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Over the past year or so, hampered by the pandemic and other setbacks, the digital preservation programme at the University has largely been paused. Although not ideal, one benefit of this has been the possibility for the library to focus its attention on the implementation of our new archive collection management system, ArchivesSpace. The successful application of this software will of course be of huge significance to our digital preservation programme, as it will allow us to successfully manage our archival metadata and ensure a single point of truth for information about our collections.

The two archive departments within the library, Special Collections and the National Fairground and Circus Archive, have up until now relied on PDFs, Word documents and spreadsheets to present their collection finding aids, denying users the ability to search across collections. After a period of consultation, the department selected ArchivesSpace as the system that would best meet our collection requirements, filling the gaps in metadata management and allowing us to offer improved access to material. The system itself is web based, open source and currently has a healthy global user community with recent adopters including the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

In the short term our focus has been on the ingest of legacy catalogue information which has predictably been a slow process. Having said that, the processing of our collection information was a job very much suited to home working and the availability of precious time and resources from other library teams for this labour intensive work proved a rare upside to the otherwise entirely disruptive pandemic. Whilst at the time of writing almost all of the NFCA catalogues have been made available, only the collection-level descriptions from Special Collections have been imported into the system. The completion of this stage of catalogue ingest is our next priority, before we move onto locations, digital objects and our subjects register.  Bugs are in the process of being ironed out in readiness for a soft launch of the system in the coming weeks.

Looking further ahead, one of the main reasons ArchivesSpace was chosen as our management system was its functionality to integrate with our existing systems and it is here where we hope to see the biggest benefits to our digital preservation programme, as well as our ability to deliver our digital collections. By streamlining the process for capturing our descriptive metadata, we should enjoy easy interoperability between our archive catalogue, our digital delivery platform CONTENTdm, and our digital preservation system Rosetta.


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