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Preserving History for Future Generations: The King Center


There are few figures who have had as great an impact on the history of the last century as civil rights leader and social activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The King Center is an organization founded by Coretta Scott King after her husband’s assassination in 1968 that serves as a living memorial to Dr. King and helps promote his philosophy of using nonviolent methods to address social problems and economic inequality.

The King Center houses an archive of an estimated one million historic documents, including correspondence, speeches, handwritten notes, and photographs relating to Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Among these items are early drafts of famous speeches by Dr. King, letters and telegrams that he received from world leaders, and handwritten notecards where he jotted down his thoughts on race, religion, philosophy, and other topics.

In 2011, the King Center embarked on a massive effort to preserve and digitize these documents, which were previously not available to the public. As part of this project, the King Center needed a new website to enable people everywhere to learn firsthand from the wealth of knowledge stored in the King Center archives and other collections and to help the organization better connect with a new generation of people who have been inspired by Dr. King and his philosophy.

Working in collaboration with industry leaders in design, digital imaging and archiving, cloud storage, and technical strategy, including JPMorgan Chase, C&G Partners, Microstrategies, and EMC, Palantir.net built a Drupal site that integrates seamlessly with an Alfresco-based document repository utilizing Atmos cloud storage for performance and scalability.

The site’s design-forward look and feel highlights material from the collection for first-time visitors and also provides sophisticated tools that enable researchers to dig deep into the collection. To implement the site's design, Palantir leveraged the Zen theme framework, which enabled the creation of sophisticated page layouts, as well as the latest CSS3 techniques, the Sass stylesheet language, and the open source Compass CSS framework.

To create a document viewer for the Digital Archive that was compatible with a wide variety of browsers and devices, the jQuery JavaScript library was utilized. Standard plugins were extended with custom code in order to create the site’s distinct user interface.

Extensive pre-launch testing was conducted to ensure that the site accommodate an unknown amount of launch traffic. On launch day, the King Center site received a tremendous amount of publicity from international news outlets such as BBC News, USA Today, ABC News, CNN, and others. The site was also promoted at Madison Square Garden and on 16,000 Chase ATMs throughout the United States.

This treasure trove of material is not only a valuable resource for students, educators, and academics, but it’s also a great tool for community activists and others around the world seeking social change. The site is not only a great showcase for Drupal’s capabilities, but also a fantastic example of how Drupal can be used in combination with other technologies to help share knowledge and information that can help make the world a better place.