My main project for 2016 will be working with the awesome Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) community to assist them in planning to migrate the existing TARO portal to a new platform using up-to-date standards for presenting archival finding aids online.
The existing resource is available at https://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/, and it has been a fantastic resource for researchers and archivists working with collections in Texas:
The scope of primary source material available on TARO is as historically-rich and diverse as the state itself; from literary manuscripts housed at the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, to the papers of medical pioneers at the Moody Medical Library, to records of Republic of Texas heroes at the Alamo’s Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, TARO has proven a rich resource for historians, documentarians, educators and students since its establishment in 1999. Participating institutions include the state’s larger repositories such as the Texas State Library and Archives, Texas A&M University, and Rice University; smaller archives including the Old Jail Art Center and San Jacinto Museum of History; and over thirty other archives and libraries around the state. Widely known and well-appreciated by researchers, the website receives thousands of daily hits, with over 800,000 hits in May 2014. TARO is the central, and sometimes only, online research tool for member repositories, with archives using it many thousands of times each year to assist researchers. TARO has successfully fulfilled its original purpose, to serve as a place where, “citizens of the state…find historically significant resources relating not just to Texas but to the entire world.”
TARO was originally developed in 1999-2002 with funding from the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund. It created a framework for institutions to submit finding aids marked up following the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) 2002 DTD. Those EAD documents were then put online with an HTML presentation. Most institutions used an editor such as XMetal, or later oXygen, to create the XML output, and grant funds were used to outsource conversion of existing paper or HTML finding aids to XML for many institutions.
Thirteen years is a long time, and the site needs to be completely updated. Moreover, the existing finding aids need to be converted from their current EAD 2002 DTD-compliant XML to a newer version of the EAD standard (probably EAD 3, when it is released). Adding elements like EAD-CPF and introducing other forms of linked open data would also be useful, as would a method for incorporating digitized surrogates of individual collection items, along the lines of what the Northwest Digital Archives has done in its prototype Archives Engine West interface. A new report from the EAD3 Study Group, “Implementing EAD3: plans from software developers and archival networks/consortia” provides more information about systems, software platforms, and infrastructure that support the creation and/or publication of archival descriptions formatted using the EAD standard.
In 2015, TARO received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to begin the process of planning a full update for the site:
Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) to the 21st Century Collaborative Planning Project
The Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) consortium, based at The University of Texas at Austin Libraries, seeks funding for a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations Grant to conduct strategic planning that will address our researchers’ need for better intellectual access to TARO’s holdings. The project will produce a detailed project narrative, work plan, staffing and budget for a subsequent implementation phase to update the TARO online reference resource; create best practices that enable standardization of existing finding aids; generate policy documents to support the future operation of the TARO consortium; test alternate technological frameworks; devise strategies for programmatic sustainability; and produce a white paper articulating our issues and methodologies. UT Libraries, in partnership with the TARO Steering Committee and their respective institutions, requests $35,204 (with $x in contributed cost share from the University of Texas Libraries) to assist with the one-year collaborative planning, assessment and pilot testing project. NEH grant funds will support the following activities and services: project manager and intern salaries, two stakeholder meetings and outside speaker fees.
One of the hopes of the TARO Steering Committee is that the planning grant will provide compelling evidence that TARO is still needed so that additional grant and institutional funding will be forthcoming to update the site.
The full grant application is available at http://texastaro.pbworks.com/w/browse/#view=ViewFolder¶m=NEHgrant-application2014. I have been hired to be the (part-time) project manager for the planning project, with assistance from Jodi Allison-Bunnell, program manager for the Content Creation and Dissemination Program at the Orbis Cascade Alliance. A meeting of TARO stakeholders is planned for July 2015, and a brown bag lunch to discuss the project will be held at the Society of Southwest Archivists Annual Meeting in Arlington, TX, on May 21, 2015.