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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