Introducing ArchivesSpace for researchers and public users, as well as the administrative side for our Archives Team within the Centre for Research Collections, has been an ongoing project for the last 18 months. It has taken us a while to get the service live for a number of reasons and we have learnt lots along the way.
ArchivesSpace is free open source software and is easy to set-up using Jetty and MySQL, however some of our requirements have meant getting to grips with the underlying set-up and APIs of the system. We have also joined ArchivesSpace as paid members as this enables us to get additional support through documentation and mailing lists.
Import of authority controls
We had an existing MySQL database containing thousands of authority terms collected by the Archives Team. It was very important for us to keep these and import them into our ArchivesSpace instance. We imported the subjects using the ArchivesSpace API. Learning how to use the API was made easier by the Hudson Molonglo Youtube videos. We have written simple PHP scripts to allow us to connect to the ArchivesSpace backend and import the subjects and agents from MySQL database exports of our existing authority terms. After some trial and error we have imported 9275 subjects and 13703 agents into ArchivesSpace.
For a while the authorities were not linking with the resources migrated into ArchivesSpace by the Archives Team, via the EAD importer. To enable the authorities to link we had to make modifications to the EAD importer in the plugins. The changes are available to view on our Github code repository. We also made changes to the importer to allow us to get a greater understanding of why EAD imports were failing. The reasons why EAD failed to import have changed as new versions of ArchivesSpace were released and the EAD importer is quite strict. The Archives Team migrated 16836 resources (including components) for launch on 9th June.
API for other things
We have also used the API to run through all resources imported from EAD and publish them. By default they were not all published and a lot of the notes and details of the resources were hidden from the public interface. Therefore being able to script the publishing was a great time saver.
We decided to run ArchivesSpace under Tomcat as it is a web server that we have a lot of experience with. However, ArchivesSpace runs easily under Jetty and running it under Tomcat has caused us some headaches, due to URLs issues and the fact that the Tomcat installation script adds a lot of files to Tomcat and not just the web apps.
We have customised the user interface for the administrative and public front ends of ArchivesSpace. These changes were made within the local plugin. The look and feel has been made to fit in with our other services such as collections.ed and the colour scheme of the University. This was relatively straightforward as ArchivesSpace UI is based on Twitter Bootstrap. Unfortunately the public UI images were displaying when running in Jetty but not in Tomcat. After some copying of files the images appeared.
The Public ArchivesSpace Portal http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk
It has taken longer than we had initially hoped to launch ArchivesSpace for a number of reasons. Primarily as early adopters of software there were issues that we did not foresee when the initial version was made available. The ArchivesSpace members mailing list is very active, as it is a new system there are lots of shared questions from those getting to grips with the system and working through their implementation. ArchivesSpace, particularly Chris Fitzpatrick, have helped steer us in the right direction and shared code. The migration of EAD has been a huge task that has been undertaken by Deputy Archives Manager, Grant Buttars, it has been great to work with him and to get a greater understanding of the format of EAD when resolving issues with failing imports.
We still have lots to do with the system to leverage its full functionality and fully showcase our amazing archives collection through links to http://collections.ed.ac.uk and our image repository. So watch this space.
This post follows on from Grant’s post http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/edinburghuniversityarchives/2015/06/22/implementing-archivesspace/
Library Digital Development Team