Project Electron Update: Building Microservices for Integration

As we’ve continued to refine Aurora’s functionality, and improve the application’s usability and accessibility, we’ve also been building out microservices applications which integrate a number of systems, moving digital records and data between them. Systems integrations work is not new to us at the RAC, but the integrations we are building for Project Electron are extremely mission critical. Because of that, they need to be reliable, scalable, holistically managed, modular, visible to and owned by staff at all levels of expertise. We also want them to automate routine and repetitive tasks, while supporting the value and dignity of archival labor by keeping human judgement and principled decision-making in the loop.
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The Values of Open Communities

I (relatively) recently came back from Open Repositories and have had a myriad of jumbled thoughts bouncing around in my head about aligning communities, values, software, and expectations within libraries and archives. Hopefully, this blog post will serve as an outline for the thoughts that have been percolating for a few weeks, and really, a few years before that. I’ve met a significant number of professionals that I know share these opinions as well, but I think it’s helpful to spend some time reflecting on the ideas they’ve imparted and how we, as members of a community, can better align our actions with our values, and the difficulties that work presents. Continue reading

Project Electron Update: Introducing Aurora 1.0

We are very pleased to announce the initial release of Aurora, an application to receive, virus check, and validate the structure and contents of digital records transfers. It provides a read-only interface for representatives of donor organizations to track transfers, so that they can follow their records as they move through the archival lifecycle. It also includes functionality for RAC staff to add or update organization accounts and users associated with them, appraise incoming transfers, and initiate the accessioning process. Aurora is built on community-driven standards and specifications, and we have released it as open source software. This is a major milestone for Project Electron, and we are excited to share it with the world. Many thanks to our partners at Marist College IT and to the Ford Foundation for their generous support of the project.

Aurora homescreen

We will continue to improve Aurora as we test and integrate it with a chain of other archival management and digital preservation tools.

Read more about Project Electron here.

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Project Electron August Update

This month has been all about developing the Project Electron transfer application. The work is based on our defined specifications and the development decisions we made last month with our Marist College partners at the hackathon. We are really excited about testing transfers in the coming month.

In this post I am going to briefly discuss Gherkin, which in addition to being a delightful little cucumber, is a language that is used to define the requirements of software in order to document and test the software’s behavior as part of Behavior Driven Development (BDD). We have been using Gherkin to write Quality Assurance (QA) tests for the functions of our Project Electron transfer application. The language is human-readable, so it can enable communication between teams working in different domains across a project.

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Virtual Vault: making access to digitized records easier

This month, we launched a system called Virtual Vault, which allows us to deliver digitized content to any user within the RAC network. It’s a temporary solution that we hope will help us better understand responsible access to digital archival records. Our thinking around this solution is motivated by one central question: given the limitations of copyright and donor agreement restrictions, what is the most and best access we can provide? Continue reading

Principled Action: Asserting Archival Principles to Reduce the RAC Backlog

Several years ago RAC faced a dilemma familiar to many in our profession – a daunting processing backlog that was growing exponentially and depriving scholar’s and staff of access to many of the records held in our collections. Our collections are great resources of knowledge, but only if those resources are available to our users!

To find a solution, we actively sought processing practices that reflect our values as an operating foundation, specifically the values of collaborating and sharing knowledge, disseminating information, promoting discovery in all its forms, and facilitating open and equitable access to all our archival holdings. Over the last year and a half, we shifted our strategy to processing by accession and implemented a standards-based approach which has been a resounding success thus far and has resulted in the processing and opening for research of over 4,500 cubic feet of records. This discussion will be the first in a series of posts about our processes and collaborations. I hope our experiences may be valuable and helpful to others. Continue reading

Project Electron May Update

Our major news for this month is that, after evaluating a number of existing solutions against our requirements for archival storage, we have decided to use Fedora as the repository solution for Project Electron. Although there were other systems that met many of our requirements – DSpace for example – in the end we felt that Fedora was the closest match for our needs both in terms of feature coverage and scope. It does what we want it to do without requiring us to support a lot of extra functionality or complexity. Continue reading

Getting More Out of (and Into) Your Collections Management System: Digital Media Log

The following is the text from the talk I gave at METRO’s Annual Conference held this year on January 11, 2017. This talk was part of the panel “Getting More Out of (and Into) Your Collections Management System.”

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