Ensuring a future for the digital arts and humanities community

HesiodeEtLaMuse.jpgThe impact

Our work has ensured the long term future of a major website for the arts and humanities community. This global hub has also been extended so that different arts and humanities projects can share information.

The problem

Arts-humanities.net was set up around five years ago to act as a hub for research and teaching in the digital arts and humanities. The site helps researchers and teachers to use and understand digital tools and methods that can aid them in their work, allowing them to share content with like-minded members. Initially UK -based, it now has members from around the world and has become a global hub for those involved in the area.

Two years ago the site was struggling to cope with the demands being put upon it. It "constantly crashed", says Stuart Dunn, lecturer in the Centre for e-Research, part of the Department of Digital Humanities at Kings College, London. It was also very hard for users - many of whom had limited web experience - to add or access the content they were interested in sharing, he says.

Dunn therefore spoke to Simon Hettrick of the Software Sustainability Institute about the problems the site was facing, and the Institute stepped in to see what could be done.

The solution

The site was ported to the latest version of the Drupal content management system and the server was overhauled to make it stable. This took some time, as there was little understanding within arts-humanities.net of how the site was designed. The Institute’s developer had to spend a good deal of time scoping out what was where and how the site should work - and this work was then documented to save similar difficulties in future. 

The new site included new functionality that allows researchers to share information by uploading it from their own site, which can then be aggregated with information from arts-humanities.net. The wide - and broadly unknown - range of systems being used by members meant the Institute’s developers had to create a highly flexible federation service so that as many users as possible were able to access it.

"The work done by the Software Sustainability Institute really has transformed the site," Dunn says. "They were a great team to work with - we had regular Skype calls throughout the process and it worked well."

Members are now confidently uploading content, and feedback has been very positive. The arts and humanities field has always struggled to define methods and tools, Dunn says, and the new arts-humanities.net has been vital in moving research forward and creating an active and engaged community.