During the Bamboo Planning Project, scholars who work with digital content from multiple repositories identified the heterogeneous formats used by those repositories as a barrier to efficient research workflows. Quoting from the funding proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for phase one of the Bamboo Technology Project:
In workshop 1 of the Bamboo Planning Project, at which participants were asked about current and future needs in the digital humanities, a significant number of participants raised the issue of collections interoperability and the related theme of content and tool interoperability. Because of the importance of this issue, the Bamboo Planning Project team created a strategic focus area on “Content Interoperability Partnerships” as one of the 11 major elements of Bamboo’s 7-10 year program document, which was presented at workshop 4 of the Bamboo Planning Project. [...] At workshop 4, approximately 30 institutional teams formally voted on which elements of this Program document Bamboo should focus on in the short term and which elements institutions were will to lead. In both rounds of voting “Content Interoperability Partnerships” was ranked in the top 2-3 categories.
This interest drove Bamboo’s efforts to develop a model for ‘normalizing’ the presentation of content from diverse repositories – without sacrificing the formats and detailed metadata specific to any given repository – in order to facilitate scholars’ use of digital tools for collecting, analyzing, and manipulating that content. Again, quoting from the funding proposal:
To support a broad range of scholarship in the humanities, scholars desperately need for distinct digital collections of research materials to become interoperable [...]. Interoperability must extend beyond support simply for resource discovery; scholars must be able to deploy tools and services across widely distributed collections without needing to be expert in every digital format used and every brand and version of repository software extent in academia today. Digital object descriptions must be rich enough and precise enough to support scholarly reference and allow the implementation of transformation and remediation tools and services that can facilitate digital information resource reuse and recombination, while simultaneously maintaining resource provenance adequate for scholarship.
Despite a variety of technical and policy challenges, we believe that Bamboo can make a significant contribution in this area, by defining standard methods for making digital content available to web services. Where existing protocols, practices or ontologies can be leveraged, we will do so, extending and profiling current community standards as required to meet the rigorous requirements of scholars. Simultaneously we will identify gaps in existing standards, and define new technical approaches, application profiles, and best practices as necessary. We will thus develop, adopt, and publish a set of guidelines, protocols, and specifications that will help content providers enhance interoperability by taking advantage of the Bamboo platform. We will also develop services that will gather usage data from collections. In this way, we can use the platform to track scholarly activity and the ways in which scholars use content collections. This in turn will allow us to understand where the efforts of Bamboo should be focused after the initial three-year building projects.
During phase one of the Bamboo Technology Project, the Collections Interoperability team undertook an effort to further explore and articulate humanist scholars needs with respect to digital materials. These explorations are described on the page Humanist Scholars' Use of Digital Materials.
A core technical deliverable of the Bamboo Technology Project was a Collections Interoperability Hub, encapsulating adapters to multiple, heterogeneous repositories of digital materials. The "CI Hub" was implemented first as a standalone web application, and then was refactored for deployment as part of the Bamboo Services Platform. The CI Hub architecture, design, and implementation are documented on the page Collection Interoperability Hub (CI Hub) architecture and implementation.
Work to normalize presentation of content without losing original format and metadata evolved into the "Bamboo Book Model," which was the 'target' model to which CI Hub adapters translated content from native-repository formats; and the model for storage in localized Research Environments meant to provide scholar-users with a means of accessing and aggregating content for application to digital tools. The Bamboo Book Model is described on the page Bamboo Book Model - Context and Design; while the scholar's-view of these materials through a Repository Browser is described on the page User Experience - Repository Browser - Local Fedora Objects.
[It's worth noting here that the localized Research Environment store, implemented in a FedoraCommons repository, is described in the Research Environments section of this documentation set, on the page Bamboo Book Model - CMIS Binding and Fedora Repository Implementation.]