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We recently had the privilege to work with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to launch their first online scholarly catalogue. Featuring objects from Southeast Asian art, the catalogue makes information about works in LACMA’s collection available in a new, media-rich format.
The catalog is built on the excellent OSCI Toolkit, an open-source online publishing tool developed by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. We worked with LACMA to develop new features and tailor the appearance of the toolkit to their needs.
The OSCI Toolkit was developed with front-end/back-end separation in mind, and LACMA’s catalog retains this characteristic. The catalogue website functions as a front-end application, which means all functionality of the catalogue is client-side. The content that appears on the front-end is served by a Drupal-based back-end.
One compelling component of the OSCI Toolkit are the Authoring Tools, which implement the data structure and user interface elements that are necessary to handle catalogue content. The Authoring Tools are essentially a set of Drupal modules, which also exposes a REST API for the front-end to retrieve content. This approach is in line with a shift in Drupal’s architecture, where Drupal 8 will be centered on the ability to deliver content in various formats that can be consumed by a variety of applications. The data exchanged between the front-and and back-end conform to the EPUB format.
This format yields two benefits:
- Content entered in the Drupal-based Authoring Tools can be exported into an EPUB file, which, in turn, can be read on any EPUB reader – with some limitations due to the size of multimedia content.
- The exported EPUB file can be designated as the data source for the front-end, eliminating the need to run a back-end service for content retrieval.
In addition to providing a robust basis for the architecture, the OSCI Toolkit has a very impressive presentation layer.
Out of the box, you get a website that behaves like a book, where you can navigate in content by paging back and forth. Content is laid out such that you see the exact amount of text that can fit your browser window, making sure the scrollbar does not appear in your browser. When the browser is resized, the content layout is reorganized, and content that doesn’t fit the browser window will be placed on subsequent pages.
To further improve the user experience, Urban Insight developed features that increase interactivity and allow embedding various types of multimedia content. One of these features is the 360-degree image rotator, which allows visitors to view an art objects from a wide range of perspectives by rotating the viewpoint a full 360 degrees. LACMA and Urban Insight will be contributing this enhancement back to the open-source OSCI Toolkit.