Metadata between Archivists’ Toolkit and ArchivesSpace

The following post was submitted by students enrolled in LIS2407 – Metadata at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. For more information on the series, see the introductory post

By Dominique Luster and Jon Klosinski

Archivists’ Toolkit (AT) is an open source content management system designed to assist archival institutions in asserting intellectual control over their archival collections and representing them in the most discoverable way possible. These representations are generally presented in archival records or in a public interface in the form of a finding aid. According to the AT website, the purpose of this system is to “support archival processing and production of access instruments, promote data standardization, promote efficiency, and lower training costs.” AT offers substantive movement forward in the means of controlling archival metadata. Like most content management systems, the idea of mandatory descriptive fields is a strength for AT. Yet the lack of standards within those mandatory descriptive fields is a significant drawback.

Most institutions utilizing AT rely on supplemental metadata standards to determine how they create their finding aid records. A few of these standards include the General International Standard Archival Description (ISAD(G)), Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), Encoded Archival Description (EAD), International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (ISAAR (CPF)-EAC) and as well as more commonly known bibliographic standards such as AACR and MARC.

Despite the fact that AT cannot stand alone and leans heavily on the usage of other metadata standards, the system is flexible enough to be compliant with various types of outputs. For example, AT has the ability to both import and export EAD markup language and MARC XML records. Additionally, it has the ability to export MARC XML, MODS, DC, and METS (with MODS or DC). AT also has a number of metadata limitations. Its primary limitation is that there is no authority control or reinforcements between mandatory internal standards and external standards.

While AT does have the ability to export EAD, HTML, and PDF versions of finding aids, it lacks a central interface necessary for providing online access. ArchivesSpace, the open source successor to AT, attempts to extend the metadata management functionality AT users are accustomed to into a new public interface which is accessible to non-institutional or account-authenticated users. The public interface includes plugins for additional output formats of resource and digital object records. In comparison with AT, ArchiveSpace’s public interface provides a very convenient way to retrieve various object representations. Supported formats for resource retrieval in ArchiveSpace include EAD, HTML, MARCXML and EAD PDF. Supported formats for digital object access include DC, METS and MODS.

ArchivesSpace has also improved upon AT’s digital object metadata management functionality. AT contains a digital object module that can export a MODS records of a selected object. Institutions can configure their EAD finding aids to contain links to digital objects managed in an external system (CONTENTdm, Omeka, DSpace, Islandora, etc.). However, ArchivesSpace has rectified many issues that AT users have cited such as container-level URIs not correctly exporting, as well as digital object IDs not appearing in the exported MODS file. In terms of importing digital object metadata, the ArchivesSpace digital object management tool has corrected the limitations imposed by AT on importing creator and subject metadata, along with ensuring automatic linking between digital object and resource record metadata upon import.

Mike Bolam

Mike Bolam works as the Metadata Librarian in Digital Scholarship Services at the University of Pittsburgh. His primary responsibilities metadata management for digital collections and metadata support for research data management. In his spare time, Mike plays a lot of games and watches too much pro-wrestling.

2 Responses

  1. Gail Truman says:

    Mike do you have any info you can share about using ArchiveSpace with Islandora? We tried downloading MODS and Islandora didn’t display anything other than our title, and also we could not get ASpace to include the use statement. Any info greatly appreciated!

    • Mike Bolam says:

      Gail, these posts were done by students in my class, but I have a little experience in this area.

      I haven’t looked closely at the MODS output from ArchivesSpace, but I’m guessing the Solr configuration isn’t properly tuned to handle the “out of the box” MODS from AS. It would require either making the AS MODS look more like the what Solr is expecting, or making adjustments to the Solr configuration to handle the AS MODS that is ingested.

      Re: “use statement” – I’m not sure how AS generates MODS. It’s likely that there is an XSLT stylesheet in the files that is used to create the MODS from the database information. If I remember correctly, that’s how Archivists’ Toolkit worked, at least. You might be able to tweak that stylesheet to push missing fields into the record. That’s just speculation, though.

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