Practical Technology for Archives

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[Excerpt] Archivists face a bewildering array of technologies designed to help administer and provide access to archival collections. From free, open-source software such as ArchivesSpace to proprietary software such as Eloquent, archivists may choose from a wide variety of tools. CollectiveAccess, a web-based, free, and open-source system, offers many features to archivists who need a low-cost way to manage and offer online access to their collections. CollectiveAccess was developed and is maintained by the company Whirl-i-Gig and is comprised of two main software components: “Providence” and “Pawtucket.” Providence is the core of CollectiveAccess and provides secure user interfaces for data entry and editing, filtered and faceted searching, file management and upload, and general system administration. Pawtucket is an optional CollectiveAccess component that generates a public-facing website to provide access to files and metadata saved in the Providence database. This paper describes work completed at the American Alpine Club Library (AACL) in Golden, Colorado, to implement a CollectiveAccess instance, which was given the name “Explore.”

The AACL publicly launched Explore in February 2013, using both Providence and Pawtucket. Explore was created with many purposes in mind: to provide access to digital collections, to create and present online exhibits, to manage digital assets, to administer archival and museum collections, and to serve as a value-added benefit of membership in the Club. The flexibility of CollectiveAccess made it possible for the AACL to structure Explore for all of these purposes, however, its success in each area was inconsistent and the system design was too ambitious to be ultimately sustainable. This article details the AACL’s experience launching Explore and provides a helpful case study of how the software was used and customized in a small library and archives with limited staff and resources.