After many months of evaluation and deliberation, ICFA took the first step in adopting a new collection management system last week with the installation of the International Council on Archives’ program, “Access to Memory” (AtoM). Released August 27th, AtoM version 1.3 represents the latest in the development of this open-source software produced by Canadian developers, Artefactual Systems.
Chosen for its integration of descriptive standards and its extensibility, AtoM was selected from a long list of potential systems, including both commercial and open-source solutions. ICFA came to its decision via an objective and team-oriented approach informed by software selection methods, peer reviews, reference interviews, and system requirements analysis. For more information about this process, please contact ICFA Metadata and Cataloging Specialist Anne-Marie Viola. (And to those that provided feedback on either AtoM or one of the many other systems, which ICFA considered, thank you!)
Chief among those requirements is the system’s ability to accommodate both stand-alone image records as well as finding aids and the hierarchical relationships inherent in archival collections. Ideally it would also allow ICFA to import the last two decades’ of legacy metadata that the department has produced, and enable staff to create records in the metadata standards appropriate for each type of holding, which means Encoded Archival Description for finding aids and VRA Core for image records. Lastly, the ideal system would afford the complex, controlled geographic description that ICFA’s image collections necessitated.
Developed in 2007 as “a searchable, online guide to international archival sources on human rights violations” with seed funds from UNESCO’s Information for All Programme, AtoM appears to meet each of these needs either with existing functionality or features in development (source). As a web-based tool, the system can be accessed from any machine in the department or afar, and eventually the ICFA inventory can easily be made available to the public. Here’s what AtoM looks like today.
It has a clean, user-friendly interface, with space for both the text that describes our holdings and the hierarchy that displays how the holdings are arranged. According to a 2011 article in the Journal of Archival Organization entitled “Re-Imagining Archival Display: Creating User-Friendly Finding Aids” (Daines & Nimer), this type of contextual navigation is essential to provide users with the direct access to record-level information that they desire while still situating the record within the larger context of its collection.
Look for updates in the coming months about ICFA’s implementation!