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Using ArchivesSpace: FAQ

This guide provides a tutorial on how to use the online catalog ArchivesSpace, in order to search for items and collections in the Beloit College Archives.


1. What is ArchivesSpace?

Think of it as a library catalog, only instead of searching for books, it allows you to search for archival materials.

ArchivesSpace is a searchable database for unique, historical items. It has a public interface that you can search, and a staff interface that allows us to catalog and describe our collections in ways that facilitate searching.

2. What can I find in ArchivesSpace?

Lots of different things! Beloit College Archives is the final home for the organizational and business records of the college, which include things like financial records, meeting minutes, reports, correspondence, and the papers of all past Beloit College Presidents. We also hold a diverse assortment of manuscript collections from faculty, staff, and students, that document their Beloit College experiences. Many collections contain historic promotional materials, memorabilia, photographs, scrapbooks, and audio-visual materials. 

Currently, between one-half to two-thirds of Beloit College's collections can be searched via ArchivesSpace. The rest are being added gradually, as time permits. 

3. What won't I find in ArchivesSpace?

ArchivesSpace allows users to search inventories and descriptions (also called "finding aids") that help navigate a collection. Our finding aids vary in style and depth of detail depending on the collection, but their common purpose is to describe and enable access to our archival and manuscript collections.

ArchivesSpace does NOT include copies of digitized materials from the Archives. To see some materials from the Archives that have been digitized, please visit the Beloit College Digital Collections website. 

Additionally, ArchivesSpace does not contain rare books and special collection materials. Catalog records for these materials can be searched in on our library online catalog. 

4. Who developed ArchivesSpace?

Development on ArchivesSpace began in 2009 when representatives of New York University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of California San Diego, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation agreed to integrate the Archivists' Toolkit and Archon into a single application in order to increase overall functionality within a single application and to optimize sustainability of the application. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided generous funding for the first two phases of the ArchivesSpace program.  

5. Who manages ArchivesSpace?

ArchivesSpace is a program with a current staff of 3 FTE, a community of over 300 members, and three administrative groups: a Governance Board (elected), a Technical Advisory Council (appointed), and a User Advisory Council (appointed) - and published bylaws. LYRASIS is the organizational home for ArchivesSpace, and is who Beloit College uses to host our ArchivesSpace instance. 

1. What do the colorized icons in the search results mean?

When performing searches in ArchivesSpace, you will see each item classified with a color coded type. These include:

  • : These are the records you will want to pay the most attention to. Archival documents are arranged into larger collections about a person/family/organization/subject or other distinct unit.
  • : A collection can be subdivided into organizational units called Series to help improve the organization, and make it easier to find like materials.
  • : Every collection will have a number of files inside of it. When you see "File" then this just represents a single file folder within a larger collection.
  • : Some of our collections have been tagged with relevant subject terms. If you click on a Subject record, it will show you a link to all collections that have been assigned this subject term. Please note: use subject terms cautiously in your research, as not all collections have been assigned subject terms at this time. 
  • : A Person record is a subject record, only for an individual.
  • : An Organization record is a subject record only for an organizational entity.
  • : Unprocessed materials are items that have been donated by offices/people, which have not been integrated into our existing collections yet. This means they may not be in archival folders/boxes, and may be very unorganized and be difficult to work with.
  • : A Digital Work is simply a link to an archival resource that has a digital surrogate online. We have not implemented this record type at this time.
  • : There is only one record for Repository, and it is for Beloit College Archives. This software can be configured to host records from more than one repository.

1. Why can't I find archives materials in the library catalog?

Libraries specialize in providing access to collections of books and other print or non-print materials. Archives specialize in providing access to both published and unpublished materials which can be in any format. Materials in archives are typically unique, specialized, or rare, meaning very few of them exist in the world. Many times, they are the only items of their kind. Since archival materials are unique, archives have guidelines for how people may use collections. This is to protect the items from damage and theft, so that we may keep them available for posterity. 

2. Why can't I find individual documents in ArchivesSpace?

Archivists organize materials in ways that make them easier for users to use them for research purposes. There are typically five levels of arrangement - by repository, collection, series, folder, and item. Most archives arrange and describe records only to the folder level. Since a single archival collection can have thousands of individual documents, it can be impossible to provide item-level access.