Lessons from a Digital Preservation Neophyte

On September 3, 2010, in Research, by Angela Jordan

Editor’s Note:  This is the first post from Angela Jordan. Her experience trying to install Archivematica illustrates that one cannot overestimate the number of things that can go wrong when installing someone else’s software, no matter how simple the process might appear on text or how smart the person doing the installing. In a separate post, I’ll put some thoughts regarding her experience.

Now, on to Angela:


Four hours after beginning a seemingly simple installation process, I finally completed installing Archivematica.  As an individual with no IT experience, I am a perfect test case to gauge the accessibility of this program installation.

My first moments of confusion happened immediately.  Part of the problem resulted from my outdated equipment. Various attempts to download VirtualBox using the links the Archivematica Downloads page simply froze the computer. My next step was to download the program from the Oracle website. (screenshot below)

My confusion continued upon downloading VirtualBox, which is required to run Archivematica: what operating system do I wish to download, Windows or an open source operating system?  This confusion stemmed from my ignorance of the University Archives operating systems and from the way Oracle presented the download page.

Once I chose to download Windows, my efforts stalled yet again.  For an indiscernible reason, the program would not download successfully.  After the confusion and mounting frustration of not recognizing the source of the problem [editor’s note: we later determined it was a Firefox issue], I successfully downloaded the complete program by right-clicking and selecting ‘save as.’  I had to go through the same frustration when downloading the Archivematica file [editor’s note: disk image].

So far, the entire process seemed to confirm my status as the technology-challenged guinea pig.  Downloading all of the required components took approximately three hours.

Installing and starting the Archivematica appliance went smoothly, taking a little less than an hour from start to finish.  However, Microsoft Windows did not appreciate my attempt to install a non-Microsoft program, and I received several warnings against installing non-verified software.  The message, although annoying to me, and something Chris told me to click through, could easily intimidate others from continuing their installation.

In short, the Archivematica installation process was exasperating.  Not only was I working on an ancient computer, the various steps and instruction language were not aimed at IT neophytes.

Installing OAIS Software: Archivematica

On January 15, 2010, in Research, Software Reviews, by Chris Prom

Over the past week, I’ve been in Cardiff, Wales, at a Forum for Fulbright fellows and scholars.  If I get some time this weekend, I may post a few thoughts about it and/or some reflections on Scotland and my Fulbright experience to date. In the meantime, I’d like to update you on my adventures installing software  for undertaking preservation actions within an OAIS environment.

For those of you who missed past postings, the tools I am evaluating  wrap together a variety of open source tools to help archives with many aspects of the ingest, storage, and access process.  So far, I’ve reviewed RODA and also DAITSS.   Both of them, at least in their current forms, are difficult for anyone without server admin experience  to install.  Any archivist would need significant support to get them running.  I may also try my hand at ISLANDORA (which looks like it would take even more work), but that may not prove necessary since I have been having so much good luck with Archivematica.

Unlike the other software, which is server based, Archivematica is a virutal appliance and runs inside VirtualBox or another virtualization engine that supports the open virtualization format (such as VMWare).  It uses file based storage, so it can be implemented within any existing file storage systems that are available or can be made available on the host computer.  Until now, this project has been deliberately flying under the radar, although I’ve known about is since past fall, when the project manager, Peter van Garderen contacted me.

Based on my initial experiences, Archivematica offers a credible, thoughtful, and I believe supportable model for facilitating archival work with electronic records.  In fact, I like this project I’ve chosen to become directly involved in development and will begin contributing code to it over the next few weeks.

Here’s why I like the  project so much:

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