Calisphere is based on a harvest model, where we pull in item records (metadata and associated thumbnails) from your digital collections platform. These harvested item records point users to the content published through your own digital collections platform.

Setting up the harvesting process requires some initial setup at the beginning, so that we can establish a connection with your digital collections platform. Most contributors have found the harvest process to be quick and easy. Although it requires some set-up at the beginning, once the process is in place, we can easily grab new collections (and pick up changes and additions to existing collections).

The information provided on this page introduces early considerations to get started, including:

  • how the Calisphere harvester may connect to your digital collections platform;
  • collections that can be shared openly and publicly through Calisphere;
  • Calisphere’s metadata requirements; 
  • steps to harvesting, reviewing, and publishing collections to Calisphere.

This page also outlines our ongoing partnership to steward and maintain your shared collections, with considerations to:

  • updating or adding to your shared digital collections in Calisphere;
  • responding to public inquiries about your digital collections;
  • and ensuring long-term access to your digital collections.

Digital collections system/platform considerations

One key factor is that your items are hosted on a digital collections system or platform. The digital collections also need to be published online, with a public way for users to view and access these items. Additionally, the system needs to provide some way to programmatically share the metadata.

An inventory of platforms that Calisphere has established a connection and harvested from is available on our “Supported Harvest Methods and Platforms” page.

Ready to begin sharing collections with Calisphere?

Let’s get started by setting up a time to meet: we can discuss details about your digital collections and platforms, map out the best method for harvesting your collections, and work towards establishing a process. Please send us an email with the following information:

  • Digital collections platform: What platform(s) is your organization using to manage your digital collections?
  • Public access: How do users view/access these digital collections? (URL)

During our meeting with you, we will ask several questions (listed below) to help us better understand the platform(s) you are working with, as well as the collections you steward. Please do not feel the need to have responses prepared for these questions ahead of our meeting; these questions are intended to help guide our discussion as we get to know your needs and goals. We also welcome questions from you during this meeting.

Sharing collections with Calisphere: Establishing a harvesting connection with your platform

We can harvest metadata from a range of sources and by using different methods. We would like to understand the options and configurations available in your platform.

  • Sharing data programmatically: Does your digital collections platform support a protocol or method for sharing metadata (e.g., does it support OAI-PMH or have an Application Programming Interface, or API)? Can you provide a test output/feed of the metadata for us to review?
  • Sharing metadata: What is the general extent of the metadata that can be provided by your platform? 

Sharing collections with Calisphere: Evaluating shareability of digital collections

Calisphere aims to support best practices and community values regarding access to historical materials. Please note that Calisphere currently provides support for metadata and associated thumbnails that can be openly and publicly discoverable.

This section will provide an overview to help evaluate the shareability of the digital content, and identify digital collections for contribution to Calisphere. Please see additional details about supported scope of content and responsible access considerations

  • About your digital collections:
    • What collections would you like to share with Calisphere?
    • What are the topical scope(s) of the collections?
    • What kinds of forms/genres of materials are represented in the collections?
  • About any access requirements: 
    • Please let us know if you steward digital collections that include mediated or restricted access; and to what degree they are publicly available to researchers, and your method for providing limited access.

Sharing collections with Calisphere: Modeling digital collections and item records

Calisphere's harvest works on a collection-by-collection basis. You define which collection(s) you'd like to publish in Calisphere.

  • Is there a way to subset the items by collection through the protocol or method supported by your platform? By "collection," we mean a group of items which you’d like to appear together as a set within the Calisphere interface. 
    • [If not, is there anything in the metadata with information about the collection, with which an object is associated?]
  • Do any collections have any multi-page or multi-part items (“complex objects” or “compound objects”). If so, how are complex objects represented in the platform?

Sharing collections with Calisphere: Metadata requirements and considerations

In order to provide a consistent display experience for users of the Calisphere website, we need a core metadata record for each item along with a thumbnail (particularly for image-based images). This section provides an overview to prepare metadata according to our current requirements, informed by inclusive description practices.

Calisphere metadata requirements:

Calisphere currently requires a handful of key metadata fields, indicated in this Supported Metadata and Inclusive Description Considerations page. We require some key bits of metadata -- if it's not in your records, no problem!  We can globally "inject" the metadata at the time we harvest -- we'll just need to confer with you on what information should be added.

