Making Our Collections More Accessible Online with ArchivesSpace

by Steven Bookman, University Archivist

Although I worked from home every Friday for a semester while working at William & Mary, it has been several years, and it was hard to get back into the rhythm. Working from home does have its advantages: you can be more productive, can work at your own pace, and it does force you to take breaks every now and then! Like those in the software field, I am finding telework to be a great advantage for doing database cleanup. This year, Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be migrating its Special Collections Database of finding aids into a new collection management system called ArchivesSpace. One of the tasks that I will be working on from home is cleaning up the current database to make sure it is ready to be migrated to ArchivesSpace.

Sneak Peek of ArchivesSpace Interface

I spent most of this week getting re-acclimated into the telework mindset: scheduling my day, setting up my home office, and viewing a LinkedIn Learning course on telework. Before having our own test instance of ArchivesSpace up, I wanted to see what our current finding aids might look like in the new system. The hosted test instance of ArchivesSpace provides a place for institutions to upload versions of their finding aids, accessions, and digital objects for testing. In this way, if anything goes wrong, it will not affect their current, live instance.  Admittedly, after spending over 12 years working with Archon, the new interface requires some time getting used to.

After creating a sample repository for SCUA, I uploaded two finding aids (manuscript and university archives) to the system. The new interface takes advantage of a lot of graphics and icons (collections, accessions, creators, digital collections, etc..), so I wanted to see if I could put at least one item in each icon. Unlike our current system, Archon, users can search both across all the repositories in the collection as well as narrow down your search to just one repository. This gives the researcher the flexibility of getting a lot of relevant hits as well as focusing their search to just one institution. After adding in record groups, accessions, and digital materials, SCUA staff can see what the current finding aids will look like in the new system. Although it may look a bit daunting to get used to at first, I believe the new collection management system will be an improvement over the current one.

Stay tuned for future updates about the status of SCUA’s Special Collections Database migration.