Building the SHCDA

Queen's University Belfast is committed to supporting web sites produced as a result of research carried out by groups affiliated with the university. Information Technology specialists, attached to the Special Collections Department of the Queen’s University Library, created the SHCDA website, working with recordings and metadata supplied by the SHCDA archivist.i

The aim of both the specialist team and the archivist was to produce a database-driven website with a management system that allowed easy administration, with an interface that enabled intuitive navigation, together with sophisticated research capabilities. The SHCDA is also designed with a management interface that will allow new materials to be uploaded beyond the lifetime of the doctoral project that the established the archive. The SHCDA was created using the content management system (CMS), VYRE Unify ( The system employs a presentation engine that creates a searchable web site for the end user, as well as enabling the storage of digital data – such as sound files, images and pdf files.

Recordings made on an M-Audio Microtrack digital recorder were supplied by the archivist to the SHCDA’s IT team (on CDs and in mp3 format), along with an Excel spreadsheet that provided information on each recording. This sheet indicated individual track timings, titles, and all other information associated with a recorded event. Track times, event IDs and track numbers were extracted using custom PHP (Hypertext Pre-Processor) scripts, which produced a region table of start times, end times, and track names. The region table was processed by digital audio-editing software, splitting mp3 recordings into individual tracks. Each of these tracks was then afforded a unique file code, generated by information provided in the region table. The track files were then compressed to allow for faster transmission over the internet.

Once the design of the SHCDA was finalised, the online archive was created using HTML, XSL and JavaScript. XML files described the content and the metadata of the mp3, image and PDF files, as well as how the files were linked to specific tracks. These XML files were created using PHP scripts which read information from the Excel spreadsheet. The XML files were then validated by the CMS before being uploaded into the database. This process enables the CMS to search the database and retrieve the relevant information of the image/sound/pdf files.

The SHCDA is hosted on the Queen's University Belfast's Webserver, maintained by Computer Mediated Communications Group within Information Services, responsible for all issues regarding system support for Queen's University Belfast's main webserver. To conform with disability legislation, the site is designed to conform to the AA standard of W3C.ii

i. The sole archivist, at present, is Paul Maddern. The team of IT specialists includes Gavin Mitchell, Andrew Wright and Michael Goodall. The latter, especially, is blessed with the patience of saint and is responsible for the majority of the graft involved in creating the website.

ii. See: Web Accessibility Initiative, Eds. Shawn Lawton Henry and Judy Brewer, 14. Mar. 2010, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 17.Mar. 201