Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Archivematica Implementation: A Retrospective

First, some exciting news: It's official! We've fully implemented Archivematica here at the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library and, as of August 31, 2017, we've used it as part of the end-to-end digital archives workflow we developed during the Mellon-funded ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace Workflow Integration project to deposit our first "production" AIPs into DeepBlue, our repository for digital preservation and access.

Go ahead, check them out! (And these too!) And there was much rejoicing (yaaaaaaaay)...

In this post, we'll reflect a bit on what's happened since our last status report and look forward to a brave new digital archives world (at least here at the Bentley).

Major Milestones

Archivematica is a web- and standards-based, open-source application which allows your institution to preserve long-term access to trustworthy, authentic and reliable digital content.

The Mellon grant officially concluded nearly a year ago on October 31st, 2016. At the time, we announced that we had achieved each of the three major development objectives for the project:
  • the creation of a new Appraisal and Arrangement tab in Archivematica that will permit archivists to characterize, review, arrange, and describe digital archives;
  • the integration of Archivematica and ArchivesSpace; and
  • the integration of Archivematica and DSpace.

Archivematica 1.6 was officially released on March 16, 2017. Dubbed "the Nancy Deromedi release" in memory of Nancy Deromedi, former Associate Director for Curation here at the Bentley, whose vision helped shape defining features of the release, this release contained the features listed above whose development we sponsored as part of this work, as well as some work by MLibrary's own Aaron Elkiss to "drastically cut down" the number of files that need to be indexed by removing empty BulkExtractor logs. (Up until this point, indexing in Archivematica had been a huge problem for us, particularly for transfers with lots of files).

Even with this release, however, we still weren't quite ready to fully adopt Archivematica and go "live" with the ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace workflow (even though we had been making extensive use of Archivematica's Backlog feature and the `automation-tools`).

Fix One Bug, Two More Shall Take Its Place

Even before Archivematica 1.6 was officially released, however, we had identified a number of additional bug fixes (and new features) that were blocking our full adoption and implementation of Archivematica.

Issues Addressed by Artefactual

We opened another contract with Artefactual (the lead developers of Archivematica) to address a number of these issues, some of which are listed below:
  • Handles were not being written back to the File Version field of ArchivesSpace's Digital Object module. Ultimately, this meant that links out to digital content were not making it back to our public finding aids.
  • We were unable to drag-and-drop all files from the Backlog pane. This was essential to being able to associate digital content with its description.
  • It was difficult to identify the location of files in the Backlog pane when they had been singled out in the Examine Contents and File List panes. Archivists thus had a hard time locating files (e.g., after they had tagged them, say, as having sensitive data) in their original order.
  • Files whose formats were not able to be identified were being included in facets for other file formats in the Analysis pane, making file format characterization a bit unwieldy.
  • Required (at least for us) metadata fields were not being written to the DSpace Item (although they were being written to the METS file inside the AIP). This had implications for searching and browsing in DeepBlue. This is particularly problematic for ensuring that online researchers we get from search engines that take people directly to digital content in DeepBlue (rather than through our finding aids) have the context they need to understand that digital content.
  • Scrolling down the File List pane made all the File List buttons disappear, which led to poor usability of the functionality enabled by the buttons (e.g., creating a new component of description, finalizing an arrangement, etc.).
  • We wanted to the option to package AIPs in the .ZIP archive format (in addition to .7Z). We prefer the .ZIP format because it's more familiar than .7Z to the majority of our researchers.
  • The date facets in the File List pane were not functional and, in any case, last modified dates weren't showing up.

All of these issues (except the last one, but more on that later) were incorporated in the 1.6.1 release of Archivematica, which came out on August 1, 2017. This release also included some work by our own Dallas Pillen to fix a bug that occurred when trying to run a SIP through Archivematica's Ingest microservices when that SIP (coming from the ArchivesSpace pane in the Appraisal tab) had a date, but no title. (This is a fairly common practice in our description, permitted in ArchivesSpace as well as content standards like DACS.)

