Free software tools for archivists

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) archivists have developed a free software kit named Archon to help other librarians to manage their collections. This software has been designed for archivists with limited access to technological resources. It's free and you can download it to manage your own music or book collection even if you're not a librarian. But all the materials in the collection need to be available with descriptions and tags. One interesting feature of the software is that it will build a searchable website for you. But read more...

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) archivists have developed a free software kit named Archon to help other librarians to manage their collections. This software has been designed for archivists with limited access to technological resources. It's free and you can download it to manage your own music or book collection even if you're not a librarian. But all the materials in the collection need to be available with descriptions and tags. One interesting feature of the software is that it will build a searchable website for you. But read more...

Archon finding a picture in an archive

You can see on the left a digital object found by the Archon software, a photograph included in the John Van Fossen Papers, held by the Sousa Archives and Center For American Music at UIUC (Credit: UIUC) Here are two other examples of implementations of the Archon software, one about the Holdings and Digital Archives at UIUC, and another one about special collections at Purdue University.

The Archon Project is the brainchild of two UIUC assistant professors working for University Library at UIUC, Chris Prom and Scott Schwartz. They made the design, but were helped by computer scientists to develop the software. Here is a picture of the Archon Project Staff.

Here are some quotes from Schwartz -- who runs the Sousa collection at UIUC -- about the project. "We didn't want anyone to become burdened with having to learn complex methods or standards required by the archives profession just to make their collections available to the public in today's online environment. We took a minimalist approach, yet didn't sacrifice the standards of the profession. We recognized what people and researchers need to access collections of historical documents preserved in archives, and developed the tools to help put archivists and the public in the driver's seat to meet these important access needs."

For more information, you can read a technical paper published in Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, Archon: A Unified Information Storage and Retrieval System for Lone Archivists, Special Collections Librarians and Curators (Volume 2, Number 2, 2007). The above picture has been extracted from this article.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract. "Archon was created with robust interoperability using a single web-based platform for the management of collections of documents and artifacts held by archives, museums and libraries. It was developed as a “plug and play” application for easy installation on any web server or on any web hosting service. It uses common web-browser input mechanisms and SQL data storage to produce dynamic data output in the form of searchable collections websites. [...] The article discusses the design concepts that lead to the University of Illinois’ creation of Archon, the challenges faced by the archives community when providing descriptive access to large bodies of historical papers and records, and describes Archon’s public and administrative interfaces as well as future plans for additional developments to this software program."

Sources: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release, February 19, 2008; and various websites

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