Seed Grant Summer 2022 Report

Christina Boyles

The Archivo de Respuestas Emergencias de Puerto Rico (AREPR), or the Emergency Response Archive of Puerto Rico, is a digital open access repository of Puerto Rican artifacts of disaster pertaining to Hurricanes Irma and María (2017), the Puerto Rican earthquake swarm (2019-2022), and COVID-19 (2020-present). These artifacts include oral histories from grassroots community organizations and individuals across Puerto Rico who implemented innovative disaster response strategies in the wake of these crises. They also include documents, images, and videos of these events. 

To ensure that AREPR presents these materials with the utmost care, we partnered with developer Ivy Rose to ensure that our technical tools fit the needs of our project. During summer 2022, AREPR worked with Ivy Rose to continue developing a custom Omeka S theme and multiple modules for our project. Ivy’s work has greatly improved the Omeka S platform for use with community-based archives–taking a particular focus on accessibility, multilingual support, and replicability for similar projects. 

For example, “Multilingual” is a custom Omeka S theme that builds upon The Daily to bring some fantastic additions including togglable multilingual sites, accessibility functionality, and stylistic adaptability. Our project is using the theme for switchable Spanish and English sites, and it can similarly support a wide array of other languages. As of 9 November 2022, it is the only theme on Omeka’s site that was not developed by Omeka’s in-house development team. Moreover, numerous digital humanities projects both at and outside Michigan State University have begun using this theme, particularly for its support of multilingual sites, its emphasis on accessibility, and its impressive stylistic adaptability.Additionally, Ivy worked with AREPR to develop a series of software extensions for Omeka S. These include 1) “Transcript”, a module that allows for audio and video files uploaded to Omeka to appear with an interactive, bilingual transcript as well as higher resolution video thumbnails and improved accessibility; 2) “SimplePDF” a module that provides a document viewer for PDF files with a key focus on accessibility, allowing for screen reader usage in multiple languages and accessible PDFs; and 3) “Page Blocks” a module that provides additional modular, customizable page elements for site designers with a “drag and drop” functionality. Current Omeka S page design relies heavily on custom HTML, which can prove overwhelming for less technical community groups. With the development of the page blocks module, Omeka S website layouts are designed through a simple drag-and-drop interface, not unlike Wix or Squarespace. The end result is a more engaging, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing website while still allowing for the robust metadata and archival classification structure built into the Omeka S platform. Each of these modules is now indexed on Omeka S’ official modules page and is freely available for other groups to use under a GPLv3 license. Ivy’s work on these software extensions not only benefits AREPR, but also their work will benefit other digital humanities practitioners, particularly those working in multilingual contexts.

Wireframe of the PageBlocks module. Design elements shown include a jumbo search (top left), video with text (middle left), map (not developed), 2 or 3 column (top right) and browse by topic (bottom left).
Wireframe of the PageBlocks module. Design elements shown include a jumbo search (top left), video with text (middle left), map (not developed), 2 or 3 column (top right) and browse by topic (bottom left).

As a leader in bi-lingual post-custodial archiving, AREPR is committed to sharing the knowledge developed throughout the project’s development–our intersectional decolonial approach, our metadata guides, our custom-built Omeka S theme, our custom-built software extensions, and much more yet to be developed–with other organizations participating in community archiving. As such, DH@MSU’s support for AREPR not only benefits our team, but also enhances the resources available for any community group, organization, or scholar looking to engage in similar work.