2020 and the Year to Come

Public domain image via Pixabay

Despite the obvious and by now unnecessary-to-name weirdness of 2020, we seem to have been as productive as ever over the course of the year on the digital publishing initiative. We released two new projects in 2020, which is consistent with the program’s output since 2017. Elaine Sullivan’s Constructing the Sacred was published in early March, just before the transition in work routine could break any momentum. It was well received and won the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History. The next several months saw heavy production work on the next project, Anna Tsing et. al’s Feral Atlas, which was published in October. In its first week alone it received over 51,000 page views and had over 29,000 unique visitors by the end of the year.

Acquisitions activity continued despite the absence of face-to-face conference meetings, and the pipeline for 2021 is as promising as ever as we look at production schedule comparable to previous years. Archiving efforts also persisted through the heavy new-project production load, and partnerships and pilots associated with those endeavors made great progress.

The partnership with Webrecorder, which was scheduled for the full calendar year, went off without a hitch, and as described in an earlier blog post, we now have completely functional web archive versions of four of our publications and nearly perfect web archives of two others. These last two have confirmed the continual challenges associated with external features related to map data in web projects, and these conclusions in themselves have been a valuable outcome of the partnership. We’re looking forward to continuing to use the Webrecorder suite of tools to capture and replay Feral Atlas this year and our future publications as they’re released.

Our work with the EAASI pilot project continued throughout the year, and at Stanford Libraries’ EAASI symposium in May, I presented a summary of my attempts to virtualize and then emulate Filming Revolution on the EAASI node hosted at Stanford. Though at the time the resulting emulation was incomplete and still a bit buggy (due to the virtual machine, not necessarily the EAASI platform itself), further work we completed as part of another grant initiative—“Enhancing Services to Preserve New Forms of Scholarship”—gave us the opportunity to improve on those previous, less successful efforts. (I’ll talk more about that in the next blog post.)  Our work as part of the Stanford EAASI node team will continue in 2021, and we look forward to sharing out the larger report for the Enhancing Services initiative when it’s finalized.

In November, Nicole Coleman and I gave a presentation at the online International Federation of Library Associations conference on the preservation of complex digital objects. We discussed the challenges of mapping the print publication workflow onto a digital model. Whereas one is quite linear and established, the other is more iterative and uncharted. We’ll provide more details and reflections on that panel in the weeks to come as well.

In all, 2020 was in many ways a typical and productive year for our program, and the coming year looks to be on track for more fine tuning of the digital publishing process and the release of successful and engaging projects.

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