Archivists at the University of Illinois Library believe they have built a better tool kit. Their new online collections management program called Archon has more than a few attractive features – not the least of which is that it was developed for “lone archivists with limited technological resources and knowledge,” said Scott Schwartz, one of the developers of the software program and the archivist for music and fine arts at Illinois.
Archon is a web-based tool for archivists and manuscript curators. It automatically publishes archival descriptive information and digital archival objects to a user-friendly website. With Archon, minimal web programming is needed. Archon's powerful scripts will automatically make everything in the system searchable and browsable on your repository's website without writing style sheets or even HTML code.
“We wanted our application to be particularly useful to small, one-person repositories that have been unable to take full advantage of current tools under development,” Schwartz said.
According to Chris Prom, assistant university archivist and co-project director, the developers knew the system had to meet staff needs. “But what really makes it special is that it makes an archives’ holdings much more accessible to its users,” Prom said. “The program automatically creates its own searchable Web site. It’s based on extensive research about how people search for and use archival materials.”
Archon requires a blank MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server database and a web server (of any type) running PHP 5.0 or higher. An installer is provided. If you are not familiar with the use of MySQL or Microsoft SQL or web servers, you will need the assistance of a qualified a system administrator who can then install the application for you or provide you the correct information to install it yourself. Once installed and configured by an expert, ongoing maintenance and the addition of new material can be handled by most anyone; system administrator skills will no longer be required.
With Archon, visitors to the repository's web site can:
- Simultaneously search for relevant archival collections, series, files, and items, as well as associated digital objects.
- Easily navigate from digital objects to associated collection descriptions and vice versa.
- View search hits in their full archival context.
- Browse materials by collection title, digital object title, controlled subject heading, creator authority record, or archival record group.
- Jump easily between collections and digital objects sharing the same subject, creator, or archival record group.
- Show finding aids in print view.
- View or download digital objects.
If you would like to see Archon in operation, look at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archives at http://www.library.uiuc.edu/archives/archon.
You can read more about Archon or even download the free program at http://www.archon.org.