In this post I want to discuss the use of Drupal and Drupal distributions in academia, especially the humanities, where Drupal has become an increasingly popular CMS in recent years.
This has not always been the case. Traditionally, Wordpress has been a popular choice among humanists, especially for personal websites/blogs, and in humanities institutes in general, particularly for conference and project websites (see also my post on building a blog with Drupal here). Given its relatively easy learning curve, out-of-the-box functionality and general ease of use this is an understandable choice, if also a self-perpetuating one: given the scarce availability of resources in many humanities institutes, previous experience with a particular system is often a key criterion, even when other systems might suit a project's functional demands better.
For several interconnected reasons, this situation now seems to change. As the digital humanities advance, scholars are acquiring more technical skills that allow them to turn to more powerful, versatile and flexible systems like Drupal with which highly complex websites can be built. At the same time universities and/or institutes with IT departments start to choose available open source alternatives over in-house development or expensive commercial solutions. The availability of several Drupal distributions that were either specifically developed for use in academic environments, or are well-suited for the purpose, is an important reason for this shift. Projects which used to require scarce programming resources can now be accomplished by digital humanists using systems like Drupal, thus freeing up costly IT resources. More than replacing Wordpress as the CMS of choice, Drupal thus also replaces the need for custom-built websites and thus lowers the cost of realising web-based projects.
Though Drupal's reputation as a difficult CMS is often exaggerated it is certainly true that it takes more effort to master than Wordpress. This is precisely the raison d'être of the new Drupal for Humanists website, created by Quinn Dombrowski and Elijah Meeks. And fortunately plenty of other resources are available too that help smoothen the path towards Un(b)locking the Drupal Learning Curve.
Here is a list of (mostly) Drupal distros that humanists should be aware of:
- Open Academy: a Drupal distribution "that lets university departments run fully functional, polished websites straight out of the box" and includes "features for handling courses, research publications and presentations, departmental news, faculty profiles, events and more".
- Openscholar: a Drupal-based "open source web site building and content management tool intended for academic scholars. It enables the creation and management of multiple web sites upon a single Drupal installation". OpenScholar is used at Harvard University for personal academic sites and academic project sites. There is also an OpenScholar group on drupal.org.
- Open Atrium: a Drupal-based "intranet in a box with: a blog, a wiki, a calendar, a to do list, a shoutbox, and a dashboard to manage it all". See this Chronicle article about Using Open Atrium to Manage Collaborative Academic Projects.
- Conference Organizing Distribution: a Drupal distro that "has several immediate, out-of-the-box benefits such as Session tools, Sponsors management, and Conference Registration which make it the obvious choice for anyone running a conference, bar camp, or small event site".
- Drupal Commons: a Drupal distribution "for building either internal or external communities. It provides a complete social business software solution for organizations". See for an academic example the Iter Community. Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
- Buddypress: a plugin for Wordpress to build online communities; the best-known example of its use in academia is the CUNY Academic Commons (City University New York), whose developers have also contributed several plugins that are of specific use to academics.1
- Oorlogsbronnen: a digital point of access to WWII-related archival collections in the Netherlands; a project of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
- Vijf eeuwen migratie: a website dedicated to 5 centuries of migration in the Netherlands under the auspices of the Centrum voor de Geschiedenis van Migranten.
- International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam: "One of the largest documentary and research centres in the field of social and economic history"
- gahetna: website of the National Archives in The Hague.
- Drupal for Humanists
- Drupal in Higher Education | Drupal Groups
- Research and academia | Drupal Groups
- DrupalEdu related groups | Drupal Groups
- "The Application of Drupal to Website Development in Academic Libraries" by Cristina Tofan
- Drupal for Educators and Academics From Modules to Institutional Cultures
- Blog posts on higher education on Dries Buytaert's blog
Please do not hesitate to add any additional information in the comments!