PA Digital Team members have recently been hard at work implementing a new aggregator to better gather and review contributor collections for exposure through the DPLA. We’re moving away from our homegrown aggregator and are adopting Combine, an application developed at Wayne State University as part of the Michigan DPLA Hub, and naming our local instance “Funnel Cake”. This new aggregator environment allows our team to bring in qualified Dublin Core metadata and generally a wider variety of metadata formats, offers more flexibility for PA Digital team members and our contributors in the metadata review and harvesting processes, and comes with a supportive developer community around Combine. We are writing to keep you in the loop on this exciting upgrade and to answer some questions you may have about this process.

What is Funnel Cake?

Funnel Cake is our local nickname for Combine (and a delicious treat with roots here in Pennsylvania, so a perfect fit for our new aggregator name). Combine is “an application to facilitate the harvesting, transformation, analysis, and publishing of metadata records by Service Hubs for inclusion in the DPLA”. It is a stack of technology that allows PA Digital team members to harvest contributor records in various formats and transform them into a standardized format for display in the DPLA interface. More Combine documentation can be found here.

George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photographs, Courtesy of the Temple University Special Collections Research Center.

What does this mean for my institution’s records? Will this affect any of my institution’s records in the DPLA?

Your records will remain intact and unchanged. Our team is working over the next several months to update the existing harvested content to meet our new system requirements and workflows. This work will happen on our end and will be done by our team, though we may contact individual contributors if needed. All of your records will remain accessible through the DPLA as we work through this process. This upgrade helps our team be more nimble and flexible in transforming your metadata for ingest in the DPLA without much, or any, work from you.

What will the harvest process look like with the new aggregator?

Previously, you may have had to remap metadata fields to fit our system needs and workflows. Funnel Cake gives us more flexibility in accepting these metadata variations. What this means for you is that if your institution unmapped things locally, you can remap these fields, then just let us know when your OAI output map changes. We can adjust things on our end without you having to remap your local fields.

If you already work with a digital repository such as Historic Pittsburgh or PA Photos and Documents from HSLC, much of the metadata mapping has been taken care of for you. You should not need to do anything! If you have questions about how your metadata looks or these changes, please talk to your hosting provider.

What will the metadata review process look like with the new aggregator?

The metadata review process will remain the same. If you are an ongoing contributor and have a new collection to contribute, we’ll run through the same metadata review process and make any suggestions. If you are a new contributor and have gone through the onboarding process, we’ll review your metadata and make any recommendations for updating fields to align with our guidelines.

Funnel Cake makes it easier for us at PA Digital to accept a wider variety of metadata formats and digital materials than we previously could intake. This is great new for us and for you! If you have legacy systems, such as PastPerfect online, we can work with you to get your collections exposed through PA Digital.

If you already work with a digital repository such as Historic Pittsburgh or PA Photos and Documents from HSLC and have any questions about these processes, contact them for more information.

Is there anything I need to do on my end as a contributor?

Not if you don’t want to! If you do decide to do any remapping in the future, please just let us know.

Will the aggregator be publicly accessible?

We may explore adding a user interface to the aggregator as a way to expose the metadata records. For now, we’ll be focusing on getting everything working on the back-end, but look out for more updates on this in the future.

Who is involved in doing this work at PA Digital?

Rachel Appel, Leanne Finnigan, Holly Tomren, Emily Toner, Steven Ng, and Chad Nelson are the wonderful PA Digital Team members working hard to get the aggregator up and running. A special thank you to Wayne State University and the Michigan DPLA Hub for their support in this initiative.

If you have any questions about Funnel Cake or our aggregator process, please reach out to us at

1 Comment

A New Approach to PA Digital Aggregation – PA Digital · August 18, 2021 at 8:07 am

[…] an application developed at Wayne State University as part of the Michigan DPLA Hub (see our previous blog post). After much trial-and-error, we ultimately decided to use a set of tools already supported by […]

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