We Have Access to Collective Access!!

Our new archival inventory program, Collective Access, is finally up and running!!

We actually have had a working version in place for nearly a year, but some bug in the setup blocked all images. We could inventory items, but not attach images or related PDF files. Where’s the fun in that?

Eventually, our Council’s IT consultant, after checking with the software developer, went back to square one and created a new server with a fresh version of the program. Whatever the original problem, we are in business now.

As explained in previous posts, Collective Access is an open source collections management program for museums and archives.

Let me give you a peak behind the curtain and show you how it works.

After logging in, I get my dashboard. Each user can customize their own landing page with a selection of widgets.

My Dashboard tells me who logged in recently, the latest items added, and displays a random object from our collection. Because Collective Access is web-based, multiple users can enter data from remote locations.

My dashboard tells me who logged in recently, lists the latest items added, and displays a random object from our collection. Because Collective Access is web-based, multiple users can simultaneously enter data from remote locations.

Next I can add a new item, entity, or event using the NEW menu or work on an existing record using FIND.

I select Browse by Object Titles and get a list of items in the collection.

I select Browse by Object Titles and get a list of items in the collection.

Let’s look at a handmade rug that you’d see if you could scroll down the list:

Data entry screens include fields for inventory numbers, object titles, and descriptions. Multiple dates can be used, such as date created, accepted, copyrighted, etc.

Data entry screens include fields for inventory numbers, object titles, and descriptions. Multiple dates can be used, such as date created, accepted, and copyrighted. Images are entered separately and then associated with the object through the Media and Relationship screens in the lower left.

Non-National Equipment Service items are assigned a sequential object identifier number. Each user has been assigned a specific series of numbers, such as 101-300,  so there is no duplication. (I got that tip from Sandy Garrett at Eastern Pennsylvania!)

For National Equipment Service items, we are using the GSUSA catalog number + hyphen + sequential number. That could one day make it easier to share our system with other councils, as it gives a common reference point.

For uniforms, the object title begins with the National Historic Preservation Center’s classification system. Collective Access uses “type-ahead fields” that automatically offer suggestions after typing a few letters in a field, which is a big help.

The object description came from the 1975 catalog. We've used the date field to indicate when the garment first became available.

The object description came from the 1975 catalog. We’ve used the date field to indicate when the garment first became available.

The blouse photo is a screenshot from an old catalog. Of course we will attach actual photos of garment 2-228-01, but I don’t have them handy at the moment.

This is just a brief introduction to Collective Access at Nation’s Capital.  We are just learning the software ourselves, and I will post more examples in the weeks to come.

Questions? Comments? Red flags? Let me know!

Collective Access: Technical Info

The gateway to our Girl Scout archives!

The gateway to our Girl Scout archives!

As mentioned previously, we are embracing technology and turning to Collective Access software to inventory and manage the Nation’s Capital collection.

We are very fortunate to have a council information technology team that has embraced this project and helped us to get up and running.

What Is Collective Access?

Collective Access is a suite of free, web-based applications that “work together to provide a seamless cataloging, collections management and collections publishing platform.”  The core cataloging app is Providence, while Pawtucket offers web-based searching and Tiverton offers a map-centered user interface.  Collective Access also offers a Configuration Library comprised of custom templates and record forms developed by other users.

VPS: The Host

A very basic setup requires a computer server on which to install the Providence application and hard drive storage space for the data.  Since the council system is Windows-based and CA uses the Linux operating system, it is easier to find an outside company with Linux to host the application and our data.  Council helped us set up a Virtual Private Server (VPS) through an Internet service provider.  For about $50 per month, we have 300 GB, divided into 50 GB for the database and 250 GB for storage.  We can access the program from anyplace with an Internet connection–the council offices, our homes, etc.  In the future, the Council may host the program itself, but for now, this arrangement works.

Roundabout: The Templates

Our Council IT guru also installed the Configuration Library from the Roundabout Theatre Company in Manhattan.  I selected this library after researching the many, many configuration schemes available on the CA site.  It’s really a very good fit.  Roundabout has costumes, props, and scripts, while Girl Scouts have uniforms, gear, and handbooks. Plus, Roundabout has a way-cool archivist, Tiffany Nixon, who is a tremendous ambassador for Collective Access.  She graciously met with me and gave me a full tour of her system for Roundabout.  Take a look at the Roundabout Archives website to see what Collective Access can do!

Collective Access: A New Way to Inventory

What do we have?  Where is it?

Good question!

Nation’s Capital has a wonderful collection of Girl Scout records and memorabilia, but the last inventory was done in 2006 using Microsoft Access.

For a long time, we debated the relative merits of PastPerfect versus Museum Archives software. We considered price, customization possibilities, hardware requirements, and the learning curve.

Clipart by Ron Leishman: http://clipartof.com/443125.

Clipart by Ron Leishman: http://clipartof.com/443125.

Meanwhile, our main council office was renovated, and part of our collection moved to an off-site storage facility in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Realignment brought the West Virginia based Shawnee Council into Nation’s Capital, while changes in Pennsylvania and the Penn Laurel Council brought Frederick County, Maryland, to Nation’s Capital as well. Both regions have their own rich histories, and their archives had their own inventory systems. Now we have items stored in three states plus the District of Columbia.

How will we ever get on the same page?

The answer (hopefully) is with Collective Access, a free, web-based cataloging application. The program is highly configurable, comes with a range of pre-made templates, supports image, video, audio, and document formats, and has a vibrant user community. (Did I mention that it’s FREE?)

While we were debating software packages, many museums, archives, universities and other repositories made the transition from PastPerfect to Collective Access. We decided to skip ahead and go with Collective Access.

The Nation’s Capital Information Services team researched various configuration options and installed Collective Access last month. Now it’s time to get started with descriptions and other inventory data.

Please follow along as we join the world of Collective Access.