Saturday, April 5, 2014

ArchivesSpace Interview

     I interviewed Michelle, a fellow SLIS student who has previously spent eight weeks reviewing ArchivesSpace. She finds that ArchivesSpace's best feature is its ability to export entries into an EAD-finding aid and as a MARC record. As part of her research, she tested Archivists' Toolkit, which is one of the two predecessors to ArchivesSpace, and found that ArchivesSpace offered an improved data entry interface. She finds that ArchivesSpace's biggest weakness to be the lack of a help guide, and its greatest assets include the ability to markup finding aids in the software and place collections online.

     The transcript is below.

Q. What is your experience with ArchivesSpace?
            A. For an independent study this semester, I did research on ArchivesSpace, wrote a simple instruction guide on the software, and hosted a workshop on AS. Since ArchivesSpace is relatively new in the archival world, a lot of my work with AS entailed learning basic features and functions. I spent roughly 20 hours in an eight-week window learning how to use ArchivesSpace. Currently, I am writing a proposal to convince the budgetary staff of the general library system to provide the necessary funding that will allow the University Archives to start using ArchivesSpace for their collections

 Q. Have you had experience with another archives management software? If so, how does ArchivesSpace compare?
            A. In my research stage, I tested out Archivists' Toolkit, which is an open-source software that preceded ArchivesSpace. The “about” section on the ArchivesSpace webpage will tell you that AS combines the best features of Archon and Archivists' Toolkit. I thought it would be wise to check out at least one of these softwares. Besides Archivists' Toolkit being free, the biggest difference between the two is the interface. AS really simplified the data entry process and was fairly easy to follow. With AT, it is less clear where to place information and how to create a contents list.

Q. With your research and hands-on use of ArchivesSpace, what do you think are its best features? Its limitations?
            A. The best feature AS has to offer is its ability to export your information into an EAD finding aid and MARC record. It would take me hours to code and catalog a finding aid. AS does all of the grunt work in seconds. The biggest limitation, though, is the lack of a help guide. AS has its own syntax and doesn't explain the phrases and abbreviations it uses. A glossary of terms and a step-by-step guide would have saved me a lot of time in my research stage.

Q. Would you recommend ArchivesSpace as a software to be used in archives?
            A. Absolutely. The amount of time it saves on marking finding aids up on EAD is reason enough to invest money in this software. It also provides smaller repositories the ability to place their collections online, even if they don't have an IT staff or coding skills.

 Q. Do you know of any area repositories that have adopted ArchivesSpace, or any that are considering it?
            A. To my knowledge, both the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) and the University Archives are considering adopting ArchivesSpace. The Wisconsin Historical Society tried implementing Archivists' Toolkit a few years ago, but the software didn't communicate well with their server. Alison Bridger, the head of the cataloging department at WHS, is currently working with IT to see if AS will work for her institution.

Q. In your opinion, what are the other big players in archival management software (either open-source or commercial applications)?
            A. I honestly don't know of any other archival management software. ArchivesSpace, Archivists' Toolkit, and Archon are the big three that are mentioned in job descriptions.

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