"She Was Simply a Woman Who Was In Search of Variety"Supporting Complex Searches on The Willa Cather Archive with OrchidDussault, Jessica; Tunink, Greg; Dalziel, KarinUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnThe Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH)1 is developing the open-source software, Orchid, to provide a browsing, searching, and viewing interface for documents stored in a center-wide API.2 Orchid was built not only to accommodate new projects at the CDRH, but also as a tool to allow rapid upgrading of older sites using TEI-XML3 documents as part of a mission to address the technical debt of dozens of aging sites. In late 2018, the first production site powered by Orchid, The Complete Letters of Willa Cather,4 was launched as a complement to the existing Willa Cather Archive (WCA) website.5 While The Complete Letters was now powered by Orchid, the rest of the WCA remained in Apache Cocoon,6 a framework it had used since the mid-2000s. In 2019, the CDRH challenged itself with migrating the entire WCA to an Orchid-powered application — a strong proof-of-concept that Orchid was equally suited to the task of hosting complex existing projects as well as new sites.The first obstacle to migrating the WCA site was that Orchid had not been built for the complexity of sites such as the WCA. The site draws from overlapping sets of documents with differing displays and behavior, so the new application required both a site-wide search in addition to the existing Complete Letters search functionality. In order to address this challenge, Orchid logic was altered to support multiple sections of websites with customizable browsing options, search defaults, interfaces, and internationalization.7 This was engineered to re-use as much of the existing Orchid code and require as little additional configuration and code in the application as possible.Figure 1: Screenshots of the site-wide WCA search (left) and The Complete Letters search (right). Differences include the ability to search annotations separately, different filters, a custom display, and a search by letter identifier.This multi-section functionality is predicted to be utilized by complex sites slated for upgrade from older technologies, such as The Walt Whitman Archive.8 Perhaps most exciting of all, the multi-section functionality of Orchid brings us closer to a long-term goal of the CDRH to offer simple interfaces for engaging with older documents from dozens of projects available as sub-sites in a single, centralized application.
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July 20, 2020 - July 25, 2020
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Conference cancelled due to coronavirus. Online conference held at https://hcommons.org/groups/dh2020/. Data for this conference were initially prepared and cleaned by May Ning.
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