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Archivists’Toolkit. LI851XI Information Technology, Spring2012 Emporia State University Yumi Ohira. Archivists’ Toolkit The Archivists’ Toolkit, or the AT, is the first open source archival data

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Archivists toolkit


LI851XI Information Technology, Spring2012

Emporia State University


Archivists toolkit

Archivists’ Toolkit

The Archivists’ Toolkit, or the AT, is the first open source archival data

management system to provide broad, integrated support for the management of archives. The AT has been intended for a wide range of archival repositories. The AT offers access to a wide range of on-line and published resources for archivists and archives workers at all levels.

The AT application is meant to be easily accessible by archives staff for collection management and creation/maintenance of metadata to support digitally described archival collections.

Archivists toolkit

The AT application is meant to be easily accessible by archives staff for collection management and creation/maintenance of metadata to support digitally described archival collections.





(*a finding aid)

** EAD (Encoded Archival Description) or MARCXML (Machine Readable Cataloging XML) file

Archivists toolkit

* Finding aids

A finding aid is a description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials. Finding aids can be presented in a variety of formats, for example, Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), Dynamic Hyper Text Markup Language (DHTML), Extensible Markup Language (XML), and EAD.

Archivists toolkit

** EAD (Encoded Archival Description)

EAD is the encoding standard of finding aids for use in a network or online environment. The main purpose of the EAD initiation is to support the use of archival holdings with a nonproprietary encoding standard for machine-readable finding aids. This concept is similar to the Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) standards used by libraries for describing library materials. However, there are some major differences between an archival description and a bibliographic one such as that found in a MARC record. The bibliographic description represents individual published item or single item level, and it is based on the physical item. On the other hand, the archival description represents a fonds or the entire body of records in more than one form, sharing a common provenance with the records. The archival description is thus fonds level and creates a complex and hierarchical structure of the entire body and its sub-components with emphasis on provenance.

Archivists toolkit

The AT project is a collaboration of the University of California San Diego Libraries, the New York University Libraries and the Five Colleges, Inc. Libraries, and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The AT project has been rigorously committed to developing an open-source, low barrier (technologically and financially) application to support archival work.

Archivists toolkit

  • Purpose of AT

  • The main goals of the AT include:

  • Support archival processing and production of access instruments

    • accessioning and describing archival materials

    • establishing names and subjects associated with archival

  • materials, including the names of donors

    • managing locations for the materials

    • exporting EAD finding aids, MARCXML records, METS,

  • MODS, and Dublin Core records

  • Promote data standardization, promote efficiency, and lower training costs

  • Archivists toolkit

    • Phase 2

    • The AT consists of a Java desktop client communicating with the AT database located on MySQL, SQL Server, or Oracle database server.

    • The AT’s current version is Version 2.0.0 (Update 5), released in April 2010.

    • The 2nd development phase has 3 key objectives:

      • Key 1: Refine the performance and functionality of the AT Version 1.0

      • Key 2: Introduce new functionality

      • Key 3: Formulate and implement a business plan, in collaboration with an expert business consultant

    Archivists toolkit

    • Key 1: Refine the performance and functionality of the AT Version 1.0

    • enrich records to support export of assessment data to the Archival Metrics group (

    • establish a one to many relationship from name to name contact information so that multiple contact data can be recorded for each name

    • promote digital object records to a primary level

    • supporting tracking of temporary locations

    • redesign the subject module to include more subject types and support faceted headings

    • include more data entry time saver devices like the Rapid Data Entry Screen and Repository Default Values already present in Version 1.0.

    • support batch import and export processes.

    Archivists toolkit

    • Key2: Introduce new functionality

      • support for user registration/use tracking, rights management, and appraisal

      • create the AT application interoperable with user authentication systems and digital repository applications

    • Key3: Formulate and implement a business plan, in collaboration with an expert business consultant

      • implement a community governance model for the application

      • develop a user community

      • establish an effective process for supporting use and development of the application, as well a sufficient staffing model

    Archivists toolkit

    • Product Installation

    • Before Installation

    • An ‘empty’ (no user created tables) database on MySQL, SQL Server, or Oracle is required before installation of the AT.

