Building Community for Archivematica

By Shira Peltzman, Nick Krabbenhoeft and Max Eckard


In March of 2018, the Archivematica User Forum held the first in an ongoing series of bi-monthly calls for active Archivematica users or stakeholders. Archivematica users (40 total!) from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom came together to share project updates and ongoing challenges and begin to work with their peers to identify and define community solutions.

Purpose

The Archivematica user community is large (and growing!), but formal communication channels between Archivematica users are limited. While the Archivematica Google Group is extremely valuable, it has some drawbacks. Artefactual prioritizes their paid support and training services there, and posts seem to focus primarily on announcing new releases or resolving errors. This sets an expectation that communication flows there from Artefactual to Archivematica users, rather than between Archivematica users. Likewise, Archivematica Camps are an exciting development, but at the moment these occur relatively infrequently and require participants to travel. As a result, it can be hard for Archivematica users to find partners and share work.

Enter the Archivematica User Forum. We hope these calls will fill this peer-to-peer communication void! Our goal is to create a space for discussion that will enable practitioners to connect with one another and identify common denominators, issues, and roadblocks that affect users across different organizations. In short, we are hoping that these calls will provide a broader and more dynamic forum for user engagement and support, and ultimately foster a more cohesive and robust user community.

Genesis

The User Forum is not the first group created to connect Archivematica users. Several regional groups already exist; the Texas Archivematica Users Groups and UK Archivematica Users Group (blog of their latest meeting) are amazing communities that meet regularly. But sometimes, the people trying to adapt, customize, and improve Archivematica the same way you are live in a different time zone.

That situation inspired the creation of this group. After realizing how often relationships would form because someone knew someone who knew someone doing something similar, creating a national forum where everyone had the chance to meet everyone else seemed like the natural choice.

Scope

It takes a lot to build a new community, so we have tried to keep the commitment light. To start with, the forum meets every two months. Second, it’s open to anyone using Archivematica that can make the call, 9AM on the West Coast, 12PM on the East Coast. That includes archivists, technologists, developers and any other experts actively using or experimenting with Archivematica.

Third, we have some in-scope and out-of-scope topics. In-scope includes anything that helps us continue to improve our usage of Archivematica: project announcements, bug tracking/diagnosis, desired features, recurring problems or concerns, documentation, checking-in on Archivematica implementations, and identifying other users that make use of the same features. Out-of-scope includes topics about getting started with digital preservation or Archivematica. Those are incredibly important topics, but an over commitment for this group.

Finally, we don’t have any official relationship with Artefactual Systems. We want to develop a user-led community that can identify areas for improvements and contribute to the long-term development of Archivematica. Part of the development is finding our voice as a community.

Current Activity

As of this blog post, the Archivematica Users Forum is two calls in. We’ve discussed project announcements, bug tracking/diagnosis, recurring problems or concerns, desired features (including this Features Request spreadsheet), local customizations and identifying other users that make use of the same features.

We spent a good deal of time during our first meeting on March 1, 2018 gathering and ranking topics that participants wanted to discuss during these calls, and intend to cover them in future calls. These topics, in order of interest, include:

Topic Number of Up-votes
Processing large AIPs (size and number of files) 12
Discussing reporting features, workflows, and code 10
How ingest is being tracked and QA’ed, both within and without Archivematica 9
Automation tools – how are people using them, issues folks are running into, etc. 7
How to manage multi-user installations and pipelines 7
Types of pipelines/workflows 7
Having more granularity in turning micro-services on and off 6
Troubleshooting the AIC functionality 3
What other types of systems people are using with Archivematica – DPN, etc. 3
Are people doing development work outside of Artefactual contracts? 2
How to add new micro-services 2
How to customize the FPR, how to manage and migrate customizations 2
How system architectures impact the throughput of Archivematica (large files, large numbers of files, backup schedules) 1

As you can see, there’s no shortage of potential topics! During that meeting, participants shared a number of development announcements:

  • dataverse Integration as a data source (Scholars Portal);
  • DIP creator for software/complex digital objects via Automation Tools (CCA);
  • reporting – development project to report on file format info via API queries (UCLA/NYPL);
  • turning off indexing to increase pipeline speed (Columbia);
  • micro-service added to post identifier to ArchivesSpace (UH); and
  • micro-service added to write README file to AIP (Denver Art Museum).

During our second meeting on May 3, 2018, we discussed types of pipelines/workflows as well as well as how folks decided to adopt another pipeline versus having multiple processing configurations or Storage Service locations. We heard from a number of institutions:

  • NYPL: Uses multiple pipelines – one is for disk images exclusively (they save all disk images even if they don’t end up in the finding aid) and the other is for packages of files associated to finding aid components. They are considering a third pipeline for born-digital video material. Their decision point on adopting a new pipeline is whether different workflows might require different format policies, and therefore different FPRs.
  • RAC: Uses multiple pipelines for digitization, AV, and born-digital archival transfers. Their decision point is based on amount of processing power required for different types of material.
  • Bentley: Uses one pipeline where processing archivists arrange and describe. They are considering a new pipeline with a more streamlined approach to packaging, and are curious when multiple configurations in a single pipeline is warranted versus creating multiple pipelines.
  • Kansas State: Uses two pipelines – one for digitization (images and text) and a second pipeline for special collections material (requires processing).
  • University of Houston: Uses two pipelines – one pipeline for digitization and a second pipeline for born-digital special collections.
  • UT San Antonio: Uses multiple configurations instead of multiple pipeline.

