Add selected digital files without creating item level descriptions

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Maria Papanikolaou

Nov 28, 2023, 12:05:06 PM11/28/23

Dear colleagues, 

We would like to add selected pictures and documents to some of our archival descriptions. 
However, the pictures and documents are part of series- level pictures/ documents, and it seems that I have to list each one of the pictures in an item level description within AtoM so as to present the selected digital objects. 
How can we present digital objects as part of a wider group of documents/pictures wthough moving down to item -level descriptions for all the items?

With kind regards, 


Dan Gillean

Nov 29, 2023, 10:22:03 AM11/29/23
Hi Maria, 

Is the issue that you do not normally describe below the Series level, so adding SOME item-level descriptions for the photographs you want to share may be misleading, implying there are no other items in the series?

Currently, the 1:1 digital object to information object (i.e. description) limitation is in place because any descriptive metadata, including just a title or extent statement, is stored in AtoM as an INFORMATION object (i.e. description) - digital objects only have technical metadata properties that are extracted directly from the object itself, and this is minimal at best. 

It is important to remember that AtoM allows you to separate the intellectual arrangement (i.e. Fonds, series, files, items, etc) from the physical arrangement (i.e. boxes, folders, objects). With this in mind, you certainly could create an artificial level of description such as "Sample photographs from the series" (you could even make your own custom level of description for this if desired) and add some items  (or again, custom levels, e.g. Photos) under this, and clarify in the metadata itself the purpose of these artificial insertions. 

Alternatively, I did find a bit of a hack you could try. Keep in mind that this may have some unintended consequences, particularly for public user exports (they probably won't work) but it might be something to consider and experiment with a bit. 

Essentially, I tried the following: 
  • Make an intermediary level of description  - e.g. a file. Call it "Sample photographs". 
  • Upload digital objects to your intermediary - add your sample photographs as item-level children
  • Now, make sure that the item-level photos are published, but the intermediary level is set to draft. 
Essentially, the result is that the top parent (in your case the series) gets a carousel of the lower level digital objects, but the treeview does not show any of these objects. Public users can navigate to the item-level descriptions in the carousel by clicking on the thumb, but they cannot access the intermediary draft placeholder. 

Here is an image of what it looked like when I tried this in a local test environment. I just used a top-level fonds, so my draft intermediary was a series: 

Screenshot from 2023-11-29 09-43-57.png

Note that neither the draft intermediary series nor the published item-level descriptions holding the digital objects show up in the full-width treeview above. 

If you do try this, I encourage you to do some thorough testing to ensure there are not additional unforeseen side effects, since this is not an intended method of using the publication statuses. Nevertheless, I hope it might give you some workaround ideas!


Dan Gillean, MAS, MLIS
AtoM Program Manager
Artefactual Systems, Inc.
he / him

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