    • An admin logon with DBO access must be set up in the database for use by the AT application.

    • JavaVirtual Machine must be installed on client computer before or at the time of installation of the AT. The AT client is a Java desktop application available for Mac OS, Windows, and Linux operating systems.

    • The AT is a client-only application, without any server component. The AT client uses the AT database located on database server. JDBC database connection URL, user ID, and password are specified to facilitate communication between the AT client and database server.

    Archivists toolkit

    Download and Install the Client

    The installation is brief, easy and involves only a few prompts.

    1. To download the latest AT client installer from the Archivists' Toolkit web site ( Go to this web site.

    2. Choose the latest download that matches your operating system.

    3. If more than one download is available for your operating system, one usually includes the Java virtual machine and one does not.

    Archivists toolkit

    Start Client and Save Session Profile(s)

    After successful installation of the AT, the AT database maintenance program must be run to initialize/update the AT database. Database connection URL, database admin user ID, and password are specified for identifying the AT database.

    Next, repository information is entered.

    Finally, the AT user ID and password are entered to set up the AT user. The resulting client application user will be a “super user” with all access privileges within the AT.

    Archivists toolkit

    Now the AT administrator can run the AT client and finish initial configuration/setup.

    All configuration/set up activities can be performed through the AT’s Setup menu.

    Use database connection data (connection URL, server type, database admin user ID and password) and the AT super user data (super user ID and password).

    Archivists toolkit

    Next, create user IDs for the AT users and grant them access class as required.

    The AT supports five access classes—Super User, Repository Manager, Project Manager, Advance Data Entry, and Beginning Data Entry.

    Other items that can be setup/configured are: repositories, rapid data entry screens, lookup lists, notes, and date format. In addition to these AT data tables and fonts can also be configured.

    Super User

    Repository Manager

    Beginning Data Entry

    Project Manager

    Advance Data Entry

    Archivists toolkit

    All other AT users can now download and install AT client on their PC. They will specify database connection data (connection URL, server type, database admin user ID and password) mentioned above for serverconnection and log in using the AT user IDs and password assigned to them.

    AT User Interface

    Archivists toolkit

    Why did you adopt the Archivists’ Toolkit?

    The AT has been implemented by a wide range of archival repositories.

    Among other archival management systems such as Archon and ICA AtoM , why did the users choose the AT?

    Archivists toolkit

    • Hadassah Archives’ case

    • One of their systems was a beta tester on the Toolkit. They had been struggling with an older database, and they wanted to develop a workflow that would allow them to export their finding aids to the Center for Jewish History (CJH) catalog, because Hadassah is not a full partner at the Center and the collection operates as one-person archive. They were looking for a database with the following attributes:

      • easily work with it, with little in-house support needed

      • easily teach interns and part-time workers to use it

      • hierarchical and expandable

      • Inexpensive

      • Create finding aids that looked and functioned like the other finding aids at CJH, which had been created with other databases

      • Compatible with the CJH catalog – to be able to export files to the CJH, without a lot of customization

    Archivists toolkit

    • Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives (MAA)’ case

    • Prior to implementation of the AT, there had been minimal integration across the Museum of procedures for managing this work, and no common technical platform for storing data associated with archival management functions.

    • The AT was the first electronic collections management system employed by the Archives for their traditionally processed collections. In this sense, they did not have to deal with the issues of data migration that have proved challenging to other institutions.

    • Implementation of the Toolkit gave them the opportunity

      • reinforce and disseminate our processing procedures

      • promote consistency and efficiency in handling archival materials across the Museum to bring the institution in line with best practices at peer institutions

      • perform in a variety of MMA departments, including the Museum Archives, libraries, and curatorial departments.

