Making FLACC project archives and collections accessible with ICA-AtoM

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This page is a translated version of the page FLACC-projectarchieven en -collecties toegankelijk maken met ICA-AtoM and the translation is 98% complete.
Outdated translations are marked like this.
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English • ‎Nederlands

The FLACC arts centre installed a database for the archive that can be used by its own staff, artists and researchers to find information easily. As such, FLACC is trying to save the knowledge that has been acquired during projects and make it accessible for re-use.

Status

  1. Choice of database system and description standard: January 2013 – February 2013
  2. Adaptation of system to functional requirements on the basis of use cases: April 2013 - July 2013
  3. Testing database system and introducing the description standard: October 2013 – February 2014
  4. Implementation of the database system: April 2014 - May 2014

Problem Definition

Introduction

FLACC offers artists from Belgium and abroad support on content, facilities and organisation for the preparation and realisation of their projects. In 2008 the organisation started actively storing project archives so as not to lose the acquired knowledge. In 2012 they invited the artist Nilsson Pflugfelder to present/represent the organisation in an installation. The Verbandkammer is an installation that aims to stimulate the dissemination and re-use of information created by FLACC and resident artists. (last visited on 19/11/2014)

At the end of the project all documents and objects generated by an artist are put in a box and placed in The Verbandkammer. In 2012 FLACC contacted PACKED vzw to develop a database that would make their digital archive accessible and preserve the process that an artist goes through when realising a project.

Nilsson Pflugfelder, The Verbandkammer - © Kristof Vrancken / FLACC


Desired results at the start of the project

  • Once a project is complete the documents and objects are described in the database.
  • Before or during a project-in-progress an artist or member of staff can look up information on a specific technique or material that he/she wants to use.
  • The process or the search that the artist has carried out must be recorded.


Requirements

  • The database system must allow for archive descriptions to be made and for these to be linked to documents on the server
  • The programme must allow for browsing through the archive of projects
  • Confidential information must be protected
  • The content of the documents must be searchable
  • The digital archive must be linked to the physical archive

Methode

  1. Choosing a database system and description standard
  2. Adapting the system to functional requirements
    1. Use case 1: Collect and describe the archive when the project has finished.
    2. Use case 2: Before or during a project-in-progress an artist or member of staff can look up information on a specific technique or material that he/she wants to use.
    3. Use case 3: A visitor to the studio can look up information on previous FLACC projects.
    4. Use case 4: The process or the search that the artist has carried out during his project must be recorded.
  3. Collecting and describing the archive
  4. Installing the system
Nilsson Pflugfelder, The Verbandkammer - © Kristof Vrancken / FLACC


1. Choice of database system and description standard

FLACC wants to make documents accessible by project. There are various materials (draft versions, quotes, specifications, technical documents, etc.) that don’t necessarily have to be described per item. That’s why the ICA-AtoM database was chosen. A museum approach where each and every object is described, such as the collection management system CollectiveAccess, creates more detailed information, but was too labour-intensive for the FLACC staff.

ICA-AtoM is an open source system developed under the auspices of the International Council of Archives (ICA). You can describe bigger elements such as project files, as well as separate documents and objects. It is also possible to describe an archive on different levels. If a project consists of multiple parts (e.g. several artworks, related lectures, exhibitions etc.) the various parts can be described as part of the project. Consequently, the project is the main level (the coordinating whole) and the various components (the artwork, lecture, exhibition) are the subarchives.

ICA-AtoM is an open source system developed under the auspices of the International Council of Archives (ICA). You can describe bigger elements such as project files, as well as separate documents and objects. It is also possible to describe an archive on different levels. If a project consists of multiple parts (e.g. several artworks, related lectures, exhibitions etc.) the various parts can be described as part of the project. Consequently, the project is the main level (the coordinating whole) and the various components (the artwork, lecture, exhibition) are the subarchives.


2. Adapting the system to functional requirements

On the basis of use cases, the system was further adapted to the needs of FLACC so that the staff of the organisation could get the most out of working with the archive.


2.1. Use case 1: Collect and describe the archive when the project has finished

Once the project is complete, the room is emptied and both the physical and digital documents and objects are cleaned up. The project is allocated a unique code that is valid for the physical and digital archives. The physical archive is then placed in The Verbandkammer. For the digital archive, a folder is created in the central storage location where all the digital files are collected. A distinction is made between public documents and documents that can only be consulted by FLACC personnel. The protected files are put in a separate folder.

