A few months ago, I asked my colleagues in the Archives Live Archives and recordkeeping software group to undertake a short survey for me, looking at archival description and management systems in use in Australia. I used the free SurveyMonkey site (ten simple questions) and promoted the survey on the Archives Live site and via my personal twitter account. I got 39 responses from a possible pool of 230 members, in a four week period.
The majority of respondents worked in a combination archive, taking both transfers from inhouse records creators as well as accepting donations or purchasing material for their collections (58.97%). Small archives, with 2-4 staff (qualifications not specified), were slightly ahead of lone arrangers (48.7% and 30.7%). 11 were school archives and 7 from universities. There was a smattering of religious institutions, local council collections and government institutions, plus a couple of companies who held archives of their business.
Most archivists said they could use excel and word (92%), so it is not surprising that 25.6% of them created finding aids and archival aids using word documents and spreadsheets. However, the majority of finding aids are created using online systems and archive management software.
Software identified in responses to the survey included:
- eMU – a museum focused collection system;
- AkA – which is a thesaurus system rather than archival management software;
- Archive Manager;
- Filemaker Pro and Excel;
- Other, unnamed software; and,
- AccesstoMemory (AtoM).
Both Tabularium and Archive Manager were created here in Australia and have good compliance with the Australian series system. Tabularium was created by David Roberts and distributed by State Records NSW; however, it is no longer maintained. Archive Manager was created for use with Windows PCs, and has recently been sold to the UK.
In looking at new software requirements, respondents expressed a remarkable degree of frustration with old, clunky software which was not properly maintained or could not be easily updated either by themselves or by a provider. Ease of use, the ability to make collection content available online, integrate digital components and work with an EDRMS or other records management system were all identified as something for the modern archival management system. Concerns were raised about making donor and other personal and confidential information available, so some degree of authority control and viewing permissions was also required.
Whether one system can meet all these requirements is yet to be seen. It may be better to focus on a range of systems that have some degree of interoperability and on standards for transferring data from one to the other. Either way, archivists in Australia are eager and ready to embrace new ways of working and for a new generation of archival software.