Starting the AT/Archon Integration Project

As was posted yesterday on the AT site:

On behalf of the Archivists Toolkit and Archon projects, we wish to announce several activities related to the proposed development of a next-generation archival management tool. These activities will be undertaken this fall:

1. Based on an initial assessment of features in current and planned future release of the Archivists Toolkit and Archon, we will draft a set of high-level functional requirements for the new system, ensuring that essential features derived from each existing tool are included in the proposed new tool

2. On or about October 19th, we will disseminate a draft set of high-level functional requirements to the archives community via the same venues used to communicate this message. We will seek comments from the archives community about the proposed high-level functional requirements, as well as requests for other features not initially identified in the distributed draft of high-level requirements. The results of this process will be carefully considered, especially in regard to the anticipated scope of the integrated application and resources expected to be available for its development. We anticipate the comments will be due by November 20th.

3. We will conduct a migration analysis and recommend to the technical team potential strategies for migrating all data in current versions of Archon and the AT to the new application that will be built.

4. We will host a Webinar on or around December 9th, in order to discuss the proposed high-level functions and the data migration. Thirty preselected members from the AT and Archon communities, as well as from the larger archives community, will be invited to participate in this session. The Webinar will be led by a facilitator who is not formally affiliated with either the AT or Archon projects. Date, duration, and other details for this Webinar will be communicated as they become known.

5. We will use the comments and feedback from this Webinar to develop a final list of high level functions, prioritized as either required, preferable, and optional for the new application. This list and the recommended migration strategy will constitute a final report to be completed by December 31, 2009; it will serve as the starting point for the specification and technical teams, which have not yet been constituted.

At this point, we strongly encourage all AT and Archon users and other interested members of the archives community to participate in this process.

Please note that the activities being undertaken this fall serve as track one in a proposed six-track planning and development process. Track one is self-funded by the host universities for the AT and Archon projects (University of California San Diego, New York University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) and is undertaken in anticipation that further funding may be received to complete the planning process and development process.

We look forward to working with you in this endeavor,

Brad, Chris, Scott

Bradley D. Westbrook
Head, Metadata Analysis and Specification Unit
UC San Diego Libraries

Christopher J. Prom, Ph.D
Assistant University Archivist
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Scott W. Schwartz
Archivist for Music and Fine Arts
Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Brad, Chris and Scott will be sharing more updates on the status of the integration project as there’s more to report. But please share your thoughts or suggestions about how they’ve scoped out this process in the comments.

Intro to Archon

In preparation for next week’s guest posts about the integration of the Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon, I thought it might be useful to provide a brief introduction to each tool. Today, guest bloggers Chris Prom and Scott Schwartz introduce Archon:

A significant portion of the world’s historical papers and records are preserved not by large centralized government repositories, but rather by academic and municipal archives and special collections libraries. Many of these repositories lack the resources or technical expertise to provide on-line access to their unique collections. As a result, a great wealth of knowledge, including scientific and technological papers, cultural and artistic documents, business and administrative records, and historical and literary manuscripts remain undiscovered and unused by scholars as well as the general public.

In 2006 the University of Illinois developed Archon, an open-source collections management software program, to meet the descriptive and access needs of the University of Illinois and other academic and institutional archives and special collections libraries that wished to provide searchable and browseable websites of their historical documents. Archon can be thought of as a type of content management system, in that it allows repositories to create ISAD(G) and DACS-compliant descriptive records using web forms.

Archon was formulated as a “plug and play” web application. It uses the popular LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) platform, much like WordPress and many other successful web applications. It can be easily installed on a LAMP-based server, server cluster, or web hosting service.

Once Archon is installed, repository staff use a series of web forms to enter data into the system. Archon’s scripts produce output dynamically, in the form of a searchable and browsable public-access website, MARC bibliographic records, and EAD (Encoded Archival Description) files. Archon also supports multilingual character sets to display its public and administrative interfaces in languages other than English.

Since its release in August 2006, the University of Illinois has made Archon freely available as open-source software under the University of Illinois/NCSA license. A user community of both large and small archives and special collections repositories has coalesced around the Archon project. We frequently consult with this group via a forum and other methods, and such contacts have have proven invaluable in helping us to improve Archon’s usability and in selecting new features for development.

Archon 2.22 was released in March 2009 and contains several significant enhancements to the application’s public and administrative interfaces. Through September 2009, the application has been installed over 950 times, and it is being actively used as a ‘production’ application by over 40 archives and special collections libraries in North America and Europe.

We plan to release Archon 3.0 on or before January 2, 2010. Archon 3.0 will feature a fully redesigned and easier-to-use administrative interface. (See below for a screenshot–click on it to enlarge the image.) It will include a new ‘commerce package,’ ‘book manager’, and the Audio Visual Self Assessment Program, a preservation planning tool for those curating AV items. On a more technical note, version 3.0 is built on a rewritten core code base, which should make it easier for institutions to modify and or extend the application by developing plugins.


The joint Archivist’s Toolkit/Archon project that was recently announced will lead to a sustainable, extensible application that meets the needs of the archives community in the emerging information environment. The staff of the Archon Project looks forward to working with the members of the Archivist Toolkit Project to capitalize on both projects’ successes and to prepare for the future challenges that face our profession. While Archon has succeeded far beyond our initial dreams, we firmly believe that the new application will be better positioned to meet the needs of our existing user community, and we will do all that we can to ensure a smooth transition to the new application, throughout the planning process and beyond.