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ArchivesSpace Local Practices Manual for UHM Archives Staff: Digital Objects



Digital Object records in ArchivesSpace are used to describe and link to digital archival content.  They can be used for both born digital archival materials and for digitized copies/versions of analog materials (regardless of whether or not the analog original is part of the collection).  

Who creates, and when:

ArchivesSpace allows Digital Objects to be created as standalone records.  However, unlike Resource Records, Digital Object Records can’t link to Accession Records or Classifications (and also don’t have a ‘Deaccessions’ section the way Resource Records do). 

Some of these drawbacks are slated to be addressed in upcoming versions of ArchivesSpace, but until then it is usually best to consider Digital Objects as instances of a collection in the same way that analog records/physical objects are.  So, in almost all cases Digital Object Records should be created from within Accession Records and/or Resource Records.   

Digital Object Records linked to Accession Records and/or Resource Records via Digital Object Instances can be created (and linked) at any level of description: for an individual document/record, for a file/folder, for a series, or for an entire collection.  That being said, Digital Objects should be linked at the level of description that logically matches them. 

  • i.e. Digital Objects for individual documents shouldn’t be linked as instances of a series-level component, or even in many cases, of a file-level component.  Rather, they would probably be linked as instances of item-level Resource Record components. 
    • (Alternatively, they could be created as child components of a Digital Object linked to a Resource Record at the series- or file-level.) 
  • On the other hand, a digital object for a scrapbook likely would be linked to at a file-level, and a disk image of an entire hard drive might be appropriately linked as an instance of  an entire Accession Record or collection-level Resource Record.

To Create a New Record:

Under the ‘Create’ menu, click ‘Digital Object’.

Minimum Fields For Good Practice:

Title’ and ‘Identifier’ are the only fields required by ArchivesSpace, but it’s good practice to also add ‘Restrictions?’ for all Digital Object records, ‘File Versions’ where applicable, and additionally ‘Type’, ‘Dates’, and ‘Extents’ for stand-alone Digital Object records that aren’t linked to a Resource or component record.

(This page also provides guidance for optional fields, as well as for some fields that should not be used in Digital Object Records.)

Save throughout the process to ensure you don't lose data.  Also, don’t forget to check the ‘Publish?’ box if the Digital Object Record should be made public.

Good Practice Fields: Basic Information > Title

Enter the title of the material being described.

Good Practice Fields: Basic Information > Identifier

Enter a/the unique identifier of the material being described.   This can—and should—be a URI, DOI, or other Handle.

  • File and folder names are not necessarily unique, and so do not generally make good identifiers on their own. 
  • (While full filepath information would help with uniqueness, it would change if and when the resource moved to a different location, so wouldn’t be persistent/stable.)

Good Practice Fields: File Versions > General Usage Note

Click the 'Add File Version' button to get started.

If there is more than one digital version of an item—e.g. original vs. redacted, master vs. mezzanine vs. thumbnail, etc.—each should have its own File Version section within the overall Digital Object Record.

The fields listed are particularly important to use if appropriate; others are optional.

Good Practice Fields: File Versions > Make Representative

Clicking the ‘Make Representative’ button designates a specific version as the one that should be highlighted on a resource / component page in the public view of the record.   (Be sure to also check the ‘Publish?’ checkbox of a file version that has been Made Representative.)

Good Practice Fields: File Versions > File URI

A unique (and ideally stable) location address for that specific File Version of the overall Digital Object.

Good Practice Fields: File Versions > Publish?

Only check if the public should be able to see that version of the Digital Object.

  • For example, for digitized A/V material service copies might be made public while masters might be kept unpublished.

Good Practice Fields: File Versions > File Format Name and File Format Version

File Format Name’ is a drop-down menu with only nine choices.

  • If the format of the File Version being described is one of those nine, choose the appropriate name option and use ‘File Format Version’ to give additional detail on the specific version of the format.

Otherwise, use the ‘File Format Version’ field to indicate both the name and the version of the format of the File Version being described.

Good Practice Fields: Dates

In general, the process of adding dates to Digital Object Records is the same as the process for adding them to Resource Records

  • There may be a need for more than one Dates section for each Digital Object.  (E.g. multiple ‘modified’ or ‘event’ dates to note significant changes to or actions taken upon digital objects.)
  • For digitized materials, especially, it may be worthwhile to track both creation dates (of the analog originals) and digitization dates.

Good Practice Fields: Extents Section

In general, the process of adding Extents sections to Digital Object Records is the same as the process for adding them to Resource Records

  • Only create extents for Digital Objects in terms of Tera-, Giga-, Mega-, or Kilobytes.  Don’t create extents for any physical containers (e.g. discs, floppies, etc.)  Instead, list those in the ‘Container Summary’ field, which is also used as it is in Resource Records.
  • Abstract/Logical (i.e. non-physical) containers like files and folders can also be listed in the ‘Container Summary’ field, either in addition to or instead of any physical containers that may exist.

The Extents section shouldn't be used to document durations (e.g. playing/run time for audiovisual or interactive materials).  Instead, use one or more Extent notes for that purpose.

Other Fields: Agent Links and Subjects

Agent Links & Subjects in Digital Object Records are reserved for catalogers; otherwise the process of linking Agents & Subjects to Digital Objects is the same as the process for linking them to Resource records.

Other Fields: Notes > General Usage

In general, the process of adding notes to Digital Object Records is the same as the process for adding them to Resource Records, including the details of publishing them/making them public vs. un-publishing them/making them internal-only.  

Certain ‘Notes’ are more common and/or more important for Digital Objects than for analog materials, and others are used differently; these are listed below.

Other Fields: Notes > Inscription

This note is useful as a place to record label information for Digital Objects that correspond directly to physical containers (e.g. disk images or digitized audio cassettes).  

  • Multiple ‘Content’ sub-notes can be used for different labels/inscriptions, for example one for what was written/printed directly on a CD, and a second for the label in/on the CD case. 

Other Fields: Notes > Conditions Governing Access, Conditions Governing Use, and Legal Status

For collection-level Digital Object records (and at other times when necessary), various combinations of these three fields should be used to describe the rights, restrictions, or other legal/contractual terms pertaining to the Digital Object. 

Other Fields: Notes > Extent (note)

  • An ‘Extent’ note can be used to provide an alternate extent not easily accommodated in the ‘Extents’ section, for example duration / playing time for audio tracks and moving images.  

Other Fields: External Documents

The process of adding external documents to Digital Object Records is the same as the process for adding them to Resource Records

There are, however, a couple of notable uses for the field in relation to Digital Object Records (as opposed to Resource Records):

  • User manuals or similar documentation for software
  • Liner notes, album jackets, or package inserts for audiovisual materials and/or software
    • Labels/jackets may occasionally also make good candidates for External Documents, for example if physical cases of originally-analog material have been retained in a separate part of the collection, and/or if a jacket or label inscription is complex enough or visually-interesting enough to make it worth linking to photograph of the item instead of and/or in addition to using an Inscription note.

Other Fields: Rights Statements

Do not use yet, due to major change in the Rights Statements data model between ASpace 1.5.x and 2.0.x. 

Other Fields: Collection Management

The fields in the ‘Collection Management’ section should only be used for Digital Object Records that are created at a higher-level of aggregation, e.g. collection- or series-level Digital Object Records.