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in progress rebuild of Science History Institute Digital Collections
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Science History Institute Digital Collections

Build Status

In progress re-write of our Digital Collections application.

This one is based on the kithe toolkit, being developed in tandem.

Development Setup

To set up a development instance on your workstation.


  • ruby installed (I like using chruby and ruby-build to install/manage rubies, some like rvm)
    • gem install bundler on new ruby installation
  • (MacOS) XCode installed so C dependencies can be compiled
  • Postgres installed and running -- on MacOS, I like
  • yarn installed for webpacker -- on MacOS, brew install yarn.
  • vips installed -- on MacOS brew install vips
$ git clone
$ cd scihist_digicoll
$ bundle install
$ yarn install
$ rake db:setup

Run app with ./rails server, it will be available at http://localhost:3000.

Local Env

If you want to change defaults to our config/env variables (managed by ScihistDigicoll::Env), you can set them in your shell ENV (via .bash_profile, on the command line, or otherwise), OR you can create a local_env.yml or local_env_development.yml file. The latter may make sense if you don't want your particular settings to effect the test environment.

For instance, you can switch between whether files are stored in dev-s3 mode, or in the local file system, with:

STORAGE_MODE=dev_file rails server

Or by putting in a local_env[_development].yml file:

storage_mode: dev_file

Running tests


Development Notes


We are using webpacker (an ES6-style JS toolchain, supported by Rails 5.1+) for some javascript.

  • This is something of an experiment
  • We are also still using sprockets for some other javascript at present, in particular for browse-everything integration at present. Bootstrap and JQuery are still included under ordinary javascript, we are endeavoring not to use them in webpacker-controlled JS, but you should be able to use JQuery with var $ = window.jQuery;
  • We are still using sprockets to control our CSS (scss), not webpacker.
  • So at the moment our app includes both a sprockets manifest and a webpacker manifest in it's layout, and compiles both in dev and in production assets:precompile. Rails integration should make this just work. We have not at present experimented with running ./bin/webpack-dev-server separately in dev, we're just letting Rails do it the slower but just-works way.

Some references I found good for understanding webpacker in Rails:

Production deployment

We deploy to AWS, the deployment is done mostly automatically by some ansible playbooks:

There is some additional manual setup for S3 buckets:

Rake tasks

We shouldn't have to use the rake tasks as much, since there is now admin web interface for creating and editing accounts. But they are still there, as they can be convenient for setting up a dev environment or perhaps bootstrapping a production environment with an admin account, or in general automating things involving users.

./bin/rake scihist:user:create[]
./bin/rake scihist:user:send_password_reset[]
./bin/rake scihist:user:test:create[,password]
./bin/rake scihist:user:admin:grant[]
./bin/rake scihist:user:admin:revoke[]
./bin/rake scihist:user:admin:list

Global lock-out

Set logins_disabled: true in ./config/local_env.yml, or somehow set a shell env variable LOGINS_DISABLED=true -- then restart the app to pick up the changes. Now the app won't let anyone at all log in, and won't let anyone already logged in access protected screens.

This can be useful if we need to do some maintenance that doesn't bring down the public interface, but we want to keep staff out while it goes on, so they can't edit things.

This feature was in our v1 sufia-based app, we copied it over.

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