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Thursday, October 6 • 11:20 - 12:05
Splitting the AtoM: Implementing Access to Memory at McMaster University

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McMaster University's William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections recently implemented a customised instance of Access to Memory (AtoM), a FLOSS archival description platform. In this session, three members of the project team will explore the complexities of implementing a major migration project involving highly unruly data, including:
AtoM is based on formal standards of archival description which often correspond inelegantly to the realities of how materials accumulate in archives—what is a "fonds" vs. a "collection" in real terms? How can you describe a manuscript within an archival standard? What do you do when an item has no attendant authority record? How do you address the inconsistencies in descriptive practise that all institutions experience over time, as staff and standards change? From a technical perspective, we had the challenge of migrating over 890 descriptive records from totally unstructured static HTML pages to the MySQL database which underlies AtoM. This undertaking, and the major design changes we needed to make to customise AtoM to our institution and users, presented some real logistical questions—especially given that each member of the project team reports to a different supervisor.
And what would any IT project be without a few bugs which take you completely by surprise when it's too late to back out? Making the framework of the standard—and thus the software—fit the idiosyncracies of descriptive practise and our institutional context required some real creativity. We will share our approach. Which worked. More or less.


John Fink

Digital Scholarship LibrarianMcMaster University
avatar for Myron Groover

Myron Groover

Archives and Rare Books Librarian, McMaster University
I've been Archives and Rare Books Librarian at Mac since 2014. Prior to this I worked in public libraries. Outside of work, or perhaps adjacent to it, I'm down for religious studies, politics, philology & linguistics, information policy, intellectual freedom, privacy, library advocacy... Read More →

Thursday October 6, 2016 11:20 - 12:05 ADT
Wu Auditorium