Archival software survey

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;
  • Tabularium;
  • 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   Tabularium was created by David Roberts and distributed by State Records NSW; however, it is no longer maintained.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.

 

 

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Things I hope you learn in GLAM School

I’ve just realised that I haven’t blogged for a very long time, so lest you think me moribund, it’s time to start typing. I have a few things I want to say about collections software and the GLAMPeak project, as well as pulling some thoughts together on the Open Government initiative, so there will be some slightly more professional blogposts after this, I promise.

But today, to get the writing process back underway, I’m going to munge together two #GLAMBlogClub topics – hope, and what I wish they’d taught me in GLAM School. It’s been a few years since I was in GLAM school, but not that long since I left teaching. Reading through the blogs, though, reminded me very much of that long distant self, who wrote a letter to her lecturer, the lovely Peter Orlovich, bemoaning the gap between practice and theory. I also wrote one to the WA Museums Australia co-ordinator, Stephen Anstey, when I could not get a job for love or money.  And they basically said this:

It’s just not possible to learn all the things, all the technical details or peculiar ways that people reinvent the wheel, in just three or four, or one or two years. What you can learn, and what we hope you learn, is how to learn. GLAM school should provide you with a fundamental structure for understanding and implementing theory in practical ways.  The basic theoretical foundations for archival or library description, museum collection management or art history will remain, even as new theoretical concepts are added that build on what we know from the past. The way we implement those concepts will depend on our collections, our resources, our own strengths and weaknesses, but if you can learn, you can change, grow and adapt.

Be bold in your choices. GLAM school, like any good school, will have taught you how to read, research and analyse content. It will teach you how to express yourself in a range of communication styles and platforms. The tests and stresses that you experience at GLAM school will help you temper the way you respond to those stresses in the work place.  We can, and do, try to provide experiences and examples in an environment where you are supported to fail, and to try again.

Do not put artificial limits on yourselves.

And, give yourselves hope. You have the skills, they just need sharpening and developing. Try, and try again.

Finally – “Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

(Max Ehrmann, The Desiderata)

Time for pastures old, anew

(There’s this thing called #Glamblogclub, and it has a theme each month. I tried to resist…)

This time last year, I was getting ready for a year of academic freedom – time to think, to read, to nurture new professionals.  I’d taken secondment from the State Records Office of WA, after four years of having a split personality, to take up a lecturing contract at Curtin.

I went to ResBazPerth and learnt a little about github and python, and realised I needed a research project or similar to make that learning stick. June saw me doing #blogJune, and act as a general data mentor for #GovHack, an experience that proved useful when it came time to work on the Curtin #Makathon, using cultural heritage data (it also got me thinking about the coding I’d learnt in February, again).

I thought about archives and digital scholarship, and access. I learnt that I like being a mentor and teaching face to face, but worry about the loneliness and neediness of the distance/online student.  I like working with archives and answering queries.  During the ASA conference in Parramatta, I learnt about community and connected archives, and did some connecting of my own, with old and new friends.

And Curtin has given me some great connections too, who supported me through some pretty tough times  – with humour and cake and some fantastic projects. But it’s time to move on or back, and learn some new things. I’m not sure what 2017 has in store for me yet, but I’m guessing there will be archives and access and queries and cake, not to mention planning for the 2018 ASA conference in Perth.

Archives New Zealand – 2057

The National Archives New Zealand have just released their new long term vision (which seems appropriate for an archives) for comment. It starts with a stirring quote from Sir Arthur Doughty about the value of archives for posterity, which can be taken as something of a trumpet call in this fiscally challenging times.

You, and I, have until 4 November to respond (the day after we are blowing up Parliament, after all).

Reflecting on #govHack

A fortnight ago, I gave up a little bit of time to see if I could engage hackers in using cultural heritage data, either to enhance a project or to be the basis for one.

This year’s#govHackWA was held in a new space, and included a link to a regional centre, Geraldton. After four years, it has become far more slick and professional, which was needed with the large number of entrants, but meant that some of the more social components of the weekend had gone by the wayside (the introduction and welcome from the central committee sounded more like phoning a government organisation with a long phone menu, than the somewhat quirky presentation by @pia_waugh of earlier years).  We shared information via Slack, an internet relay chat system with pretensions of grandeur, and the data sets needed to be on the various data portals a week ahead of the competition (rather than on a thumbdrive or harddrive brought in at the last minute).