Issues Addressed Locally

Due to the local, idiosyncratic nature of some of some additional issues we identified, we also made a number of fixes to our forks of Archivematica and the Archivematica Storage Service:
  • Archivematica
    • We got rid of a nested "digital_object_component_" in the AIP directory structure, a relic of a time before we decided to simplify the way we model digital objects in ArchivesSpace. Now all digital content is packaged inside a single "objects" folder and hopefully this makes things a bit more straightforward for researchers.
    • We added a "" prefix to the Handle written back to the File Version field of ArchivesSpace's Digital Object module so that links to digital content in the finding aids actually work. We toyed with hard-coding this in Archivematica, but Dallas ended up creating an ArchivesSpace plug-in that verifies all URLs with Handles coming to ArchivesSpace (whether or not they're coming from Archivematica).
    • We increased one of the timeouts in to an hour (it was set to two minutes) so that the Archivematica Storage Service could move around larger packages (e.g., at initial transfer, at final deposit, etc.) without timing out.
    • We disabled BulkExtractor scanners except the ones we need to identify the most common forms of sensitive data we encounter, since this application is extremely time and resource intensive. At the time, this application was not configurable in the Format Policy Registry.
    • We updated the default Copyright statement going from Archivematica to DSpace to point researchers to access and use restrictions recorded at the collection-level.
  • Archivematica Storage Service
    • We added a feature to deposit a License Bundle with every AIP going to DSpace. This is one of our internal requirements for all deposits to DSpace.
Of course, if you have questions about any of these, please don't hesitate to get in contact with us!

On Deck for Archivematica 1.7

Looking ahead to Archivematica 1.7, you can expect a couple of additional features related to the ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace Workflow Integration project, most notably the inclusion of an additional feature that will permit archivists to characterize and review content based on its last modified date.

The new "Last modified" column in the File List pane of the Appraisal tab.

While last-modified dates and times are notoriously unreliable (especially as they change hands or operating systems, e.g., on their way from donor to archive), they can help to give an archivist additional context for a set of files or prepare them for additional preservation steps that might be required for older content, e.g., exploring additional file format migration pathways if the content is of sufficient value.

This release will also contain some work I did to fix a bug that was introduced when the .ZIP functionality was added. The bug occurred when Archivematica tried to update permissions on the "metadata" bitstream when the AIP was packaged using the .ZIP archive file format.

Mission Accomplished (for These Archivists who are at This Institution on Their Mission)

So here we are--we've reached another milestone. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, as of August 31, 2017, we are officially live with Archivematica and the new features and workflow we developed during the Mellon-funded ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace Workflow Integration project. In fact, our latest cohort of Project Archivists just started at the beginning of September and they were all trained to use these new tools and workflows--it's all so exciting!

While it's important to say that we've accomplished something--and that we're proud of what we've accomplished!--it's also important to qualify that a bit. What we've got works for us (we think!), at least for now, at least for most of what we're working with. We hope you can take at least some of what we've done (and we tried hard to make sure you could) and make it work for you, too. It's been exciting, for example, to hear about other people's experiences with the Appraisal tab (like this post on "Appraising Appraisal and picking the right tool for the job" by Chris Grygiel).

This has been an amazing journey, and along the way we've learned a lot, not just about Archivematica, but also about software development, project management, working with open source tools and communities, etc. We've said before that the end is just a new beginning--and that remains true today. With that in mind, we know our mission is never "accomplished" as such--we fully expect (and are equally excited for!) all the new challenges and adventures we'll face in Archivematica Land as we move forward.

Until next time!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

An Overview of Archivematica Storage Service Use at the Bentley

When I first encountered Archivematica, I understood it as a pipeline, a chain of microservices, a "sausage-maker." With a little more experience, I realized that this initial impression left out a hugely important part of the Archivematica package: the Storage Service.

As you might have guessed, the Storage Service has to do with storage. Specifically, it allows users to configure the storage spaces (e.g., transfer source locations, AIP and DIP locations, etc.) with which Archivematica interacts.

In short, the Archivematica Storage Service is the heart of Archivematica.

