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Yale Archival Management Systems Committee: Container Management

About the ArchivesSpace Container Management Plug-In

About Container Management

  • New and improved approach to the way ArchivesSpace treats containers. Containers in ArchivesSpace can now be defined once and linked many times to various archival objects, resources, and accessions. This means that the database knows, in a meaningful way, which container materials are housed in.
  • Ability to know more about the actual container itself. Is this a Paige box? A Hollinger half-manuscript legal? The new "container profile" record type lets you know exactly which box type is on the shelves and what its dimensions are. This will make measuring space much easier, from extent statements to shelf space to really understanding how many moving vans you need for that big renovation!
  • Be able to select and act on containers. Perhaps you want to see which boxes are in a collection, a series, a location, or have a particular barcode -- ArchivesSpace will let you do it! 
  • The ability to "share" boxes across entire collections in a meaningful way. Let's say that you want to put all of the panoramaic photos in your repository into the same container. With this new data model, you'll be able to keep much better control over that container.
  • The ability to configure how many digits barcodes in your repository should be. This will help cut down on bad barcode information in the database.
  • The ability to add/update "container profiles" in bulk. Choose a list of containers. Select Bulk Operations > Update Container Profiles. It is that easy.
  • Rapid barcode entry. Choose a list of containers, wand through their barcodes. Boom, done.
  • An error will occur if you try to assign the same barcode to two different containers. No more paging nightmares.
  • The ability to store data that will help you synchronize between ArchivesSpace and item records in your ILS. It's common for archives to create item records in their ILS for containers in collections. This will give you a place to store the ILS's holdings record Identifier and the item record identifier.
  • The ability to store data about the restriction status of material associated with a container. See below for more about machine-actionable restrictions. This helps serialize information to ILS item records, and creates an opportunity for archival circulation systems to manage containers with restricted materials properly.


  • Improved location view. Now, when you look up a location in ArchivesSpace, you'll see all of the containers that are in that location!
  • Ability to assign locations in bulk. How did we ever get along without this before? This will be a huge help for shelf-reads, moves, and assigning locations to new containers.


  • Machine-actionable restrictions. You will now have the ability to associate begin and end dates with "conditions governing access" and "conditions governing use." You'll also be able to associate a local restriction type for non-time-bound restrictions. This gives the ability to better manage and re-describe expiring restrictions.


  • Extent calculator. Now that you know the dimensions of your containers, you'll be able to automatically calculate linear footage at any level of description.

Container Management Screencasts -- Top Containers

This video provides guidance about how to create top containers and what they do.

Container Management Screencasts -- Selecting and Updating Containers in Bulk

This screencast provides information about assigning locations, barcodes, and container profiles to containers.

Container Management Screencasts -- Machine-Actionable Restrictions

Container Management Screencasts -- Extent Calculator

Plug-In Assumptions

Data Assumptions

There are a few areas where particular local practices may result in errors modelling containers. We're keeping a running list here, and welcome any further contributions. 

The following assumptions are absolutely necessary to make your data work in the container management module. In order for your repository to make the most of this plug-in, your data must conform to the following:

Parent and Child Containers

If you have a box and folder associated with a component (or any other hierarchical relationship of containers), you will need to add identifiers to the container element so that the EAD importer knows which is a top container. This XSLT transformation file will add those for you -- just run it before import. If you previously used Archivists' Toolkit to create EAD, your containers probably already have container identifiers.

Container Ranges

The container management plug-in treats every container as its own entity that can be linked to from many archival objects (components), resource records, or accession records. This functionality allows you to do many exciting things, like making bulk changes, assigning locations in bulk, making bulk deletes, and entering a series of barcodes rapidly. However, container ranges that migrate over from Archivists' Toolkit or Archon will be presented as a range. For the most part, this is fine, although it will reduce your ability to assign locations with any degree of granularity. You'll also need to atomize the boxes in that range if you want to assign barcodes to each box.

If you're importing EAD, this XSLT transformation file (which you should run on your EAD before import) will separate box ranges into separate boxes. Problem solved!

If you're already in ArchivesSpace, here's a report that will tell you all of your box ranges. You may decide to remediate these over time or leave them as they are. We're eager to find partners to write a script using the API to break out individual containers from a range.

Identifier Encoding

This plug-in lets you disambiguate containers by series (in other words, if you renumber boxes at each series, the system will understand each of these as a separate container). You'll be able to view which series your container is in. In order to do so, the display looks at the level attribute and the component unique identifier. 

 In the example above, the level attribute is repeated in the Component Unique Identifier. This means that your container view will look like this:

Your view will have repeat the word "series" twice.

In order to avoid this, you will need to update your component identifiers. If you're still in Archivists' Toolkit, you can run a SQL script against your database (provided here) to move the strings "Series" and "Subseries" out of your identifiers. This may have cascading effects for your stylesheets, so be sure to check all downstream serializations.

If you're already in ArchivesSpace, you can run this SQL script against your databse to do the same thing.