The Slack channels worked well, enabling information, advice and requests to be shared with a large or small group as required. I have some concerns about these sorts of channels for more formal communication, particularly from a government recordkeeping perspective, but it was an effective tool for a specific project. There was a specific channel for project ideas, so I was able to suggest a few things, one of which, I think, was incorporated into the ihero project, about facial recognition of WWI photographs.

The data portals are clearly identified on the various government websites, with a link to each state from the Commonwealth portal, which shows how data can be connected across jurisdictions. However, I found the quality of the datasets to be variable, and I do wonder how many of them have longevity or usefulness either because of the specificity of the data collected, or the format in which the data is presented (but this is a discussion for another day). Nevertheless, by searching keywords in the data portals I was able to identify a range of useful data sets, and also links to databases, which provide more complex data.  I collated some DATASETS and sources and also printed off my previous post on some #govHack tools.

I was able to help two groups with identifying data and suggesting some ways of working with the data that they had – colourfulpast and ihero.  I had more involvement with the colourfulpast team, because they had worked with cultural data in the past and they included a colleague from the State Library of WA, but it was great to see how both projects evolved over the course of the weekend. I was able to promote both projects via twitter and on relevant facebook groups after the event, so that the target audience could identify and work with the projects and, hopefully, provide feedback and vote!

That said, there are some things that I would do differently next time.  The WA Fisheries Department were there all weekend, with just one dataset – their shark data. Their ability to work with multiple groups and to provide both data and technical expertise meant that three groups elected to work primarily with their data. Had I been more switched on, I could have had a look at the WA Museum and SRO trial discovery layer which Andrew brought to the weekend and identified additional shark data. Similarly, working with Trove to develop some complementary data might also have been useful for them.  The teams are time poor, so helping by providing some easily used and pre-collated data is worth considering. And, I would work to have some specific datasets identified in the portal, which I was really familiar with.

Next year, I hope to return to GovHack with a fully working SROWA catalogue and some datasets derived from the collection. I’ll also have a look at the other data provided by cultural organisations, and work on identifying projects and problems with them.  Having specific datasets and clearly identified projects is of benefit to both the organisations and the hackers.

Survey for Volunteers in Australian Archives

A great initiative! Well done to the team.

Personal Recordkeeping, Identity and Archives

You can all stop holding your breath, as we are now launching the survey which was proposed at the 2015 ASA conference! *collective intake of breath*

We can’t wait for you to pass it on to your volunteers in order to gain a better insight into their collective experiences and motivations, knowing that this knowledge would help to improve your volunteer program.

Volunteers within the Australian archival/records sector are invited to complete the following survey:

take the survey

Please note: Volunteers are not asked to identify which institution they volunteer for, and their involvement and responses will be kept private and anonymous.

More details

This study will address the following research questions:

1. Who are our volunteers?
2. What motivates our volunteers?
3. What type of experiences/support does the Australian archival community offer?

An understanding of the above will assist in improving the experience of volunteers within the archives, resulting in the creation of…

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Updating #inthemailbox

It’s now just over a fortnight since I last blogged. I keep checking my wordpress site, as though words might suddenly start appearing without me adding anything; so far, nothing.

I’ve not been idle though. I’ve given it a new theme, which I think works better with the menus I now have. I’ve uploaded a new image, which is based on one from the Government photographer’s collection, currently held in the State Library of WA. My daughter has all the Adobe software loaded to this machine, which has not been updated in over a year, so updates were an issue. The image shows in Preview on the Mac, which allows me to view a sepia version. However, I couldn’t figure out how to save it in those tones. Eventually, I opened it in LibreOffice as a drawing and changed the red and green colour values, which I could then save and upload. (Getting the updates for Adobe may have been easier!)

The theme comes with a set of colour templates, including bright yellow, a mauve and purple set, red, wishy washy blue and a black set. I chose the yellow template, and have been blinded at each of those nervous wordpress checks I mentioned at the start. Finally, on Friday night, I worked out how to change the base colour to a more dignified bronze/gold.

In anticipation of the coming accreditation at Curtin, and just to play with the idea, I’ve also created an online teaching portfolio. Whether I stick with academia, in whatever capacity, or return fully to my substantive position at the end of the year, I now have something that will let people know what I have done for the past few years.

Let me know what you think of the changes, and what else you would like to see.