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Smithsonian Libraries Website Redesign – Coming soon!

PreviewThe Smithsonian Libraries’ website is getting a makeover! The stars have aligned to bring together the elements necessary to initiate a top-to-bottom redesign and reorganization of the Libraries’ presence on the internet. If you’ve explored our site at all, you have found that there is a wealth of information there and we are happy to announce that are planning to keep all of the rich, interesting and informative content that makes our site unique on the Internet.

The “stars” that have aligned include the availability of Drupal 7, on which we will develop the website. Drupal is an open-source content management platform for websites and web applications. It is installed on millions of websites around the world and has a strong user community that contributes to the 12,000+ modules that make Drupal versatile and powerful. Another “star” that has aligned is the availability of a developer, that’s me, to develop the site and organize the migration of thousands of pages of content. The final “star” contributing is the encouragement and drive to tackle what initially looks to be an insurmountable task. However, we feel it is possbile to move a mountain with a spoon. 

Here’s background information. The Libraries’ website consists (briefly) of…

…440,000 files total
…289,000 images
…87,000 web pages
…46,000 PDF files
…400 online books
…12,000 images in Galaxy of Images
…35 online exhibitions 

There is content dating back to 1995 on the website, so we feel it’s high time to bring the site into the 21st century and give us the ability to create a modern website that can be easily managed by our general staff on a day-to-day basis. Another goal of the redesign is to reduce the amount of time it takes for us to develop new sections of the site. This eliminates barriers and bottlenecks that exist in our current ColdFusion setup. Another goal of the redesign is to reorganize the navigation and structure of our web-space, provide more meaningful URLs to our content, and generally make our content and site more friendly to search engines. Finally, we are going to implement a higher standard of Section 508 accessible features.

From a content point of view, all of our online books, which make up a large majority of the files on our site, will move to the Internet Archive. Viewing our “digital collection” of books will still take place on our website, but the images will be served from the Internet Archive itself. Our online exhibitions, many of which have a rich and detailed graphic design, will also be migrated to Drupal, but we plan to maintain the graphic design as much as possible while still migrating the content to Drupal’s database.

The website will be migrasted in two phases. The first phase will set us up on our new Drupal 7 platform with the basic informational content about the Libraries. The second phase will take longer and will be comprised of all content in the new Digital Library part of our website. The digital library will include, as much as possible, Linked Open Data to enable our visitors and users to reuse our data and link their data to ours. To learn more about linked data, visit

We expect that the first phase of development will begin in December 2011 and will likely be ready for launch in early March 2012. Phase two will be an ongoing process and will take place incrementally over many months. We’ll keep you up to date here on the blog as to our progress and some of the things that we learn during the process of redeveloping our site. 


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