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Software Development

With its two software developer positions the HRA has the capacity to contribute to Heidelberg University's virtual research environment. Software Development at the HRA is based on requirements arising from collaborative research and teaching in Transcultural Studies.

HRA aims at developing general solutions based on international standards for easier re-use and sustainability of data, based on the principle "development where necessary, existing solutions where feasible". For more efficiency in the development HRA cooperates with external partners, like eXist Solutions, BitGilde, and Data Futures. A focus on general infrastructure development instead of project-only solutions allows to share development costs. Multiple projects using the same infrastructure profit from each others investments even after the end of an individual project, because the shared infrastructure also reduces maintenance cost.

Tamboti - Collection management system

Conceptualised towards the end of Phase 1, full development of Tamboti began in Phase 2. It is a web based collection management system for organizing and sharing metadata records for the precise description of digital research material. With Tamboti researchers can organize metadata in private collections, share it with one or more research groups and publish whole collections. The integrated user authentication system supports Heidelberg University user credentials (LDAP/Active Directory). An internal user management allows adding collaboration partners from outside Heidelberg University.  

Tamboti is designed for the use in a highly interdisciplinary Transcultural Studies research cluster. To facilitate collaborative research across disciplinary and institutional borders Tamboti supports international metadata standards in XML format. It supports the Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) developed by the Library of Congress, the VRA-Core 4 Schema developed by the Visual Resources Association, and parts of the Text Encoding Initiative Schema (TEI) for highly structured, sustainable and re-usable metadata capable of dealing with multilingual metadata. Its collection based access control is designed for use in class and publication workflows and can be used with local and external authentication systems. It also provides an API for data exchange. Tamboti is realized as exist-DB app.

Cluster instance of "Tamboti"

Source code on GitHub

Ziziphus - VRA Image Metadata Editor

Ziziphus user interface.
Ziziphus user interface.

Ziziphus was conceptualised by the Visual Resources team. It is a web based editor for descriptive image metadata in VRA Core 4 XML. Its form based interface allows researchers to edit VRA XML metadata without having to learn and write XML. VRA core 4 was chosen for its high description precision: for example, the schema clearly distinguishes between metadata describing the physical work and metadata describing the images that depict it. By storing metadata in standardized XML it can more easily be shared and re-used.

Ziziphus features a number of auto-complete functions that allow editors to easily find and assign records from international controlled vocabularies and authoritative lists like the Getty Thesauri (AAT, TGN, ULAN, CONA),  VIAF, or GND, to enhance metadata quality and reduce the chance of input errors. To adopt the schema for Transcultural Studies a small number of VRA Schema extensions were implemented, e.g. for multilingual metadata, alternative date notations, or authors of descriptions. The editor and its schema extensions were introduced to the VRA community at the VRA 32nd Annual Conference, Milwaukee, WI, March 2014. Ziziphus can be used with different image services, e.g. a IIIF image service. The editor has been developed in cooperation with our partner eXist Solutions. Since late 2016, development concentrates on a new version that uses HTML5 / JavaScript and the open source Polymer 2 library instead of XForms.  

Ziziphus was realized an eXist-DB app and is integrated in Tamboti, users with edit rights can access the editor from image records (detail view).

Source code on GitHub

Image Annotation Editor

The Image Annotation Editor Ann-y-Can is an online editor for structured annotations of parts of images. It creates SVG for detail definition and uses IIIF for fast image delivery. Annotations are saved in web annotation standard and are highly interoperability. Ann-y-Can allows to annotate XML nodes with other XML nodes, e.g. to relate an inscription node from a VRA metadata record to a rectangle node of an SVG. Its GUI is configurable for standardized workflows and low training effort. It also offers an API which is generic by design for high connectivity with repositories. A first experimental implementation was tested with Tamboti.

Source code on GitHub

CSV to XML Transformation Tool

VRA Core 4 XML Transform Tool
VRA Core 4 XML Transform Tool.

CSV2XML is a generic online tool for the transformation of template based CSV data to a specific XML schema. 

The first use case is the VRA Core 4 XML Transform Tool which offers transformation definitions for VRA XML and RDF for bulk transformation of CSV metadata collections. It provides user interfaces for simple (automatic) and advanced modes. It also performs XML validation based on the respective schema and provides feedback to the user in case of errors. 

The VRA Core 4 XML Transform Tool was introduced to the community in two hands-on workshops, at the 3rd ARLIS/NA + VRA Joint Conference in Seattle, WA, March 2016, and the VRA 34th Annual Conference, Louisville, KY, March 2017.

Cluster instance of the "VRA Core 4 XML Transform Tool"

Source code on GitHub

Blog post on the launch of the Transform Tool