Archivematica and Open Source Software

MARA Blog

Published: April 2, 2016 by Anna Maloney

On March 23, Sarah Romkey, the Archivematica Program Manager at Artefactual Solutions, gave an insightful presentation on Archivematica, a free and open-source digital preservation software that provides consistent, system independent Archival Information Packages (AIPs).

There are several benefits and drawbacks to using open source over proprietary software. Some of the benefits include:

• Provides for an in depth understanding of the system you are using to manage your AIPs and DIPs
• Allows for users to take AIPs to other software systems
• Uses open standards and open metadata formats
• Promotes the “network effect” of information sharing and software improvements
• Promotes active participation in the future of archival software

Some of the drawbacks are:

• Requires dedication to be properly launched and maintained—it is free to access but may come at considerable organizational cost to use
• Relies on in-house technical ability
• Takes time to participate in and benefit from the open-source community
• Generating institutional buy-in can be challenging

In addition to Archivematica, there are several options for open source archival software, including ArchivesSpace, CollectiveAccess, and OpenArchive. Systems may vary in functionality, with some designed for description (Archivematica) and others designed for web-publishing (Omeka). (ALL LINKED)Students wishing to prepare for this type of archival work may choose INFO electives such as Database Design and Management and Information Technology Tools and Applications.

I have worked with several different archival and collection management systems. At the Cincinnati State Archives, archival metadata is managed using ArchivesSpace, a Microsoft Access Database, a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, and a Flickr image sharing account. At Liberty Hall Historic Site, archival and museum collection metadata are created and stored using PastPerfect. The National Park Service uses an in-house system available across the Department of the Interior. Whether you are exposed to archival or records management software through volunteer work, internships, or professional experiences, it is valuable to gain an understanding of how they work and why they were selected, and to attempt to evaluate their effectiveness locally and across the profession.