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ArchivesSpace Local Practices Manual for UHM Archives Staff: Intro

Useful Links (ask Leilani for help if you can't access something)

Introduction and Credits

This document is intended to help staff at the University of Hawai’i Libraries with responsibility for archival material describe those materials in ArchivesSpace. 

For screenshots, additional information on ArchivesSpace’s interface and fields, and links to additional documentation, please see Yale University’s incredibly detailed ‘ArchivesSpace at Yale: User Manual’, saved in the Archives Subcommittee’s ‘Description’ folder on Google Drive. 

Notably, the Yale manual includes an overview of the staff interface (pp6-20 as of December 2018), including how to navigate through the application, specifics on how ArchivesSpace implements searching and browsing, and other tips on working with the program.  The 'General navigation - Staff User Interface' section of the box below covers only a small portion of this information.


The major record types and how they relate to each other

As a collections information database, ArchivesSpace (ASpace) has three major record types and numerous minor ones.  The three major record types are Resources, Accessions, and Digital Objects.  Minor record types include Subjects & Agents, Locations & Containers, Events, and Assessments

Ordinarily, materials first get logged in ASpace when they are received, as an Accession.  When one or more related accessions get processed as a collection, that collection is entered as a Resource.  In simple cases, a Resource record can be spawned directly from an Accession Record, but more commonly, a Resource record will be created from scratch, and the relevant Accession records linked to it.  (Very rarely, a single accession might be split into multiple resources.)  

In general, a Resource record is the top-level record for a collection (or Record Group, or Fonds).   In multi-level archival description, Archival Object records (a.k.a. Archival Component records) exist as children of a Resource record, and may describe series, sub-series, files, items, and various other levels in a collection hierarchy.  

It should be noted that Archival Object/Component records describe logical / intellectual entities, NOT specific physical or digital instances of those entities.   The physical form of an archival object would get described in a physical Instance attached to that component that notes its container and that container's location, while a digital version of it would be described in a Digital Instance attached to it and/or as a Digital Object.   All digital material--whether born-digital archival materials or files digitized from physical collection items--may be described in Digital Object records, which may be linked to Resource records at the collection level, linked to Archival Object records at a lower level in a collection hierarchy, or left as stand-alone entities.  

For an example of how this works in practice: (quoted & reformatted slightly from an email by Kari R. Smith, Institute Archivist and Head of the Digital Archives at MIT, 2018/04/09)

Resource = Collection of My Best Audio Recordings (1976-1988)

(Linked Accession =  Today I received 5 reel to reel tapes of recordings)

(Linked Accession = last month I received 5 CD-ROMs from reformatting of reels)

  • Archival Object = My favorite performance done using a Theremin
    • (1) Instance = Reel to Reel recording
      • Container – Box 1 with barcode #######
      • Location = Cold Storage
    • (2) Instance = CD-ROM with recording from the reel to reel
      • Container Box 5 with barcode #######
      • Location = storage area A, bay 5, shelf 2
    • (3) Instance = digital files (pulled from the CD-ROM)
      • Container =    (BagIt package of digital files)
      • Location = Digital Preservation Storage; Collection_MBAR; Accession_#####

& [relatedly]

Digital Object = MP3 file of the recording that I put online for Web access.

  • Location - Webserver

The remainder of this page gives some overall guidance on how to navigate in ASpace, while the other tabs/pages in this LibGuide go into more detail on data entry for each of the various record types.

General navigation and data entry- Staff User Interface (SUI)

Most of ASpace's functionality can be reached through either the Browse drop-down menu or the Create drop-down menu, both of which are located more-or-less under the "University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library' logo in the upper left hand corner of the page.    Notably, the Create menu includes the options to create assessments and--under the 'Background Job' option--run reports.

The ArchivesSpace system manager, Leilani Dawson, has set certain global and repository defaults, for example the order in which notes get arranged when a user clicks the 'Apply Standard Note Order' button in a Resource record.  Users can override some of these program defaults with their own preferences under the User Preference Defaults section, which is reached by opening the drop-down menu to the right of their username (in the upper right hand corner of the interface).  What options are available depend on the user group to which the user has been assigned (e.g. program administrators, library staff, students/volunteers, etc.).

  • It is strongly recommended that all users customize the order and contents of the columns that appear in the browse lists for Accession, Resource, and Digital Object records.  In particular, if you want to be able to sort on things like Identifier or Accession Date, make sure to specify that here. 

Other notes:

  • If you find yourself unsure of what you are looking at when you are viewing a record, note that many fields have tool tips that appear when you hover the mouse pointer over the field label.  
  • Finally, when interacting with patrons, please note that search in the SUI works differently than it does int he Public User Interface (PUI). 
    • In the SUI, 'AND' is the default search operator, i.e. entering multiple words in the search box returns records with all of the terms
    • In the PUI, 'OR' is the default search operator, and entering that same search would instead return records with any of those terms!
    • This is a known issue, and occurs because the two interfaces were built completely separately, with very different code:   Originally both had 'OR' as the default search operator; as it turned out fixing it in the SUI happened to be a relatively easy fix for the developers, in the PUI, not so much.   

Multiple users / Note on saving records in ArchivesSpace

ArchivesSpace allows multiple people to work in the program at once—a good thing!—but also allows multiple people to work on a single record at the same time, which can be problematic.  If two (or more) people are editing the same record at the same time and both (or all) make changes to the record, the only changes that are kept are those of whoever saves first.  The second person (and anyone else who was also simultaneously editing that record) would then get an error message saying that their changes can’t be saved. 

In order to avoid this, save often, especially when editing records that are often updated!  (Saving records frequently also helps prevent loss of data due to lost network connections or other weirdness.)