About Unbound

Unbound is a digital publishing platform and repository. It’s a place to store, organize, present and disseminate the products of the intellectual life of the College, and to preserve the history of the institution.

Small but ambitious institutions like Williams face particular challenges in supporting diverse course offerings and ever-changing faculty research projects. The diffuse nature of scholarly exchange, growing demand for digital and multimedia formats, soaring publication fees, and costly academic journal subscriptions all threaten the ability to support the college’s teaching and research mission. Establishing an institutional repository service that hosts, makes accessible and preserves the scholarly output of our faculty and students is seminal to the advancement of scholarly communication and the preservation of valuable research produced at the college.

Unbound was established primarily to support the teaching and publishing goals of the Williams faculty through the creation of a repository that supports research, facilitates collaboration and communication between faculty and between faculty and students, provides a venue for faculty and students to publish and disseminate original research and source materials, and a permanently addressable location for teaching collections. In addition, Unbound supports the preservation goals of the College Archives by providing a place to document the College's history and activities.

Unbound supports the work of the college in the following ways. Unbound:

  • Enhances professional visibility - Faculty can develop and broadly share collections of materials used in teaching or that support academic publications
  • Expands scholarly publishing options - Faculty can distribute pre-prints, conference proceedings, video, audio and interactive data sets that can't be distributed in traditional print media
  • Supports innovative inter and multidisciplinary research
  • Assures preservation - The intellectual output of the faculty will be maintained and made accessible
  • Enhances discoverability - The College Archives and others can provide access to materials that otherwise would be difficult to locate or view
  • Provides a digital publishing platform - Faculty can develop custom research and presentation tools in support of original scholarship
  • Preserves college history - Departments and committees can submit working documents
  • Showcases the institution's productivity

We envision that Unbound will include:

  • Original digital scholarship
  • Working papers, pre-prints of articles submitted for publication, conference proceedings
  • Scholarly collections, either born digital or digitized
  • Classroom teaching materials and learning objects
  • Student theses
  • The institution’s archives, records and events
  • Computer programs, data archives/sets
  • Photographs, images, art works, audio files, and video recordings

Unbound is a joint project of the Williams College Libraries and the Office for Information Technology. It is co-managed by the College Archivist, the Director of Instructional Technology and the Head of Research Services in partnership with a faculty advisory board, appointed annually by the Dean of the Faculty. Collections are owned or developed by collaborations of faculty, librarians and instructional technologists. Objects are submitted by any member of the Williams Community

Unbound connects a powerful and robust database at the backend, with a a rich set of search features, plus an iron-clad archival toolset and an attractive user interface. It also provides a flexible set of open standards allowing for the development of custom tools and extensions in support of original scholarship and publishing.

At the technical level, Unbound is built from a rich set of open source tools. The web site is implemented in Drupal, which is a widely used content management platform. Within Drupal we use a set of extensions called Islandora, which support display, management, and organization of digital objects. The digital objects themselves are stored in a Fedora Commons repository, and made searchable using a SOLR/Lucene engine.

Unbound grew out of the collaboration between Itech and the Library staff around the opening of the new Sawyer Library and the Center for Educational Techonologies that it houses. For a number of years, Itech and the College Archives had together developed digital online collections using the CONTENTdm platform. The vision for Unbound was to go beyond the capabilities of CONTENTdm, leveraging the joint skillsets of librarians, archivists and techologists to align more closely with the academic and administrative goals of the college and to add a more robust interoperability to collections, a more reliable set of preservation tools, and the ability to develop flexible and attractive extensions - to develop a truly institutional repository.

In the process of developing Unbound, we worked with several consulting companies, the broader community of Islandora developers and librarians and technologists at various peer institutions. Williams joined with four of our peers (Hamilton, Vassar, Grinnell and Lafayette) to found a cross-institution organization called the Islandora Collaboration Group (ICG), which enables us to more easily share expertise and software with a goal of implementing and supporting Islandora-based sites for small liberal arts colleges.

The Mellon foundation funded the original development of Islandora (at the core of the technology used in Unbound). A grant from Mellon has also supported the technical developments of the Unbound initiative at Williams to this point and will be used to facilitate the development of faculty collections and publications going forward. It also supports the inter-college collaborative work of the ICG.

More information about Unbound is available in the FAQ