Posted on April 24 2018 by Evan McGonagill
What’s new on College Women since 2015?
The College Women project team is excited to introduce an updated and expanded version of CollegeWomen.org. After the launch of our beta site in 2015, we received a second grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Their generous support has allowed us to make great headway—adding content, improving the look and feel of the site, and strengthening the search functionality with the help of our developer Interactive Mechanics. For new users and for those who have followed us from the start, here’s a look at what we’ve been up to in the second phase of College Women:
Lots of new stuff!
The central work of this project phase was filling the site with new items. Funding from this grant allowed the institutions to digitize and catalog more than 75,000 images from over 100 collections! We are excited to share these new collections, so many of which are online and accessible for the first time.
To get a sense of what is included in the new additions, we have authored a series of blog posts highlighting interesting items and topics that are emerging in the collections.
Enhanced search and browse interface
We listened to user feedback about aspects of our search interface that were confusing or hard to use, and we made revisions to improve that experience. The Advanced Search function now has checkboxes to search by Theme, and the results page is streamlined to include more meaningful information (such as item descriptions instead of subject headings).
More built-in collection context
The items on College Women are only a small portion of the rich collections held at each institution. While the portal adds value by putting these dispersed collections into conversation with one another, we hope that users will also seek out more information by exploring the items that interest them through the local institutional repositories. In order to help facilitate that, we have added two new fields on the item page—Collection and Collection Guides—that expose additional archival context. Collection will list the collection from which the item originates. To give the user resources for further exploration, contributing institutions will use the Collection Guides field for links to finding aids, biographical information, and/or transcripts of textual items. This level of in-depth supplemental information is not available for every item, but we hope to make it available wherever possible. An example can be found in the Fannie Aaron letters from Vassar College.
Data export tool
For users who want to work with our data, we now have an export tool. CSV, TXT, and JSON files can be downloaded for the complete collection or for discrete data sets. To export data from all the items in the collections, navigate to the Explore Collections page, scroll to the bottom, and click on the icon for the desired format. Defined datasets can be created by running a search or filtering results. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and choose a format for export.
While it may be an inconspicuous change for the majority of our users, the members of the project team are very happy with our largest back-end development: we spent much of the two years of the grant working on a system for scheduled automated data ingests that pull items directly from our local repositories. This makes it easier to contribute new items with less manual overhead, and will enable us to continue the growth of the College Women collections after the funding period has ended. The technical details of this development will be laid out in an updated version of our project white paper, which will be released in summer of 2018.
We’re grateful for the funding we’ve received from the NEH, and proud of the work that the grant has enabled us to do. Most of all, we look forward to hearing your feedback. If you would like to contact us about the project or the site, please reach out to the Project Director, Eric Pumroy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.