When it comes to development, Islandora and Drupal are a match made in heaven. Of course, that’s by design.
Islandora was built on Fedora V3. The initial iteration of Islandora was built on Drupal 7; Islandora 2 has been built on Drupal 8 and uses Fedora 4. Islandora is primarily used by organizations to manage digital assets. And its creator explained that the separation between data and presentation was a conscious one.
“The separation of concerns with the data and metadata in Fedora and presentation of that content at the Drupal layer was a very critical and key design choice,” explained Mark Leggott, the founder of Islandora, who is currently the executive director at Research Data Canada. “It sometimes results in experienced Drupal people feeling uncomfortable in the Islandora context because it doesn’t just allow them to throw in a Drupal module.”
Switching to Drupal 8
Susan Brown, the project leader for the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC), recently worked with Digital Echidna on its latest iteration of CWRC. She said that she’s excited about the near future of development, especially with the switch to Drupal 8.
“I’m very excited and somewhat nervous about the shift to Fedora 4 and Drupal 8. But mostly excited,” she said. “CWRC is built on one state of principles and my own research is very much about how linked data can provide new affordances for digital scholarship. An upgraded version of the platform that’s integrated natively with RDF and more integrated into the semantic web as far as the base technologies that are being used is very exciting.
“As I understand it, they’ve thinned out the Islandora layer so that Drupal is doing a lot more, but also made Drupal content more preservable, which was a big concern for us as we’re obviously worried about the long-term preservation of the material that scholars produce. In many ways it’s a lot easier for them to produce Drupal content, but the current version makes it more difficult to archive. As I understand it, the new version is going to make it a lot easier to archive Drupal, which is great news.”
Giving Back to the Open-Source Community
Digital Echidna has been increasing its involvement in Islandora for over a year. Development lead Luke Bainbridge has been the primary lead on Islandora integration and he explained that the company’s commitment to open-source technology makes this a perfect fit.
“We’re making it our focus as the newcomers to give back to the community,” Bainbridge added. “We’ve contributed four Islandora modules and will be bringing more. We want to be good community members -- we don’t just come in, build, and walk away.”
Bainbridge added that the advent of Islandora CLAW can help users set the foundation to get exponentially more out of Islandora content.
“The problem piece of thinking is that Islandora is just a way to get things in -- not an interface to pull stuff out,” he said. “You already have Drupal and you have this great tool. CLAW is trying to leverage Drupal more and allow for creative ways to get things in and out. That’s the future.”
Doing What You Do Best
Leggott shares those sentiments and said that a greater integration and adoption of Islandora within the Drupal community makes sense for both sides.
“Having a shop that’s Drupal-savvy and can craft solutions -- choose which of the 14 Drupal modules are the best fit for an organization -- is incredibly important,” Leggott explained. “A lot of shops that use Islandora would benefit from using Drupal for just Drupally things without the Fedora underpinnings that is collaborative-type stuff.
“Using a Drupal layer for those things that Drupal does well -- using a Drupal shop has the opportunity to hit the nerve on both sides -- both the UI layer and the preservation and access management layer. With the CLAW development, one of the goals is to make it more Drupally so that strong Drupal developers won’t find it all that different to work in Islandora.”
And with Drupal’s expanded research and adoption throughout the web community, specifically the enterprise-level installations, there’s incredible potential for Islandora growth.
"[Islandora and Drupal is] a pretty hefty and important combination that can build the community,” he said. “But also the Drupal smarts and Drupal shops like [Digital Echidna’s] can really show the value of having a system like Islandora.”