  • Our minimum descriptive metadata requirements include:
    • Title: a descriptive title for the item
    • Identifier: a unique identifier for the item
    • Rights status: a statement or indicator of the rights and/or re-use terms for the item. Please let us know if you are using standardized rights or re-use protocols (e.g., Creative Commons,, Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels, etc.
    • Type: a term characterizing format or type of the item, using the Dublin Core Type Vocabulary
    • Note that we support (and encourage) more descriptive records (see section below).
  • Our functional discovery requirements include:
    • Webpage URL to the item record: this URL will point users to access/view the digital content in your local platform. It is typically something we can derive, based on the protocol or method your digital collections system uses to share metadata.
    • Image file URL to display a thumbnail for image-based items (optional for audio/visual and document-based items).: This URL is also typically something we can derive, based on the protocol or method your digital collections system uses to share metadata.

Inclusive metadata considerations:

In addition to our current metadata requirements, here are some additional considerations to prepare metadata records. Please include sufficient descriptive information so researchers may analyze the digital primary source records in context of their cultural and historical significance.

  • Do the item records have supporting descriptions to provide appropriate historical context?
  • Does your organization assess digital collections and records for outdated terms and/or biased language in the description?
  • Does your organization maintain guidelines specifying how you describe items and/or re-assess descriptions of items in your digital collections? Are there particular conventions, taxonomies, or standards that you utilize?

Please feel free to view our suggested resources listed in our “Shared Readings, Resources, and Considerations: Inclusive Practices for Access and Description” page.

Full-text transcriptions in the metadata:

Calisphere dedicates all harvested metadata to the public domain through a CC0 Public Domain Dedication, as stated on the Calisphere Metadata and Digital Content Re-Use page. For this reason, we are unable to support  full-text transcriptions represented in the metadata. Please let us know if you are including full-text transcriptions from the digital resource in the metadata, and we can work with you to suppress that information from the Calisphere item record.

Sharing collections with Calisphere: Next steps

Before wrapping up our discussion, we can discuss whether you are able to provide a test output/feed of the metadata from your platform, including any digital collections you would like to include. Once that output/feed is available, we will then be able to develop a method to connect to your platform from our Calisphere harvester. We’ll be in touch to share results, as well as any additional questions that come up along the way.

Contributing digital collections to Calisphere

Once we have established a connection with your platform, we can easily harvest new collections and pick up changes and additions to existing collections. Below is a quick summary of the steps, described in more detail in How to Contribute Collections:

Steps to harvesting and publishing collections:

  • Request harvesting collections: We’ll work with you to establish a harvesting connection to your digital collections system, determine the collections that you’d like to initially share, and verify the metadata so that it can be successfully harvested. Please submit a harvest request if you have new collections to share. 
  • Test harvest and QA: We'll then run a test metadata harvest, so you can preview & QA check the records in a Calisphere stage environment, and review the resulting metadata.
  • Publish to Calisphere: If everything looks OK in the stage environment, we'll ask for your approval to publish the records in Calisphere.

Updating or adding to published collections:

We also support re-harvesting processes, if you make any updates or changes to digital collections. Please feel free to submit a re-harvest request if you have added/removed items to your collections, or if you have updated any metadata. Please also feel free to contact us directly if you would like to request immediate removal of any items for any privacy or ethical reasons.

Responding to public inquiries about item records

As indicated in our Calisphere/OAC Contributing Member Service Policy, we appreciate your continued involvement to:

  • Respond to public inquiries pertaining to access and use of the collections.
  • Respond to public and/or CDL inquiries regarding removal, remediation, and other requests due to legal or ethical considerations (e.g. content not suited for broad access; updating metadata and/or content; etc.).

When we receive user inquiries that pertain to your collections, we will follow our proposed steps to share User inquiries received via the Calisphere/OAC “Contact” forms with you, and confer with you to address any necessary follow-up steps.

Long-term support for the platform

Please let us know If you are considering, or are in-process of, conducting changes to your digital collections platform, such as: migrating your digital collections to a new digital asset management platform; changing the domain name for your digital collections site; or updating security certifications to your site. 

Since Calisphere is based on a metadata harvesting model where we pull in metadata and thumbnails that point to content hosted on your own site or system, we would like to help ensure that Calisphere continues to point users to your item links.

  • Does your organization have any plans to migrate platforms in the near future?
  • Does the current platform support persistent or stable URLs to item records? 
  • Does the platform have measures in place to support redirects of URLs if you update the site domain name (e.g., “” to “”) or update your security certification (e.g., move from “http://” to “https://”)?