’t anticipate is getting the content to auto-update. As far as we can tell, you need to map a unique element to NodeID in order to get nodes to update (and to prevent a feed from creating duplicates). We tried with zapi:key from our feed, but it threw a bunch of sql errors relating to content typing and uniqueness. We tried several other tamper plugins to try to generate hash or otherwise uniquely identify items in the feed, but so far no dice.

Sadly, we can't spend more time on this at the moment, but there are thankfully minimal changes to the library at present (and it’s a two-click operation to delete all existing nodes and just refresh from the feed manually). We're hoping to return to this before the conference, because our plan is to use a similar process to bring in other projects we find and keep the conference feed alive, and it would be great for this to auto update.

For now, I was really happy for the opportunity to play with the xpath parser plugin. Please feel free to contact me with errors and addendums, or just to commiserate if you're facing a similar set of challenges!

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 16:36

Students of UTSC! Sticking around for the summer? Why not come and work at the Digital Scholarship Unit. You can view and apply for the unit's work study jobs through your Career Centre Online account, searching the Work-Study Job Board with the Job IDs listed below. There are 13 postions available in the unit.

Click here to learn more about workstudy

Publishing and Research Assistant - Bioline (2 Positions)  Job ID 34433

Bioline International is an electronic publishing centre located in the Department of Social Sciences. As a publishing and research assistant at Bioline International, the successful applicant(s) will be involved in a variety of day-to-day activities and special assignments relating to the conversion of journal content and the addition of this content to the Bioline website. He or she will also participate in various activities related to the management and organization of the Bioline International project and may assist with the organization and implementation of research projects. Applicants should be generally comfortable with computers and have a high-level of confidence in using most standard, popular office programs as well as Internet applications. Applicants must be able to communicate effectively through written formats such as email.

Metadata Improvement Assistant - Bioline (2 Positions) Job ID 34431

Bioline International is an electronic publishing centre located in the Department of Social Sciences. As a metadata improvement assistant, the successful applicant(s) will work to identify, improve and reload legacy metadata for Bioline journals. He or she will improve access to valuable research published in the developing world by updating and reorganizing existing metadata, adding new journal metadata to the Bioline website, and performing quality control activities. He or she may participate in facilitating metadata exchange projects with collaborating groups. A general comfort level with computers and the web and a strong attention to detail is required - no prior programming experience necessary. 

Research Assistant - Bioline (2 Positions) Job ID 34416

Bioline International is an electronic publishing centre located in the Department of Social Sciences. As a research assistant, the successful applicant(s) will refine the list of applications to join Bioline International using eligibility and inclusion criteria to determine whether journals are published in developing or transitional countries, articles are peer reviewed, publishers are willing to offer their journals on an open access basis, and are ready and willing to work actively with the Bioline staff. He/She will regularly survey Bioline’s collections to identify inactive journals and areas in which additional materials are needed. Applicants will keep abreast of health and agriculture related information and potential journals for addition to the collection. The successful applicant(s) will also be involved in a variety of day-to-day activities and special assignments relating to the conversion of journal content and the addition of this content to the Bioline website as they arise. Applicants should be generally comfortable with computers and have a high-level of confidence in using most standard, popular office programs as well as Internet applications. Applicants must be able to communicate effectively through written formats such as email.

DSU Archives Assistant (3 Positions) Job ID 34434

As the DSU Archives assistant, the successful applicant(s) will provide support for the maintenance, creation, and description of DSU special collections and provide other support for scholarly publishing initiatives as required.  The successful applicant(s) will also be involved in a variety of day-to-day activities and special assignments relating to the digitization of items and the addition of this content to the unit’s online Drupal/Islandora/Wordpress systems. Applicants should be generally comfortable with computers and have a high-level of confidence in using most standard, popular office programs as well as Internet applications. Applicants must be able to communicate effectively through written formats such as email.

Gunda Gunde Project - Image Processing and Metadata (4 Positions) Job ID 33618

The successful candidate will assist with the digitization of an archival collection in the UTSC Library, including entering basic descriptive metadata, complete basic editing of existing files using Photoshop, and ensure that archival files are saved to a shared directory. The student will gain insight into the role of the Digital Scholarship Unit, which enables access to research and provides a secure storage space for materials.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 16:17

This summer, the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women comes to Canada for the first time. The DSU is pleased to be participating in the conference both by lending our resources for infrastructure support and by teaching a workshop on Islandora during the Berks' Digital Lab on Friday 23 May. You can check out the Digital Lab schedule here. A list of digital projects curated by Berks organizers is available here

Visit the Conference Website

About the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and "Big Berks":

The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians formed in 1930 in response to women academics’ sense of professional isolation. Although allowed to join the American Historical Association (the professional organization for historians in the U.S.), women were never invited to the “smokers,” the parties, the dinners and the informal gatherings where the leading men of the profession introduced their graduate students to their colleagues and generally shepherded them into history jobs in colleges and universities.

