A New Publishing Tool
We are developing Quire, a new publishing tool—optimized for publication discoverability and longevity—that uses a static-site generator, Hugo, to create and output titles in multiple formats from plain text files. E-book files are distribution-ready for Amazon, Apple, and other vendors; PDF files are print-on-demand ready. And the online edition can be hosted on any web server, with no special configurations or installations necessary and no backend databases or content management system to update and support over the long term.
What Is Static-Site Generation?
In traditional website publishing, a content management system (CMS) is connected to collections and image databases (1) and set up on a server (2). The CMS is used to create the website, and once the website is published, the CMS rebuilds the site pages each time they are loaded by a user (3). Thus, the CMS must be kept running for the lifetime of the publication.
In static-site publishing, the CMS is just software and a folder of files on your, the publisher’s, computer (1) that are used to build the site. The site files are then uploaded to the server (2), and users (3) access them directly. You only need to run the site software and upload new files if you want to make updates to the publication.
Other arts institutions using static sites:
- Carnegie Museum of Art builds its collection pages with Middleman
- Australian Centre for the Moving Image created an open-source audio-tour package with Jekyll.
- The Clyfford Still Museum published an online catalogue with the Simply Static plugin for WordPress.
More on static sites: “Why Static Site Generators are the Next Big Thing”
Plain Text Publishing with Markdown
For content editing, Quire supports Markdown, an easy-to-use text format popular in many academic and technology sectors. Markdown is a plain text format that allows for easier reuse of content than do proprietary formats, is easy to archive, and allows for fine-grained revision tracking.
Formatting in Markdown is simply a matter of using the right characters: asterisks for italics, hash marks for headings, parentheses and brackets for link texts and urls:
*italics* ## Heading 2 [Visit the Getty!](http://www.getty.edu)
Working in Markdown also circumvents the need for an extra layer of interface, where errors are prone to happen. Editors are able to work directly on the source texts for the final publications. A correction made in the source doesn’t need to go through another program or a design workflow. You simply make a change, preview it in the publication, and save it to the project. Read more in “An Editor’s View of Digital Publishing.”
See It in Action
The video is a peek at the alpha version of Quire. The process may look unusual, but compare it to setting up a new WordPress installation on your server and then maintaining that site for years to come, or signing up for a proprietary web platform that you have to hope will be in business two years from now. Quire files can be hosted anywhere—on your museum’s existing server, any inexpensive web hosting service, or even GitHub.
- Multiformat publishing (with Prince XML for PDF)
- Templates optimized for both catalogue entries and essays
- Zoomable image support
- SEO and accessibility optimized
- Automatic page-level citation generation
- Full documentation
We're not just builders of the tool, we're users too. Quire will continue to be our primary tool for digital publishing. That means we’ll continue to make improvements and address any issues moving forward. A few of the things we’ll be integrating into future versions of the tool:
- Pop-up glossaries and footnotes
- Interactive maps
- Multiple object views
- An expanding suite of design templates