DDR-RD: Previewing DUL’s new platform for research data

While we sometimes talk about “the repository” as if it were a monolith at Duke University Libraries, we have in fact developed and maintained two core platforms that function as repository applications. I’ll describe them briefly, then preview a third that is in development, as well as the rationale behind expanding in this way.

DukeSpace has served as our institutional repository for open access publications since 2006. It is built on DSpace; following a major upgrade project last spring, it now uses the most recent version, 6.2. We followed up on the upgrade with a subsequent quarterly release that tied up some loose ends, and enhanced the user interface significantly.

Duke Digital Repository, aka “DDR) Classic,” is the platform we have built using the Fedora-Hydra framework, beginning roughly in 2012. Over the years, it has come principally to house Duke Digital Collections, i.e., the library-owned materials that we have digitized. The migration of those collections into the DDR was the focus of much effort a few years ago, and we invested a lot of time into making the Hydra-based interfaces  accommodate those materials. However, long story short, we found the migration path forward from Fedora 3 and Hydra to be rough going. Work on that stack has more or less come to a standstill over the past year or so.

However, we have continued to ingest new collections into the DDR Classic platform, including more than 40 sets of data produced by researchers at Duke. This support for research data is a relatively recent development in DUL’s programming, an important part of Libraries’ overall support for research at Duke, which figures very prominently and explicitly in our strategic plan. It has also has served as a departure point for us to explore our next generation of repository technology.

Late last year, we began working on a new platform to serve, at first, as a standalone repository for the research data.  We changed our methodology by taking an Agile approach to the work, adopting two-week sprints and other scrum techniques. The team has thrived with this new approach, and we are on course to roll out the new platform in September with the name Duke Digital Repository – Research Data.


DDR-RD screen shot, showing the application home page with sample data

DDR-RD is based on Hyrax, “a repository front-end” developed by a community that is deeply rooted in the practice of librarianship. It is a direct descendant of the Fedora-Hydra framework on which we based the DDR Classic stack.

Our goals for the DDR-RD project include two main objectives, one of which is pragmatic and focused on the short and intermediate term. The second looks further ahead, and relates to our plans for building a sustainable platform for our digital repository.

First, we are building a new standalone platform and submission workflow to accommodate research data. My colleague, Moira Downey, and I presented to the Samvera community during the Samvera Virtual Connect event on this project, and in particular the new submission process; the slides from that lightning talk are embedded at the conclusion of this post.

The second major objective is to use the project to explore the possibilities offered by Hyrax as a long-term platform for our digital repository. At least for now, we work on the assumption that we’ll continue to support the repository with in-house staff focused on meeting the many complex needs of preservation and access. This approach poses challenges, but we continue to believe it presents us with the best chance for success. At the same time, we’re excited to be members of the Samvera community, and will seek ways to contribute and collaborate over the coming months and years.

Digital repository work is both challenging and rewarding for us in the Libraries. It’s critical to many programs, brings together many collecting areas, and is present in many different modes of engagement with our patrons and our community. It remains to be seen whether DDR-RD represents the future of the repository at DUL, but it’s certainly very much a part of its present.