Preservica Repository Profile: Nightingale-Bamford School

Question responses were provided via the Repository  Profile  Form by Katie Bednark, Consulting School Archivist at Nightingale-Bamford School, New York, NY on April 22, 2022.


Tool and version, if applicable

Preservica 6.4.1

Type of archives or special collection library?

K-12 independent school

How did your institution select this archival collection management tool?

I attended virtual demos of Preservica and two other DAMS that offer password-protected access to collections. I liked that Preservica is an established DAM, felt good about their security, liked the long-term digital archiving features, and that it can be connected to my ArchivesSpace catalog. Pricing was as good or better than one of the other DAMS. I liked how the user access site appeared and functioned on other archives' sites that use Preservica. 

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

In spring 2021, I was informed that I had to move my digital collection from Veridian by fall 2021, due to Veridian no longer supporting secure collections. I had just set up Veridian in late 2018 and had 2 TB of content. We signed the Preservica contract in October 2021.

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?)

I am still populating Preservica with the digital content that was on Veridian. It is currently used for preservation and (soon) internal access (our collection is not open to the public). As I become more adept at using Preservica and get more content loaded, this could expand, as I still need to integrate it with my ArchivesSpace catalog.

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

The org that hosted our Veridian platform provided a hard drive of our content including metadata files, plus a hard drive to keep as back up. I did some metadata cleanup and date reformatting to comply with Preservica's date format. Preservica offers six virtual training sessions (also available in recorded format) that I attended. My metadata was given to me in .CSV spreadsheets, which had to be run through a converter site that Preservica provided to create .metadata files for upload. Preservica also provided two Python codes for uploading content and metadata files - this is specific to our collection, which contains a TIF, PDF, and JP2 file for almost every asset and is not typically required where an asset consists of just one format and a metadata file. I do wish I'd better understood the internal workings of Preservica (difficulty of using a custom metadata schema versus Dublin Core or MODS) before starting. We use a custom schema and it required creating custom XML documents that had to be uploaded to Preservica. I wish I'd been able to speak to someone who had established Preservica in their (smallish) institution before starting.

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

Preservica's Solutions Architect that wrote the Python codes for uploading content had to answer quite a few questions from me as we went along. This was partly due to them imparting knowledge to me as we went along rather than letting me know what I'd need upfront. My internal IT wasn't able to assist due to the massive time commitment for uploading the files. Preservica also has a customer support system where users submit tickets online and a support person answers via email. It felt like I was flying solo a lot.

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

Storage is via cloud/Preservica, but all of the work must be done in-house, such as file uploads, metadata input, access site creation via Wordpress, and setting up the basic structure of your Preservica platform. With Veridian, we had an off-site host that did most of that.

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

Six months after contract, my access site is still in development. I've had many challenges learning how to set up my Preservica platform and upload the large amount of content using their Python code. There's been a lot of one step forward, one (or two) steps backward, running into problems, consulting documentation and support, resolving the problem, running into a new problem. Also, I wish the files on the hard drive provided by Veridian had been organized differently in hindsight to make uploading faster and more orderly.

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

I intend to integrate Preservica with our ArchivesSpace catalog, but I don't know when this will happen due to the challenges and slow pace of initially uploading our digital assets to Preservica.

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

At the moment, it is not an improvement due to the challenges and slow pace of getting my data uploaded and useable. Eventually, I believe the preservation features will be an improvement and the integration with ArchivesSpace will hopefully reduce repetitive work and increase consistency.

What is your most favorite feature of this tool?

There is some flexibility in the appearance of the Wordpress site used for access. The facets and filters are helpful.

What is your least favorite feature of this tool? 

Getting it established, set up, and initially loaded with our existing digital content. It does not apply OCR or the ability to transcribe records (I had to create a metadata field for my existing transcriptions).

Lessons Learned, or tip for prospective users? 

I wish I'd been able to speak with someone who had set up Preservica at their institution. Set up will be much slower than you anticipate. Don't expect too much hand holding from Preservica. Learn about transforms, indexing, and Preservica's terminology before implementation. Organize your files for optimum ease in uploading, particularly if you have more than one format type per asset. Know what file formats are required for uploading and convert ahead of time if necessary.

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

More personalized assistance in getting set up and running, similar to the existing virtual training classes but on a personalized level. The training should be more in-depth. Documentation could be clearer at times. They could provide more advice on how to prepare for migration. I'd also like to see OCR included and a transcription field.