Creating a Digital Archival Database

I recently started a practicum project* as part of my course work this semester. My project involves setting up an open source software database (called CollectiveAccess) to catalog and provide access to the archival collections of a health company. I have discovered I know less about open source software than I thought, and I have no previous knowledge of the foundations of archival theory and practice.

I see this as a challenge, and as an opportunity for me to learn more about work in an archives, and to practice archival work, which are things I have not yet done.

My key tasks include:

  • Learn to use CollectiveAccess software and note its capabilities and limitations,
  • Research current archival processing and descriptive standards,
  • Create data entry templates for each material type in the archives,
  • Create teaching records and a manual for future use of CollectiveAccess,
  • Import previously created item records,
  • Test end-user experiences to determine the effectiveness of the digital catalog,
  • Train co-workers in the use and access of digital catalog and items in it.

Last week my co-worker and I attempted to set up the database. We found out that we had the PHP set up properly, but had to request help, both from the company IT expert and the database help desk, before continuing.

My next shift is on Monday, when I hope we can get the software up and running so I can learn my way around the features of the database before creating data entry templates. I will also spend more time researching archival processing and descriptive standards, so that when I create the templates, I know what metadata fields should be included, and how records should be linked, among other things.

* Read my work plan here.

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