The archive is described according to ISAD(G) fields in ICA-AtoM. The descriptions are on a project level. The description can be very general or include more detail on the project.

The documents in which the staff member wants to be able to search for content are saved in pdf format and stored in Google Drive. The documents are thus indexed and as a result fully text-searchable.


2.2. Use case 2: Before or during a project-in-progress an artist or member of staff can look up information on a specific technique or material that he/she wants to use

The interface of the system enables searching via the description on the basis of the ISAD(G) fields or on content in the documents on Google Drive.


2.3. Use case 3: A visitor to the studio can look up information on previous FLACC projects

The visitor can also browse the FLACC archive via the system. Privacy-protected or confidential information is kept in a separate file folder. This folder is protected on the server and is not accessible to external parties. It is possible in ICA-AtoM to build in role-based access control (e.g. FLACC personnel, artist and external party) so that external parties cannot look at confidential information.


2.4. Use case 4: The process or the search that the artist has carried out during his project must be recorded.

The creation process is recorded and stored in the project folder in a pdf file during or immediately after the project. This is uploaded together with the process document into Google Drive so that it is searchable. The folder structure can also be designed to show the artist’s workflow.

Screenshot of the FLACC database - © FLACC


3. Collecting and describing the archive

When a project is complete, a FLACC member of staff takes responsibility for the archive: the physical and digital material is collected and cleaned. Since FLACC staff are very closely involved in the projects, it is relatively easy for them to determine which documents are valuable and representative enough to be kept and which are not. The project archive is allocated a coordinating code that is valid for all materials in the physical and digital archive. The physical archive is placed in The Verbandkammer. The various carriers (folders containing project documents, DVDs, photos, objects, etc.) are kept separate, but can be quickly traced due to the unique code and the description in ICA-AtoM.

The archive is described according to ISAD(G) fields on the project level. This can be done directly in ICA-AtoM or via an Excel file and later uploaded into ICA-AtoM. A link is inserted in ICA-AtoM to the documents on the server.

For test purposes, a completed project from 2013 was described first. The description of the archive went relatively well, but the reconstruction of the process that the artist went through was a little more difficult. It was difficult and time-consuming to fill in the workflow document. FLACC therefore adapted its methods. The process is now described as it happens. Reference is made in the workflow document to related documents.


4. Installing the system

PACKED vzw installed a coordinating system at FLACC. In the programme a file for every project was created with direct references to the description in ICA-AtoM, the files on the server and the documents on Google Drive.

Nilsson Pflugfelder, The Verbandkammer - © Kristof Vrancken / FLACC

Results

Were the desired results obtained?

Once a project is complete the documents and objects are described in the database.

The project archives are described at the project level in ICA-AtoM. ISAD(G) is easy to use and descriptions can be inserted very quickly. Initially the layout of ICA-AtoM is a little daunting, but it gets easier after first-line assistance from the user manual. By describing the archive in the database, the various parts of the archive are connected to each other; in the database the archive is allocated one code that refers to both the digital and physical archive and to the various components of the physical archive (paper documents, slides, DVDs, photos, etc.). Despite the fact that these components are kept in different places, they can be traced easily thanks to the description in ICA-AtoM.

The process or the search that the artist has carried out must be recorded.

The process that the artist follows is recorded in a workflow document. It was however difficult to complete the workflow document for older projects. It was very time-consuming to reconstruct the process. It is therefore best that this documentation process occurs during the project itself.

It is not possible to show the workflow in the folder structure, because a project does not follow a linear path.

Before or during a project-in-progress an artist or member of staff can look up information on a specific technique or material that he/she wants to use.

Conclusions and attention points

  • Confidential documents were not placed in a separate protected folder by FLACC. The matter of protecting confidential information still needs some consideration. One possible solution is to build in access rights to the documents on the server.
  • Language problem: International artists also visit FLACC. For this reason the workflow document and the description in ICA-AtoM were written in English. If non-native speakers want to use the archive, all other documents will have to be written in English as well.


Author: Nastasia Vanderperren (PACKED vzw)