Building a Community Through ArchivesSpace Implementation

So far you have probably seen posts by my colleagues discussing the efforts to make ArchivesSpace work in our complex multi-repository environment at Yale. To date, we have evaluated the application in its present form, hired consultants to develop additional functionality, and are currently engaged in extensive testing. However, in addition to trying to effectively implement ArchivesSpace, we have also needed to consider how we might work together more effectively.

There are twelve discrete repositories at Yale that will be implementing ArchivesSpace. Currently many of these repositories work in their own instance of Archivists’ Toolkit or outside of an archives management system, and the archivists at each repository have developed some individual repository-specific methods for managing containers and describing materials. While we need to ensure that ArchivesSpace will work for us, in committing to a single, university-wide version of ArchivesSpace, the implementation of ArchivesSpace is providing us with a unique opportunity to further develop cooperation amongst the many repositories at Yale.

Much of our work to this end has been straightforward. For example, in the summer of 2014, our Committee standardized the controlled vocabulary lists in ArchivesSpace. However, some of our work has been more complex and far-reaching. In the fall of 2014, we interviewed archivists at all twelve repositories about their practices, including their approaches to managing containers and locations as well as their description of archival material, particularly non-paper formats. While these interviews began with the explicit goal of gaining a better understanding of procedures at Yale so that our Committee could make sure that our implementation of ArchivesSpace met everyone’s needs, during our discussions regarding description it became apparent that current practices are widely divergent among campus repositories, requiring further cross-repository discussion regarding the description of born-digital materials, digital surrogates, and A/V materials.

We have developed a task force consisting of archivists from multiple units on campus in order to determine basic guidelines for description of these types of materials. This task force will share its proposed description guidelines with all stakeholders at the University, responding to feedback and reaching consensus, with the goal of configuring Yale’s installation of ArchivesSpace to accommodate these guidelines.

We look forward to updating you on our progress and sharing our guidelines once they are complete.

Happy New Year!