Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Illinois develops free, easy-to-use web tool kit for archivists

21.02.2008
Archivists at the University of Illinois Library believe they have built a better tool kit.

Their new online collections management program called Archon has more than a few attractive features – not the least of which is that it was developed for “lone archivists with limited technological resources and knowledge,” said Scott Schwartz, one of the developers of the software program and the archivist for music and fine arts at Illinois.

The state-of-the-art tool also is free, adaptable to any institutional setting and is easy to download and use.

“We wanted our application to be particularly useful to small, one-person repositories that have been unable to take full advantage of current tools under development,” Schwartz said.

According to Chris Prom, assistant university archivist and co-project director, the developers knew the system had to meet staff needs.

“But what really makes it special is that it makes an archives’ holdings much more accessible to its users,” Prom said. “The program automatically creates its own searchable Web site. It’s based on extensive research about how people search for and use archival materials.”

Prom said that users can now “browse and search all of our information in one place. They can view photos and other materials we’ve scanned right alongside descriptions of related materials that are available only in the search room.”

“In essence, our primary goal was creating a tool that provides immediate public access to information about various collections of historical documents and records found in archives,” Schwartz said, noting that Archon functions in both English and Spanish.

The emphasis in the design was on encouraging efficient work processes.

“We didn’t want anyone to become burdened with having to learn complex methods or standards required by the archives profession just to make their collections available to the public in today’s online environment,” Schwartz said. “We took a minimalist approach, yet didn’t sacrifice the standards of the profession. We recognized what people and researchers need to access collections of historical documents preserved in archives, and developed the tools to help put archivists and the public in the driver’s seat to meet these important access needs.”

As it happens, Archon is one of two major programming efforts that the archives profession is pursuing to enhance the management of libraries’, archives’ and museums’ historical documents and the public’s access to the physical and intellectual content contained in these records. The other effort is called the Archivist’s Toolkit and is a Mellon Foundation-funded collaboration of several universities.

Schwartz and Prom likened the development of their product to a shoestring do-it-yourself project in the family garage.

“We knew what we wanted, but every time we added a new feature, we thought of something even better to add on next,” Prom said.

To be sure, the archivists had a bit of help building Archon. A couple of “very talented” undergraduate students did much of the programming: Kyle Fox, from Marion, lead developer and graduating senior in computer science; and Chris Rishel, from Chatham, lead developer prior to 2007, who majored in computer science and chemistry.

Developing Archon was “a very organic process,” Prom said. “It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had such a talented team and the great ideas that Chris and Kyle brought at every step of the development process.”

“We provided the vision and a set of expectations and let the students run with it,” said Schwartz, who directs the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at Illinois. Schwartz uses Archon to manage the large Sousa collection database. The archives and center are part of the University Library and the University Archives.

Since Schwartz and Prom presented Archon to a meeting of the Society of American Archivists in August 2006, it has been downloaded nearly 900 times; 117 completed installations of the program have been achieved by a variety of repositories; and some 25 institutions around the world have already committed to Archon. Among those institutions are the College of William and Mary, Purdue University, Southern Illinois University, the University of Houston and the University of West Florida.

“We are a community of users across North America and Europe,” Schwartz said, “and our community continues to grow.”

Amy Schindler, university archivist in the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary, is part of the community. She calls the new management program the “Archon miracle.”

“This is the first time that users have been able to search more than a token handful of university archives collections outside of a card catalog in the Special Collections Research Center as well as the first time that a significant number of manuscript collections and university archives collections could be searched through the same interface – whether electronic or card catalog.”

Illinois’ mammoth University Archives library also is realizing the benefits of getting aboard the Archon express.

“It’s a great resource for the University,” Prom said, noting that in terms of photographs alone, he has added more than 3,000 of them in the last several months, and that anyone can browse, search and download them from the University Archives Web site. Prom hopes that one day soon the Library will put its important and popular Illinois History and Lincoln Collections into Archon, a Greek word meaning “ruler” or “king.” In the Archon’s house, the story goes, all the government documents and records were kept.

Andrea Lynn | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Drones learn to navigate autonomously by imitating cars and bicycles
23.01.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Cloud technology: Dynamic certificates make cloud service providers more secure
15.01.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>