During that call, we also began to discuss the topic of how people deal with large transfers (size or number of files).

Next Call and Future Plans!

We hope you will consider joining us during our next call on July 5, 2018 at 12pm EDT / 9am PDT or at future bi-monthly calls, which are held on the first Thursday of every other month. Call in details are below!

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
https://ucla.zoom.us/j/854186191

  • iPhone one-tap (US): +16699006833,854186191# or +16465588656,854186191#
  • Telephone (US): +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 558 8656
  • Meeting ID: 854 186 191

International numbers available: https://ucla.zoom.us/zoomconference?m=EYLpz4l8KdqWrLdoSAbf5AVRwxXt7OHo


Shira Peltzman is the Digital Archivist at the University of California, Los Angeles Library.

Nick Krabbenhoeft is the Head of Digital Preservation at the New York Public Library.

Max Eckard is the Lead Archivist for Digital Initiatives at the Bentley Historical Library.

 

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Call for Contributions: Script It!

Scripting and working in the command line have become increasingly important skills for archivists, particularly for those who work with digital materials — at the same time, approaching these tools as a beginner can be intimidating. This series hopes to help break down barriers by allowing archivists to learn from their peers. We want to hear about how you use or are learning to use scripts (Bash, Python, Ruby, etc.) or the command line (one-liners, a favorite command line tool) in your day-to-day work, how scripts play into your processes and workflows, and how you are developing your knowledge in this area. How has this changed the way you think about your work? How has this changed your relationship with your colleagues or other stakeholders?

We’re particularly interested in posts that consist of a walk-through of a simple script (or one-liner) used in your digital archives workflow. Show us your script or command and tell us how it works.

A few other potential topics and themes for posts:

  • Stories of success or failure with scripting for digital archives
  • General “tips and tricks” for the command line/scripting
  • Independent or collaborative learning strategies for developing “tech” skills
  • A round-up of resources about a particular scripting language or related topic
  • Applying computational thinking to digital archives

Writing for bloggERS! “Script It!” Series

  • We encourage visual representations: Posts can include or largely consist of comics, flowcharts, a series of memes, etc!
  • Written content should be roughly 600-800 words in length
  • Write posts for a wide audience: anyone who stewards, studies, or has an interest in digital archives and electronic records, both within and beyond SAA
  • Align with other editorial guidelines as outlined in the bloggERS! guidelines for writers.

Posts for this series will start in July, so let us know if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com!

A Day in Review: Personal Digital Archiving Conference Recap

by Valencia Johnson

The Personal Digital Archiving conference, which took place April 23-25, 2018, was hosted by the University of Houston. The conference was a mixture of archival professionals, librarians, entrepreneurs, and self-taught memory workers.  The recurrent theme this year, from the perspective of a newcomer at least, was personal digitization. Each demographic offered battle-tested advice for digitization and digital preservation. From these personal testimonies several questions occurred to me and other conference attendees. How is the digital world transforming memory and identity? How can the archival community improve the accessibility of tools and knowledge necessary to create and manage digital cultural heritage? What does it look like when we work with people instead of working for people? If these questions trigger a post-modernism bell in your mind, then you are on the right path.

Each presentation touched upon the need within communities to preserve their history for one reason or another. The residents of Houston are in some ways still recovering from Hurricane Harvey; institutions and homes were flooded, and pictures and home videos were lost to the gulf. Yet, through this disaster the Houston community is finding ways to rebuild and recapture a small piece of what was lost. Lisa Spiro opened the first day of the conference with her presentation “Creating a Community-Driven Digital Archive: The Harvey Memories Project.” This archive aims to document the experience of the survivors of Harvey and offer an additional personal narrative to the official record of the disaster. Expected to launch in August 2018, the first anniversary of  Hurricane Harvey, the project is built by community members and something to keep an eye out for.

The following session was comprised of multiple presenters diving into community archives. Presentations covered how researchers Ana Roeschley’s and Jeonghun (Annie) Kim’s project about a memory roadshow in Massachusetts is uncovering the complex nature of human memory and attachment; Sandra Wang’s quest to preserve her family history by travelling to China and interviewing her grandfather about topics like shame and self-doubt; and Lisa Cruces’s work with Houston Archives Collective, an organization that educates and supports efforts of the community to preserve their history for themselves. Finally, all the way from Alaska, Siri Tuttle and Susan Paskuan discussed the Eliza Jones’ Collection, a true collaboration between an institution and a community to preserve and use material vital to interior Alaskan native communities.

This is a slide from Scott Carlson’s presentation “Megaton Goes Boom: Archiving and Preserving My Father’s First Comic Book,” 25 April 2018.

Later that day were lightning talks about tools useful in the digital age. For example, did you know you can save voicemails? I did not, but thanks to Lucy Rosenbloom’s presentation, I know iPhone users are able to save the voicemails by clicking the square box with the up arrow and emailing the message as a .mp4. Here is a link to a useful article about saving voicemail. Rosenbloom converts her .mp4s into .mp3s and she also uses an auto transcription tool to create transcripts of her messages. The day winded down with personal tales of archiving family history solo and on a budget from Leslie Wagner and Scott Carlson respectively. For more information about the tools and projects discussed at the conference, please visit the program.


Valencia L. Johnson is the Project Archivist for Student Life for the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University. She is a certified archivist with an MA in Museum Studies from Baylor University.