Project Electron aims to build sustainable, user-centered, and standards-compliant infrastructure to support the ongoing acquisition, management, preservation of digital records so that we can make them available in the broadest and most equitable way possible.
The project will consist of a repository to store digital records and metadata, an API layer to manage system interactions, as well as integrations with a current and future systems which assist in archival processes of appraisal, acquisition, arrangement, description, access and preservation.
This project is a partnership between Rockefeller Archive Center and Marist College IT.
So that our work has the broadest possible impact, the components of Project Electron will be built using open-source technologies and will be comprehensively documented so they can be easily implemented by other institutions. We will use “stopwatch metrics” to measure our progress towards creating software that is easy to deploy. Components should be modular and generalizable; to the greatest extent possible their deployment should be independent of other systems and flexible enough to accommodate integration with changing systems.
In order to produce tools that are empowering, engaging, transparent and robust, we will employ user-centered design methodologies to define user communities – including Rockefeller Archive Center staff, on-site and remote researchers, donor organizations and individual donors – to understand their needs. We will seek to implement constraints and affordances to the user’s benefit, assigning repetitive, detailed and time-consuming work to machines while enabling humans to exercise their critical thinking skills to full capacity. We will provide solutions to support donors and donor organizations with a wide range of technical expertise while protecting our researchers’ privacy by limiting collection and retention of personally identifying information and anonymizing data used for analysis.
The project deliverables will maintain compatibility with existing standards for data content and structure, and will support established archival processes for accessioning/ingest, arrangement and description, discovery and access, and long-term preservation. The project will support best practices before edge cases, focusing on central use cases while accommodating edge cases when possible.
Rather than seeking the unattainable goal of completely centralized or deduplicated data, we recognize that not only is duplicate and distributed data a reality of our networked world, it is also a desirable outcome for an organization whose mission includes broad dissemination of knowledge. As a result, we will think about systems as points at which humans interact with or manage data rather than canonical sources of data, and the underlying API and business logic that syncs data between systems as a platform on which access and use services can be built. In addition to facilitating data flow between internal systems, we also want to accommodate systems external to the Rockefeller Archive Center.
Hillel heads the Digital Programs at the RAC, and makes sure the project stay on schedule, under budget and in compliance with the project values.
Hannah is focused on usability and project management work. She'll be coordinating with Project Electron partners and helping to ensure that we are building engaging and well-documented infrastructure that benefits users.
Patrick is the resident data person at the RAC. He'll be helping model the connections between different systems in Project Electron, and helping make sure all the data is going to the right place.
Bonnie is all about preserving born digital records, and will help develop processes to get donors' records into the repository.
We have created milestones for Project Electron, and are making them available to the public in order to give stakeholders a sense of the overall timeline. You can view the milestones on our Github repository here.
Making Project Electron available to any interested parties lines up with our mission as a philanthropic organization. As such, clear and open licensing is vital. We've laid out our Licensing Approach in this document. Please head over to our Github and check it out.
In the interest of full transparency, we're making all of the Project Electron user stories available. We gathered these from in-person interviews, surveys, and existing literature. They are divided into four groups: Donors and Depositors, Researchers, Rockefeller Archive Center Staff, and Allied Information Professionals. All User Stories are available on our Github.
After gathering user stories, we used a collaborative card-sorting process to roughly outline our Personas with the help of various RAC staff. We created 12 total personas across three of our User Story groups, and we feel these accurately cover the type of users we encounter in our daily activities, as well as users we expect to encounter in the future. All Personas are available on our Github.
As we’ve continued to refine Aurora’s functionality, we’ve also built microservices applications which integrate a number of systems, moving digital records and data between them. We’ve clustered our services together into five applications: each comes with a Docker container, a comprehensive README, and a constellation-themed name.
Read more on our blog about our approach to microservices, and find an introduction to the five applications with links to the code.
We are now well into development of the Project Electron transfer application (check out the GitHub repo). Beyond the function of enabling the transfer of records and metadata, we have been building out the application’s capabilities for archival appraisal and accessioning tasks, rights management, and use by donors to track their transfers. You can read more about project progress from our blog posts on behavior driven development and our approach to quality assurance, defining requirements for the second phase of the project using user scenario mapping and process diagrams, developing a data model, and user interface design.
We’ve focused our recent work on building out functionality to facilitate the transfer of records to the RAC from donors. Hillel recently posted an overview of the requirements that we defined for the structure of these transfers, which are also shared in more detail on GitHub. In addition, we held a hackathon hosted by our partners at Marist College IT to plan and start to build out the infrastructure. Check out Hannah’s blog post for more details on the hackathon. We are looking forward to testing transfers very soon!
The Digital Team has been working hard for the last few months to nail down a set of users stories and personas to aid us in development. We’ve been gathering information from conversations, interviews, and a literature review since September 2016, and we’re finally ready to show off the fruits of our labor. Hillel posted an in-depth look at our process on our blog, and we’ve made the user stories and personas available on Github. In line with our “open by default” licensing principle, we’re making these design artifacts available with a CC0 license, which means you can take them and use them freely in your own local environments.
We’ve been working hard since officially announcing Project Electron in September, and we have an update for you in the form of a blog post! We’re in a discovery phase, where we are gathering user stories from our donors and depositors, other information professionals, and our researchers and staff.
Last week, the Rockefeller Archive Center and Marist College released a joint press release officially announcing the launch of Project Electron. We, the RAC Digital Team, have created this site to be the home of all things Project Electron. Join us for the ride!