The best-known aspect of our organization is the meeting of the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, or “Big Berks,” held every three years. The Big Berkshire Conference began in the early 1970s and grew out of the flourishing interest in women’s studies across the country. The first Berkshire Conference on the History of Women took place at Douglass College, Rutgers University, in 1973. Expecting only 100 or so participants, the Douglass conference drew instead three times that number, prompting calls for another.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 15:55

This summer, members of the DSU will be conducting workshops on Islandora and OpenRefine at the Roots and Routes Summer Institute at UTSC. From the Roots and Routes 2014 page on Serai:

Unlike traditional academic conferences, the Roots & Routes Summer Institute features a combination of informal presentations, seminar-style discussions of shared materials, hands-on workshops on a variety of digital tools, and small-group project development sessions. The institute welcomes participants from a range of disciplines with an interest in engaging with digital scholarship; technical experience is not a requirement. Graduate students (MA and PhD), postdoctoral fellows and faculty are all encouraged to apply.

This year's theme, "Sociability and Materiality," aims to capture a range of historical problems and their attendant methodological and epistemological challenges. Participants are invited to define and approach this theme from the position of their individual disciplines and research interests. For example, what place does "the Mediterranean" have in discussions about manuscript, print, and digital cultures and their interpretation? What can historians, art historians, archaeologists, and other scholars learn from one another when tackling these problems? (How) are themes such as sociability and materiality useful in the study of the premodern Mediterranean? How can attention to materiality and sociability make salient the various practices of knowledge production of different disciplinary traditions, and what do such practices entail? What new ways of envisioning archives (as processes as well as products) are being facilitated by digital technologies? How do digital media and methodologies change the ways in which we identify, access, and interpret historical records? What might "collaborative research" in digital environments have to learn from (and teach) the history of earlier forms of scholarly sociability? How does the recent resurgence in the history of material culture speak to longer-term interest among historians of the book in the materiality of textual artifacts?

More details and a complete program to follow. In the meantime, check out our past institutes (2011, 2012) contact us for more details, or go to our registration site. 

Roots and Routes runs from 26 May to 3 June 2014. For more information, check out the Roots and Routes page on the Serai website.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 18:13

As a grad student I've often found it challenging to find ways to apply the theory I've learned and gain practical experience in my field. This challenge motivated me to complete a practicum project during my final semester in the Master of Information Program at the University of Toronto. While I had a number of projects from which to choose, I decided on the DSU primarily because it allowed me to develop and demonstrate the digital skills that are in demand in my profession.

The project I signed up to complete involved helping the DSU migrate four collections of metadata from one access framework (CONTENdm) to another access framework (Islandora). While I initially thought this project would mostly consist of editing XML files and developing Drupal forms, I ended up doing far more interesting and complicated work than I had imagined. By the end of my practicum I had learned enough Python to script a small program to automate the creation of folders and the movement of files, had used Mogrify to batch edit hundreds of images using the command line, and learned more about XML namespaces than I thought possible. I also got the opportunity to work with the awesome staff at the DSU which would be worth it all on its own.

Looking back, my decision to complete a practicum project at the DSU was one of the smartest decisions I made while at the iSchool. I can directly credit this experience with landing a fulltime/permanent position in my field before graduation, as I was able to point to this practicum during job interviews as evidence of my technical ability and use my supervisor as a reference. Also, if you're interested you can check out some of work I did for the DSU on GitHub.

Monday, March 17, 2014 - 12:18

Scholarly content that is freely available to the public or Open Access (OA) is often talked about in the context of journal publishing. However, the Open Access movement is also having significant effect on academic book publishing. 

On February 13th, UTSC's Centre for Digital Scholarship, in collaboration with the UTSC Library's Digital Scholarship Unit, hosted a two hour seminar Open Access Books: Trends & Options that introduced how new publishing partnerships and digital technologies are transforming scholarly book publishing.

The afternoon got off to a lively start with a lunch sponsored by the Centre for Digital Scholarship and opening remarks and acknowledgements from UTSC faculty member Leslie Chan

The first speaker Dr. Lucy Montgomery then told the story of the Knowledge Unlatched project through a co-ordinated Skype and PowerPoint presentation. This new project strives to create a sustainable route to Open Access by leveraging the combined power of libraries to secure long-term cost savings for their own institutions. A copy of Lucy's slides and talking points are posted on SlideShare. I'm happy to report back that in the days following the presentation that the University of Toronto Libraries has signed on as a charter member of this innovative approach to opening up access to a pilot collection of humanities and social science monographs through Creative Commons licences.  

