When to call a Drupal Expert for an Islandora Project

illustration of round table surrounded by chairs with one wall flanked with tv screens

There’s an old adage that states, “No man is an island.” I’d like to paraphrase that and say no Islandora is an island either, as while a complete Islandora ecosystem can be downloaded with one click for free, the system is not ready to deliver content. 

To go from a digital repository to a fully functioning content delivery of those assets, you need to bring in those with Java, PHP, HTML, CSS, XSLT, systems administration, and project management experience. 

If your Islandora installation calls for an ambitious digital experience for end-users or consumers, it is also advisable to have access to highly credentialed Drupal experts with Islandora experience.

In this blog I will explain how a Drupal development firm with Islandora experience helped out on Vancouver Public Library’s celebrated digital exhibit Story City, and list the advantages that a Drupal agency has when it comes to working with Islandora.

The Story Behind Story City

Vancouver Public Library embarked on an ambitious project to catalogue the spoken memories of Vancouverites about their city. 

This project evolved into Story City, which was funded in large part by a Canada 150+ grant. The project sought to add hundreds of stories to the library’s existing Islandora Repository (ThisVancouver). 

Library staff recorded oral history interviews at a host of public events asking people about important memories about their city. These longer interviews were then excerpted into stories that specifically mention discrete places or neighbourhoods. 

Excerpts were given geo-coordinates, metadata, and then ingested into Islandora. The team also incorporated audio, images, and videos from other digital memory projects -- approximately  700 items’ worth of content!

With so much love and time invested in asset gathering and set up, this particular geography-based project required a visually striking geographic information system (GIS) to make it meaningful, usable, and easily understandable to citizens who used it. 

These were things that the existing Islandora mapping modules could not accommodate.

Bringing in A Drupal Expert

This is the part where we talk about calling in Drupal experts with Islandora experience. Why? Because Drupal offers plenty of opportunities to be creative with the user interface. 

The Islandora default theme can be customized with HTML and CSS, and it is a straightforward process. But theme development is performed within the Drupal system. Using a Drupal agency at some point in setting up your Islandora architecture helps your user-interface design.

In this case, the Library needed flexibility on how media objects were displayed on the map.  

We ended up building it out so that objects do not sit flat in an object hierarchy with page numbers. Instead, we developed something that would invite people to dive in to whatever part of Vancouver intrigues them. 

Limiting the online map by subject areas and communities required several iterations based on community feedback before we arrived at the final result. 

The page load time is quite short and there is no tile loading or delay after initial load, which was a mission-critical factor for the client.

The Drupal Advantage

Drupal developers know a lot about themes, Drupal 8 Search API, and Solr modules; all of which are part of the Islandora 8 ecosystem.

Digital Echidna in particular, with its 80+ staff comprised of Acquia-certified Drupal experts with Islandora experience, has a proven history of creating attractive, cohesive, and intuitive user portals in Drupal, including Story City. 

Our in-house team of certified UX researchers can help align a site to users’ needs and expectations, aiding in the discoverability of content. We are a proud member of the Islandora Foundation and active in the open-source community. 

I emailed David C. Waddell, Acting Unit Head of Digital Services, Vancouver Public Library, to ask him why they chose us as a partner. 

He writes:

“An RFP identified Digital Echidna as a great fit. They have some highly credentialed Drupal experts who specifically have Islandora experience and were receptive to the fact that we needed flexibility on how media objects were displayed on the map. We also needed to be able to administer filters ourselves and make changes long after our partnership with Digital Echidna officially ends. I’m proud to say that looking back on the project as a whole, we achieved these objectives and the project was extremely well received by the community.” 

Contact Us

We can help complete your existing Islandora project or start something new. Feel free to reach out to me directly and discuss. 


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Questions Answered

Why use a Drupal developer for an Islandora install?

What are examples of an Drupal user interface on Islandora?



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