    Archivists toolkit

    What are differences between the AT and other collection management tools, such as Archon and ICA-AtoM?

    What are the advantages and the disadvantages of the AT?

    Archivists toolkit

    Are these actually “Cons”?

    Con 1: Limited digital object management/manipulation capacity

    Con 2: No integrated web publication features and search/browse

    Archivists toolkit

    • Con 1: Limited digital object management/manipulation capacity

    • AT Version 1.5 / Version 2.0

    • Version 2.0

    • New Features:

      • Revised Digital Object module, so that Digital Object records can be created and managed independent of Resource records.

      • Tab-delimited Digital Object import

      • Batch export of Digital Objects

      • Assessment module

      • New reports for Digital Object and Assessment modules

      • Revision of all other reports (Names, Subjects, Accessions, Resources)

      • Improved stylesheets for EAD to PDF and EAD to HTML outputs

      • Bug fixes as noted in release notes

    • The AT Version 2.0 covers the one of the two Cons,

    • “Limited digital objectmanagement/manipulation

    • capacity”.

    Archivists toolkit


    ? “No integrated web publication features” !

    Archon and ICA-AtoM are entirely Web based, while other such software requires a desktop client (typically a PC) and connect to a database backend. Web-based software can be more intuitive for some users and enables distributed cataloging, since anyone with Web access can contribute records. With systems such as Archon and ICA-AtoM, information can be published to the Web as soon as it is entered. However, some archives worry about the security and reliability of an entirely Web-based system; one archivist noted her colleagues' reluctance to "put all of our eggs in one basket." If the Internet connection goes down, work stops (which is also true of networked client/server software). A client-based interface may offer greater control over data, but institutions may need to pay a fee for each computer on which the software is installed. Licensing models vary, however, so this is not always the case.

    Archivists toolkit


    Comparisons of the Archivists’ Toolkit (AT) with other collection management tools such as Archon and ICA-AtoM, potentially meets the full needs of user demands, even though there could exist some problems such as the above mentioned Con 2. However, this Con 2can perform an effective function, depending on user needs. If the users consider the security and reliability of an entirely Web-based system, the Con 2 is a necessary function.

    Overall, implementation of the AT holds the potential of streamlining work-flows in a archival setting. The AT offers a rich feature-set which solves problems with systems in the archival setting. Implementation of the AT would then be able to be staged and focused on pressing needs.

    Archivists toolkit

    Thank you!

    Archivists toolkit


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    Creation Strategies for UC Special Collections and Archives:

    Summary and Features Matrix. Retrieved from

    Combs, M., Matienzo, M.A., Proffitt, M. & Spiro, L. (2010). Over,

    Under, Around, and Through: Getting Around Barriers to

    EAD Implementation. 2010 OCLC Online Computer Library

    Center, Inc. Retrieved from

    Archivists toolkit

    Council on Library and Information Resources. (n.d.). Report. [Web

    page]. Retrieved from

    Harvard University Library. (2011). Archivists' Toolkit Client

    Installation Instructions. [Web page]. Retrieved from

    Kansas Archives. (2007). Archon, Archivists’ Toolkit, or ICA AtoM?.

    [Web page]. Retrieved from

    Pitti, D.V. (1999, November). Encoded Archival Description. D-Lib

    Magazine: vol. 5. no. 11. Retrieved from

    Archivists toolkit

    Society American Archives (SAA). (2005). A Glossary of Archival and

    Records Terminology. [Web page]. Retrieved from

    Society American Archives (SAA). (2012). Archivists' Toolkit

    Repository Profile: Hadassah Archives. [Web page]. Retrieved


    Society American Archives (SAA). (2012). Archivists' Toolkit

    Repository Profile: Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives.

    [Web page]. Retrieved from

    Archivists toolkit

    Roe, K. D. (2005). Arranging and Describing Archives and Manuscripts.

    Chicago: Society of American Archivists.

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