The second speaker, Pierre Mournier joined us in person on route to the Interrogating Access conference. He shared a brief overview of the Open Access landscape in Europe, his take on economic OA models for books and the OpenEdition ecosystem and their approach to creating sustainable Open Access publishing. Of particular note is the OpenEdition Books platform for books in the humanities and social sciences which now includes 1225 titles - more than half of which are openly accessible to all in HTML format with additional services and formats through OpenEdition's Freemium model for subscribing libraries and institutions.

Watch the complete video of the seminar:


Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 13:33

Since its inception in 2001, Wikipedia has emerged as an often contentious and undeniably powerful stakeholder in today’s knowledge ecosystem. Join us for an event that considers the scholarly implications of Wikipedia and the role it plays in post-secondary classrooms. Co-hosted by the Centre for Digital Scholarship and the UTSC Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit, Wikipedia, Scholarship & Pedagogy aims to explore and educate on these issues.

A keynote speech will be given by Dr Adrianne Wadewitz, Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Digital Learning and Research at Occidental College, on Wikipedia’s role in academia. A short workshop on embedding Wikipedia into the classroom will then be presented by Wikipedia campus ambassadors Andrew Leung, Deneille Walters, and Monico Santiago alongside Jonathan Obar, Visiting Assistant Professor at Michigan State University and senior program coordinator with the Canadian arm of Wikipedia’s Education Program, and James Scott, Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

A light lunch will be served at 12pm. Please RSVP at



Thursday, February 27, 2014 - 12:02

From the Doris McCarthy Gallery website:

The DMG is celebrating its 10th anniversary with an exhibition that pays tribute to Doris McCarthy’s glamourous depictions of the Canadian North, alongside current voices whose works look to nature to cast a light on contemporary life. Glam North explores the questions and revelations that surround our relationship to the natural world.

Curators Jennifer Rudder and Alexander Irving posit surprising and challenging affinities between McCarthy’s dedicated production and that of the next generation of artists. Glam North considers the idea of North in the context of the Canadian landscape, from Ontario (Robert Wiens’ watercolours of the old growth pine forests of Temagami) to Newfoundland (David Clarkson’s deconstructions of the icebergs off of Fogo Island), Nunavut (Samonie Toonoo’s sculptures depicting the intensity of contemporary struggles in Cape Dorset) to the imaginary (Alex McLeod’s Christmas tree-dotted digital landscapes). The North, particularly its visualization as a majestic space, was central to McCarthy’s work throughout her career. Glam North includes paintings by McCarthy that represent a wide variety of places and periods in her artistic practice, celebrating her love and reverence for the great outdoors.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 20:04

by Sara Allain

Today our good friends at the Doris McCarthy Gallery at UTSC launched Glam North: Doris McCarthy and Her New Contemporaries, a new exhibition of works on the Canadian north that also celebrates the 10th birthday of the Gallery and the gift of over 230 paintings from McCarthy's estate. A local painter who trained with members of the Group of Seven, Doris became an outstanding landscape painter in her own right, particularly well known for her interpretations of northern Canada.

My first real archival job was to arrange and describe a huge archival collection donated to the UTSC Library by Doris McCarthy's estate. It was a pretty dramatic entry into the world of archiving -  65 unmarked banker's boxes awaited me and Kelli Babcock, my partner in processing. We dove headfirst into the minutiae of Doris' life. We sifted through thousands of letters and photographs and nearly eighty years of diaries where she self-chronicled her rich life. Though she was a teacher, traveller, and writer as well as a painter, art pervades the fonds so deeply that it becomes almost impossible, from an archival perspective, to separate the art from the artist.

Of all of the wonderful materials in the fonds one area in particular stands out as prime examples of Doris' artistic outlook on life - a slide series that Doris used to illustrate a talk she regularly gave, entitled The Artist's Eye. Though she travelled widely, Doris rarely completed paintings in situ - she often sketched or photographed her settings so that she could return to them in her home studio on the Scarborough Bluffs. The Artist's Eye slides show her progression from photo to finished piece in such a beautiful way. Below, you can see how Doris could take a fairly standard eastern Canadian view and create a beautifully stylized landscape.

You can check out the gorgeous catalogue for the exhibition here, and more information about the archival collection here. Once we've got our Islandora installation completed, we'll have a ton of digitized material to share as well!