Mobile-friendly interactive footnote browser for Stanford University

When researchers at the Spatial History Project at Stanford University needed a team of smart, creative Drupal developers to build a new kind of website – a digital companion to a scholarly print publication – they chose OpenSourcery.

Thank you! We are super excited over here. You all have truly done an amazing job and even more importantly have been wonderful to work with. … I appreciate [OpenSourcery] welcoming the students into the process. It provided such a fun and unique experience for them and they certainly wouldn't have had the opportunity elsewhere. - Kathy Harris, Director of the Spatial History Lab
Key Features
  • Custom theme and graphic design by OpenSourcery, built in Drupal 7
  • A responsive layout system, with mobile-friendly navigation, makes it easy for readers to follow footnotes referenced in the book or browse through galleries of supplemental material on a smart phone, tablet, or netbook
  • Footnotes and supplemental materials can be added to the site and edited using a WYSIWYG editor and media upload system
  • A data migration system supports bulk importing of footnotes, tags and categories from a CSV file
  • A custom theme displays footnote search results in a card-catalog-like format
  • Images, illustrations, appendices and visualization materials are dynamically themed to resemble traditional photo slides and showcased by category on gallery pages
  • A footnote browser makes it easy for readers to follow cited sources chapter-by-chapter or explore the material by source type, overarching themes, source library/archive/collection, persons of interest, and helpful tags
  • A custom lightbox display encourages readers to delve into the detailed footnotes or explore gallery materials up-close, in an page-overlay display viewer, without leaving the current page
  • Materials can be shared instantly to Facebook, Twitter, or email; A smart permalink feature automatically constructs links which point directly to the lightbox display of the thing you wanted to share
  • Other scholars can use the underlying framework to deploy their own footnotes browser sites, for free, using Drupal Installation Profiles - please contact us if you would like to make use of this powerful system
The Story

The Spatial History Project (SHP) at Stanford University uses technology to examine and refine our understanding of history; Taking what we already know about the past, charting these clues in the context of place and time, and displaying the results visually in order uncover hidden historical trends and patterns. As the Railroaded website explains, “One of the ways this project operates outside of normal historical practice is by using visualization as a way not simply to illustrate conclusions, but a means of doing research.”

Stanford History Professor Richard White and the SHP team used visual analytical models to study the rise of transcontinental railroads, publishing the results in the book Railroaded. Railroaded includes over 2,000 footnotes- many of which could not be published in full due to space limitations - and an impressive collection of interactive visualization systems. To give history scholars and curious readers an all access pass to their research materials the Spatial History Project team needed to come up with a clever means of binding together print media and digital media. The SHP team turned to the Jasper Group for help.

In the case of Railroaded, we had the opportunity to craft what could be a new genre of website --a digital companion to a print monograph. Since the book's publisher gave Professor White a hard limit on the number and extensiveness of his footnotes we sought to give him the academic freedom he required to express his ideas more fully by co-publishing in a digital medium. - Zachary Chandler, The Jasper Group
Laying the tracks for Railroaded

Academic Technology Specialists from The Jasper Group outlined the technical requirements for a Drupal-based web application which could serve as digital footnote companion and research portal for Railroaded. When it came time to choose a Drupal development firm to build the site The Jasper Group recommended OpenSourcery, “There's a number of things that really set OpenSourcery apart... The first and most important factor was that [they] clearly understood the project and were excited about it... [OpenSourcery] got what we were after, had very smart questions, and were ready to hit the ground running. ”

The footnotes browser, media galleries, and search pages for Railroaded are easy for readers to navigate on a mobile device with one hand, while holding the printed book in the other hand. OpenSourcery's Adam DiCarlo pulled out all the stops to deliver a mobile-friendly responsive layout, which rearranges how on-screen elements are positioned based on the width of the screen; With distinct layouts based on the widths of common mobile phones, tablets, and standard computer monitors.

What I think was important about Railroaded was not just that we solved one problem for one professor but the Spatial History Lab and OpenSourcery created something that can be built upon and reproduced. - Zachary Chandler, The Jasper Group

OpenSourcery's experience developing and releasing Drupal Installation Profiles – which act like an inflatable website-in-a-box for deploying pre-configured Drupal sites which anyone is free to use – proved to be an important part of achieving the broad vision for Railroaded.

The Spatial History Project, The Jasper Group, and OpenSourcery are proud to make the infrastructure for the Railroaded companion site available for others in the open source and scholarly communities to use, for free. By doing so we hope that other authors – of monographs, dissertations, theses, and of purely digital publications – can implement this unique infrastructure of modules to present their own scholarship.

We're calling that project Discursive.