Technical Docs


The College Women: Documenting the History of Women In Higher Education project brings together the extensive collections of letters, diaries, and scrapbooks created by students at the Seven Sisters Colleges in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and now held by Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley Colleges, and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. A sample set of 300 items have been digitized and are searchable through the new College Women portal. The project opens up new avenues for research in American women’s history by making the important but dispersed and underused writings of the first generations of educated women easily accessible through a single site. Background The schools once known as the Seven Sisters, regarded as the equivalent of the Ivy League before those institutions admitted women in the late twentieth century, possess extensive holdings of young women’s personal writings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries­­--an unparalleled and only partially tapped resource for the study of U.S. women’s and gender history.

Going to college was not only an intellectually and socially awakening experience for women students, but it also provided an occasion for many of them to engage in extensive letter writing to family and friends, and to keep diaries and scrapbooks that preserved their impressions, ambitions, and memories of their first years of independence from home. These collections of student writings include discussions of political reform and women's rights, sexuality and body image, traditions and campus culture, religion, race and class, and the experience of living through major domestic and international events, including two world wars. Currently, researchers’ effective use of the collections is impeded by their dispersal across the seven campuses and by the difficulty of locating comparable sets of letters and diaries across institutions. The research value of these materials would is greatly increased by scholars’ ability to consider them as part of a larger phenomenon in the history of women in America, rather than as isolated fragments that document only the history of the individual institutions. The seven institutions collaborated on an NEH grant (received in Spring 2014) to create a mechanism that would make it possible for scholars and students to search student life collections. That goal has now been achieved with the development of the portal

“College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education, which is now public as of May 2015.


The institutions sought to create an online public portal for finding digitized historical documents written by students at the colleges once known as the Seven Sisters.


A set of common metadata elements and protocols were developed for the College Women project.





Title [required]

The name given to the resource; short and descriptive.


no, unique


An entity primarily responsible for making the content of the resource.

If a person, Last Name, First Name (role; if applicable)



An account of the content of the resource; longer and more detailed description than Title.


no, unique


Geographic coverage.

none (recommended best practice: TGN,


Display Date

Date created, circa date, date span

circa spelled out

no, unique

Start Date

For backend search parameters

YYYY for Start Date/End Date


End Date

For backend search parameters

YYYY for Start Date/End Date


Subject -- Local

Local to Institution (includes all from local repository)

The topic of the content of the resource.

none; use TGN when applicable for place names:



Prominent topics from the collections of potential research interest:


Arts, Theater, and Music

Buildings & Grounds


Class Reunions








Political and social activism






Student activities

Student movements



yes, from list



An entity responsible for making contributions to the content of the resource.




The physical or digital manifestation of the resource.

Suggested list:



Black-and-white photograph

Photograph album





Diary [not in MARCGT list, but crucial enough]





Sound Recording


Type [required]

The nature or genre of the content of the resource.


Physical description

More detailed description of object



Institution [required]

The name of your institution and how you would like it to appear.


no, unique

Rights [required]

Information about rights held in and over the resource.




Boilerplate statement directing the user to the Contact page.



no, unique

Reference URL [required]

Callback URL to local repository


no, unique

Image File Path [required: unless audio file]

Callback URL to larger image file


no, unique

Thumb File Path [required: unless audio file]

Callback URL to thumbnail


no, unique


Technical Development

The project is realized in a website designed by Interactive Mechanics using Drupal 7.3.2 using the following modules:

  • Chaos Tools (CTools) Suite - provides a suite of tools for developers to manage common Drupal features
  • Date, Date API - allows specialized date verification to ensure best practices
  • Features - allows developers to build components in a repeatable way (similar to macros for Microsoft Excel) by capturing common functions and building on them
  • Feeds, Feeds Tamper - enables harvesting and specialized parsing of our institutions’ data
  • Field Collections - organizes specialized data types into groups or fields
  • Prev/Next - adds information to each query about the sequencing of pages
  • Taxonomy Manager - provides a more useful way to manage a hierarchy of values
  • CKEditor - a common WYSIWYG editor for Drupal
  • Views, Views UI - an incredibly powerful module that provides access to structured data through interface-instructed database queries, allowing us to build lists, browsable items, and more.


Theme Specs

Built with Sass, jQuery


Drupal theme and associated files for the project can be found at Barnard's GitHub repository


Homepage Functions:

  • Slideshow featuring themes
  • Blog
  • Google analytics
  • Contacts page
  • Institution partners
  • Funders

Search Functions:

  • Large central search bar
  • Keyword search
  • Full-text search
  • Advanced search
  • Boolean search
  • Autocomplete search terms
  • Field restricted keyword searching
  • Filters/limits through facets
  • Browsing by theme

Results Functions:

  • Results per page
  • Sortable search results
  • Page through results
  • List view and gallery view

Item pages:

  • Links to all of the institutions for item reference
  • Social media share feature integration including email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
  • Links to original records
  • Generated images through reference URL
  • Recommended citation
  • Linked subject headings
  • Similar items


  • Section 508 compliant
  • Usability
  • Sustainable
  • Audit and control
  • Documentation
  • Disaster recovery/backup
  • Extensibility
  • Scalable


Navigation and Design


  • Search Bar: the homepage features a large central Search bar that performs a full-text search of site contents, and a link to an Advanced Search pop-up window.

  • Themes Carousel: directly underneath the search is a slider featuring [six?] rotating images representing major themes found in the collections. Each item in the collections is tagged with relevant themes, and clicking on the images in the carousel will lead to a filtered search that displays a list of images found in that topical category.

  • About the Collection: beneath the carousel is a brief statement about the scope and purpose of the site.

  • Featured Posts from the Blog: an area beneath the site description displays dates, titles, and excerpts from the three most recent posts added to the blog.

  • Contributor Logos: logos from all participating colleges link outwards to those institutions’ websites.

  • Footer Documents: the page footer features PDFs of our Terms of Use, a Help Guide for using the site, Technical Docs that explain the functional requirements and development process of building the site, and our License Policy for all site content.

Advanced Search

  • The Advanced Search feature, which can be accessed by the link below the homepage search or the icon in the upper right hand corner of the navigation menu, allows a user to narrow by multiple facets to craft a more specific search. A Keyword Search option performs a full-text search with the same functionality as the homepage search bar. There are also options to narrow by date, subject, item format, and institution.


  • The Browse page defaults to a complete list of items on the site. A menu of major topics found in the collections allows the user to explore by theme, and a link to the Advanced Search pop-up window can narrow the listed results by various facets. The results can be toggled between List view and a gallery-like Grid view.

Record Pages

  • Search or browse results lead to a list of items that, when clicked, bring the user to a page for the individual record. Each record page displays an image of the item, metadata, copyright information and citation, social media sharing options, a link to the item’s home repository, contact information for the originating institution, and a list of similar items in the collection.


  • The About page offers context for the website and collections, including blurbs on the history of higher education for women, the history of the project, a list of contributors, and contact information for all institutions regarding individual collection items or general questions about College Women.

Links & Resources

  • The Links & Resources page supports further inquiry by providing links to the digital archives of all contributing institutions, as well as a bibliography of suggested further reading on the history of women’s higher education in the United States.


  • The Blog is a hub for news and updates on the project and original content written by staff at the contributing institutions featuring items from and history of the collections.

  • Barnard College logo
  • Bryn Mawr College logo
  • Mount Holyoke College logo
  • Radcliffe Institute logo
  • Smith College logo
  • Vassar College logo
  • Lorem