Blood Flow in the Heart

Information Flow in the Archivematica Storage Service
As you can see from this [anatomically correct] diagram, the heart (or Archivematica Storage Service) is made up of chambers (we'll call them Internally and Currently Processing locations, or, more simply, the Archivematica Pipeline). Blood (SIPs) enters the heart (from Transfer Sources) and flows through these chambers; oxygenated blood (AIPs) exits the heart (to AIP and/or DIP Storage).

You can learn more about the heart here.

You can learn more about the Archivematica Storage Service here in this post. (And here. And here.)

Storage Service Structure and Current Use

The Storage Service is made up of a number of different entities: Pipelines, Spaces, Locations and Packages. A Pipeline has Spaces, a Space has Locations; and a Location has Packages:
While it's not obvious from this diagram, the Storage Service can actually be used to configure Spaces and Locations across multiple Pipelines.


Pipelines are essentially Archivematica installations registered by the Storage Service. Although institutions may have many pipelines, we currently use just one for born-digital processing. That being said, we've imagined scenarios where we'd consider adding more pipelines, if another one of the libraries or archives at the University of Michigan wanted to use Archivematica, for example, or if we ever wanted to use Archivematica for more than this one, fairly well-defined workflow and material type.


Pipelines have one or more spaces. Spaces allow Archivematica to connect to physical storage (e.g., a local filesystem or a NFS, or even DSpace/Fedora via SWORD v. 2, LOCKSS, DuraCloud or Arkivum), and users input all the necessary information (e.g., remote hostname and location of the export) for Archivematica to do so.

We make use of a number of local filesystem spaces that point to:
  • a "dropbox" that donors and field archivists use to transfer material;
  • a "legacy" space (really, two spaces) containing our old, pre-Archivematica backlog, where we have the automation-tools pointed; and
  • an "archivematica" space that Archivematica uses for ingest processes.
We also have a "DSpace via SWORD2 API" space, which we use to integrate Archivematica and DSpace. The configuration here looks a bit different than in the other local filesystem spaces, and notable differences include:
  • Archivist must enter a DSpace username and password--these are used to authenticate with DSpace. 
  • Archivists must also enter a policy for restricted metadata, in JSON, to override any defaults in DSpace. When AIPs are "repackaged" into "objects" and "metadata" packages, the metadata package will get this policy. In our case, this points to a DSpace "group" that includes a handful of curation and reference archivists here, restricting access to only those archivists.
  • Finally, archivists must select an "Archive format" option. Since we're depositing "packages" of digital objects to DSpace (and DSpace only accepts single objects), you have to package them into a 7z or ZIP file. We make use of the latter, our thinking being that the ".zip" extension is fairly ubiquitous, and that as such there's a greater chance that researchers will recognize it (and know what to do with it).


Spaces have one or more locations, and locations are where you get into the knitty gritty of associating an individual location on physical storage with particular "purposes" in Archivematica (e.g., transfer source locations, AIP and DIP locations, etc.). This next part was a bit confusing to me the first time I read it, so I'll quote directly from the documentation: "Each Location is associated with at least one pipeline; with the exception of Backlog and Currently Processing locations, for which there must be exactly one per pipeline, a pipeline can have multiple instances of any location, and a location can be associated with any number of pipelines."

We make use of the following locations (organized by purpose):
  • AIP Storage
    • We have a number of these locations that correspond to DSpace collections. This is configured by pointing the Storage Service (and the DSpace space) to the DSpace REST API endpoint for that collection, e.g.,, and giving it a name that you'll see in a dropdown when you get to the store AIP microservice in Archivematica:

