I work closely with the Hydra and Blacklight platforms in digital library work, and have followed the DPLA project with great interest as a potential source of data to drive Blacklight sites. I think of frameworks like Blacklight as powerful tools for exploring what can be done with GLAM data and resources, but it’s difficult to get started in without data and resources to point it at. I had experimented with mashups of OpenLibrary data and public domain MARC cataloging, but the DPLA content was uniquely rich and varied, has a well-designed API, and carried with it a decent chance that an experimenter would be affiliated with some of the entries in the index.
Blacklight was designed to draw its data from Solr, but the DPLA api itself is so close to a NoSQL store that it seemed like a natural fit to the software. Unfortunately, it’s hard to make time for projects like that, and as such the DPLA+DLF Cross-Pollinator travel grant was a true boon.
Attending DPLAfest afforded me a unique opportunity to work with the DPLA staff on a project to quickly build a Blacklight site against DPLA data, and thanks to their help and advice I was able to push along a Blacklight engine that incorporated keyword and facet searches and thumbnail images of the entire DPLA corpus—an impressive 10 million items!—by the end of the meeting. The progress we made was enthusiastically received by the Blacklight and Hydra communities: I began receiving contributions and installation reports before the meeting was over. I’ve since made progress moving the code along from a conference demonstration to a fledgling project; the community contributions helped find bugs and identify gaps in basic Blacklight functionality, which I’ve slowly been working through. I’m also optimistic that I’ve recruited some of the other DPLAfest attendees to contribute, as an opportunity to learn more about the DPLA api, Blacklight, and Ruby on Rails.