DVAG MEETING 9/23/2013 BRADLEY WESTBROOK – ARCHIVESSPACE

Contributed by Val Lutz

Update on ArchivesSpace: Version 1.0 was released October 8 and is now available at http://www.archivesspace.org/archivesspace-1-0-released/.

Brad WestbrookBradley Westbrook, developer of Archivists Toolkit and now ArchivesSpace Program Manager, presented on ArchivesSpace at the September DVAG meeting, held at the American Philosophical Society.  Westbrook began with an overview of the development of ArchivesSpace and discussed the merger of archival data management systems Archivists Toolkit and Archon.

He described ArchivesSpace as “a project instigated and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for integrating the best qualities of Archon and the ArchivistsToolkit into a ‘next generation’ archives management tool.”  The project includes the development of “a sustainable partnership and a community to support and foster the growth of the software and is a community effort led by the libraries of New York University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of California, San Diego.

The planning phase, from Fall 2009  through Winter 2011 was “an iterative process” in which they sent out the functional requirements and solicited feedback from institutions.  This included a series of webinars to which they invited 10 Archon users, 10 Archivists Toolkit users, and ten people representing standards developers.  The process is described at http://www.archivesspace.org/documents/ but is likely to be moved to another URL in the future.  Data from the community survey is available at http://www.chrisprom.com/stats.html

In the development phase, from July 2011 to Fall 2013, “there were no beta releases but several alpha releases.”  In the few weeks prior to the talk, Westbrook described how they had begun to develop migration tools for the many legacy Archivists Toolkit and Archon systems to ArchivesSpace–what he described “a side project but very integral.”

He noted that finding an organizational home was particularly important to the development of ArchivesSpace and, at the end, they decided to base the project at LYRASIS, which is itself a merger of four communities.  ArchivesSpace is supported through a tiered membership model, with five membership categories.

The challenge of dealing with two legacy systems was that they had to find a way to merge the best of both systems.  “Archivists Toolkit was always designed to be a robust collection management tool.  The metadata products authored would be uploaded into various things” such as online public access catalogs (OPACS) and union catalogs.  AT was created with partners such as New York University and the University of California San Diego who had the kind of technical infrastructure required for this.

Archon, on the other hand, “was motivated more by providing collection access – less on the data model than on access through the web,” with an emphasis on being accessed by users.  “Both of these had to be wedded into one application,” he noted, with two interfaces: a public interface and a staff-side user interface.

Requirements included no login, making data available, enabling people to get on the web and look at materials or ones entered into ArchivesSpace from one repository or multiple repositories.  ArchivesSpace includes three options for data: (1) making everything available, (2) making nothing available, or (3) a lot of options in between.  Examples of the last category might include restricting information about “personnel files that you don’t want to draw attention to but want to keep, collections that aren’t processed, notes that you think are sensitive.”

Three significant questions from attendees related to whether ArchivesSpace allows for tracking collection use, whether location information can be attached to records, and the availability of ArchivesSpace training.

Westbrook pointed out that, as an archival data management system, ArchivesSpace is designed for collection description, not circulation management.  He noted that systems such as Aeon are designed to track collection use and may be used in conjunction with ArchivesSpace, just as they are with Archivists Toolkit and Archon.

Loation information may be attached to records and using instances, “any content in archival form can be represented,” he said.  Using the example of parchment paper documents, he noted that they could be photocopied, microfilmed, and digitized, with each having a different location in the stacks–all of which could be recorded in ArchivesSpace.

With regard to training, he noted that although there is “no formal training at this point, it is a high priority.”  There will be at least two training tactics: one- or two-day workshops and a possible three-day workshop that would cover all aspects.  These will be done in collaboration with SAA and regional archives groups and some with organizations.  About 3/5 of the training that they’ve done has been in the form of contracts, in which trainers were brought in for people in particular areas or organizations.  Another tactic, he noted, will be to put up web tutorials as AT, CDL, and Digital Archives Initiative did for AT a little while ago.

Following the talk, DVAG members talked with Westbrook and among themselves about future plans for working with ArchivesSpace in their institutions and about other topics such as projects at their institutions and the upcoming Fall MARAC meeting in Philadelphia.

Westbrook’s presentation can be viewed here: ASpace Presentation to DVAG–20130923-Philadelphia


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