AtoM Repository Profile: Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives

Question responses were provided via the Repository Profile Form by Stephen Logsdon, Head of Archives at Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis on February 25, 2021.


Tool and version, if applicable

AtoM 2.5.4

Type of archives or special collection library?


How did your institution select this archival collection management tool?

In 2012, we wanted to be an early adopter of ArchivesSpace, but after six years of waiting for the ASpace public user interface to develop in such a way that would meet our modest expectations, we began looking for other alternatives.  Of those alternatives, AtoM was the best choice for us, as it could do the job of two tools we were using at the time: Archon and CONTENTdm.

When and why did you adopt this tool? What system did it replace (if any)?

We adopted AtoM in 2018 and began the Archon to AtoM migration that year, but we didn't go live with AtoM until 2019.  We adopted AtoM because Archon was no longer getting updates, and we didn't want to pay the yearly fee for CONTENTdm anymore.

Briefly explain how this tool functions at your institution (e.g. do you only use it for accessioning, or does it fill all the functions from accessioning to public access?)

AtoM is the only tool our staff use to manage our collections, and the only tool our researchers use to access our collections.  We use every aspect of this tool (accessions, archival description, digital asset linking, authority control, subject headings, and researcher requesting via Aeon).

What pre-installation/migration preparations were taken to facilitate implementation of this tool?

Prior to migration to AtoM, our data in Archon was not fully DACS-compliant.  Many, many, many hours were spent improving and standardizing our description records in Archon, prior to migration to AtoM.

What degree of IT support was needed to implement and migrate into this tool?


Is your collection management tool hosted on-site and in-house or off-site by a vendor?

Off-site by a vendor.

Please describe significant post-implementation challenges using the administrative and/or public interfaces.

We did not use subject headings or authority records prior to using AtoM.  The first two post-migration tasks we took on were to implement these helpful tools.  The challenge was not due to AtoM's process for adding subject headings or authority records, the challenge was due to starting from scratch, and implementing authority records and subject headings across 125,000+ archival description records.

Is your institution integrating this tool with other automated request, preservation, or digital asset management systems?

AtoM integrates with Aeon, our researcher request system.  Researchers can select up to 50 archival descriptions in AtoM, and then submit all of those requests to the archives staff using their Aeon account.  As part of the requesting process, researchers can choose to schedule an appointment to see this material in-person, or they may request scanning of selected items.  Also, AtoM allows for both "linking" and uploading digital assets.  By using the linking method to connect assets stored on our server to individual archival descriptions in AtoM, we are able to provide access to roughly 25,000 digital assets via AtoM (nearly 20% of our entire collection).

In what ways has using this tool been an improvement over your previous tool or finding aid access strategy?

We used to have archival descriptions in Archon, and digital assets in CONTENTdm.  AtoM allows both descriptions and assets to be accessed together in one database.  Linking digital assets to AtoM is a much quicker process than making assets available in CONTENTdm, so with the time saved, we have been able to make many more assets available via AtoM than we were using CONTENTdm.

What is your most favorite feature of this tool?

My favorite feature is the ease of making digital assets available via AtoM.

What is your least favorite feature of this tool?

I wish the physical storage (stacks locations) manager was a bit more robust.

Lessons Learned, or tip for prospective users? What is your least favorite feature of this tool?

We should not have waited so long for ArchivesSpace to improve the public user interface before looking for alternative CMS options.  I wish we had moved to AtoM many years ago.  I would encourage anyone looking for a new CMS to look closely at AtoM, especially if the public user interface is of the utmost importance to you.  And to be clear, the public user interface should be of the utmost importance to you if you are going to spend a year or more migrating to a CMS that you hope to use for the next decade.  If you go through all that trouble, your researchers should be able to easily use your CMS too, so choose a CMS with an easy-to-understand public user interface.  Also, if you want the most simple standards-compliant way to share digital assets, you want AtoM.

What features would you want to see added to this tool in the future?

Standard reports.