The Yale Archival Management Systems Committee (YAMS) is charged with overseeing implementation, operation, system maintenance, and development of enterprise systems used by Yale University Library (YUL) special collection units for resource description, discovery, accessioning, collection control, and the description of people, families and corporate bodies. The Committee coordinates all matters pertaining to the development and maintenance of policies and best practices related to the use of these systems, and the delivery of electronic finding aids to the YUL research community.
The current system of record for YUL special collection units is ArchivesSpace.
An Ecosystem of Archival Functions
ArchivesSpace is an open source, integrated software platform that supports a wide spectrum of functions, tasks, and workflows within an archival repository. These include (but aren't limited to) container and location management; recording accession data; recording and managing descriptive data; creation and management of name and subject authorities; digital object management; tracking and management of archival processing tasks; and output of encoded finding aids and catalog records. By enabling all of these functions within a single system, ArchivesSpace greatly increases efficiency in archival practice, and allows us to make materials accessible to researchers in a more timely fashion. Because it is open source, ArchivesSpace is customizable and extensible, which has enabled us to develop plug-ins to support our local needs and practices, as well as to integrate with other software platforms such as Aeon and Preservica.
Archivists can use ArchivesSpace to describe the collections in their care. ArchivesSpace resource description records are based on DACS and can serialize as EAD. Description in ArchivesSpace does not require xml mark-up, and archivists can use the Excel-like rapid data entry mode to input data. Furthermore, ArchivesSpace allows archivists to create resource description by importing EAD-encoded finding aids. And, because of the API, bulk clean-up through scripts is easier than ever.
Archivists can use ArchivesSpace to record accessions of newly acquired material. ArchivesSpace accession records support the clear identification and description of materials themselves as well as related contextual information best captured at the point of receipt including source, restrictions, and processing instructions. They also integrate with resources and agents described within ArchivesSpace, clarifying those relationships and enabling us to repurpose data. Yale's ArchivesSpace instance has been extended with custom plugins to support our specific requirements, notably a campus-wide accession numbering schema and the ability to record complicated payment information.
The System of Record at Yale -- Collapsing Data Stores
While digital information systems can help streamline our practices and make our resources better-available to users through the internet, a proliferation of systems can result in confusion and management difficulties. ArchivesSpace is the system of record for resource description, accessioning (in most units), collection control (in many units), and the description of people, families and corporate bodies. In the coming months and years, our aim is to consolidate more data stores at Yale to ArchivesSpace.
In the coming months, representatives from Yale and other institutions will collaborate to develop a public-facing interface for ArchivesSpace that will replace the current Yale Finding Aids Database. The ArchivesSpace public interface will significantly simplify our procedures for editing and publishing finding aids, and will provide a much more powerful search and discovery tool for our users.
Shared Responsibility for Software Development
ArchivesSpace is open-source software that is developed under a community membership model. As members of this community, Yale has a say in the future development of the application. We benefit from improvements made by others and we share a path to solutions when bugs are discovered locally. This model reduces Yale's financial risk and technical overhead.