    • We also have one location on a local filesystem for for content with restrictions. These AIPs end up going through a more specialized workflow that matches PREMIS Rights Statements we record in Archivematica with the appropriate "group" or access profile in DSpace, functionality that is not included with the standard DSpace integration.
  • Currently Processing: This is the location used by the Archivematica pipeline as it runs transfers through its various microservices. We've learned the hard way that this space takes a lot of management! We frequently run into 500 errors with the automation-tools that end up being caused by this space being full. Part of the reason it fills up quickly is that Archivematica is very conservative, holding onto copies on copies on copies of transfers in various subdirectories for various reasons, e.g., "rejected" (used when transfers are rejected in the dashboard), "failed" (used when transfers fail for some reason, usually because they're too big, which just exacerbates the "being full" problem) and "tmp" directories. These can be emptied through the "Administration" --> "Processing storage usage" tab of the dashboard, but we ended up just making a daily cronjob to empty these out.
  • Storage Service Internal Processing: This is required for the Storage Service to move run, must be locally available to the storage service, and must not be associated with any pipelines.
  • Transfer Backlog: This is where SIPs go when you select the "Send to backlog" option for "Create SIP(s)" in the "Administration --> Processing configuration" tab of the dashboard. This is an optional workflow step, but we make heavy use of it. For us, there can be some time lag between an initial accession of material and its subsequent processing and deposit to DeepBlue. This backlog location is safe and secure and serves as a temporary, "minimally viable" preservation environment for the original digital objects and the logs and METS file generated by Archivematica's initial transfer process. With Archivematica 1.6, thanks to some transfer backlog management development work by Simon Fraser University Archives, you can use a new "Backlog" tab in the dashboard to search and view backlogged transfers, download entire transfers or items from backlog and even perform transfer deletion requests.
  • Transfer Source: Archivematica looks to these locations when creating a new transfer. As mentioned earlier, we use a couple of these, a "dropbox" that donors and field archivists use to transfer material and a "legacy" space containing our old, pre-Archivematica backlog. Material in here is accessed (sometimes slowly if there's a lot in there!) when creating a transfer through the dashboard:
Selecting transfer source directories


Packages are Transfers, SIPs, AIPs and DIPs uploaded to a location managed by the storage service. The Storage Service is also the place where requests to delete packages are fulfilled by an administrator.

Future Ideas for Storage Service Usage

You may have seen our recent post to the Archivematica Tech list about an API endpoint for posting locations to a space. We're interested in this to try to reuse metadata and further automate our own workflows, for example, in this Resource-to-Collection command-line utility we're working on that:
  • creates or updates a DSpace Collection from an ArchivesSpace Resource (using the DSpace API);
  • creates an Archivematica Storage Service Location for the DSpace Collection (in lieu of the endpoint, we're currently using Selenium with Python for this part);
  • creates and links an ArchivesSpace Digital Object for the DSpace Collection to the ArchivesSpace Resource (using the ArchivesSpace API); and
  • notifies the processor (using their Archivematica username) via a message on Slack (using the Slack API).
Deposit away, Dallas!
Who knows, maybe this or something like it could be a button in ArchivesSpace one day.

Well, that's enough from us! How do you use the Storage Service? As always, please feel free to leave a comment or drop us an email: bhl-mellon-grant [at] umich [dot] edu. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Appraisal and Arrangement Tab 101

With the forthcoming release of Archivematica version 1.6, folks are going to get a chance to roll out the new Appraisal and Arrangement Tab.  We're excited to implement Archivematica—and the Appraisal Tab—in a production environment and will continue to blog about our experiences (as well as the additional enhancements we've contracted with Artefactual Systems to complete).

In the meantime, we wanted to share two screencasts to help folks get up and running with the Appraisal Tab and also get a better idea of the digital archives workflow we're implementing here at the Bentley Historical Library.  Without further ado, I give you:

Part 1: Configuring ArchivesSpace and DSpace Integration within Archivematica

This screencast provides a step-by-step guide to adding instances of ArchivesSpace and DSpace for use with the Appraisal and Arrangement Tab. 

Part 2: Appraisal, Arrangement to ArchivesSpace and Deposit to DSpace

This screencast demonstrates the functionality of Archivematica's Appraisal and Arrangement Tab, including the appraisal of digital content within the Appraisal and Arrangement Tab, the arrangement of content to corresponding ArchivesSpace Resource records, and the deposit of content to a DSpace collection.

Some features in the above may change over time and with subsequent releases of Archivematica—and our local practice is sure to evolve as we get more experience under our belt—but we hope you find these videos helpful.  As always, please feel free to leave a comment or drop us a line at bhl-mellon-grant[at]