A Unique Digital Archive

The Jefferson Institute’s digital archive system uses one software system to manage all aspects of operations, a “total system approach” that is rarely accomplished in the archive industry, according to the Institute’s Aaron Presnall.

Typically, archives have separate systems for functions such as managing scanning workflow at a large scale, for building and managing repositories of data, for researcher interfaces, for facilitating metadata entry and for managing complex granular security and reports of user activity.

The archive created for the Ministry of Defense in Serbia puts all this together in one system. The key advantages to this approach:

  • It is simple; you don’t have to deal with dueling incom-patible systems.

  • It is highly flexible; sequencing the workflow becomes less important: you can scan, enter metadata, quality check and rescan simultaneously, across an unlimited number of work stations.

  • Predefined system check points minimize input error, and provide tools to catch errors that sneak through.

  • Researchers can tag and annotate documents — and that data (with administrator authorization) is fed back to the central repository of metadata that all users search against. This enables crowd-sourced metadata entry. Annotation is a tradition among users of archives — they write notes on the folders for the next researchers to come — and this seamlessly pulls that tradition into the digital age.

  • The administrator can see analytical reports indicating not just how many users visit, or how long users stay, but what they look at — so administrators can discover what in their collection is most in demand, and where users may be running into walls — perhaps because of incomplete metadata. Administrators can then take action to leverage opportunities, build special exhibits of high-interest col-lections, and fix problems as they emerge.