The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest national library in the world by number of items catalogued. It is estimated to contain more than 200 million items. In partnership with the British Library, the Endangered Archive Programme (EAP) works to preserve archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration worldwide.
Delivered by the British Library and funded by Arcadia, EAP supports preservation of important, at-risk collections of photographs, documents, manuscripts and other items from around the world. Over a period of more than a decade, the Programme has funded more than 320 projects in 80 countries around the world.
The online presence of the Programme however did not match the other aspects. Based on a legacy database CMS it was unstable, hard to maintain, slow, and looked nothing like the British Library's other websites. Images were small and hard to discover. Some searches by web visitors could actually cause the site to fall over. The British Library needed to build a digital experience that made the site accessible across all devices, increased stability and scalability, and improved user experience with powerful search.
The British Library devised an architecture based on a Drupal CMS hosting the description and illustrations for each project, and the surrounding pages (home page, pages supporting applications, etc); backed by a Solr search index storing the metadata for the archive documents. Drupal fronts the whole site, presents both the content stored directly in Drupal and the archive data retrieved from Solr; and generates the IIIF manifests used to display the zoomable images through the Universal Viewer.
Next, all the project descriptions from the legacy database into Drupal, and set up roles and workflows for the EAP staff to maintain and create new content. Using Drupal as the content management system ensured excellent support both for editing the 'brochure' pages of the site, and the structured Project records. Using Drupal to present not only the material edited in the CMS, but also the data from Solr that contains all the metadata for archive records and images, both directly and via IIIF, allowed the British Library to use the Drupal modules and theming system for efficient development.
The British Library also had less than two months to deliver the project from start to launch. With these time pressures, the Acquia platform was essential to meet the rapid deadline. With so little time to complete the project, it was critical that the British Library find a solution that allowed the CMS to be configured and specified in the shortest time, gave excellent tools for development and monitoring, and took care of backup and hosting with committed customer support.
It was essential that all aspects of our solution would be hosted by extremely solid external companies ensuring resilience, performance, and support - making Acquia the perfect fit.
The British Library launched the project on time, just seven weeks after starting the project. The new site includes six million zoomable images displayed and over 340,000 records searchable.
The site is now performant and stable, and the project team can edit the details easily. Applications for new grants can find what they need; and researchers have better access to this incredible wealth of material from around the globe.