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by David Portman

UB Archives: leveraging seamless catalog integration to provide discoverable content to the community

Sarah Cogley discusses how Preservica has enabled the archive team to achieve more: providing faster discovery times for users, seamlessly integrate with their catalog, ArchivesSpace, and providing greater online access to new audiences.

January 21, 2019

I recently caught up with Sarah Cogley, Processing Archivist for the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB), as part of our ‘Be More, Achieve More’ blog series. Sarah discussed how using Preservica’s cloud-hosted active digital preservation software has enabled the archive team to achieve more: providing faster discovery times for users, seamlessly integrate with their catalog, ArchivesSpace, and providing greater online access to new audiences including the University community, scholars, and people of Western New York.

Buffalo – a rich and varied history

Established to document the history of the university (previously the University of Buffalo), the archives contain valuable cultural records dating back to the 1800s, such as student and campus publications, papers of prominent people, area organization, and the private documents of the University faculty. Open to the public, approximately 5,000 linear feet of materials are kept in the University Archives, reflecting the activities of the University, its broader role in the community, and the research interests of the faculty.

Among the earliest documents housed in the Archives is the Stock Subscription Book, opened in the office of Buffalo lawyer G.B. Rich in 1846 to secure funds to start the University of Buffalo. The second signature on the subscription list is that of Millard Fillmore, who would serve the University as its Chancellor from 1846 until his death in 1874, during which time he also served as Vice President and President of the United States.

Sarah Cogley, Processing Archivist

Digital assets at risk

When Sarah joined the archiving team in 2014, there was a lack of control over their storage and archiving process for digital records. The team had a large amount of content on storage media, which were not only at risk of file degradation, but also posed the issue of what exactly was contained on them. This limited what they could achieve as an archive in terms of ensuring valuable materials were accessible to those who might benefit from viewing them.

Sarah commented: “This lack of accessibility to the archive was a real challenge, raising copyright, access and safeguarding problems. In my capacity serving the university community, I saw the need to reduce discovery times around potentially useful and interesting digital assets and ensure that those assets remained accessible for the long-term.”

Sarah continued, “Increasing the amount of material available to external academics and the public is a central aim for the archives, which will also increase the value of the Archive in the eyes of our key internal stakeholders.”

Taking back control with Preservica

After surveying the collections in the University archives, Sarah set to work assessing a third-party digital preservation solution. Preservica was identified as the most intuitive and user-friendly solution available on the market, it also integrated seamlessly with UB’s existing systems such as their catalog, ArchivesSpace, and it’s easy to customize Universal Access portal made it a comprehensive choice.

Being able to work at scale is crucial to Sarah and the team, and the Preservica platform is helping them deal with a backlog of born-digital content and future-proofing large numbers of cultural and academic items. Sarah and the team are able to reach their goals and targets much quicker and with less burden on resources which would not have been possible before partnering with Preservica.

“Preservica is helping us to break down the barrier to access for students, staff and New Yorkers”, Sarah added. “It’s allowing us to take back control over our collections, and support the university community – faculty members teach classes in the archive, and students often complete their final projects with the help of our collections.”

UB has also digitized over 30 years of “The Spectrum”, a popular student newspaper, and now collects, preserves, and provides access to born-digital issues as well. The wider University Libraries can now put on a superior range of permanent and temporary exhibitions showcasing valuable cultural items, with the help of UB.

Hayes Hall, UB Campus

Boosting productivity with catalog integration

The UB archives started using the widely adopted open source archives information management application ArchivesSpace in 2014, shortly after Sarah joined. It was essential that the digital preservation solution the UB team selected provided out-of-the-box integration with ArchivesSpace, enabling them to manage their digital collections utilizing both systems in a seamless and integrated way.

Developed in collaboration with Yale University Library, the Preservica integration with ArchivesSpace synchronizes and shares metadata between the two systems to create a single catalog view of both physical and digital artifacts, as well as ensuring digital objects are safely preserved and accessible for the long-term.

Sarah commented, “the interoperability between Preservica and ArchivesSpace enables us to boost productivity and achieve more by eliminating the need to re-key descriptive metadata or manually recreate collection hierarchies, this is essential in a small team with limited time and resources.”

Looking to the future

Another key attribute of Preservica which made it attractive to the archiving team was its Universal Access capabilities. Improving access was key to the team achieving their archiving goals of increasing availability of records to both internal and external stakeholders. By providing online access to the digital collection UB are able to serve a wider audience.

Sarah concluded, “Within the next academic year, we hope to fully roll out the Universal Access element of Preservica, meaning that students, staff and the public will be able to access the valuable cultural materials stored in our archive. It’s an exciting next step on UB’s journey with Preservica, opening up a new range of opportunities for the archives and wider university.”

Sarah and the Special Collection team will be launching their new finding aid database later this month. This database provides access to finding aids for archival collections from five repositories of University Libraries: University Archives, The Poetry Collection, Law Library Archives, Polish Room, and Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection. Finding aids describe the materials in a collection, how they are arranged, and how each was acquired by the holding repository. Links to digital materials can be found in many of the collections. Discover it here.

You can hear more from Sarah as she shares her experience using Preservica and ArchivesSpace to preserve, describe, and make accessible the digital content at UB in a recent webinar – view the recording here.

David Portman