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Red Island Repository Institute Wrap-up

Charlottetown, PEI, Canada The Ann of Green Gables hat (with braids) was in short supply in local gift shops as Fedora Commons developers and repository managers converged on Charlottetown, PEI, Canada for the second Red Island Repository Institute (RIRI). Prince Edward Island is well-known for its red dirt and also for Lucy Maud Montgomery who was the author of “Anne of Green Gables” and of all the “Anne Books,” as they are collectively referred to. The University of Prince Edward Island hosted RIRI in July, once again offering developers and repository managers an opportunity for hands-on instruction and one-on-one problem solving in how to use open source Fedora Commons repository software to expose rich collections, metadata and media. Chris Wilper and Thorny Staples (DuraSpace, Fedora Commons), Matt Zumwalt (MediaShelf) and Mark Leggott (UPEI) were on hand to lead participants through a series of topics and activities that allowed them to create Fedora repositories while learning deeper concepts and technical best practices for using Fedora.
Presentations, notes and power points from RIRI 2009 may be accessed here:
Chris Beer, a web developer with WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA), is a two-time RIRI attendee who agreed to share his reflections on the event. He is part of a team which is investigating the use of media archives by scholars and researchers consisting of more than 10,000 boxes of material, more than 500,000 items, and more than 50,000 audio, video, and film masters. The June/July 2009 issue of the ASIS&T Bulletin features an article about their efforts: “Visualizing Television Archives,”  by Courtney Michael, Mayo Todorovic and Chris Beer (
Beer noted that when RIRI was offered for the first time in 2008 many people were still figuring out what to do with their repositories and only a few had specific Fedora Commons projects in mind.
He appreciated the theoretical overview offered by Thorny Staples as a starting point for beginning to think about solving very different problems. Staples believes that there is a need for a basic “core development” understanding of Fedora upon which to build solutions for individual use cases. Beers commented, “Then having small groups form around mutual problem spaces was a wonderful way to move forward.” Beers and instructors agreed that presenting both simple and more challenging applications running on Fedora was useful. Seeing Islandora and Active Fedora together, for example, helped attendees understand different implementation options.
Matt Zumwalt made the point that functionality and features added in 2009 Fedora Commons releases have made it easier to work with. “What a difference a year makes,” agreed Beer recalling the 2008 RIRI. This year attendees also had a better understanding of their roles—repository managers or developers–and also of what they wanted to accomplish using Fedora Commons Repository software.
Chris Wilper offered attendees a nuts and bolts view of Fedora Commons architecture, and how the software hangs together, along with a few best practices like the importance of saving things as files. He then led an “install fest” to get people in under the hood and running their own experimental repositories.
On day three attendees offered their own ideas about how they were thinking about using Fedora. Use cases were the key to understanding what to do next after basic instruction. An impromptu “hack-a-thon” was part of sessions which gave developers and participants an opportunity to build something together. Chris Wilper noted,“Giving a few presentations about possible Fedora use cases, and then participating in discussions and hacks made it enjoyable. One thing that was particularly helpful was that we had a demo running of one of the use cases that Matt demonstrated in Active Fedora. We could also see it in Islandora, make changes in either, and see results in either. We put Fedora into context by putting it into demos with other software sitting on top.”
At RIRI Beers noted that he learned more about how to tap into participating in the Fedora Community at a deeper level by finding out about weekly Fedora Commons Committer Meetings which he now attends when he can.
Wilper felt that RIRI 2009 was very helpful. “There was plenty of hands-on work to do. The experience got people out of their shells and into talking and doing things.”
About Active Fedora:
About Islandora: