Duke DataAccessioner: Review

On October 26, 2010, in Research, Software Reviews, by Angela Jordan

As Chris has noted previously, it is important for archives at ‘small’ repositories to rapidly complete basic archival tasks, like bulk file identification, transfer, and processing.  For a long time, he had been meaning to test out the Duke Data Accessioner.  Last week, he turned the task over to me, as part of a project to process the Ed Kieser Papers.

The “Duke DataAccessioner” is a free, open source program that can be downloaded to your desktop and used to migrate data from physical media or directories and into a dedicated file server/directory structure for preservation, further appraisal, arrangement, and description;  it also provides a way to integrate metadata tools at the time of migration.

The intent of this interface is to allow easy adoption by smaller institutions with little or no IT support;  it required basic downloading from the DataAccessioner website and it was very easy to install and launch using a supplied batch file, on a windows computer.

The benefit of this program is that anyone, regardless of technological ability, can use this interface to migrate data.  However, the limitation is that it only migrates certain types of data from disks to file servers.  The interface works well with standard files, such as Microsoft Office documents, images and AV files that have not be burned to a disk image format.  However, it is unable to migrate information in CDA format and certain other DVD formats (we have not fully investigated the latter.)  In the case of the audio files we were accessioning, this posed an issue, since the records creator had burned many audio clips to this format, allowing them to be played in any standard CD player.  So we will have to rip the files first using ITunes or some other free software, then run the DataAccessioner on the converted files.

In addition, upon migrating a large backup disk, DataAccessioner returned a JVM error; evidently the program has limitations surrounding the amount of data it can migrate at one time.   Depending upon the amount of information that needs migrating, this program could take quite a bit longer than necessary because of this limitation.  Upon customizing the parameters and migrating the disk in sections, I had no further issues and was able to migrate the disk.

Overall, the DataAccessioner does a decent job at its intended task.  A novice can download and install the program, so depending on your local migration/accessioning needs, this would be an good choice.

Evaluation Criteria:

* Installation/Configuration/Supported Platforms: Installation is straightforward, quick, and easily installed by a novice.   10/10

* Functionality/Reliability: Once the program was installed, it did not freeze or crash.  However, the inability of this program to migrate certain formats of data caused the program to return error messages, and the website and corresponding guide did not indicate what sorts of formats would migrate.  7/10

* Usability: User friendly interface and corresponding installation guide that includes an annotated sample screen shot.  10/10

* Scalability:  Designed to be used for migration of individual file selection or the entire disk.  Upon migrating a large backup disk, DataAccessioner returned a JVM error;  evidently the program has limitations surrounding the amount of data it can migrate at one time.  Upon customizing the parameters and migrating the disk in sections, I had no further issues.    7/10

* Documentation: The guide to installation and the interface is specific, point-by-point, and has both visual and textual instruction.   10/10

* Interoperability/Metadata support: The metadata manager handles the metadata passed by the adapter plugins. Two default metadata managers are built in: default and none. The default is a simple file/folder structure inside a collection/accession root that will take whatever metadata is passed. Anyone can write their own metadata manager plugin to use instead. I used the one created for Duke RBMSCL/UA and writes data, including MD5 checksum and DROID/JHOVE data to a single xml file for the entire accession. The DataAccessioner can also be used as an ingest interface to repository systems such as Fedora via a custom metadata manager.   10/10

* Flexibility/Customizability: Technology oriented users may create new plugins and simply place the plugin in a “plugins” directory that resides next to the DataAccessioner jar.  Users can also customize the program to set the migration parameters from individual files to the entire disk, add content notes, and titles.  10/10

* License/Support/Sustainability/Community: DataAccessioner is available through Duke University, but not under a standard open source license.  However, it is free to use, modify and redistribute, for non-commercial use under the terms of a Duke license.  It has no support outside of the installation and user guide, such as a forum or listserv.  However, the installation and user interface is such that little support is necessary, unless you wish to customize it extensively.  It is a little bit unclear as to how the application will be kept up to date with new releases of DROID, etc, but a beta version is currently available.  9/10

Final Score: 93/100

Bottom Line: An excellent, user-friendly program for specific data accessioning projects, but cannot handle DVD-Video media or cda formatted CDs.  You would need to convert these separately, then accession the data. It would be an excellent short to medium term solution for many archives.

[Editor’s note: Great work, Seth!]

  • Robert Sharp

     I have used this and downloaded it with ease. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I would recommend this to anyone.